Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Narcissist and His Addictions: My Father's Gambling and His Other Compulsive Behaviors

As I've shared in past entries, my father is a gambling addict.  He started gambling in his early 30's, when a casino was built in our state, in the early 90's.  He ended up visiting that casino for the first time when one of his cousins suggested that they go there to have a fun night out together.  Well, that was the beginning of a very long journey into addiction for my father. 

After that first visit to the casino, my father became a regular patron there.  At first, he only went on the weekends.  Then he started going several week nights.  And then he was there throughout the week, spending days at a time, without bothering to come home.  From that point on, it just got worse.  My father would spend months away gambling in different states.  He would infrequently call home to check on the family, which also served to let us know that he was still alive, otherwise anything could have happened to him, and we would have been completely clueless about what had happened.  When he did come home, he and my mother would argue, and my mother would tell him off about his problems and how she didn't appreciate what he was doing to the family and how much money he had essentially thrown away. 

By 1997, my father went from coming home infrequently to simply not coming home at all.  He didn't contribute financially and my mother barely made enough to pay the mortgage, other household bills, and support three kids on her own.  It was only a matter of time before she had to sell the house and the four of us moved into an apartment in another town.  While all of this was going on, I don't think that my father knew about any of the circumstances that we were experiencing and any of the decisions that my mother had made.  Even if he did know, he was in no position to do anything to help the situation.

By mid 1998, my family had established a life that did NOT include my father.  He was like a ghost, someone that we talked about from time to time but didn't expect to hear from very often or see anytime soon.  My mother decided to divorce him since she didn't want to tolerate his behavior any longer and wanted to move on with her own life.  Since she didn't know where to locate him, she was able to get a divorce without him being present.  The only time we really heard about him was when one of my paternal relatives told us that he had called them and asked about us.  Out of all of his siblings, my father had one brother in particular with whom he was close, so whenever he wanted to contact family, he would call this brother in order to find out about how everyone was doing.  I only saw my father once in 1998.  It was a very unexpected reunion.  My uncle (the brother with whom my father was close) had persuaded my father to come back to the state in which we all live.  He told my father that he could stay with him and his family for a while and think about what he wanted to do for the long haul, instead of wasting more time and money at the casinos. Once my father got to my uncle's place, my uncle drove him over to my family's apartment so that he could visit. It was during this visit that he saw where we lived and also found out about the divorce. My father only spent a couple of weeks at my uncle's place before leaving to go back to the casinos.  I think that he and my uncle had an argument or he just didn't want to stay there any longer, but either way, the arrangement was short-lived. That visit was the last time that I saw my father in person, until the trip I took to see him in "05".

Once I started to identify my father as a narcissist, doing so changed my view of his gambling addiction. I now see his addiction as a symptom of his narcissism.  Doing so makes a lot of sense in my opinion, because aside from his gambling addiction, there are other behaviors that he engages in or used to engage in compulsively.  Thinking back to my early and late childhood, I knew that my father placed great importance on his appearance.  One of the ways in which he maintained his appearance was to brush his teeth frequently during the day. It got to the point where a dentist actually advised him that he had to start brushing his teeth differently because his way of brushing was doing damage to his gum line. Aside from his obsession with his dental hygiene, he also made sure to take long baths and showers. When it came to his attire, my father spent a lot of money on clothing and footwear. Before changing into day-wear, he heavily starched and ironed his clothes. If my family had planned an outing, we had to wait until he had performed these rituals, before we left the house. My father also emphasized that I and my sister and brother should take pride in our appearance, but his main focus was on how he looked.

As difficult as it is to get an addict to recognize that he or she has a problem, getting a narcissistic addict to recognize their problem or problems is an even tougher feat.  I never once heard my father say that he had any problems, and I don't think that he saw himself as having any problems.  He doesn't see himself as an addict or in need of changing any of his behavioral patterns.  One of my aunts is a licensed social worker and offered to help my father to get into a program.  In order to do that, he would have to come back to our state and meet her so that they could talk and work on a plan of action for him.  He didn't want to do any of that.  The only thing he wanted to do was to come back to our state so that he could stay with my aunt for a little while in order to get his bearings and reacquaint himself with the area.  My aunt didn't agree to this because she said that he needed to get help and the only way to do that was to go through a program and get himself together.  My father is the type of person who would "hit rock bottom" and just keep falling because of his refusal to acknowledge any of his problems and flaws in order to better himself.

The irony about my father's refusal to recognize any of his self destructive behavioral patterns is that he likes to read books from authors such as Deepak Chopra.  During his visit in 98, he kept taking about Chopra, and we even went to the library so that he could look for some of his books.  He wouldn't have a problem watching the self-help gurus on television, either. He would be the first one to sit back and watch an hour long self-help special, but then NOT apply any of the principles to his own life, while regurgitating everything that the person had said during the program, to any willing or not so willing listeners.  Basically, he's a bunch of talk but no action or follow through.

While there are some addicts who finally do admit that they need help and do things to change their lives, I view my father as one of those people who hits rock bottom and just keeps falling because he is incapable of change.  His narcissism is the condition and his compulsive, recidivist behaviors are the manifestations of that condition.


  1. Ahh. The narcissist and New Age. I'm not surprised that your father likes Deepak Chopra (hey, some really great people like him, so it's not a blanket condemnation). BUT, many narcs wallow in New Age philosophy and pop psych, and it helps convince them that they are in fact 'spiritual' and 'enlightened.' But a narcissist who cannot and will not address this character disorder can never really be spiritual. Not in my opinion anyway. That he's "a bunch of talk and no follow through" is very common in narcs. They'll say things because they sound good; but then they don't need to attach anything to the words. It's maddening, and crazy-making. My NM sought New Age enlightenment for years. EST. "Course in Miracles." None of it "took," none of it made any difference. She has NPD, WILL not look at it, and there's nothing for that.

  2. An addiction and narcissism are complicated when together. I can imagine that reading Chopra can alleviate feelings that no one wants to deal with when it comes to dealing with both. It seems and I am totally wondering if it helps to anchor some narcissists with compulsive behaviors. Provide sanity when it goes spiraling out of control?

    The fact that your father didn't walk the talk reminds me of a few managers who were 'bookshelf leaders/managers'. They could spit the stuff out and thought that the text applied to their subordinates and never thought to look within to find a solution. xx

  3. How you doing BC? Just catching up a bit on blogs, as I've been snowed in with work these last few weeks. Keep writing, your new friends are here to read and listen. cheers, CS

  4. Hey, CS. I am doing ok. Thanks for following up. : ) I haven't really been on here in the past week. My allergies have been acting up, and I haven't been in the best mood, otherwise. Just kind of been relaxing at home, cleaning when I feel like it, and making sure my daughter has her stuff done for school. But I do have some ideas for new entries, so I might have a couple posted before the end of next week.

    1. And I have been working my ass off trying to stay on top of job stuff, so have been very sketchy about blogging! thanks for your comment over there. I'm glad you are doing ok BC.