Get practical support with your gambling problem Forum Friends and Family Is there such a thing as a ‘winning player’?

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  • #3609
    ailujym
    Participant

    I’ve been living with my partner for around a year, and have recently started to believe that he is addicted to playing online poker. When we first got together I was shocked when I found out he was playing cards online, especially while he is being paid to do something else with his day…and also there is a CG in my family who has caused mass destruction and pain. However, my partner got me to accept his poker by explaining that he was ‘risk averse’, never played higher stakes than he could afford, and had mapped out a careful strategy for absorbing losses into wins. Indeed, he says he is a ‘winning player’, and he has used the money sensibly, buying household appliances, a car, and a house. I think a lot of women would just enjoy the money…especially considering there’s no way I could ever afford to buy a house with my profession and financial status, but there has always been something about my partner’s poker playing that has felt ‘off’…It’s hard to explain, but being around it feels toxic, and I’m starting to suspect it’s the root cause of other behaviours that worry me, like binge-eating junk food and not taking care of his health. He goes through phases of playing all day and all night until 6am (meaning we rarely share a bed any more) then sleeping all day…he forgets to wash and feed himself, lives off junk food, won’t go to the doctor when he is ill, is totally obsessed and only wants to talk about poker, and is distracted when he’s with me doing other activities. I often feel upset and neglected when he prioritises playing over spending time with me, or obviously wishes he were playing when he is talking to me (when he is not listening I ask where he is and he usually says thinking about something related to poker) worried and angry at his refusal to take better physical care of himself, and frustrated at his refusal to engage in real life, in something that is not entirely self-serving! It seems to me such a waste of life and talent…He loves maths and says he loves the game, and I understand that, but spending so much of your life sitting in front of a computer doing it just doesn’t seem like…living. Also if he put his maths skills into something positive, he could do something great in the world! But poker seems to me to only be about the empty values of winning and money. OK maybe I am being judgemental. But now he is also playing on an illegal site, which I don’t like at all, and I know he has engaged in other dishonest behaviours to enable him to keep his winnings. These are not influences I would want on any children we might have, so I am seriously reconsidering our future together, as I am 37 and I don’t have forever to wait for babies. We are supposed to be moving to a new town in a month, where I will be further away from my friends and support network; I am in AA, sober for seven years, and I am extremely concerned for my recovery when I think of becoming more isolated with someone with this kind of addiction – if indeed it is an addiction. So, it is time for me to make decisions. It is very tough, as he is a lovely guy whom I really love. But I don’t think I can ask him to stop playing, since he doesn’t see it as a problem, and knowing his character I am sure that asking him to stop or delivering an ultimatum would only make him more determined. It’s a really hard situation, even more difficult as if I say I am leaving over this he will say I am exaggerating, controlling, judgemental, demanding, perfectionist etc…and I could easily be convinced that I’ve got it all wrong. I’ve become almost schizophrenic over the last year from the conflict between my gut instincts, and what he tells me is the truth. I’d appreciate some advice! Thanks 🙂

    #3610
    Dunc
    Keymaster

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    Hello

    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 🙂

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    The Gambling Therapy Team


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    #3611
    Dunc
    Keymaster

    Hi ailujym

    Firstly ailujym I can’t tell you what to do, what I can do is give you my perspective on what you’ve written. I’m also not a friends and family member I’m a compulsive gambler in recovery.

    ailujym your heading “Is there such thing as a winning player” the simple answer is there isn’t a true answer. Recreational gambler will win and lose, it’s no different to them having a few beers and being fine and then having one too many and having a hangover

    Gambling isn’t about money, sounds daft but I believe you already know this… sure a recreational gambler will win a bit maybe loose more but their walk away go home, go to the doctors, spend time with their family, work and be like anyone else and won’t affect anybody else

    Unfortunately we then have the other side, the problematic compulsive side that is progressive in its nature The side where gambling is taking up so much time, altering our behaviours, we stop to look after our own wellbeing, we see family situations as a hindrance to our gambling, we stop sleeping, were deflect, minimize, maximize, lie, cajole and of course were have systems in place to ensure our futures….

