Living with a compulsive gambler can change life in many ways. In addition to the financial difficulties, the stress created by the gambling addiction in the family can manifest emotionally in loved ones and cause significant relationship problems. It is common for family members and loved ones of a person with gambling problems to feel anger, betrayal, or fear. The increase in stress and worry can lead to physical and mental health problems for the gambler’s loved ones, including anxiety and depression. You are not alone! The 888-ADMIT-IT helpline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for ANYONE affected by problematic gambling!
For someone living with and sharing finances with a compulsive gambler, the emotions can be overwhelming and can lead to self-destructive behaviors. There is a tendency to react to negative behaviors of others with impulsive actions and self-destructive behaviors. There is evidence showing that substance abuse along with overeating are used as ways to cope, escape, or gain a sense of control over oneself. For a loved one, the thought may be something like: “If you can gamble all our money, I can drink as much as I want.”
With the gambling problem, there are different ways a loved one may unconsciously believe that they are helping or have some control. It could be a belief like: “If I go and gamble with them, I can control how much money and how much time they gamble.” This may work at first, but as the gambler’s addiction progresses, so do the negative behaviors of the loved one. When gambling alongside the compulsive gambler does not work, loved ones may unconsciously spend too much money with the idea that there will be no money left for the gambler to gamble with. Over time, a sense of urgency arises, inspired by the lack of control, which can cause vulnerability and lead the loved one to acquire their own addictive behaviors.
There are various other negative impacts of the gambling problem on emotional well-being, mental and physical health, and relationships. Due to gambling, many loved ones report a loss of respect and trust in the gambler due to lies, dishonesty, and betrayal. In the end, it is not only the compulsive gambler who suffers. Loved ones may conclude that the only way to cope with the impacts of gambling addiction is to escape into something that can numb this despair, a destructive pattern that can also lead to addiction.
The Importance of Promoting Positive Self-Care
As you can see or maybe already know from experience, it is not easy to escape from the self-destructive behaviors and thoughts inspired by a loved one’s gambling problem. The important thing to know is that you are not alone and there is help and hope available!
• Contact the 888-ADMIT-IT Helpline for Gambling Problems and connect with powerful and free resources specifically for loved ones: self-help literature such as the FCCG’s Change Workbook Series for Loved Ones, self-help support groups such as Gam-Anon, financial resources, legal resources, emergency/crisis resources, and many more.
• Avoid isolation by seeking family, friends, or self-help support groups and recovery networks, such as Gam-Anon.
• Focus on positivity and positive self-talk.
• Dedicate time to regular exercise: a 20-minute walk can have significant benefits.
• Practice gratitude by reminding yourself of the things you are grateful for.
• Stay in touch with your thoughts and feelings. Do not allow yourself to “numb.”
If you are in Florida and affected by a loved one’s gambling, call or text the 888-ADMIT-IT Helpline, confidential and multilingual, 24/7. You can also open a live chat here on gamblinghelp.org to connect with a Specialist today.