Hi Steve, A close relative of mine owes over $30,000 in credit cards debts due to his gambling problem. He asks me for help, and so I am trying to help him settle these debts with the CC companies for as much as 50%. He does not own any house or car or has any savings, and he is currently unemployed. Bankruptcy is unthinkable for us. We force him to attend Gambling Anonymous meetings.
Should I let these credit card companies know that the reason he owes so much cc debts is because of his gambling issue; and that also because of his gambling issues, he does not have any house, car, savings or job; and that I am willing help him pay the debts if they are settled for 50% of the original amount? Or should I just let these cc companies know about his pathetic situation minus the gambling part?
The story is of minor importance with the credit card companies. Acceptance is based on the corporate policy and the status of his accounts at the time you approach them. Typically the person needs to be at least 90 days past due on their debts to get to the best deals offered by the banks. Falling behind will hurt their credit.
Make sure that if you do approach them that you get agreements from all of them before you start settling debts. Your relative won’t be out of debt unless all agree.
I find your statement to be interesting and I’m concerned that the decision to take bankruptcy off of the table may not be the most prudent.
Your relative has found themselves in gambling debts and has a gambling problem. If you are “forcing him” to attend Gambler Anonymous meetings that tells me he is not ready for change yet. Change is tough enough, even when the person is willing to seek assistance them self for a problem they self-identify.
Bailing out this person that you love seems more like enabling them than making them responsible for their bad behavior. As part of a 12 step program it is beneficial for the individual to accept responsibility for their actions and make amends. It is part of the healing process.
- We admitted we were powerless over gambling – that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to a normal way of thinking and living.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of this Power of our own understanding.
- Made a searching and fearless moral and financial inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have these defects of character removed.
- Humbly asked God (of our understanding) to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having made an effort to practice these principles in all our affairs, we tried to carry this message to other compulsive gamblers.
By you bailing them out it only makes it easier for that person to reoffend and get back into gambling. You are sending them the message that they don’t have to be responsible for their actions since you are bailing them out.
Since you asked me for advice, I’ll give you my honest opinion based on experience in helping others since 1994. I think settling the debt for them is a complete mistake. Settling will result in bad credit for them, so will bankruptcy, so will not paying. But by settling this debt with your money, or family money, you are simply helping the person to discharge their responsibility for their actions in a way that will most likely lead to a repeat of their pattern of abuse.
I think you believe that GA can be a helpful tool in the recovery of this gambling addiction but I think that you should contact the GA sponsor of your family member and ask for their opinion on this course of action. Let the sponsor give you feedback if they think that your enabling the person to escape the consequences of their gambling assists or hinders their recovery.