May 20, 2008

Sir Charles: Don't Half-Ass This Problem

Hey Charles Barkley, an accepted definition of problem gambling or pathological gambling is: An inability to stop or limit gambling, despite repeated adverse consequences. Pathological gambling can become an addiction, no different in mechanism than alcoholism or opiate abuse or sex addiction. All four cause the brain's pleasure center to release chemicals that indicate to the rest of the brain that the activity is something good.

So now, Charles, you have publicly announced that you will take a gambling holiday for at least a year or two. You say you will do this on your own. What has changed? You haven't lost any more money than you previously admitted to (on the magnitude of $10M plus, and that's assuming he's being honest). Your career is definitely not taking a downturn, as your political career might even be taking off. You appears to be able to afford it, given you immediately paid back the $400K in markers you owed in Vegas. No, the only difference is that your failure to promptly pay your markers has become a public embarrassment to Sir Charles Barkley.

In Twelve Step circles, the first step is admitting that you have a problem and are powerful over a substance or activity. For everyone facing a harmful addiction or compulsion this step arrives in different ways. For an alcoholic it might be getting drunk at the holiday party and causing a scene. It might be getting a DUI. It might not even happen until there is loss of life or limb, or the process server shows up at work with the divorce papers. For Sir Charles, apparently, it was public embarrassment. Given what we know about you Chuck, this is understandable.

So here's where we are, Charles. You admit that you have a problem. You admit that you need to do something about this problem, because the unhappiness it causes you is outweighed by whatever pleasure, if any, you now derive from gambling.

Do you really think you should do this on your own? Does a doctor remove his own appendix? Does the lawyer serve as his own counsel? What's the difference? You're saying that you can control your behavior using your own brain, the same brain that treats gambling no differently from eating or having sex at this point. It is literally now a biological urge, and you expect to treat it using the same organ? Which part of the brain do you think is going to win this battle, the animalistic part that is based on a stimulus-reward survival theory or the high-thinking cortical part that helps you with crossword puzzles and advanced mathematics? Yeah, the lizard brain is going to win. It always does.
East Coast Bias
And here's a tip, Chuck: the one- to two-year holiday isn't going to do it. The brain is plastic. It changes in response to stimuli - that's how we learn. Your neuronal structure has changed to respond quickly and heavily to gambling. Those neurons have a lot of extra branches, and those branches aren't going anywhere any time soon, if ever. If you give it another taste in a year or two you're going to light up that same Christmas tree, and those cascades are going to leave you feeling just as empty and in need of more as it does right now. Sorry boss, you used up your gambling allotment for this life.

So get some help Charles. You need more brains than just yours if you expect this to work. You're already somewhat of a poster child for Libertarians anyway. Isn't one of their mantras "Heal thyself, physician"? You're going to need something coming from outside your own head to make this a reality. Otherwise, I see you getting your fix from seedier channels than Vegas casinos. Is that a public embarrassment you are prepared to face? Do bookies file civil suits in the court system?
East Coast Bias
Still think you're different from everyone else who has faced similar demons? It's okay, smart people have a tendency to do that. Watch this very eloquent monologue by alcoholic Craig Ferguson and see if you still feel the same way.

2 Responses:

michael said...

Good post. Didnt know about the whole Ferguson thing. Thats big swingin brass ones to talk about all that on national TV...and in a monologue no less.

J-Red said...

He'd mentioned it briefly once that I saw when he had John Larroquette on. Larroquette is an alcoholic too.

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