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    I’m exhausted, and so is my wife. We have a 25 year old son who has spent he past 11 years of his life playing shoot-em up video games, and the last 5 years losing large sums of money to gambling.

    He has gone from a happy, smiling, laughing teenager to a surly, miserable, selfish and quite frankly at times horrible person. He has been to Uni, where he spent (with hindsight) so much of his time sitting up until 4/5am playing games and doing no work, resulting in a 2:2 which he has made no use of since he graduated.

    He gambled hard at Uni for the first time. He got a student overdraft of £1,000 and blew it at the casino in one night. It took him ages to admit that debt even existed. He stole from me (my business) when he worked for me when he was back from Uni. That probably, over time, exceeded £3,000 and possibly more in dribs and drabs. He was caught taking money from a till by one of my other staff members. Perhaps I should have just called in the police all those years ago. In reading through this forum, its clear I have become a facilitator, because I didn’t do that at the time.

    He shows no remorse for that episode. I told him the best way he could pay me back was to change his life, get motivated and get on in life. That was 3/4 years ago and nothing changes.

    His gambling has changed over time. It was pub fruit machines for a while, then expanded to the machines at betting shops and arcades including the poker games. Occasionally it was casinos. There is small time “fun” bets on football scores as accumulators and scratchcards for a bit. Then we had Texas Holdem Poker and now online slots which are unbelievably efficient at removing money from you. He doesn’t do it all the time, its sporadic and since the last disaster (£700 in a hour or so), he hasn’t gambled at all I don’t think.

    I firmly believe there is a link between the gaming and the gambling. He lives at home (well maybe not) with me and his mum. He has been banned from playing computer games, particularly shoot em up in the house, and he knows that gambling is not going to be tolerated. When he was playing at home, the abuse that they would scream at each other over the internet was incredible. He would get thrown off the game and banned from it for weeks. Lessons never learned.

    The aggression/stupidity/bigotry from the games overspilled into his work life and he lost his first decent job on a disciplinary for stuff he sent by company email to another staff member. They both lost their jobs. He has a reasonably decent job now but works evenings, so he spends all day in bed, gets up, goes to work, comes in, wont talk to anyone and stays up until 4 am “watching You Tube” (his words) on his phone. Its just perpetuating the old student lifestyle.

    The job has no long term prospects, and he wont move out to a shared house (as I don’t want to live with randoms) but cant afford a place of his own. He has the time available to get a second job but he’ll do that tomorrow. Everything will be done tomorrow. He’s applied for 5 jobs in the last 6 months, despite saying he wants to do something else. The choices are, get up and get on with finding a new job or stay in bed all day………..

    After the last disaster, he was persuaded to see a psychiatric nurse at the GP (still doing that) and he applied to Gordon Moody for rehab. He was accepted by GM, been offered a place and has turned it down.

    He wants to go to Australia for three months instead! There is actually a genuine chance he could go, his mate is going but in the two months since the possibility came up, he has sent one email message to the person whose place they will stay at, has no job to go to and on his own demonstration of enthusiasm to get a job here, won’t make any effort there either. He has no savings as he has blown all of that on gambling.

    I actually said to him last night I would buy his car off him so he had the money to go. “I don’t want to sell the car, I’ll need that when I come back.” So what he really wants is for someone else (me and my wife) to fund his trip. No. You are not 16 anymore. Life is about choices. You can’t have it all.

    My wife is much more robust that me. She reached her limit a long time ago. After the last disaster, he gave a 5 point commitment to turning his life around, including active participation on the GM forums. I think that lasted about 2 weeks. He said he would be up every day midweek at 9/9.30 committed to getting a new job. That lasted a few days, maybe a week.

    So when our “tolerance” is exhausted, he gets thrown out. Usually he sleeps in his car unless he can get one of his mates to put him up overnight as his horrible, unreasonable parents have thrown him out for no reason.

