Get practical support with your gambling problem Forum Friends and Family A Distressed Son Looking for Help

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    Hello GamblingTherapy Forum, 

    I feel so fortunate to find that this forum exists. From the posts I’ve read here, y’all just seem like such wonderful, insightful, understanding people. I hope someone can offer their ear to me and lend me some advice.

    My mother has a terrible gambling problem.

    It started before I was born, and is a problem I’ve grown up alongside. I’m 20 now.

    All my life my mother would go through periods where she’d disappear, phone off and without a word prior or after. At first it’d be for hours, then for whole nights she’d disappear, returning in the morning. Then she started disappearing earlier and earlier, often neglecting

    to cook dinner. Oh man my Father would be so frustrated-  He worked his butt off to be a succesful tradesman, he’d sweat and bleed during the day and would come home to two hungry children and an absent wife.

    My mother was the one who raised the children, she never would brouch the topic of her addiction with us. So I grew up kind of just knowing something was up, but never addressing the problem.

    Eventually watching T.V. I understood that she had

    a gambling problem. I grew up ashamed of it – it doesn’t make much sense but from the perspective of a child, I didn’t know what to think. As I grew into adolescence I just stopped thinking about it, so caught up in hormones and my own

    life and school problems. 

    This problem was just never directly addressed by me, and I know I’m partly responsible that the problem got so big. But now I’m 21, and the monster of a problem has grown so much it’s threatening everything.

     Time to look it in the eye. 

    After my mother’s recent successful battle with cancer, she has descended into gambling madness. She disappears for days at a time now, not returning home to sleep (terrible thing to do for people with cancer). Her phone is just off. Sometimes she leaves it at home.

    After she maxed out a home line of credit of $150000 dollars, she began contacting less savoury financial people who showed her how to take out a second and third mortgage on our home. (They would get a cut or scam or out of large sums in the process.) 

    Recently, she admitted that we were $1 million in debt from her wreckless borrowing/gambling. She’d borrow huge sums in the $100000s to pay off old debt that was catching up, and in the process would rack up more thousands and thousands down the road.

    She keeps all her borrowing secretive, only telling my sibling and I bits and pieces. I think she’s very ashamed of the hole she dug my family into, but is caught in a cycle that takes us deeper and deeper. She has no real clue

    what’s happening with all the mortgage papers she signs. She doesn’t even know English! The language that the papers are in! Some sketchy third parties are leading her through the process, (and making a hefty sum of change while) and she’s thinking short term only, thinking about paying off the

    previous debts catching up to her, using the leftover mortgage money to gamble. When I press her about the issue, to tell me more, she makes excuses…

    “Children shouldn’t speak about adult things,”

    “You don’t understand it this isn’t your area of study,” 

    We’ve got to sell our property for sure. But before all this happens, I’m looking into all the papers, trying to at least understand the situation. But she’s not willing to talk! All she says is a defeated “We have to sell the property, theres nothing more we can do.” She

    keeps trying to disuade me from looking into the issue, telling me there’s nothing I can do to help. (How could she know? She doesn’t even know what she signed and what’s happening,)

    What I need to do is speak to a lawyer about the situation, and see what the best course of action should be.  But before this is possible, she needs to talk about the whole

    situation. I practically have to beg her to reveal anything to me, but she tells me a little and makes excuses to stop. If I push past that she gets agitated and angry, starts muddying the topic, going on the offensive against me. 

    I do my absolute best to stay calm and return to the topic but it can be so hurtful. Some hope I have is that I can tell loves me and my sibling, and she suffers seeing us so dismayed by the ordeal.

    Does anyone have advice on convincing her to talk? Or any advice for me, struggling to come to grips about the whole situation?

    Thanks for taking the time to read this. I feel a lot less alone knowing there’s others out there.


    Hello, I realized it’s strange being called bananaman.

    Y’all can call me Kirin if you’d like. It’s a pleasure to be here.


    Hi Kirin
    I have posted our customary welcome message to you so that you know you have been heard and understood.
    I like to give a lot of thought to my replies because that is what those who approach this forum deserve so I will post to you again as soon as possible.
    In the meantime, well done writing your first post, I would imagine it was very difficult for you to write. There is often a lot of misplaced loyalty when it comes to talking about close family members which sadly gives the addiction, which thrives on secrecy, room to grow.


