Help for people with gambling addictions – and their families

How To Help a Loved One With a Gambling Addiction

No one thinks that an addiction will happen to them- or to someone they love and care about. So when it happens it can be quite a shock and a confusing situation to deal with.

A progressive illness such as a gambling addiction can happen to anyone. Being a progressive illness means that whilst you may have gambled at some point or another with no problems, it can suddenly hit you at a later point in your life, without any warning at all. From gambling, other problems can also arise, such as fraud, stealing and lying, all to fund the addiction. It is a scary time for everyone affected. But what can you do to help someone you love through their addiction?

Look Out For The Signs Of Addiction

First of all, you have to be sure that your loved one has a real problem- an addiction. There are several signs you can look out for. If your loved one is spending more time than usual on gambling, this could be the beginning of the addiction, and is when you should start keeping an eye on the situation. The next factor is money- is your loved one spending more money than they have available on gambling, asking for loans of money from yourself, or other friends and family members in order to pay back gambling debts or just to place another bet and- a major sign– if your loved one begins to steal in order to afford to gamble, you may begin to sense a real problem. A further tell-tale sign of an addiction is if your loved one attempts to hide the fact that they are gambling- this indicates that they themselves know what they’re doing would not be approved of, and so is an indication that it may be more serious than just a simple one-off game of gambling.

Talk To Them

Once you have a firm belief that your loved one has an addiction, the first thing you must do is ask them about it. Do not approach them in a confrontational manner nor should you in a patronising manner either, but ask them in a friendly, caring way that shows how genuinely concerned you are. Simply ask them if they feel whether they have a problem. In order to make the conversation more of a useful one, explain to your loved one how you feel and what behaviours they have demonstrated that make you think that they may have an addiction. This shows that you have genuinely put thought into this and really do care, rather than that you’re just throwing accusations around.

Make A Plan

It can go one of two ways. If your loved one is honest and admits that yes, they have a problem, the next step is to ask them what they want to do about it- this is very important and reinstates the fact that you genuinely care about them and their health. They may have some ideas, and make sure that you do get the opportunity to share yours. Whatever is decided, one of the outcomes should be that your loved one does receive professional help.

If it goes the other way and your loved one denies having a problem, it can be trickier. You should remind them that you’re there to help and give them some information on who they can speak to in a professional environment, and then leave the conversation so they have some time to think about it. Ultimately though, you can’t help them unless they want to help themselves and admit there is a problem. You can’t force them to meet with a professional or receive any kind of therapy until they decide that they want to go.

Be Understanding

Once your loved one begins the recovery process, things can get tricky. Like with any addiction, relapses can happen- and they can happen over and over again. Even placing just one bet at a bar with friends can bring back the urge to gamble and start the addiction all over again. You must be understanding of this if/when it happens. You must remain supportive and understanding throughout the recovery process. Remember, an addiction is used to escape from real life problems, so what was it your loved one was escaping from? Make time to listen to them if and when they want to talk to you. Whilst you should never make excuses for the addiction or for the problems that may have been caused due to the addiction, be understanding of why it happened. If your loved one feels blamed and is made to feel ashamed of what they’ve done, this can damage the recovery process.

Be There For Them

The main thing that will help your loved one is being there. Being a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen to the problems, a hand to hold through the hard times. Be supportive and helpful, no matter how long it takes. An addiction is more than a ‘problem’, it’s an illness and can not be helped. Understand their problem and help them through to their recovery. Do not shout, lecture, verbally abuse them or make them feel ashamed, upset, embarrassed. Create a positive attitude towards them and help them through not only their addiction but whatever problems it was that they were facing that turned them to addiction in the first place.