    Our view now is that the only way to make him change is to remove the easy, comfy safety net under him and make him stand on his own two feet, taking responsibility for himself. He has had 4/5 years to change the way he lives with us. He talks to us with absolutely no respect and want to make no changes at all. Same old, same old, same old.

    How the hell do you change your life by doing the same things?
    Words (Lies) are easy. Actions, and sticking to them, are harder.
    We are exhausted with it. We (my wife and I)row about how to handle our son more than anything else. We hoped that GM would be a new start, but the reality is that he still doesn’t think he has a problem, he thinks his 1 hour with the psychiatric nurse every 2 weeks is perfectly adequate.

    My wife and I would love our son back. I don’t see it happening though. Its got to come from him, and he just cannot be @rsed to do anything.



    Hello Chalsteve

    Thanks for starting a thread in the Gambling Therapy friends and family forum. This forum will provide you with warmth and understanding from your peers.

    Feel free to use the friends and family group, you’ll find the times for these if you click on the “Group times” box on our Home page. Now that you have introduced yourself you’ll find that many of the people you meet here have already read your initial introduction and they’ll welcome you in like an old friend 🙂

    If you’re the friend or family member of someone who is either in, or has been through, the GMA residential programme please take extra care to make sure that nothing you say in groups, or on our forums, inadvertently identifies that person. Even if your loved one isn’t connected with GMA, please don’t identify them either directly or indirectly just in case they decide to use the site themselves.

    You’ll find a lot of advice on this site, some of which you’ll follow, some you won’t…but that’s ok because only you fully understand your
    situation and what’s best for you and the people you love. So, take the support you need and leave the advice you don’t because it all comes from a caring, nurturing place 🙂

    We look forward to hearing all about you!

    Take care

    The Gambling Therapy Team

    PS: Let me just remind you to take a look at our
    privacy policy and terms and conditions so you know how it all works!


    HI Chalsteve
    this will have to be very quick but I wanted you to know that not only have you been heard you have been understood 100%. I will write to you asap but I want time to consider all you have said so that I can give you the response you and your wife deserve.
    What I will say is that I wouldn’t be here writing to you now if I didn’t know that your son can control his gambling and live a decent life.
    Don’t argue with each other, it helps his addiction when you do. We all make mistakes when dealing with this in our lives and it is easy to think someone else has got it wrong. Understand that the other one is also dealing with the same problem but in a different way.
    Coming here I hope will give you the knowledge you need to stand united.


    I too am the mom of a compulsive gambler. My son is 28 and this started 10 years ago.

    I wish I could give you some great words of advice that would make this all go away… unfortunately such words do not exist. As you have said “it has to come from him”. Sometimes, however, when we get support and help for ourselves and refuse to be a part of the chaos that the gambling creates things start to move in a positive direction. We start to feel that we have some control over our own lives.

    Keep writing/venting on the forum, read as much as you can on addiction and face to face support with Gam Anon will all help you find better ways to cope.

    As Velvet says your son can learn to manage this addiction and live a decent life. .. it just has to be his decision that he has had enough.



    We don’t expect any miracle cure from this, we’ve researched enough about it to understand that my son can have the appearance of absolute normality with all those around him who don’t actually know about the problem or even those who know the problem but don’t realise the extent. The impact, other than on my son and his immediate family, is negligible.

    He believes he can control it himself. Well, he can. Until he relapses. Then we start all over again. First few days there is the remorse, the guilt and the depression at having lost it all again. There is a determination that help is needed and this needs to be confronted.

    Then, a few days pass, and things don’t seem quite so bad and the memory of the loss is already fading. There is less of an inclination to do something about it, seek outside help, because its back under control, I can do this myself. In this period though, there is more “normal” social interaction with the rest of the family, a begrudging willingness to help out with the daily chore of living in a house where food and drink miraculously keep appearing in the fridges and cooked dinners hit the table on a regular basis.

    Then things start to deteriorate. Now we return back to the resentment of his parents, because we are stopping him from doing the things he wants to do.

