Avoid rescuing problem gamblers

Are you in a relationship with a problem gambler who is struggling to stop gambling? Or is there a family member who has been adding to debts by compulsively gambling? Unfortunately, relapse is a regular occurrence for problem gamblers in recovery. They find it difficult to maintain total abstinence and often get triggered into old ways of behaving.

Their behaviour will seem erratic when about to embark on another gambling spree. They will seem increasingly distant, moody and irritable and will become short tempered. Willpower can be useful in maintaining so-called clean time. However, once someone has decided to gamble again willpower is redundant as nothing will stop them. Their brains will discount the benefits of staying clean and will concentrate instead on the exciting possibilities offered by gambling. 

Living with someone like this can be very frustrating as longstanding promises to refrain from gambling count for nothing.They will appear demented in their single-minded attitude. There is amnesia about past losses and the previous states of despair that they suffered from gambling escapades and an unrealistic expectation that the next gambling binge will be different. They will seem obsessed with the belief that they will win this time.  However, there is rarely a return to disciplined staking and wagering for problem gamblers.

It is easy to fall into the trap of rescuing the plight of the problem gambler and this can take the form of providing emergency funds, excusing poor behaviour and forgiving their transgressions. Gamblers can be highly manipulative when seeking others to bail them out. They always have a story, that this time it will be different.  They will even threaten self-harm if they don’t secure a new supply of funds.

It is important to not be the rescuer in such scenarios. Their problems are not your problems. It is time to put yourself first. The responsibility for someone's gambling should rest with the gambler. Bailing them out doesn't ultimately help them in the long run and could potentially hinder their path to recovery. By all means, try to be supportive in helping your partner or family member to seek help. But the onus is on them to help themselves.

Therapy can offer you the opportunity to review your past decisions and to take stock of your future direction. The process can also help you to set firmer boundaries around your relationship and help you to establish what you want. The sessions can help you to examine your attachment style, review your relationship history and reevaluate your goals and expectations. Speaking to someone who is neutral and impartial in a private and confidential setting can help you to explore your future decisions.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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London SE1 & SE26

Written by Noel Bell

London SE1 & SE26

Noel Bell is a UKCP accredited clinical psychotherapist in London who has spent over 20 years exploring and studying personal growth, recovery from addictions and inner transformation. Noel is an integrative therapist and draws upon the most effective tools and techniques from the psychodynamic, CBT, humanist, existential and transpersonal schools.

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