GSS 007: Coming Clean to Your Family & Friends About Your Gambling Problem

Episode Details

In this episode of the “Gambling Still Sucks” podcast, we tackle one of the most challenging aspects of recovery: coming clean to our loved ones about our gambling problems. We often keep those closest to us in the dark about our gambling problem.

In this episode, I share personal stories, advice, and strategies to help you approach these difficult conversations with honesty and transparency. While the journey to rebuilding trust can be daunting, the power of truth and openness cannot be underestimated. We also discuss the invaluable resources available for both gamblers and their families, emphasizing the importance of seeking help. Join me as we explore the steps towards rebuilding relationships and setting a foundation for a brighter, gamble-free future.

Full Episode Transcript

This is Episode 7 of the “Gambling Still Sucks” podcast. In this episode, we’ll discuss coming clean to your family and friends about your gambling problem.

Hey there, and welcome to the “Gambling Still Sucks” podcast. My name is Jamie. I’m a compulsive gambler, and I’m also the host of this show. I haven’t gambled since July 15th of 2010. In an earlier episode, I mentioned the importance of coming clean to family and friends and how it can help you to overcome your gambling problem. I wanted to take an episode to devote to some of the thoughts or strategies that you might be able to take, as well as some tips on when you do this.

The first thing I want to start off with, which is probably the best advice I’ve ever heard in a GA meeting, is this: A guy was in there, and he was talking about how he was just starting to come clean to his wife about things. One of the older gentlemen, when it was his turn for therapy, looked at the guy and said, “Go home and tell your wife everything. Don’t sugarcoat it, don’t hide anything, don’t keep anything back. Go home and tell her every ugly detail that you have.” At the time, I was about 18 months into my recovery, and this was one of the first times I’d ever heard this advice. It sucked because I really wish I would have heard it on day one. There were some things that I hadn’t shared with my wife, and I was still in that mode of thinking, “This is my problem. I don’t want to drag her down into it, and so I will get it fixed.” I was working on it, but not as much as I should have been. This advice hit me hard. Why didn’t I hear that on my first night? At the time, I had 18 months clean, so I understood. I was living with that white lie or a lie by omission. I hadn’t come fully clean, and I was probably jealous that I didn’t have this advice. That’s why I bring this up, and this is why I wanted to make this entire episode. This is maybe some of the best advice I can give you: Just tear that band-aid off once. If you’re still hiding things or if you’ve told them only a little, do it on your own terms.

I did not do it on my own terms. I got a letter in the mail that my wife ended up getting to first. It described and outlined my problem that I needed to handle. We had a setback that really hurt. It was probably the worst stretch of my recovery. Not that I was trying to go back to gambling, but it was very, very difficult. It was something, like I said, I wanted to handle, and I didn’t. It was that last straw, the one thing I was holding back. Everything comes out eventually. So, if anything, don’t do what I did. Come clean. And when you come clean to your friends and family, if you’ve already done it, set up another meeting. Say, “Look, I know I told you a lot, but there’s more I want to share. I only want to do this once.” This starts to get into the strategy of things. Tell them, “I don’t want to live with lies anymore,” because you don’t. I didn’t want to. I felt so much shame and embarrassment. But once it came out into the light, things got better. That’s been a recurring theme for me. Whatever those white lies are, those omission lies, or just straight-up lies that you’re telling, I encourage you to come clean to your family, especially. And if they impact your friends, or if you feel like you have some really close friends that you want to share with to help keep you accountable, then do that too. Don’t do what I did. Tell everything upfront. That is the absolute best advice I can give you.

Now, having said this, I know your thoughts are probably like mine. “But Jamie, I can’t put this on my family. I can’t put this on my wife. It’s something I need to handle because it’s not fair to them to put it on them.” Like I said, I thought that way as well. But a couple of points: One is, things always come to light. Doing it on your terms will be so much better. If it comes to light not on your terms and not of your doing, if you get caught like I did, it’s a bad place to be. The loss of trust was because I didn’t share it. It wasn’t what I had done; it was the fact that I didn’t share that thing. So, I would also say, your family and friends, if they know even a little bit about your problem, they’re already worried. If you want to alleviate their worry or concerns, be 100% transparent.

