It is extremely distressing and difficult to watch someone you love negatively affected by gambling. You might be bending over backwards to support them. But it’s equally important that you support yourself at this time as well.
Whether you’re just spotting signs that your loved one has a gambling problem, or it’s been a long road already, or perhaps they’re even in treatment, you need support too.
In order for you to be strong enough for them, it’s important that you look after yourself. You can’t control their gambling addiction, but you can take charge of your life.
1. Contact a support service
Did you know that there are lots of organizations available to help friends and family members of addicts? This is a priceless resource you can use to support yourself when a loved one is gambling. These gambling-specific services can help put you in touch with people who are also going through a similar time in their lives, or perhaps who have overcome it.
2. Talk to trusted friends
The old adage of a problem shared is a problem halved is true. It can be of enormous benefit to talk to your close friends and family if someone you love has a gambling addiction. It isn’t disloyal to the person who has the addiction. Instead, it in fact gives you extra support and strength to continue supporting them.
3. Address mental health issues head-on
If you find you have increased levels of anxiety or fear you are feeling depressed more and more often, you should get some help from your GP so they can refer you onto get some mental health support. When you’re going through something this distressing, it is of course normal to have a bad day. But it is not normal to have a bad week. And if you start to notice your sleep, work or studies suffering, you definitely need to get help.
4. Establish boundaries
In order to continue your relationship with someone struggling with gambling, you need to establish some boundaries. It might be that they are behaving badly due to their addiction, but it is up to you to tell them what you are and are not willing to put up with.
5. Take control of your finances
It might sound scary, but sometimes if someone has a gambling addiction, they can start to overspend or even steal. If you share finances with that person, make sure you are in control of it. And that you never sign anything you don’t understand. Limit access to cash, credit cards and debit cards to remove temptation.
You should always keep passwords and pin codes private and make sure your joint accounts are protected. Monitor any post that comes into the house, to make sure your loved one isn’t appying for loans or credit cards without your knowledge.
Make a budget and keep track of all the direct debits, bills, rent and mortgages. The more you have visibility on, the quicker you’ll be able to spot if any problems arise.
6. Make time for yourself
It can be all consuming when addiction is a reality of your life. But one of the key ways to support yourself when a loved one is gambling is to keep your own head above water. Keep making time to enjoy your own life so you don’t get bogged down by their problems.
Practicing mindfulness is a help to some people, while for others simply taking a moment to relax by doing something like getting a massage or even simply having a bath can help. Having said that, make sure you are relaxing in a healthy way. Alcohol will not help your situation.
Exercising can also be great for clearing the mind and giving you something else entirely to focus on. Whether it’s training for a big run or even taking a regular walk, it can all help to make you feel a bit calmer.
Getting help for a gambling problem
As we said before, there are lots of places you and your loved one can go to get support for a gambling problem. One place based in the United States is the National Council of Problem Gambling. They have a good list of places where you can get support.