    If he had carte blanche, he would shoot people on the internet from the moment he got up to the moment he had to go to work. He would be 10/15 minutes late for work almost all of the time, as he just needs to finish this game and then the next one. When he gets back, it would be straight into his room, headphones on and play it until 4.00am.

    That’s been banned in our house for months now. He can’t play it at all, but the impact of that is that the resentment levels are cranked high as we are treating him like a child he says. Well, yes we are, because he is behaving like one.

    The only mechanism we have for not having shouted/screamed expletives reverberating through the house, is to ban him from playing it. We also have banned him from vaping in the house. Now whilst I accept it might well be better than the smoking he did before that, he has the ultra powerful things that produce smoke like an out of control field fire. They smell sickly and unpleasant to us, so we simply said you smoke it outside.

    Given the ability of an addict to lie, you would probably understand the number of times that we would come home to find him smoking it in his room. Ask the simple question, would you do that at work? No. Work instructions are sacrosant.

    Parents are not respected and can sod off.

    So our only ability to reign in a 25 year old addict, is to remove the things that he wants to do to get him to comply with the really basic, simply rules of the house. Keep your room clean and tidy. Don’t smoke or vape in the house. Help out with the daily chores. For that, he gets the run of the house, meals, drinks, bed, etc etc. all for £150 a month rent which is about 1/10th of his take home pay. The room is a sh*thole, the bed gets changed about once a month after someone goes ballistic at him (usually his mum), there is months of crap on the floor, unopened post, and the dishwasher gets emptied if you are lucky.

    So the only thing left in the armoury to try and get a correction in the behaviour to us, is to remove the access to the house completely. We are on Day 4 of this now. Its been overnight a few times in the past, and on one of those excluded nights, he sat in his car and lost a fortune in a few hours, before calling us on the verge of a breakdown it seemed. Maybe rock bottom had been hit and there was a way forward. No. Go back to the start of paragraph 2 and read it all over again.

    So we worry that by excluding him from the house that we might provoke a new episode of gambling, but it seems to us that the only way to get a change in his behaviour is to deny him what he wants until he complies, but that also just cranks up the resentment once he has returned again. Its a never ending circle that we cannot see any way of breaking, because we can’t break it. Only he can. He wants everything for nothing. He will openly say he doesn’t want to live at home, but he wont move out and rent a room in a shared house, he wants the living standards he has at home without having to lift a finger to do it himself. I’ve suggested a second job to earn more money so he can afford it. Why should he do that?? Just work all the time? Where’s the fun in that?

    He sees my response of where’s the fun in your life at the moment as being a snide, negative remark rather than the objective bit of criticism that it is.

    The bottom line for us is that we cannot stand watching him ruin his life. We have watched it deteriorate over the past 10 years and the last 5 have been ruinous to our relationship with him. If he is going to continue to game and gamble, he has to do it elsewhere. He has to pay his own way and take responsibility for his own life.

    By letting him live at home for a pittance, we effectively subsidise his gambling ourselves. We will support him all the way if and when he wants to get help. I said to him I would do his job for him (and I could and would do) whilst he went to GM for three months, so he still had a job to come back to when he finished there. Still not enough.

    I see my mates having a laugh and a joke with their adult sons. They can go down the pub and have a beer, or just chat about everyday rubbish and banter. I’m envious of them. Deeply so.


    HI Chalsteve
    It would be great to talk to you in real time this evening between 20.00-21.00 UK time.
    Unfortunately I have had a bit of an accident and am not doing well in my responses but I will be there this evening to welcome you if you so wish.


    I’m not sure if I’ll be home and able to do so at that time. I’ll do my best

    Hope you are OK!!


    I hear ya Chalsteve!

    Dealing with a compulsive gambler in your home is the most frustrating, infuriating, exhausting and depressing thing going.

