I’m not the person with the problem but problem gambling is making my life hell…

Problem gambling not only affects the person gambling but the behaviours and actions associated with gambling addiction commonly affect the life of 10 or more family and friends close to the person with a gambling problem.

One of the great tragedies of gambling problems is that it is often the families of a person with a  problem gambling who suffer the most. Partners are often confused, angry and feel helpless as the household budget is pressured and money worries escalate – but they may not know that gambling is the issue. Children can feel neglected or fearful when arguments break out.

It is not uncommon for a problem gambler to be spending so much time and money on gambling that financial stress (inability to pay bills, increasing debt) and relationship problems (arguments about missing money and time spent away, lying, feelings of betrayal) start to add to the difficulties problem gambling causes.

It is not uncommon for the family, especially spouses and kids, to feel that it’s their fault. Sometimes because of the arguments that get used when the problem gambler is desperate to deflect guilt or justify actions their actions, partners or family may feel they are to blame. The reality is it’s not your fault!

As a partner or family member what can you do?

When in contact with a problem gambler, life can become incredibly difficult and confusing. Amongst the financial pressure and feelings of hurt and desperation, all we want is for the gambling to stop, but it can be hard to know the right things to say or to know what to do.

Get professional help and support

Seek help for yourself and your family. Family and friends of problem gamblers often don’t think to get help for themselves, but this is very important to ensure YOU receive the support you need. The information and skills you learn by seeing a problem gambling specialist may help your partner/family member to stop gambling, but is not the primary goal. By seeing an experienced gambling counsellor you can address the suffering and problems that gambling is causing you and get help to address the situation. FREE counselling for partners, friends and family members can be easily arranged by calling Gambling Help on 1800 858 858.

Limit your exposure to financial difficulties

Set up separate accounts, keep credit cards and cash safe. You might need to consider transferring assets into your own name. If you need financial assistance, financial counsellors can help you organise things and are available free through Gambling Help on 1800 858 858. Specialised free legal help is also available.

Don’t make excuses, bail out or enable

It is very important that family and friends don’t lend the problem gambler money or help them access loans or credit.

Not only can lending money expose family members to financial difficulties (rarely will the money be returned), bailing out a problem gambler also maintains the situation – nothing will change.

Giving the gambler more money or credit increases the problems and prevents the problem gambler from admitting there is a problem and learning to take responsibility for their own actions.

Similarly, don’t help a problem gambler negotiate with creditors, employers or banks.  You can let them know a financial counsellor can assist them and that free help is available (through Gambling Help on 1800 858 858) but don’t jump in and fix things.

Offer support without judgement

It’s very difficult not to be judgmental or make ultimatums when dealing with a problem gambler, but generally speaking, the bigger the issue you make of the gambling problem, the harder it can be for the gambler to stop.

People with gambling problems often do not enjoy gambling and know that they should stop, but may find it very difficult to know how. Try not to harass them or demand they stop immediately. Instead, encourage them to be open and honest with you about their gambling problems, and if you feel safe, let them know in a calm way, how the gambling has affected you/your children/family etc, let them know free, expert help is available.

Violence

Unfortunately domestic violence is an issue that occurs regularly in conjunction with gambling problems. If you or your family are at risk of violence, you need to leave urgently and phone Lifeline on 131114 or if you are in imminent danger phone the Police 000.

Legal advice

You may need legal advice to secure assets, deal with debtors, make separation arrangements, arrange divorce proceedings or help with criminal charges that have arisen from stealing to support gambling. It is important to organize legal advice before things get out of control. Through Gambling Help free legal advice is available via the Wesley Community Legal Service 02 9263 5577

It can help to get a different and fresh perspective.

For more information, visit the family and friends section on  www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au

You can also download a free family help guide or request a free copy to be sent to you by clicking here http://www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au/GamblingHelp/SelfGuide.aspx

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