People with gambling addictions aren’t the only ones who suffer consequences. Family and friends do, too. Gambling addiction can affect the financial wellbeing of those close to the addicted gamblers, and lies, lack of communication and frustration can cause emotional problems for everyone as well.
One of the strongest emotions family members and friends of problem gamblers often face is guilt. They blame themselves for their loved ones’ problem, and they are angry because they think they didn’t do anything – or not enough – to help.
Are you blaming yourself for your family member’s addiction? You might be asking yourself the following questions:
“How did I not know about this gambling addiction?
Problem gambling is often referred to as the “hidden addiction.” Unlike drugs and alcohol, you often can’t see its consequences taking a toll on the health of the person. You can’t smell it like you can alcohol and some drugs. It affects men and women young and old, employed and unemployed, rich and poor. It affects people without their friends and family ever knowing a single bet was placed.
Don’t blame yourself for not noticing the signs of the gambling addiction. Many, many people don’t realize someone within their own household is gambling.
“What should I have done to prevent it?”
You didn’t do anything wrong when you couldn’t prevent the addiction of a friend or family member. Addiction is a serious and complex disease caused by a number of factors.
You might be thinking, “But I brought him to the casino that one time! I never knew it’d become such a problem.” You cannot blame yourself with this type of thinking. The majority of individuals who buy lottery tickets, visit gambling venues and gamble socially do so without problems or addiction. You cannot predict what will happen.
It’s important to know the risks associated with any activity. Moving forward, you can help prevent early exposure to gambling by refraining from enjoying it in the company of children. You can leave lottery tickets out of birthday cards and you can refrain from gambling on major sporting events with adolescents. You may rethink creating gambling opportunities at work that people feel pressured into joining.
You can prevent exposure to gambling, but ultimately, you can’t blame yourself for addiction.
“What should I have done to stop it sooner?”
You might not have known the gambling was happening. Or you knew about the problems but were afraid to get in a confrontation with the individual. Or you knew, tried to confront it, and couldn’t convince your family member or friend to seek help.
Often, there isn’t a lot you can do until the person gambling realizes there is a problem and is ready to get help. Except in extreme (and often legal) circumstances, you cannot force someone into recovery. While you can temporarily take away gambling opportunities from someone and force him or her into a gambling-free situation, that will likely not lead to long-term success. People have to want to recover.
“How can I stop blaming myself?”
Hopefully the information above has helped you realize that you did not cause an addiction, and you are not to blame for its consequences.
Help is available not only for problem gamblers but for the people around them who are affected. In addition, organizations such as Gam-Anon provide support groups for spouses, parents, siblings, friends and more to discuss their experiences, trade advice and find the emotional support.
You can find many gambling treatment and support options in New York State by visiting the Gambling Support Directory or by calling the NYS HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY.
Stop blaming yourself. Find the support you need today.