    You sound like you are hitting your proverbial “rock bottom”. It’s so nice to hit that point where we finally are tired of worrying about them and start worrying about ourselves.

    Try to remember this isn’t personal. He is an addict and when in action really can’t put much thought or concern to anything but getting his next fix.

    It’s never too late… there is always hope. One day it may be you and your son sharing a beer in the pub.

    Keep the faith!



    Thank you.

    That’s an interesting thought, I’ve always understood that he has to reach rock bottom to start the climb back up, but I’ve not applied the same principle to my wife and I.

    In that context, my wife reached it some time ago. I’m there now. I don’t want to just “give in” and go back to same old same old. Something, my son, has to change.

    I’ve told him that HE has to set the criteria, he has to make the commitment to himself as well as us before we can move forwards. If we set it, then we are just controlling his life he says. OK, you control it. You do it. You set the standards. We will then make OUR choice if that’s a strong enough resolution to start to repair the relationship. He wants to know the outcome BEFORE he makes the commitment – so he can judge in his mind whether or not its worth making the effort.

    Change is being forced upon him in his life now, he has to find a new job in the next few months, so he wont have any choice in that matter, he’s got to make an effort in expectation of a good outcome, without the guarantee of it happening.


    Hi Chalsteve
    I have brought up my thread entitled ‘The F&F Cycle’ which I hope will show you that the hamster wheel you and your son are on is something that is understood by many. Those who love CGs do have rock bottoms and they are usually very painful – often it becomes essential that they get themselves out of the cycle first.
    Your son’s rock bottom, when it comes, will not be a visible thing, it is a mental state for him and only a true change of behaviour will give you the peace you are hoping for.
    I know the pain of seeing other families seemingly enjoying perfect relationships and I am not decrying them but I have found, since I fought my own way into my own recovery, that many more families have problems than I had thought. Do your mates know you have a CG son? It probably feels foreign to tell friends about a problem in your family but I think it is good to just say the words out loud without asking for opinions. Support can come from them just knowing. I have had friends confide in me that they had concerns too simply because I said I had a CG in my family.
    I wish I could agree that your son ’has’ to find a new job and that he ‘has’ to make an effort in expectation of a good outcome any time soon. It is far better, I believe, to understand that what you feel he has to do is not what he feels he has to do. In recovery my CG told me that when I said I ‘needed’ him to stop lying and start living an honest and decent life it was ‘my’ need I was talking about, not his – his need was to gamble.
    I think you are right to set your criteria and make the commitment to yourself that you will not be brought down by his addiction. Never give ultimatums that you cannot carry through or he will not see the point of facing a demon he doesn’t want to face. Don’t give up, keep gaining knowledge of this awful addiction and learn to live your life without his addiction filling your every thought.
    I suggest that your son is afraid of GMA because he doesn’t know how to deal with himself and the way he feels, the addiction to gamble stunts emotional maturity. A CG who seeks recovery sees a void because the gamble is the only thing, in their gamble-brain, worth ‘living’ for. Your son’s compulsive gambling has nothing to do with money, it is all about the gamble, a gamble you and I know he cannot win. It is not his fault, just like you, he neither asked for nor wanted his addiction.
    I would like to say to you ‘don’t envy your mates laughing with their adult sons but I know how you feel – your son would almost certainly love to be like them too but he cannot see his way out yet. You are temporarily ploughing a different furrow from you mates – in my opinion it is good to let them know.
    Keep communication open with your son (I hope I don’t sound patronising because I assure you I am not) but listening to him is more important than talking to him. He will be lonely, unhappy and afraid. Never forget that you are stronger than his addiction however much you feel you are not.
    Keep posting


    Thank you Velvet

    The context of “has to get a new job” is simply that his current one is coming to an end. He knows he won’t actually have one at all by January. However, the desire and motivation to go and find another one is the one impacted by his “need”.