    Can anyone say he’s a compulsive… in my opinion its irrelevant. It’s how it’s affecting you ailujym, it’s how his actions are making you feel, Its is this the life you want… if he thinks that this life is fine and you don’t then ultimatums, threats will just serve a negative purpose and possibly give him a greater level of justification to make his gambling better whilst potentially making his behaviours and characteristics worse.

    ailujym keep talking, please make sure your support is solid especially if you do move. Protect yourself financially and emotionally

    Were always here for you

    #3612
    ailujym
    Participant

    Thank you Harry for your reply. I did not realise that gambling is not about the money. He seems very obsessed with money… Although I did suspect that for him it is also about covering up low self-esteem with the competitive high of winning. I also realise I am totally powerless over this, and I can only decide what is good for me. He thinks this life is fine and denies any suggestion of an addiction. He has built up a whole system of justification around it which even had me convinced until recently. Then it was like the scales suddenly fell from my eyes. It is like a sickness that is underlying every aspect of our life. He is definitely compulsive from what you say, that description fits, but because he seems to be making money at it and is also successful and well-liked in other areas of his life, he does not consider it a problem. When I voice my concerns I always end up feeling that I have imagined it, because he ‘normalises’ and justifies all the behaviours. It has been really draining and has undermined my confidence in my own judgement, and left me very confused. Anyway thanks again Harry for your helpful post.

    #3613
    velvet
    Moderator

    Hi ailujym
    I am glad you found your way to the forums. Unfortunately you did pop up in the F&F ‘Topic Forum’ which got somewhat depleted when we moved site not long ago and which isn’t up and running properly again – yet. Harry has moved you and hopefully you will be reading this.
    It is one of the problems F&F have, I think, that we see the addiction in terms of money, which kind of makes more sense to the non-CG (compulsive gambler), because trying to understand that ‘the gamble’ itself is the problem doesn’t equate with reason and logic.
    When you stop and look, it is always the behaviour that has hurt you most – the lies, the deceit, the needless arguments and the misery. The loss of money was a problem but it was nothing compared to the loss of your self-esteem, the inability for you to trust and the overall feeling that you were to blame for the madness that engulfed you.
    I cannot tell you what to do because it is important that you make your own informed decisions and I hope that this site will support you with those.
    I am concerned when I read that you are worried that your own recovery could be at risk if you move away from your friends and the ground support you now have. The addiction to gamble is divisive and secretive, it isolates those it hopes will enable it and that is a real risk which I would hope you will weigh up very carefully.
    In AA I think you will have come across the ‘20 questions’, I would suggest you print off the Gamblers Anonymous set of 20 questions and ask you partner to look at them. It is possible that your partner is unaware of the support that is available for him; he certainly seems unaware that the defences he puts up for his addiction, are well-worn and baseless arguments that hold no sway with CGs who live gamble-free.
    Your partner is almost certainly suffering low self-esteem and lack of confidence because his addiction guarantees failure and living with failure is destructive to his mind, hence the massive mood swings. He does love to gamble but his love is a toxic mistress who does not love him and who will bring him down if he doesn’t seek support.
    Active CGs think about the gamble 24 hours a day and those who love them often find themselves spending an equal amount of time worrying about the affects of gambling, thus the addiction claims two victims for the price of one. As the worry increases, so the stress levels rocket and those who are closest to the CG lose their way. In that perilous state F&F become unable to help anybody.
    Please put yourself first. I believe you when you say that your partner is a lovely guy but sadly he is a lovely guy with an addiction to gamble. I like many CGs but liking and loving them, does not and will not save them. Looking after you will ultimately be the greatest help you can give your CG partner.
    If it was me I would tell my partner that I had sought help because I was worried. Maybe you could leave the directions to GA, gambling addiction websites and dedicated addiction counsellors lying around, giving information on where help is to be found, it might help him focus on the reality of his ‘pleasure’.
    I have no idea why on a certain day and at a certain time my CG had, had enough. We had been estranged for some time when during a strained telephone conversation I mentioned the name of a rehab centre. It was no more than a sign-post for him which I hoped would say I was still on his side – but I could not and would not live with his addiction. Only he knows but maybe, just maybe it was the trigger for him to determine to live gamble-free.
    I wouldn’t be writing to you ailujym if I didn’t know that the addiction to gamble can be controlled and wonderful lives lived as a result. It takes determination and courage but it can be done and is done.
    Please keep posting and never forget how important ‘you’ are. You are not to blame for his addiction.
    Speak soon
    Velvet

    #3614
    ailujym
    Participant

    Dear Velvet, thank you SO much for your reply, it is super helpful. I would like to reply in more detail to some of your points but for now I have the immediate problem of having to decide today whether I am going to move to this new house in the new town, where I will be more isolated with him, or not. I have to decide because I have to tell my landlord now whether I am going to keep my current flat. When I read what you say about how the addiction comes from low self-esteem, I feel guilty as I know I will hurt him even more by dropping out of our plans for a future together. Since he is pretty much in denial about his addiction, he will probably not understand my decision or see it as justified and will likely end the relationship. We chose the new house together (although I don’t have a financial stake in it). It is so hard as I know I have to look after myself and the right thing for me is not to move, and isolate myself with his addiction, but I love him and I don’t want to lose him. If we were not living together, I could protect myself while trying to help him – eg by showing him the GA literature as you suggest. Thanks for any thoughts on this!

