My mother married at a young age to a poor man she hardly knew, who turned abusive. Risking being branded as "disgrasyada" in the `70s, she revealed her situation to her family to save herself and her children from her abusive husband — and took all the blame.
A single mother with big ambitions for her 3 daughters, she did what she could to meet her high financial goals. But life was hard, and, having "misguided" friends for company, she eventually discovered that she could put food on the table, and then some, through gambling.
What started out as a necessity became an addiction. After winning bets a few times to meet our basic needs, she soon found herself hooked.
When my sisters and I were teenagers, she'd borrow money from relatives for our tuition but would end up losing it on slot machines. As a self-supporting student, I'd lose my hard-earned salary from flipping burgers, which I’d hide from my mother, to her addiction, and she'd come home after three days miserable, angry and sick, with empty pockets.
The last straw was when she ran off with a check that I’d prepared to help my sister with her rent. After that, news got to me how she would use her own mother's pension, steal from my sister's family and her grandchildren, using her battered wife and ‘martyr mother’ stories in her defense.
Cutting off ties I eventually learned that the way to live my life in peace was to leave her and her sickening lies.
I had a peaceful family and a sound life being distant from my mother, who did not even care to visit when I gave birth to my two children. Actually, my kids don't even know they still have a maternal grandmother. I do not even want her to know where I live for fear that she’ll steal from us, knowing her capability to use people, maybe even my in-laws.
Understanding addiction Instead of just hating her though, I tried to understand my mother’s background and addiction. I got in touch with members of Gamblers Anonymous (Gam-Anon) Philippines and from them I learned that gambling is a form of addiction that affects a person psychologically.
The term "addiction" is not widely accepted in our society, as it is commonly associated with drugs, though it applies also to alcohol, gambling, and even sex.
Also, I learned that there is no such thing as "recovery." An addiction is a lifelong struggle that one can manage with the help of family. But it takes a team -- a community, even -- to help someone with an addiction.
The first step to this involves the dependent (the one with an addiction) first acknowledging that he/she has a problem. He/she should have a desire to change for the better even if he/she can't manage it.
However, none of my mother's siblings or parents could see this. They would always be ready to accept her apologies, give her support and hope that she would change.
I was the only person who was brave enough to be straightforward with her and for that, I became the ‘ungrateful daughter’. As an affected family member, I learned from Gam-Anon, a group in the U.S. composed of affected family members of gamblers, to live a separate life before I turn into a “co-dependent,” or a person who tries to center his/her life on turning an addict around but eventually finds one's self actually dependent on the addict's behavior.
Having a ‘cold’ mother-daughter relationship turned out to be a good thing for me but it also made me lose the opportunity to help her change for the better. Our relationship was so ‘sour’ that it became too difficult for me to lead her to discover the reality of God and His saving grace.