Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The House Always Wins (How youth deal with parents that are addicts)

This is an exerpt from the magazine that we publish called RECONNECT written by my friend and co-worker Derian Julihn.  This story is compelling on many levels.  Some of the details and names have been changed to guard this family, but the heart of it is about the pain and difficulty of having a parent that is in trouble and how this young person was desperate to make a difference.


“My mom is a gambling addict.” Tim blurted out in the middle of our conversation. I have to admit I was taken aback by this moment of sheer brutal honesty. I could not even remember this young man’s name and he was already telling me his family’s secrets. I had seen Tim around before but this was the first time we had connected. Quite callously my response was, “Wow, that’s crazy! Can I interview you?”. In hindsight, I probably could have handled that situation better but Tim had hooked me and I really wanted to hear his story.
The story is one of tragedy and infinite sadness. You would never guess from looking at Tim that life has dealt him such cards. He is an honor student. He wears nice clothes. And he is always smiling. Now I recognize the smiles are forced. His mom grew up in country that was at war with itself. She later married, had two kids and immigrated to Canada. When Tim was eleven his parents separated; his mom, lonely and isolated in a foreign country, grew depressed and turned to gambling. Tim’s mom has grown such great that debt that she has to
steal from her own kids to feed her addiction. She disappears for days at a time. Sometimes there is food in the cupboards, sometimes there is not. Tim often skips lunch because there just is not enough food for three square meals.
Tim’s never told his mom how he feels about her addiction. In fact, he’s not sure she knows he is aware of her secret. They have never spoken of it. Tim says she is too proud to admit it and he is too afraid to say anything. When I asked him what he would say to her if he had the courage, He answered, “I would tell her everything’s going to be alright. I’ll fix it.”

When I asked Tim if he had the opportunity to escape from this mess (even if it meant leaving his younger sister and mom behind) would he take it. Tim’s eyes filled with tears, as he shook his head. At that very moment I realized Tim was desperately trying to save his family and he was sacrificing himself to do it.
For some people when the casino wins, it takes far more than their money. It takes their soul, their family and their future. I still wonder how Tim’s going to “fix it”. My greatest fear is that Tim is taking an even greater gamble than his Mom. He’s betting his entire life on the roulette table. I know even in life the house almost always wins but I truly hope and pray the ball hits double zero for Tim’s sake.
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