Gambling doesn’t just affect the gambler. It can have serious consequences for the people around them too. Its far-reaching consequences involve the lives of spouses, children, friends, employers, and co-workers, but most especially is the immediate family.
Gambling addicts rarely see the problem with gambling; to them, it is just a game of luck. A person with a gambling problem uses defense mechanisms and manipulation to protect their habit and it becomes very hard to convince them of a need for change. Heather Berlin, a neuroscientist at Mt. Sinai, says that like drug addicts, problem gamblers are unable to stop gambling even when the behavior becomes destructive. “They’ll do it at the cost of losing their job, destroying their relationships, or losing their money,” she says. “Gambling addicts just can’t seem to stop themselves from engaging in this negative or detrimental behavior.” Here are some helpful tips for friends and family on how you can be a support to a loved one who is a gambling addict.
Understand the trigger
“Because gambling is known to trigger these addiction pathways, it is often considered to be a behavioral addiction – or behavior that can become compulsive over time, causing a lot of harm to people’s lives,” says Hailey Shafir, LPCS, LCAS, CCS-I. Family and friends need to understand what triggered your loved one into gambling, could it have been reasons of desperation for money, the desire to experience the thrills and highs, the social status associated with being a successful gambler, or the entertaining atmosphere of the mainstream gambling scene or plain depression. In this way, you are able to relate and support them from that angle. Avoid trying to protect them by giving in to their whims and schemes. Don’t envision him or her as the enemy. Envision the addiction as the problem that must be overcome.
Understand the struggle
Overcoming a gambling addiction is a tough process, it’s a tough battle to beat down addiction and they need all the right support to stop gambling and act responsibly. Gambling is also everywhere; readily available to suck them back into the old pattern. So help them resist the desire to gamble again by being supportive. Help your loved one understand that you see him or her as more than a person with a problem by telling them explicitly how much you care about them and their wellbeing. Offer to be someone the person can call or talk to when they find themselves in a stressful situation or on the verge of a relapse. Because “Suffering has complicated factors that interface including: physical, psychological, social, emotional and neurological.” says Karen Doll, Psy.D., L.P.
Remember it takes tremendous strength and courage to own up to one’s inadequacies, especially if they have lost a lot of money and strained or broken relationships along the way. Respect them as a person not for the wrong choice they made but for who they really are. More importantly, relate to them as an equal person and not as a disappointment. Remind them of their many positive attributes, good qualities, and past accomplishments. This will help build their self-esteem and confidence.
When a loved one has chosen to give up gambling and realizes he or she has a problem which is the first step towards overcoming the addiction and recovery. He or she may often feel alone, depressed, ashamed and have low self-esteem. They may feel out of control and embarrassed about their actions and the consequence it has brought upon them. This feeling can lead them into a state of relapse and sometimes contemplate suicide. This crucial period we need to support them in their struggle and that they are not alone, relate to them as an equal person.
As Jennifer L. Taitz, PsyD once stated, “I’m pretty blown away by the idea of Loving-Kindness Meditation. Meaning, instead of drowning in sadness, purposefully spending a few minutes wishing people well (from you to a mentor to a stranger to a person you know struggling) can actually lead to productive actions and increase your joy.” With that, you must be cautious with your interactions and dialogue, keep your temper in check, be patient with his or her treatment and recovery and make sure you don’t exclude them from the family. Offer to be someone the person can call or talk to when they find themselves in a stressful situation or on the verge of a relapse. Be kind