This article appeared on page 9 of the March 2007 issue of
Benefits Canada magazine. It
was written by Leigh Doyle and is posted with permission from Benefits Canada.
Many companies offer support for
smoking addictions, alcohol abuse and even nutritional counselling, but little exists for a problem
that is harder to notice—a gambling addiction.
Shawn Jordan is a gambling recovery specialist (and a former problem gambler) with the newly launched
website Stopgambling.ca, based in Calgary. The site provides a 21-step recovery program for employers
or employee assistance providers (EAPs) to offer employees with serious gambling problems. Gambling is
considered serious when a person is spending $1,500 to $14,000 a year on the habit. "The
statistics show that gambling problems in Canada affect about 5% of the population, so about 1.5
million people," he says.
When trying to cope with his own addiction, Jordan discovered a lot of programs that helped deal with
the problem but nothing existed to support a person to full recovery. So with the help of an Alberta
Alcohol and Drug Addiction Commission councillor he designed "a full recovery program."
The first step—which can be downloaded from the
site—is getting the person to admit he or she has a problem. After that, says Jordan, the employee
should be paired up with an EAP counsellor who will guide him or her through the remaining 20 steps.
They are designed to help the person control the addiction, teach him or her responsible financial
practices, rebuild confidence and channel the addictive energy into productive behavior.
Anyone who uses the program also gets access to an online support community
through the website where he or she can talk to other gamblers who are on the same step. The steps
take from one to three days to complete, or about 60 days to finish the whole program.
Jordan says that gambling addictions are not easy to spot in the workplace.
Warning signs that an employee has an addiction are often subtle,
such as habitual lateness, long lunches, absenteeism, exhaustion and declining productivity. Other
signs to watch for include vacation days taken in isolation rather than a week or two at a time;
employees who owe money to colleagues; employees who request salary advances, or pay, instead of
vacation days; or employees who volunteer for lots of overtime.
As gambling's popularity grows and more people are at risk for addiction, the odds of plan
sponsors needing to provide coping strategies for employees increases.