    His “needs” remain focused on the desire to gamble/game still. I would say that his desire to game is stronger at the moment than his desire to gamble and he doesn’t see that there is an addiction there either. It is my opinion that the two are intertwined, the flicking/flashing of the screen on the shoot em up game is stimulating the same bits of the brain that the slots/gambling does.

    Once underway, nothing else matters. If the opportunity is there, then he could play it for 10/12 hours. Even that has a cost, they always need the next weapon, the next smartbomb, that no-one else has, so they click on the icon on the screen and its bought and the bank card is automatically debited. Then suddenly everyone has it and the next new one appears. Here we go again. Its no different at all, its simply a means of extracting a continuous drip of cash.

    I can’t live his life for him, I know, but I’m aghast and fearful at what his life is going to be and where its going to take him.


    You are doing great Chalsteve!

    I am 10 years into this and still wobble and fall. I do great when things are going well and as soon as my son relapses I feel like I am back to step 1 again..:(

    As with Gam Anon (which I attend… though feel like a big failure sometimes) it is helpful to hear others stories. To hear I am not alone. To hear that this isn’t easy for anybody and I am not a big loser as I can’t fix this.

    We gain strength and hope from each other.



    Hi Chalsteve
    Even if your son didn’t use and lose money he is addicted to the gamble; this is known as ‘dry gambling’. Many CG abstain from gambling for money and believe it is enough – but abstention is not control. Some newly abstinent gamblers say that they are keeping track of what abstinence has saved or cost them but mind bets keep their brains in gamble-action which eventually builds to the excitement of gambling for money again. Once the brain is excited the CG cannot shake off the urge to gamble.
    ‘His desire to game is stronger than his desire to gamble” is his addiction because as long as he plays/gambles in his brain he will keep his addiction alive and sadly growing. Those around CG generally understand the value of money and see the illogicality of losing it for a game/gamble; we tend to see the addiction as being money related but it isn’t – a CG is motivated only to get enough time/money to play/gamble.
    Cathy (worriedmama) has mentioned Gam-anon and I too share her belief in this terrific organization where you physically share with others who understand – it was in Gam-anon that I found my salvation; maybe you could have a look in your area for one.
    I don’t usually mention it because there is no need but the CG in my life is my son, so I know where you are coming from. The big difference between us is that for 23 years I unwittingly enabled because I had never heard of an addiction to gamble and for the next 2 years I didn’t believe it although I stopped enabling. In the final 2 years I did what you are doing now and sucked up all the information I could get and that is what carried me forward; finally taking a course in addiction counselling, going to Gam-anon and arriving here. It was my efforts to learn that made the difference to me and eventually to the relationship between me and my son. You are aware of what is going on, you are learning about something that confuses us all, which is good because you can protect yourself, your wife, your home, your possessions and ultimately your son.
    The battle is tough. Knowing the man, that is ‘now’ my son, helps me to know that your son can be the person ‘he’ wants to be. My son grew to hate the person he had become and that is what changed his life. I didn’t save him, I couldn’t: I didn’t stop him gambling, I couldn’t; I was estranged from him in the final year because he was destroying me; he hit his rock bottom without me but I know that looking after myself finally and ceasing enablement was the right support for him.
    Keep posting


    So last night, we hit a new low – but that’s still probably not rock bottom.

    For the past 10 days, my son has been living with his grandparents because we were not prepared to sustain him and his addiction anymore. Lets put this in perspective. Grandad is 86 and has dementia. He’s looked after by 78 year old Nan, who a few months back had run herself down so much in looking after him (Grandad) that she ended up in hospital with a major chest infection which required surgical intervention to drain fluid from the lungs. Two days ago, Grandad had a fall, which has put him in hospital.

    Nan took my son in because she said she didn’t want him sleeping on the streets or in his car. He doesn’t have to. He’s got a job and a few mates left. But he went there and he immediately allowed her to run around after him. She became his new “facilitator” and there was an immediate deterioration in the relationship between my wife and her mum because of this. They have a very strong bond.

