A gambling addiction extends beyond the gambler. Family members and friends are often severely impacted by the gambler's behaviors and activities.
The effects of a gambling problem often impact upon those closest to the problem gambler. Most times only loved ones of the gambler will ever know about the problem because it affects the most personal aspects of people’s lives – their relationships, their home life, their professional life, and their finances. Compulsive gambling is classified as a mental health disorder of impulse control that is typically viewed and treated as an addiction. Unlike many other addictions, gambling is one that is hard to recognize. Because its effects are not as outwardly visible as drug or alcohol use, the gambler may be able to hide his/her behavior for a long time. Examining a person's behavior could provide some clues.
To determine whether you have a compulsive gambler in your life, here are a few things to look for:
Do any of these behaviors sound familiar? Perhaps you have experienced some of these in your own life with a gambler. Social gambling is very much like social drinking. Most people can do it occasionally and feel no particular need to engage in the activity often. Compulsive gambling, on the other hand, is a progressive illness. It may start as social gambling and progress to compulsive gambling, a serious illness, and part of the process involves irrational thinking. Eventually this thinking results in ruined relationships and financial trouble.
The compulsive gambler, like most addicts, has a very difficult time admitting that things have gotten to the point where there is a problem. There is often a period, which can last from months to years, in which gamblers will deny the problem entirely. Gamblers claim they can stop at any time. In fact, there may be periods that they do stop, however, for the compulsive gambler, this is nearly always temporary. Compulsive gamblers frequently do not want to discuss counseling, therapy, or self-help programs. To do so means admitting there is a problem and that change needs to occur.
For many people with addictions, it is far easier to rationalize to themselves and loved ones that there isn’t a problem. If this can be agreed to by everyone around them, then change can be postponed. Sometimes, the family members and loved ones contribute to this behavior because they feel powerless to confront the gambler, so they remain silent. The fear of the unknown can be paralyzing for many people, and they would prefer to remain in a painful situation that is familiar rather than try to create a new circumstance that is unfamiliar and which will require them to change.
HOPE FOR LOVED ONES
Very often, family members and friends are severely impacted by the compulsive gambler's behaviors and activities. Most times they feel worn out and as if they have tried everything. They even feel that their situation is hopeless and that nothing will work. These are normal reactions. In fact, it is true that others cannot change the gambler. Change must come from a desire within the gambler if it is to last.
However, there is a world of hope for loved ones. No matter how hard things seem, change is always possible. All family members and others closest to the gambler can do is to rescue themselves and then to be there to lend a hand to the gambler when and if the time arrives - and if desired.
Making change takes effort, but you must engage in this process willingly and wholeheartedly. The FCCG's 24-hour HelpLine, as well as Agency programs and services are as much for family members, other loved ones, and friends as they are for the gambler. Frequently, those closest to the gambler think, but this isn't "My" problem; it’s my husband's, my wife's, my mother's, my son's, my boyfriend's or other person’s problem. Again, while you can't “fix” that person, you can address how you deal with and react to the gambling problem as it affects your life. The key to the FCCG HelpLine for family and friends is to assist you in becoming empowered to gain control of your life.
Our confidential HelpLine (888-ADMIT-IT) provides around-the-clock assistance, referrals to self-help programs, professional treatment, Peer Connect options, financial/legal supports, and other resources. The Agency’s PATS Program will cover the cost of the first visit with a treatment professional in instances when HelpLine callers are unable to pay. Specialists will even complete a Soft Transfer, which will schedule the appointment while callers are on the phone. Soft Transfers are an option available for gamblers, family members, and other loved ones.
Finally, the FCCG has developed a self-help workbook series, which guides loved ones and gamblers through the recovery process one step at a time. To learn more, view the FCCG’s A Chance for Change program. To order your free copy, call the FCCG HelpLine at 888-ADMIT-IT.