Dear Annie: I have been dating “Jesse” for six years. We recently moved in together. Within the last year he has started playing poker, both online and with his friends. Sometimes the games at our place last until 6 a.m. The online gambling is the real problem, though.
Every single day, as soon as he returns from work, he goes straight to the computer and starts playing. He won’t go anywhere with me. He’ll only stop gambling if I get angry. We have had discussions about it, but he sees nothing wrong because he is only playing for “small amounts of money.” And, of course, he claims his totals are up “overall.” He also says it’s the only recreational activity he really enjoys. I find it inappropriate and unattractive.
I don’t want to nag him all the time. Am I overreacting? Should I step aside? — Poker Widow in Ontario
Dear Poker Widow: Jesse has a gambling problem, even if it is only small amounts of money. If he doesn’t address his addiction, those small amounts could turn into major headaches, particularly when he is playing until the early morning hours and neglecting other things. This could affect his job, his bank account and his future with you.
Poker, especially online, is exceptionally popular. Jesse may believe he is engaging in a harmless hobby, and if the novelty wears off soon and his hours return to normal, we would agree. But if other parts of his life are suffering, or if the lost money starts to add up, it’s out of his control. Gam-Anon (gam-anon.org) offers a list of questions to determine if you are living with a compulsive gambler and how to deal with it. Contact them for suggestions at P.O. Box 157, Whitestone, N.Y. 11357.
Dear Annie: What is an appropriate host gift for a male? I feel funny giving a man flowers, and since my friend doesn’t drink, I’d prefer not to give him a bottle of wine that he will never use. Any other suggestions? — In a Quandary
Dear Quandary: Try coffee or tea samples in a mug, a picture frame, candy or baked goods, a game, plant, coffee table book, kitchen gadget or even a jar of his favorite pickles. It doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate. The idea is to say, “Thanks for inviting me.”
Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Long Road to Normal,” who won’t see her father because he’s bipolar and abusive and won’t take his meds. I wish you had told her about classes available through NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness).
NAMI offers Family to Family classes for caregivers of those with mental illness. I went through this because of my bipolar son. I am also bipolar. I learned more about my illness than I knew before. She can find out whether there is a chapter in her area. They teach what to do in an emergency situation and how to take care of yourself.
“Long Road” should know that “normal” is just a setting on the dryer. Antidepressants will not help much if she doesn’t educate herself. You can’t take a pill and expect life to be OK. Coming from a family where mental illness runs deep on both sides, it took years of counseling to realize I could overcome the obstacles I grew up with. As the quote says, “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” — Not Bitter Anymore
Dear Not Bitter: Thank you for sharing your story and giving our readers such excellent information about the available programs at NAMI. Readers who are interested can contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness at nami.org or by calling 1-800-950-NAMI (1-800-950-6264). (By the way, that wonderful quote is by actress and author Carrie Fisher. Princess Leia is one smart cookie.)
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
Published in The Messenger on 11.27.07