    Hi Kirin
    I have read and re-read your post a number of times and I cannot see why you feel that you are partly responsible for your mother’s addiction. By wrongly assuming that you are partly to blame, I suspect that you feel you are the one responsible for saving her but if this is so then you would be incorrect.
    The only person you can save is yourself and I think it would be really good if you could start by saving yourself from ever taking any blame for the addiction of another, even if it is only partly.
    I think that your mother is lucky to have you for a son who is willing to look her addiction in the eye but I am concerned that you think you can do this for her because you will be facing disappointment, frustrations, anger if you believe you can make her stop gambling.
    Your mother is possibly ashamed of her behaviour but sadly not ashamed enough, yet, to do anything about it. I find it interesting that she says that Children shouldn’t speak about adult things,” and “You don’t understand it this isn’t your area of study,” The addiction to gamble stunts emotional maturity, so it is likely that you are the more mature person in your relationship, also because you are gaining experience in her addiction, when she is not doing nothing, you will understand her behaviour better than she does.
    It seems to me that it would be advisable for you to approach a lawyer or your mother will be responsible for losing far more than the house. Is your father still alive and trying to cope?
    Your mother’s addiction does not want to have a conversation with you that could result in her accepting her addiction and her poor behaviour. I liken her addiction to having a beast in the corner of the room that stays quiet as long as it doesn’t feel threatened. When you push past it, the addiction gets agitated and angry and starts muddying the topic, going on the offensive to put blame on those who care which in your mother’s case this is ‘you’.
    I mistakenly believed many years ago that the CG in my life didn’t want to see me suffering by the ordeal – he was able to tell me, once he had controlled his addiction, that the only thing that had concerned him, when he was actively gambling, was his next bet. He didn’t mean to hurt me but I was not the most important factor in his life, the important factor in his life was his need to gamble.
    I think for you to come to grips with your sad situation it will be necessary for you to put yourself first, to live the life that you deserve, the life your mother gave you 20 years ago.
    The addiction to gamble will take those who love them all the way down to the bottom if they ‘allow’ it to happen. This is not what your mother wants to do but she is blinkered by addiction and needs treatment to learn control it.
    Maybe you could download the 20-questions from the Gamblers Anonymous web site and give them to her. Maybe she thinks that her addiction is unique to her and that nobody can understand her – hopefully the 20-question will help her realise she is far from alone but that there is good support for her ‘if she wants it ’I’m sorry to say that if she doesn’t want it, and many compulsive gamblers choose not to take it, there is nothing you can do – apart from save you.
    I take it that the house she is in danger of losing is your family home and that you and your siblings are watching your inheritance being thrown away on a senseless addiction. If this is so, I suggest that a lawyer is the right way forward to protect you.
    I am going to leave it there Kirin and await your reply but be assured that the addiction to gamble can be controlled and your mother can change her life if she wants to do so enough – if it was not so I would not be writing to you.


    Hey Velvet,

    Thanks so much for sharing your kind thoughts with me. I’m sorry it took me two days to reply.

    I don’t believe I’m the one to “blame” or blameable, at least not exactly. It’s just that with the advent of all these problems happening in my life and family, I’ve realized through some reflection that I could’ve done something earlier – even if I could’ve spoken up earlier, the debts may not have gotten so big. In a sense, I’d say I’m at least partially responsible for the problem my family will face here,( i.e. debts, moving, lawyers) but I know I’m not responsible or blamable for the gambling. I couldn’t have effected the gambling issues, which are the real problem.

    But I could’ve at least caught on to the true nature of the debts earlier, or I could’ve started dialogues within the family earlier which would’ve lead to the debts being caught on earlier, and not becoming so big. It seems pedantic, ha, but in this case it could’ve been difference between hundreds of thousands.

    There’s a lot of complicated factors here. For one, I was raised by my mother (my father being the provider), who instilled these passive behaviour patterns into me and my sibling. She taught us to not question her and respect her authority, and so living under her household I continued these patterns until now, early adulthood. But it’s not as though I was not a conscious person with a free will leading up to now, and I knew that a problem brewed in my family – the lines of responsibility intersect with the lines of victim-hood by circumstance – everything is blurry and deep in the past, it’s up to me to interpret the past to guide my future.

    I like to give a lot of thought in my posts too, i guess. I’ve hardly addressed what I’ve wanted to say yet, but I have to leave and continue later. Sorry! I will return to finish this post, as soon as I can.

    Before I part, Velvet, you mentioned my mother was lucky to have a son like me. But even more so I feel that I and world are beyond fortunate to have anyone like you.

    Best regards,



    (continued from part 1 below)

    You’re definitely correct about the disappointment, anger, and frustrations I have faced coming to terms with this problem. 

    I love my mother so so much,  to see her treat the family and I like this  is beyond heart-breaking. My soul feels sick. I hate waking up in the mornings; this set of problems are the first thoughts I have, and they stick with me through every moment throughout the day. 

    I’m definitely trying my best to be the mature person in this relationship. I see that there are many problems to solve in the foreseeable future, and I want to be solid as a rock for my family. I’ve been learning to stay calm and not get dragged into fights with my Mother. I feel lucky that she’s at least she’s somewhat willing to talk. I’ve gobbled up whatever experiences I can find and relate to online – I feel lighter just knowing others like you have gone through similar experiences – and I can better understand how to move forward. Forward, I like that. 


