HELPING A COMPULSIVE GAMBLER
Having a loved-one in the grips of gambling addiction can make you mad, frustrated and scared for their well-being. I know this well as I have been on both sides of the addiction as both a loved one and the addict.
Here, we’ll cover a few of the key points to know before confronting a loved one about their gambling habits.
0. Do not give them money…
Yes, they will likely be in terrible financial health. And sure, you could pay down a few items to speed up the process. However, this rarely has the desired effect and most frequently ends in relapse for them and increased financial obligations for you. If, down the line, they are showing significant progress and you would like to help, maybe it makes more sense. But always remember that you are trying to help treat an emotional problem, not a financial one.
1. Lay the foundation…
At first, they will likely be reluctant to open up. Take this time to share the following with them:
- Let them know you care about them.
- Let them know you realize they may already be trying to stop.
- Let them you hate to see them struggling.
- Let them know about your own struggles/successes or the struggles/successes of others.
- Let them know you believe they can overcome anything.
- Let them know you know how to get help.
2. Get them talking…
The primary goal of the first few discussions should be to get them to feel comfortable sharing their struggles with you. Give them time to open up, but once they begin sharing focus on keeping the discussions flowing.
3. Save your reactions…
By far the hardest part will be to remove emotions from the discussion. They have likely lied and stolen from you, so you have every right to be angry with their actions. However, they will likely pull back the moment they feel they are being attacked, so try to listen and avoid sharp reactions.
You have every right to air your issues with them to let them know how their actions have impacted your life, I just suggest waiting until a third or fourth chat before doing so.
4. Help to create a plan with realistic goals…
Help them create realistic goals and a sustainable plan to move forward. This would include listening to the podcast, joining support groups, attending treatment sessions, etc.
5. Create a contingency plan…
Unfortunately, recovery isn’t a straight line. There are ups and downs and relapses happen. Let them know that if things go wrong, you need them to involve you. The days of treating their issues alone are over.
My loved one says they have stopped gambling, but I am struggling to believe them. How can I know for sure?
There is no way to be 100% certain they have stopped. We compulsive gamblers will go to great lengths to cover our tracks in hiding our addiction.
While there is no way to know with complete certainty, having access to bank accounts, credit cards and all other financial information will help.
I’m concerned a loved one has a gambling problem. How do I confront them?
While we’re all different, I think we share a universal need to be understood. With this in mind, I think it’s important to approach your loved one with empathy and compassion, while encouraging them to share.
My loved one refuses to go to Gamblers Anonymous. What should I do?
One step would be to have them read the What’s Gamblers Anonymous Really Like? post.
They say “I’ll Never Gamble Again”. Should I believe them?
They may be telling you this as they think it’s what you want to hear or they may truly want to make that commitment. There’s just no way to know and even the best intentions can get sidetracked.
Use this comment as a great opportunity to jump in and create meaningful change in their recovery. Remind them that relapses happen and that the key isn’t to make a big proclamation, but to have complete transparency. The “never again” promise needs to be that they will never lie to you again.