You are not alone! So many families, loved ones, and friends of problem gamblers can be severely mentally, physically, and financially impacted by this hidden addiction. It is crucial that you set boundaries and take care of yourself. Much like when you are watching the safety presentation on an airplane, they say for you to put your own mask on first, because you can’t help others without ensuring your own safety first. Read on to see what you can do for yourself to cope with the stress caused by this addiction and help support the problem gambler in finding recovery.
To begin, it is important to understand that this is not a battle between the loved one and the problem gambler. It’s a battle fought together against the addiction itself. It is important to understand that the addiction itself can dramatically change the behavior and demeanor of the compulsive gambler. You may have already been taken aback by these defense mechanisms acting out, like denial, shifting blame, manipulation, and the side effect of pathological lying. First and foremost, you must keep yourself safe while dealing with this person. The unfortunate reality is that problem gambling can also lead to family neglect and violence. This could mean threatening you verbally, physically, or actually getting violent by throwing things or hitting you. Abuse can also come in the form of gaslighting, meaning they lie or say things to you over and over again until you doubt yourself – simply put; manipulation. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-7233, the Florida Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-500-1119, and the Florida Abuse Hotline is 1-800-962-2873 – all are available 24/7. If you are in a situation where you fear for your safety, call 911.
Know that resources tailored to loved ones impacted by problem gambling are available any time of day or night in Florida through the 888-ADMIT-IT HelpLine. Experienced Specialists are standing by and ready to connect you with the GamAnon Self-Help Support Meetings for loved ones of problem gamblers, FCCG’s A Chance for Change Recovery Workbooks for Loved Ones, the FCCG’s Financial Debt & Budgeting Toolkit, counseling referrals from our network of licensed and certified gambling addiction treatment providers, the FCCG’s Peer Connect Program, and so much more. Help and hope are just a call or text away.
Here are a few ways to help yourself through this trying time:
- Don’t blame yourself: First, you must know you are not to blame for your loved one’s addiction. Protecting yourself and your family from further financial hardships is important. You need to care for yourself and your family. You have no control over the compulsive gambler. You can only encourage the problem gambler to get help by calling the 888-ADMIT-IT HelpLine, and the HelpLine can also support YOU during these challenging times.
- Take care of yourself: Living with a compulsive gambler can place immense strain on a relationship. This can cause anxiety, depression, and grief. A loved one may over eat, over drink, or over spend in reaction to the problem, attempting to limit the gambler’s access to money by depleting savings – a destructive approach on its own. Loved ones may even think if they go gamble with the affected individual, they can better control the situation, but this simply isn’t true. It is understandable that you may feel at a loss for what to do – and that’s natural. That’s why the 888-ADMIT-IT HelpLine is standing by and ready to connect you with a wide range of resources that address nearly every situation brought about by problem gambling, all without sacrificing your own needs.
- Focus on your family: In extreme cases, problem gambling can lead to emergency financial problems that threaten basic needs like food and shelter, especially concerning when there are children in the household. If you are already in or fear you are nearing this situation, contact the 888-ADMIT-IT HelpLine immediately for connection to local resources for temporary housing, food banks, and other emergency financial supports. The impacts of gambling addiction can also take a toll on a child’s mental health, as he or she witnesses family arguments, tension, family violence, or breakdown. You can support your children emotionally by encouraging them to share their feelings when they are ready to do so. Be sure they know they are not responsible, and focus on engaging them with group activities and their favorite hobbies.
Reach out for immediate support by calling or texting the 24/7, Confidential, and Multilingual 888-ADMIT-IT Problem Gambling HelpLine, and get connected to resources from highly trained Specialists. It is never too late or too soon to begin your own recovery, as a loved one impacted by problem gambling.
 “Safety and Protection.” Florida Department of Children and Families, www.myflfamilies.com/services/abuse. Accessed 30 Aug. 2023.
 “National Domestic Violence Hotline.” The Hotline, National Domestic Violence Hotline, 27 Apr. 2023, www.thehotline.org/.