Get practical support with your gambling problem Forum Friends and Family Feeling stuck in an endless cycle of lies

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  • #5980
    Tosca
    Participant

    I have a 28 year old son who has been gambling since his teens. His Dad and I are just about at the end of our wits after years of trying to help him. He has had counselling over the years several times but I’m not sure if he has ever really committed to it, or only done it to please us and get us to continue our support. My husband and I are on the same side but don’t always agree on how to deal with the dramas that our son creates on a weekly basis. Usually late at night, when he is out and claims he is going to get beaten up and begs us for help. He is very dependent on my husband, because he is usually the one who gives in and gives him money. Not to gamble, but to pay off the debts and to try and help him with jobs and practical things. I have reached the point where I don’t believe any of the things my son says anymore and I struggle to have any sort of conversation with him. I feel numb and I don’t like the person I am becoming. I don’t want to throw my son out, but all he does is sleep until the afternoon, play games online and sit around the house all day and then disappear off to god knows where before the texts and phone calls start. He has had so many jobs over the years but can’t keep them. I think he lost the last but one job for dipping into the till, and that wasn’t the first time. It started when he was at school, although we didn’t find out for several years. He scraped through 6th form and went to University but we didn’t realise until way too late that he wasn’t really attending, it was all about gambling. His life is horrible, he has lost all his old friends and can’t seem to motivate himself to do anything. He lives like a teenager and doesn’t care if his room is squalid, on the scale of things that’s less important but he just doesn’t seem capable of being a grown up. I can’t see an end to all this. I feel like I have already lost my son, and I am scared of losing my marriage. I want a better life for my son but I can’t make him choose it. Nothing I say seems to get through the shell he has built up. He is very good at manipulating us whenever we try to have a discussion and I end up confused and we get nowhere. I don’t like myself because I actually wish he would just go away.

    #5981
    velvet
    Moderator

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    Hello Tosca

    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!

    #5982
    velvet
    Moderator

    Hi Tosca
    I’m afraid I don’t have time to write an adequate reply to you tonight. You deserve a lot of thought after the effort you put in to your first post.
    I will post tomorrow but in the meantime I am so pleased that you have started your thread.
    Velvet

    #5983
    velvet
    Moderator

    Hi Tosca
    Not having agreement on how to handle the drama, created by an addiction to gamble in a family, offers fertile breeding ground for the addiction to grow.
    I am hoping that with the knowledge that you will gain here you can get your husband to come on board with you and offer a united front against your son’s addiction which is the best thing for your son. Giving cash to a CG is the same as giving a drink to an alcoholic – as soon as cash is given, either in the hand or by clearing a debt, the slate is cleaned but it is never a launch pad to recovery – it only provides the necessary tool to gamble. The addiction to gamble is nothing to do with money, money is merely the tool – it is the ‘gamble’ itself that causes loss of self-esteem, loss of confidence resulting in bad behaviour. If you son is being enabled then he is being kept in the cycle of addiction. As my son said to me I did everything wrong for all the right reasons
    Your son sleeps or maybe pretends to sleep to protect his addiction. His addiction doesn’t want to hear you. I hope the following will help you understand what is happening when you talk to your son; although not recognised professionally it has been a coping mechanism for many of us – and I know it works.
    Imagine your son’s addiction as a beast in the corner of the room. Every time you speak to your son, even if he seems half asleep, the beast is awake waiting for the threat. As long as you keep your cool and don’t threaten it, it will stay in the corner, growling quietly – but it is always there and listening.
    The good news is that although your son is controlled by his addiction, you are not; you can gain knowledge and be one step ahead. When you threaten his addiction with conditions (maybe something as simple as a request to tidy his room), his addiction will leap between you, taking control of the conversation, probably turning it into an argument which justified him gambling again. His addiction is the master of threats and manipulation but you are not and nor do you want, or need, to be. You are tired, fed- up and confused and his addiction knows it. Once the addiction beast is between you, you will not hear your son, you will only hear his addiction – and because it knows only lies and deceit, it will seek to make you feel blame and demoralize you. In turn, when you speak to your son, his addiction is distorting your words, drastically altering reality to fit his personal perception – he will not be able to comprehend your meaning.
    My CG, son, explained this to me. A parent telling a CG son that they love them and they want to help them must be lying. The addiction to gamble is an addiction of failure. A CG cannot win which leaves them feeling worthless and unlovable so why would you love a worthless failure. Believing himself to be without worth your son will fight back with distortion and deception because sadly, at the moment, he doesn’t have, or know, any other coping mechanism. Telling him you love him and/or throwing money at the problem only fuels the addiction.

