Virtual Family Night: Providing education about gambling addiction and building strong support systems

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

“During recovery, it’s really important that your family has an understanding of the addiction, because if you’re not an addict, you just won’t understand it,” said Tulalip Problem Gambling Counselor, Robin Johnson “Especially gambling. Gambling is hugely overlooked as being an addiction, so the family is left thinking, why? Why can’t you just pull yourself up, why can’t you quit, it doesn’t make any sense to them.”

The Tulalip Problem Gambling Program is inviting you to their upcoming virtual event that will take place on September 30, from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Known as Family Night, the monthly event is more than just a social gathering for recovering addicts and their families, but a support group where both friends and family members of recovering excessive gamblers can get a better understanding of the addiction. 

Recovery can be a strenuous journey full of ups and downs as well as milestones and setbacks. Families are often affected throughout the process and also carry the burden of the addiction as well, whether that’s financially, emotionally, mentally, physically or all of the above. The Family Night support group is an opportunity for family and friends to learn about the many tribulations they could face while helping their loved ones on the road to recovery, while also getting insight to what fuels the addiction and how they can help end an often-vicious cycle of trying to hit it big.

The monthly gathering also features guest speakers on occasion, providing recovering addicts and members from groups such as gambler’s anonymous and al-anon a space to share their story, to help serve as inspiration to those in recovery and provide any helpful tips or suggestions to family members, friends and compulsive gamblers alike, as they’re in the same journey together. And if you’ve ever attended a Problem Gambling event in the past, then you already know that it is sure to be an entertaining evening with fun and educational activities and plenty of good-medicine-laughs to go ‘round. 

As a people, Native Americans are at the highest risk of developing a gambling habit. According to a 2019 study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol and Related Conditions, 2.3% of the entire Indigenous population are battling gambling addiction, one of the highest percentages in the nation. Sarah Sense-Wilson, the Problem Gambling Program Coordinator, predicts those numbers will be on the rise because of COVID-19. Due to restrictions and stay-at-home orders, the amount of online gambling and sports betting is projected to be much higher than usual over the past two years.  

Sarah shared, “There’s been a lot more relapse and people gambling. Whether that’s online gambling or gaming or other forms of gambling, there has been an increase since COVID and it’s been harder for people to really grab ahold of recovery.”

For this reason, it is important that those individuals, who are attempting to escape the grips of excessive gambling, have a strong support group of people they can rely on when the going gets tough. Family Night is the perfect opportunity for recovering gambling addicts to start and build that support system.  

“A big part of recovery is about fellowship and building on that recovery support system, having a network of people who you can draw on for strength, hope, inspiration and support,” Sarah expressed. “There’s still a lot of stigma around this particular addiction. Gambling disorder is a disease, it is an addiction. There’s still huge denial throughout Indian Country and mainstream as well. We’re still way far behind in accepting, acknowledging and supporting people to get help. It’s a hidden illness.”

If you wish to be member of this monthly support group, to better understand the disease and learn how you can assist someone during their recovery journey, all you have to do is RSVP with the Problem Gambling program at (360) 716-4304. And on the day of the event, Thursday September 30 at 5:00 p.m., simply enter this Zoom ID number: 313 507 8314 on either the Zoom app or at  Family Nights are held once a month on every third Thursday. 

“Family Nights are really important,” Robin stated. “Because it’s not just as easy as sending your person to treatment and they fix them there and send them back home. The education is a requirement that we have for our clients, that one of their family members or friends attends Family Night during their treatment to gain an understanding. Family Night is about education and gaining information about gambling addiction. We always offer resources, so that beyond us, they have a resource list that they can go to and access.”