If you get to a point where you just say, “Hey, look, I want to tell you everything. I don’t want to leave anything behind,” and you do, and you come clean, and you tell them everything, and you say things that are uncomfortable, things that are going to make people upset, and people are going to cry. It’s not that you’re putting that on them, but that’s how you start getting back to a level of trust in that relationship. Really, just not doing it or avoiding it, the mistrust is going to be there. I think that’s just human. I know from being on the side, like I said before, I had a friend who was a compulsive gambler, and the trust wasn’t there. Had they come and said, “Look, this is what I did. I’m sorry, and now I want to be fully transparent. I want to tell you all the details, even some of the stuff that I’m not comfortable with,” that would have upped the trust level so much.

I know why you think it will impact trust in a negative way, but coming clean and telling the truth is always going to get you into a better situation. It’s going to lead to a better relationship, one that’s built on trust. The foundation’s already been rocked, and so we really do need to start at that base level, which is to strip ourselves down. We have to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and say, “Look, this is what’s happening. These are things I’m embarrassed to even tell you, but I need to tell you so that we can start to build our relationship again.” That’s it. Come clean, tear that band-aid off once, tell them everything. It’s not that you’re putting the burden on them; you’re not shifting the burden to them. What you’re doing is you’re building a foundation for your relationship to begin to grow again. Because if you build it like I did, and there’s even just one little wiggly brick, like I had, that one wiggly brick undid a lot of the other foundation. If I would have just said, “Hey, I have this other wiggly brick, and I need to work on it,” then that foundation would have been solid. But because I didn’t, it caused a lot of problems. So, get everything cleared out, do it one time. You won’t regret it, I promise you. You won’t regret it. It’s not the most fun thing to do in the moment, but it’s the action that we have to take. It’s taking accountability for things and beginning to do things in a different way. The gambler in us wanted to hide things. The compulsive gambler in recovery needs to share things.

I hope this helps. Please let me know, reach out to me if you have any questions. If I can be of help, if you need to know how to start the conversation, I’ll be happy to give any input I can. If you’ve had one of these conversations, share it. Let us know how it works because I think what everybody needs to hear are the success stories. “Hey, I did this. It was really uncomfortable, but it got us to this place that we weren’t able to get to.” And so, that wraps up this episode. Find your friends and family, come clean to them. You’ll be so thankful. You don’t have to live the life of a lie anymore, and it will help you immensely in your recovery.

Now, before you go, I’d like to go over a few very important things. First of all, I think it’s important to remember that problem gambling is a treatable disorder. There’s no scientific evidence or study that suggests that this is just a terminal condition and that we’re going to be forced to deal with the negative side effects and results of our actions for the rest of our lives.

And so, while I know that in the moment it feels like this is something that you’re going to be struggling with for the rest of your life, science just doesn’t back that up. Recovery is real, but we just need to seek out treatment. That brings me to point number two, which is that help is available. Many of the states here in the United States actually offer free counseling and therapy for not only gamblers but family members as well. So, you just need to know that these programs are available. The best way to start finding out more information is to call the hotline number, and that’s 1-800-522-4700. Again, that’s 1-800-522-4700. This is the number run by the National Council on Problem Gambling, and it covers all 50 states. They will have information and be able to start guiding you on the path to seek out help in the area where you live.

These hotlines aren’t just available here in the United States; they’re available around the world. Simply open up a web browser, type in “gambling help” or “gambling hotline”, and you’ll be able to find the information for your local area. In addition to the hotlines, there are numerous places where you can find gambling support and information online. If you go to gamblingstillsucks.com/help, I’ll list some of these things, and I’ll continue to add to this as I find new resources, whether they’re chat groups, online forums, or just great information. Again, that was gamblingstillsucks.com/help.

As a disclaimer, this podcast does not provide legal or medical advice. Look, I’m not a doctor, a therapist, or an attorney. I’m just a guy who had a gambling problem. So, while we’ll discuss a lot of topics and I’ll provide a lot of insight into what’s worked for me, please seek out the help of a professional. Go visit a lawyer, a doctor, or a therapist to help you deal with your gambling problem. The information that we discuss is for informational purposes and should not be taken as professional legal or medical advice. Reliance on the information appearing on the podcast is solely at your own risk. The music for this podcast is “Something Elated” by Broke For Free and is licensed under the Creative Commons.