    I believe it is really important to stand back and listen rather than trying to argue with his distorted mind – hopefully it will become easier to stay out of an argument that has no point apart from making you feel less in control. Once you begin to try and put your side, the addiction has something to get its teeth into. Having listened, post here and hopefully between us we can find a way to support him.
    The best thing you can do for your son is to look after yourself first because by doing so, you will become stronger, you will reclaim your own life and be able to cope with his addiction. One of the best ways to win is not to play the game.
    It doesn’t sound much but it works – when we fall apart from the addiction of another we become impotent ourselves and as such we cannot help the CG or ourselves.
    Like you, your son would not have know he had a problem until it was too late. He probably gambled for fun in his early teens without any thought that an addiction was to be his lot. All CGs want to gamble responsibly but the addiction means they will always lose. Standing back and watching a loved one lose is the most painful thing. Stopping him from the pain his addiction is bringing him by clearing his debts or giving him cash is not the answer. Only your son can save himself.
    Who is keeping your son in food and warmth at the moment if he has no job? If it is you then I suggest he doesn’t get the best food, the best of anything and he doesn’t get to help himself from the fridge. I cannot tell you what to do but I hope you will safeguard your finances and personal belongings, whether sentimental or valuable,
    Your son is not deliberately hurting you, he will not like the person his is but he is caught in a cycle of behaviour which he is not accepting is his doing at the moment.
    Your son is lost but he can be found, sadly you can lose your marriage because of it or you can grow stronger in unity.
    I understand your feeling that you wish he would go away and maybe that is what he has to do.
    Your son sadly does not appear to have been hurt enough which is a terribly sad thing for me to write and for you to read.
    From all you have said in this post I think the key lies in your relationship with your husband. I believe you should ensure you have time for the two of you where gambling is not the focus. I would imagine that having the addiction in the home has killed a lot of the things you used to do together – try and rekindle the things that made you happy. Perhaps tell your husband that you are seeking support, perhaps tell him that all you are going through is understood here, that other have walked this sorry path before you.
    I will end this post by repeating my earlier message that I would not be writing to you now if I did not know that your son can control his addiction and he can live a fantastic life as a result. You are at the beginning of a really difficult learning curve but you can do it and so can your husband. The more support you can give each other the better. There is so much more to tell you but I will leave it there for now.
    Velvet

    #5984
    Tosca
    Participant

    Reading it all back I feel disloyal because I understand why my husband keeps trying to help. It’s so hard not to when someone you love is hurting, and when the only thing you can constructively do is deny them what they are asking for.
    I feel stronger reading the posts on here and from your advice, but I think we have a tough road ahead of us and in the past he has worn down our resolve.

    #5985
    velvet
    Moderator

    Hi Tosca
    Please, please don’t feel disloyal – you were writing as you see your situation in exactly the same way as I would have written 12 years ago.
    There are many reasons why husbands feel differently to wives about children who develop the addiction to gamble and that is why I think it is important for a couple to keep talking but also to do things together, things that are not gambling related in any way. In the middle of the confusion is an angry, unhappy child who is handling each parent individually because of an out-of-control addiction. I never thought for a minute that your husband wasn’t trying and I am sorry if I implied, in any way, that he was to blame for not getting it right.
    We are not given a book of instructions when our child develops the addiction to gamble, there is no crystal ball, we struggle and try to help as best we can. In seeking help we learn that things we tried were perhaps not the best way forward but it is important not to beat ourselves up over what has gone before. .
    When your resolve is worn down it is understandable that parents feel that maybe the other one could have done more or done things differently but who is to say, certainly not me. I made so many mistakes and I too felt my marriage threatened by the situation. It would be great to ‘talk’ to you; your husband would be welcome too, in the privacy of an F&F group.
    I never thought that your husband wasn’t trying to help and I never thought for a moment that you were being disloyal. It was mis-placed feelings of loyalty that kept me from opening my mouth in Gam-Anon meetings for many weeks but when I found my voice I let it all out – and ‘yes’ I would have said that my husband and I were trying to get it right in different ways and probably that his way was less helpful; the understanding was fantastic and the relief was amazing. Withholding bits of how we feel stops us getting to grips with the whole problem. 12 years on my husband and I could not be happier so don’t despair.
    So keep reading and keep posting – I probably wrote for far too long yesterday and didn’t express myself as well as I should.
    Thank you for coming back at me
    Velvet

    #5986
    Tosca
    Participant

    I didn’t mean to make you feel bad at all, I am finding your posts very helpful. We have a new and rather ridiculous situation developing. Our son has made an online friend in Florida, and has been saying for ages that he intended to go out there to live and work. I didn’t take this seriously, how could that possibly happen when he has no money, no job and it all seemed very airy-fairy cuckoo-land thinking. he now says that it’s all being sorted, the ticket will be paid for and he is going for 3 months, at least initially and hopes it may become permanent. His idea is that he will have a new start, a better life and not be tempted to gamble because gambling is illegal there apart from casinos, and it will be all roses and rainbows. We can’t stop him and probably shouldn’t and we are telling him he will have to stand or fail on this and not come running to us. Maybe he can make a new life but I can’t see it, he has not dealt with the real issue. He needs to get away from us and grow up but this seems very risky. If they even let him into the country.

