Problem gambling can be a very isolating experience. Initially you might have started gambling with friends or family. It was a fun experience, social and quite enjoyable. Now you find yourself gambling alone for several hours chasing those losses. Hoping and praying you can make back what you’ve lost.
A lot of people experiencing difficulties with heavy gambling find it difficult to share what is happening for them to their loved ones. This can often be from a sense of shame, embarrassment and worry that they will be harshly judged. And so the secrecy continues leading to further isolation and in turn affecting your mood and feeding the sense of shame.
What it is important to be aware of is that often sharing something that you feel vulnerable about can strengthen a bond between two people. While it can be terrifying to reach out and let someone know what is happening for you it may help you start to take that first step to recovery.
Many people that report initial reluctance in letting their family or friends know about their problem gambling go on to state that sharing it with someone they trust and respect brought a huge sense of relief and that the person responded with care and support. One person struggling with gambling on electronic gaming machines for many years shared that for her telling her father what was happening finally allowed her to be less than ‘perfect’ to him. Her father responded with warmth and concern. She also said that as she began to slowly tell her friends she found she was building a ‘safety net’ around her.
So if you find yourself isolated and struggling with gambling you might want to re-consider in letting someone know. The following points can be useful to consider:
- Write a list down of friends and family members that have been supportive in the past and that you feel close to.
- Be mindful that the thoughts you might be experiencing are just that – thoughts. Those thoughts are not facts and often we tend to exaggerate or catastrophise with our thoughts.
- Choose a suitable time to be able to sit down and talk about what is happening for you. Ensure that it is private and that you won’t be interrupted by other friends or family members or children.
- Check with your friend or family member if they have time to chat and are in the right headspace. There is nothing worse than working yourself up to share only to have that friend distracted by something else or needing to leave much sooner than you had hoped for.
- Talk in person! Text, email or instant message might be tempting but ultimately you cannot convey your feelings and thoughts as well. Also the reply back might be vague leading to further worry.
- Try and keep the tone serious. Often when we are trying to share concerns with a friend there is a temptation to throw in a joke or sarcasm to make the tone lighter. This is doing a disservice to you and the seriousness of what you are experiencing.
- It can be helpful to start the conversation by saying to the person something like “I’ve got something to tell you that I’ve been really struggling with. I haven’t told you earlier because I feel so ashamed and I’ve also been worried that you will be really angry/disappointed in me. But I’ve decided it’s really important to let you know because I’m struggling and need some help.” Any friend or family member that really cares about you will want to hear and support you
- Starting to attend counselling specifically designed to address problem gambling might be a useful first step to take for you before letting your loved ones know. This might be particularly helpful if you are in financial debt and your partner is unaware of this debt.
- If you feel that you don’t have anyone in your life at the moment that could be a support to you, it’s important to seek professional support-no person is an island.
- Regardless of whether you have the support of friends and family, it’s important to call Gambling Help on 1800 858 858 to speak with a gambling counsellor if you feel your gambling has gotten to problem levels.
Good luck sharing, take a deep breath and go for it!