    Yes I’m currently looking for lawyers to talk to – it’s my next best move and hopefully there will be more options after that. However, I worry about how unwilling she’s been to speaking about the true nature of the debts and problems. This is likely related to the guilt she may feel internally. Hopefully she’ll understand that the lawyer can help best if the truth comes out. 


    My poor father is working tirelessly to pay off the interests on the debt, but he’s largely in the dark. My mother and father’s relationship has largely soured, and for good reason. All his earnings go towards the debt. But oftentimes after a hard day of labour he returns to home to a missing dinner.  And his body is full of aches and pains, which is so so terrible. I’m motivated so much by this man, I see how honest and good he is. I often remind myself in darker moments to move forward for him. Do it for Dad, it’s a great slogan, hah.

     Moments ago I had to break the news to him about having to sell the house – it took me twenty minutes to call him over, all the while I was googling “How to break bad news,” and finding advice from Doctors. He took it far better than I could’ve imagined, and we had a good discussion about responsibility and morals. 


    I’ve read  your comment about the “beast in the corner” idea, and I think you’ve nailed it precisely. When we try to talk, I’m on the lookout for a point where it’s like she becomes possessed by something – the look in her eye changes and she tries to attack me. And if I’m calm and try to remain on the subject, she hurries away from me, into another room, saying “Enough!” or “I don’t want to talk about it right now!” or something along those lines. Once she threatened to go to the Casino if I didn’t stop.

    I will take your words to heart regarding a CG watching his loved ones suffer. Perhaps I’m forgetting that at the heart of it, this is an addiction issue. Like a junkie who would trade everything away for the next hit. Speaking of addiction, I’m reminded that environmental factors play a big role in addiction as well. A few times my mother has told me, “I gamble when I’m sad.” But all the debts and her attitude towards the family has heavily damaged her relationships with us – everyone is always sad. Does picking up new activities help CGs recover? I know that’s further down the road but perhaps I can start thinking of hobbies that may help her, but that’ll come after the home trouble is dealt with.

    I will definitely do my absolute best to live a full life, the one I feel I deserve after this. A big reason why I’m deep into trying to fix this is I see my father being harmed in the process. She has dragged him down to the bottom. I can’t leave him there. But I will so careful not to tie myself to her so that I will be drowned too. Thank you for the concern.

    The idea of inheritance is almost foreign to me. All that my Father had worked for has been swallowed up by debts and gambling. All I can hope for is that legal help can help recover what’s left to save. 

    It’s reassuring to know that the addiction can be curbed, the urges controlled. I just wish I knew how to better guide my Mother there before things bottom out. But that really is the million dollar question everyone is asking. I definitely will take a look into the 20 questions and the Gamblers anonymous resources.

    Many many thanks again.



    Hi Kirin
    You talked a lot about what you ‘could have done’ which was also my thought when I first started on my road to recovery. What I say now is, that I will never do ‘what ifs’ or ‘if onlys’ because I didn’t do whatever and no amount of wishing makes a scrap of difference – yesterday is gone. I think those who love active CGs spend far too much time thinking about what they have done wrong and about opportunities to change things.
    I lived with an active gambling addiction in my life for 25 years and I hadn’t got a clue what a gambling addiction was for 23 of those years. It is not possible to know what difference knowing earlier would have made so there is no point in beating oneself up over ‘yesterday’. Once you have gained knowledge you can make better choices.
    By all means use the past for reference but don’t waste time wishing you could change it because you can’t. Neither of us can alter the experience that has gone but we can change what we do and think today.
    I know what it feels like to wake up and have your mind flooded by the problems that addiction causes but worry changes nothing; all my plans and efforts to stop my CG wrecking his life did nothing except wear me out and cause me untold misery. I suggest, that you take an hour or two every day in which you deny thoughts of the addiction to enter your mind – see friends, indulge in hobbies and interests, walk in the park, read a book – anything that gives you pleasure and stops you thinking about your mother’s addiction. It works because you give your mind a rest while you build up experiences that are yours to treasure, creating healthier dreams for your future.
    I can already hear that you are solid and able to be the rock for your family but if the addiction to gamble is in the forefront of your mine every waking hour then you will weaken. I fully appreciate the way your father feels – would he like to contact our Helpline or join this forum? I suspect he has not understood his wife’s addiction and has, therefore, unwittingly enabled her to indulge it. I would imagine that he was not as surprised as you thought he would be with regard to the sale of the house – he has almost certainly lived with disappointment for most of his marriage. It doesn’t matter what age he is Kirin he is quite capable of living a better life and I believe better living come from knowledge.
    To live a gamble free life it will be important for your mother to accept responsibility for her behaviour and its consequences but every time her gambling debts are wiped out she will see it as the opportunity to gamble further. Many CG have to be allowed to hurt themselves enough to make them want to change but enablement will always keep them in the cycle.
    Keep posting, you are doing well

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