Knowing that someone you care about is struggling with gambling addiction can be difficult. So when they take a brave step towards recovery, you want to support them as much as you can.
If your loved one - be it a family member, close friend, or partner - is in the midst of their recovery, knowing how best to support them can feel difficult. So, here we've listed some great ways you can help them along in their journey.
8 Ways to Help a Loved One Recover
1. Understanding Gambling Addiction
Empathy is the key to helping a friend or family member suffering from any addiction. It is important to understand what an addiction to gambling entails, even if we find it hard to accept that a loved one has fallen into behaviours that have caused problems for themselves and those around them.
Instead of feeling anger or disappointment towards them, it is better to focus on the difficulties they face. By doing so, we can better help them during their recovery and be a source of inspiration and support. After all, they are not bad people trying to be good but rather sick people trying to get well.
2. Asking Questions Without Judgement
It's important to show care by asking questions, but it's just as vital to understand and respect their limits. Each person's path to recovery is different, and sometimes they might not be in the mood or feel comfortable discussing it.
Even if they're not ready to talk, let them know you're always there to listen when they are. Hearing something like, "Whenever you feel like sharing, know that I'm here for you," can be reassuring.
And when they're ready to talk:
- Cultivate a Safe Environment
Before you start any conversation, ensure that the setting is comfortable for both of you. This means both physically – perhaps a quiet, private space – and emotionally, where they feel safe to express their feelings.
- Use Open-Ended Questions
Questions that can't be answered with a simple 'yes' or 'no' encourage deeper conversation. Instead of asking, "Did you gamble today?", you might say, "How did you feel about gambling today?"
- Avoid Leading Questions
Leading questions can unintentionally influence their response. For example, instead of asking "You didn't gamble today, did you?", a more neutral question would be "How was your day in terms of dealing with your urges?"
- Listen Actively
Active listening involves fully concentrating, understanding, and responding to what the other person is saying. It means not just hearing the words, but also catching the emotions behind them. Nodding, maintaining eye contact, and giving feedback are all signs of active listening.
- Reserve Personal Opinions
While you may have strong feelings about the situation, allowing them to share their experience without the fear of criticism is important. If they sense disapproval, they may shut down or become defensive.
- Be Patient
It's possible they might not always have immediate answers to your questions. Give them the time they need to think and respond. Their journey is personal and intricate, so respect the pace at which they're comfortable sharing.
While you intend to support them, ensuring that they never feel pressured or overwhelmed by your questions is crucial. Their comfort and well-being should always come first.
3. Discussing Signs of Gambling Addiction
Recognising and addressing gambling addiction can be challenging, mainly when the person affected is unaware of the problem or the nature of the addiction. Approaching the situation carefully, rather than simply telling our loved one to stop gambling, can help them overcome the issue and take the important step toward a more fulfilling life.
We can support those who are unaware of their addiction and those who are ready to take steps towards recovery by discussing the signs of gambling addiction, such as financial problems, work-related conflicts, family problems and isolation, and relating them to the impact it has on their lives. Understanding the nature of the addiction can help an individual become more self aware and, in turn, take control of their recovery.
4. Joining and Encouraging New Activities
For those struggling in recovery from a gambling addiction, finding ways to fill time is essential. By engaging in activities that do not involve gambling, such as exercising, reading, socialising with friends, or taking a long walk, someone can rediscover more fulfilling habits. Joining and encouraging your loved one in these activities can help create a stronger bond and a sense of support.
5. Educate Others
The more people in your loved one's circle who understand their situation, the better. Discuss the situation with mutual friends or family (with their permission) to ensure everyone is on the same page. This isn't about spreading gossip but about creating a support system. Always prioritise their comfort and privacy, sharing only with trusted people and ensuring your loved one approves what's being shared and with whom.
6. Avoiding Triggers
Even with a strong determination to quit gambling, certain places and atmospheres can challenge your loved one's resolve. Being close to casinos, slot machines, or bingo halls may tempt them or, at the very least, make them uncomfortable. Support them by helping to steer clear of these triggers.
Consider letting them know about self-exclusion registration. Tools like Gamban or transaction blocks from banks effectively limit access to online gambling platforms, with self-exclusion banning them from physical locations. Many resources are available to help keep both online and offline gambling temptations at bay.
7. Being Supportive
During the challenging journey of overcoming addiction, providing unwavering support to those struggling is a challenge but it is essential. Empathy, kindness, and encouragement can make all the difference in helping them navigate through the stress and distress they may experience, including as a result of any relapses. Try to avoid reinforcing negative self-perceptions your loved one may have by criticising them if they relapse, as this may cause them to give up on quitting and lead them to gambling even more.
8. Providing Resources and Professional Help
It's important to let your loved one know that resources are available to help them with their gambling problem. Seeking professional help can provide treatment options tailored to their specific needs, including individual therapy, group sessions, financial counselling, and other recovery methods. These experts can equip them with the tools and strategies to manage their gambling urges, identify and address underlying issues, and prevent relapse.
Make Sure You're Looking Out For Yourself Too
Gambling addiction is an addictive behaviour that can arise due to various factors, and helping someone struggling with this issue can have a positive impact on their lives but also a significant impact on yours.
While it's essential to remember that it's not your job to change someone's behaviour, you can help in numerous ways. It's important to keep in mind that you're not alone in wanting to care for a loved one. There are support services out there that can be of great help to both of you.
If you're facing any difficulties, know that you don't have to go through it by yourself, and there's help and support available for you too.