When you have a compulsive gambling addiction, you aren’t the only one who feels the consequences. So do your friends, family and those close to you.
- You may have spent family savings when placing bets, sold family property and possessions or lied about your spending habits and whereabouts.
- Your addiction may have caused your family members to feel embarrassed or ashamed, and it may have kept you from the time you’d have typically spent with your friends.
Acknowledging an addiction, such as one to drugs, alcohol or gambling, is difficult. But talking to the people around you who may have suffered as a consequence of your addiction can be even more difficult and lead to hard conversations.
The conversations you have with your family members and friends about your addiction are an important part of the recovery process. You must educate your family and friends about your addiction and its effect on you while also understanding and acknowledging how it has changed their lives. Only then can you begin to heal together and move forward in enjoying your healthy, gambling-free relationship.
How do you talk to your family and friends about your compulsive gambling, and what should they know?
Educating Your Adult Family Members about Compulsive Gambling
Your adult family members are likely the people most impacted by your addiction, especially if they share the same household. They have likely witnessed your gambling and felt the effects firsthand. It’s important for them to understand that your compulsive gambling addiction is something that can be treated, and your addiction was more than what they may have just perceived as irresponsible betting. It’s important for you to understand how your gambling has affected them and the feelings they have associated with your addiction.
A number of constructive conversations will be needed throughout the recovery process. As arguments may have ensued previously or pain and hurt were inflicted due to lies and deceit, your gambling treatment may require counseling for the entire family. In counseling, the people around you will learn more about the disease and how to support you, and they will also be able to share in the emotional support counseling provides.
It is of utmost importance that your adult family members understand how you intend to stay gambling-free, so that they do not enable your addiction in any way. Tell them that lottery tickets are no longer acceptable as birthday presents, that you no longer wish to spend any time at casinos and that you will exclude yourself from poker night. By being honest about your recovery you’ll help them be respectful of your needs, while also reaffirming your commitment to no longer gambling.
The Children of Your Family
Depending on the ages of your children, they may or may not understand the consequences of your gambling.
And your youngest children don’t need to. What they need to understand is that their parent has acknowledged there’s a problem and they are going to fix it. They need to see you are devoted to healing, repairing any damages and recovering any losses.
Your older children may be more greatly affected by your gambling. If you gambled to avoid stress, they may think they are to blame. If they have been able to see the extent of the financial losses, they may worry about the family’s security and basic needs. They may be embarrassed of their parent’s addiction and the ways in which it has changed their lives.
Though alcohol and gambling addictions are different diseases, how you talk to your children about them is quite similar. The National Association for Children of Alcoholics uses the following “7 Cs of Addiction:”
I didn’t cause it.
I can’t cure it.
I can’t control it.
I can care for myself
By communicating my feelings,
Making healthy choices, and
By celebrating myself.
Allow your child to ask the questions they have about your addiction, your health, your plan for recovery and repairing the damage the addiction has caused. Tell them what to expect during your recovery, and the difficulties you will face as you ignore your gambling triggers. Tell them their support will be a tremendous help and will keep you focused on your recovery. Finally, use your addiction as an opportunity to educate your children about the risks of gambling and addictions, whether gambling, drugs, alcohol or other forms.
While it may be common knowledge you’ve struggled with problem gambling, your friends and coworkers don’t need to know every detail of your addiction. If you feel comfortable, talk to your friends about what you’ve experienced and your desire to be gambling free. The details – your debt, your health, the specific recovery plan – can remain private, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about declining to share that information.
If your addiction-driven actions caused friends to be hurt, the most important part is to discuss how you can move forward to repair your relationship. Like your family members, your friends should understand your gambling triggers and situations you will tend to avoid moving forward so they can be supportive. While your relationships may not be repaired overnight, honest conversations will allow each of you to understand how gambling has affected the other, and what you want to change to have a healthier relationship in the future.
Need help talking to your family and friends about your gambling? Have you reached out for help yet? We’re waiting at the NYS HOPEline. Call us today: 1-877-8-HOPENY.