    We had been round there, as a family, to try and talk to him about what he needed to do, which primarily involved getting him into a position where he got out into his own, self funded accommodation. Nan had her eyes opened at the way her grandson talked to his own Mum and Dad, and then when she asked a difficult question of her own, was on the brunt of that herself.

    In the middle of the week, he disappeared for hours late at night. I saw the text message she sent at 2.30am asking where he was? He had a function to clear up after and was on his way, was the response. Add some more perspective. Grandad was at home at that time and wakes up at around 6/6.30am and needs to be cared for from then. If ever there was going to be a “guilty conscious moment for him when he finally put the needs of others ahead of himself, this would be it.

    So last night, after we had visited Grandad in hospital, and had a vague message that he was out doing something entirely sensible, the alarms bells were ringing loud and clear. The same cycle of behaviour that he was throwing at his Grandparents was almost easier to spot than it was before.

    So we drove past the pup he said he was at with his mate. No sign. With a heavy heart, I walked into the “arcade” zone in the town centre and was relieved to find him not in there. We headed for home, with one final check that we wanted to do. The casino. He was there with his mate. For the third time in three days with him. His mate, who I know and believe him, said that my son was not gambling, he was just sitting there watching. But he also said he wasn’t there the night that my son was out until well after 2.30am and my son, by then, had already said to us that that’s where he had been.

    His mate was visibly shocked at the change in behaviour and the verbal abuse dished out by my son. “Sticks and stones can break my bones…..” etc but its hard to hear your son say his parents are a couple of c##ts in front of someone you know very well.

    This is someone who was offered a place at GM, and turned it down because he says he can control it and cure it himself. I don’t know where we go from here, but he is now out of his Grandparents as well. Perhaps one or two good things will come out of this. His mate now knows the extent of his problem and there is no way that he will take him down to the casino again. Last night may even affect the way his mate himself actually views his own gambling levels.

    I can see no end to this for my son. He has not got the slightest desire to do something about it and the levels of abuse are ratcheting up all the time. Of course, its OUR fault for coming out to look for him. Its OUR fault that because we found him where we did, his cushy number at Nan’s has just gone as well. Its OUR fault that his mate now knows some – still not all – of the levels that he has fallen to in the past.

    No remorse, no guilt, not even the slightest “sorry” for the web of lies he had spun to his Nan who he spoke to on the phone to her. There’s still a long drop to the bottom.


    Hi Chalsteve
    I have read and understood your post and I am giving it a lot of thought. It is a post that deserves a lot of thought but I will write to you soon.
    I know how desperate you feel but for tonight I can only offer you the knowledge that your son can face the raging addiction that is causing him to behave in what appears to be an abominable manner and be the decent human being you hope for.
    I was going to write that sadly the awful behaviour doesn’t surprise me but maybe that isn’t sad because however awful it has been I have seen it myself and come through it so I can offer you real hope.
    I don’t know what happened that caused your son to apply to GMA but whatever it was he wasn’t ready but he knows the support is there. Maybe you could tell him about our Helpline – it is a terrific support for many and that includes many who think they can control their addiction. It is so hard for a gambling addict to think they cannot control the thing that is hurting them – it is so hard for them to think that somebody could take away that which they believe gives them a reason for living.
    Your son is not deliberately hurting you or his grandparents – he has an addiction that is hurting him which suffocates any form of empathy. He is blind and deaf to logic and reason.
    Keep posting and maybe call our Helpline yourself. This site has Harry on the Helpline and Charles who runs a ‘drop-in for all’ group that you can join – both these men will understand your son, both can tell you that they too hurt and damaged those around them – maybe they can give you the hope you seek. Compulsive gamblers who face their addictions and live true recoveries are more than often prepared to bare their souls for others – please use all the support we have.
    This wasn’t supposed to be anymore than a quick acknowledgement that I have heard you – I will continue to get my little grey cells working for you but for now I will leave this post here.

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