With so many people in New York State becoming addicted to gambling, many more family members and friends are forced to understand gambling addiction and its consequences, as well as how they should deal with the impact a parent’s gambling addiction has on their own lives.
If you’re the child of a problem gambler, we know it can be a difficult experience. You may be struggling to understand the addiction, and you might be asking, “Why can’t they just stop?” Maybe you want to help but you don’t know how, or you’re worried that your parent’s addiction may lead you to your own. If you still live at home, you might be dealing with the loss or downsizing of your home, or the selling of possessions to pay off the debt of the family.
We know this is a hard time, but you are not alone. Here are some things you should know:
Your Parent’s Gambling Addiction? It’s Not Your Fault.
Many children of problem gamblers wonder if it was something they did that drove their parents toward their addiction. That is not the case. You did not cause it, and you cannot single-handedly stop it. Remove that pressure from yourself and do not feel guilty. It was no choice or action of yours that caused this addiction.
It’s Not a Choice – It’s a Gambling Disorder.
Gambling addiction is a disease. It’s not a bad habit, carelessness or reckless behavior and it’s not a sign of a lack of care for the family at home. Those are misconceptions – some of the myths of problem gambling. Just like addictions to drugs and alcohol, this addiction is a disease. It’s a mental health issue, and that is why it is so hard for problem gamblers to stop.
Gambling addicts feel a “high” when they gamble – just as alcoholics do when they drink and drug addicts do when they use their choice of legal or illegal drugs. The only difference is gambling doesn’t require problem gamblers to ingest anything to reach a euphoric state.
Help is Available.
Counseling, whether in one-on-one sessions or support groups, is available throughout New York State for problem gamblers and for anyone affected by problem gambling.
While many family members may accompany the gambler to private therapy or counseling sessions, others find it valuable to go to Gam-Anon meetings attended by significant others, family members and friends of people with addictions. Gam-Anon provides you with the opportunity to share your story, concerns and frustration with people who have been through the same experience. You’ll feel less alone, and you’ll be able to get advice and emotional support from people who understand how you feel and how you can move forward.
Your Relationship May Be Strained Now, But It Can Be Repaired.
Gambling addiction can be cured, and work can be done to fix damage done, such as the accumulation of debt, the loss of property and the loss of the trust of family, friends and employers.
You may be angry at your parent. They may have lied to you in order to gamble, or simply kept the truth from you for months or years. Their financial situation may have jeopardized your lifestyle or purchases you had expected to rely on, such as money put away for a new family car or the savings that had been kept for your college tuition. You may have to deal with the reactions of other family members, friends, neighbors or coworkers who have found out about your parent’s addiction and attempt to discuss it with you.
Your relationship with your parent can be repaired. It may take time, and it will take the work, but together you can begin communicating and return to a relationship that’s open and honest.
If you’re ready to talk to a counselor or support group about your family member’s gambling, we are prepared to help you immediately. The NYS HOPEline offers help and hope to people every day. You can call toll-free anytime for assistance. Every call is anonymous and confidential.