    #5987
    velvet
    Moderator

    Hi Tosca
    I think it is quite possible that your son would not be allowed into America but ‘If’ he did go, I don’t think it is possible to second guess the outcome.
    My own story, of living with an active addiction, came to an unpleasant and difficult end when my son realised that, not only would there be no more enablement but that he had destroyed the ability for us to enable and he left with the parting words ‘I’ll show you’.
    He went and sure enough he spiralled down into his addiction until there was nowhere else to go. I would say a lot more within the privacy of a group and I hope maybe you will pop in again sometime soon.
    I tell you this, not because I think constantly about my experience but because it has become like a reference library where I can pop in and out having extracted something that hopefully will help you – this was and is the way of ‘my’ recovery.
    I imagine, like you, that this scheme is all a bit airy fairy and may come to naught – a typical CG bluff in the hope you try and persuade him to stay and work it out. On-line, so-called friends are, of course, something to be concerned about and maybe this is something you might feel you should talk to him about more seriously than him actually going. What proof has he got of this person’s character? Will he have saved enough money (without your help of course) to extract himself from a problem if the situation, when he gets there, is not as wonderful as it seems. Maybe talking to him more along those lines, more interested in his scheme and less about his addiction might make him think twice. It confuses an addiction when it doesn’t become the primary conversation and sometimes those are times when logic and reason get through. (No guarantees of course!!)
    Keep posting
    Velvet

    #5988
    worriedmama
    Participant

    I too am the mom of a 28 year old CG. Plain and simple… this is the hardest thing I have gone through as a mom and the hardest thing my husband and I have gone through as a couple. It is always the elephant in the room and NEVER discussed because everyone gets uncomfortable.

    As far as your son wanting to go to Florida. I think it’s very common. The idea of running away and sorting yourself out is very appealing unfortunately… wherever you go, there you are! If ,however, he has sorted it out to go then so be it. Maybe he has a lesson that he is meant to learn by doing this. My experience is a person deep in addiction is just not rational and their thinking is very messed. Things that make no sense to you or I make perfect sense to them.

    I know you and your husband are both so frustrated, angry and afraid. Unfortunately you have to let it play out. As Velvet says when the conversation is steered away from addiction and all the chaos it can entail it quite often can help. Trying to be supportive without enabling (very hard to do) and trying to make your home less about the CG and more about yourselves it always a step in the right direction.

    Take Care

    Cathyx

    #5989
    Tosca
    Participant

    Thanks Velvet and Cathy for your comments, I do agree we have to let it play out. It’s just so stressful but all we can do is try and keep him as real as possible. x

    #5990
    velvet
    Moderator

    Hi Tosca

    This is the post I mentioned – it was written some time ago by Harry, a CG who controls his addiction and works for GT. He is often on the Helpline. He was responding to the question ‘can I stop gambling without support? ‘

    ‘Great question, and one that’s been asked so many times &I like Charles couldn’t have given up without help.

    Working on the helpline the question is asked can I stop alone. For various I can’t say 100% no that recovery can’t be gained without help

    1. I’ve not met every gambler, but as of yet I’ve not met a true CG whose found recovery without help

    2. Not every Gambler is compulsive, they may just have used gambling recreationally and it’s run away with them for a short while, but we have to remember that this addiction is progressive. If you ask any CG whose accepted recovery when the y went from recreational to problematic to compulsive I doubt they could answer

    A compulsive gambler in denial will be asking and answering their own distorted questions with their own distorted answers, the perpetual cycle will continue until someone can challenge what you’re saying and thinking. This then brings up the next question “when does a CG know that they are thinking in a distorted way” the one answer in my opinion is to talk to people who are living without distorted thoughts like other CG’s in recovery who have almost definitely done this and seen and know they can’t trust their own thoughts, this can be done at GA, GT, CBT, Counseling etc or any other support group… trying to find recovery alone will remove this option and that in my opinion is the biggest reason a CG cannot find recovery alone.

    Then my last question is “why would we want to find recovery alone”? the answer is normally “I’m Ashamed” or in a some instances the truth is a CG knows the above and hasn’t quite yet got to the point of accepting the reality or his or her addiction’

    #5991
    Tosca
    Participant

    Still exhausted. Still stuck. Nothing really new to say, I’ve come here sometimes and read some of the posts and the F&F cycle but haven’t felt able to say anything, either to help anyone else or for myself. My CG turns 30 tomorrow.

    #5992
    velvet
    Moderator

    Hi Tosca
    I think what you are saying is that your son continues to gamble regardless of anything you have said or done and that the situation appears more hopeless. If so, I want to support you better, so please tell me why you think you have nothing to say about helping yourself.
    Last time we ‘spoke’ your son was heading for America, did he go, and if so what happened? Is he living with you now? Have you seen any changes at all in your son’s behaviour – good or bad?
    I really believe Tosca that sharing helps; there are little light bulb moments along the way when things make sense that didn’t make any sense before and you become aware of how to do things differently.
    I know you struggle with thinking that ‘speaking’ here feels disloyal but this is anonymous and you are safe – it is somewhere you can say what’s really troubling you without fear or judgement. If I misunderstand, you can always correct me.
    Hoping to hear
    Velvet

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