    #3615
    velvet
    Moderator

    Dear ailujym
    Your reply throws up a couple of thoughts that I hope to help you with.
    Low self-esteem comes with the addiction and is not necessarily first.
    Absolutely and utterly reject guilt. You did not ask for or want his addiction anymore than he did BUT only ‘he’ can change his life – you are not to blame in any way for his addiction.
    Unfortunately many, many CGs have to be seriously hurt by their addiction until they seek to change their lives. Mine would not have changed as long as I enabled.
    Believe me I understand your cry ‘but I love him’ – unfortunately his addiction understands that cry only too well.
    I am not and never would suggest parting from the man you love. All decisions must be yours, but I would be doing you a disservice if I wasn’t completely honest.
    You are right that he would probably not understand your decision to not move with him but it is because he doesn’t want to understand – it threatens his addiction.
    A coping method, not recognized professionally but one many of us have used at the beginning of our recovery is to imagine your partner’s addiction as a slavering beast in the corner of the room. As long as you keep your cool and don’t threaten it, it stays quiet but it never sleeps.
    Your partner is controlled by that addiction but you are not. When you threaten his addiction it leaps between you and because it is the master of threats and manipulation (which you are not and nor do you want to be) it will control the conversation or argument. Once the addiction beast is between you, you will only hear his addiction speak and because it only knows lies and deceit, it will seek to make you feel blame and demoralize you. When you speak to your partner the addiction distorts your words and he will not comprehend your meaning.
    My CG explained it to me by saying that all the time I was telling him that if he didn’t lie but lived honestly he would be happy, his addiction was distorting his mind – convincing him that I was lying because he truly believed that he was unlovable, worthless and a failure – he was lost and fought back because he didn’t have any other coping mechanism
    If you can stand back a bit and listen to what your partner is saying, it becomes easier not get caught up in 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.
    This all sounds a little negative but the positive side is that it removes you from the centre of the addiction giving you time and energy to look after you.
    By looking after you first you will become stronger because one of the best ways to win is not to play the game.
    I will send this to help you in your thinking but please keep posting.
    You are doing well, even if you think you are not
    V

    #3616
    ailujym
    Participant

    Dear Velvet,

    Thanks so much for your reply. I think you are a gift from the universe/my higher power/great spirit – to help me through this really tough but crucial step. You must be helping so many people with your kindness, experience, strength and hope. Your words have given me so much strength and helped me to stop blaming myself and being afraid.

    Even before I read your message I had decided to stay in my current flat and not move – not until or unless he addresses his addiction. I know in my heart it is the right thing to do, to protect myself – and my own recovery – from his active disease. That the most loving thing to do is not to enable him by continuing to live with and accept his addiction, and I don’t have to feel guilty about it.

    I’m not going to tell him it’s over, as it doesn’t have to be. But I know he will be angry and it will be a very difficult conversation. I’m going to tell him tomorrow so I expect I’ll be posting some more here after that! But I will try to take the approach you suggest of standing back, keeping my cool, just listening and not giving the addict something to get its teeth into. I’ve always known those conversations are a massive waste of time as they are dishonest and like being caught in a crazy loop that makes me doubt my own sanity – but I haven’t known how to avoid them or get out once I’m in.

    I know that if he is not ready to face his addiction he will move on to the next girl – the next enabler, and it will hurt, but it will be better for me in the long run. If it is really me he wants – and not just a caretaker, he may be ready to change but I also know that will be a long process. I guess I will just have to take it one step, one day at a time.

    Thank you again Velvet and many blessings to you in your own life.

    #3617
    ailujym
    Participant

    Dear Velvet,
    Is there an email address I could use to contact you? I would like to ask some more questions but I am concerned about posting them in a public forum…

    #3618
    velvet
    Moderator

    Hi ailujym
    If you have used your own name or are concerned that you are recognisable on the forum it is always possible to have your username changed. If this is something you would like to do please email email@gamblingtherapy.org or contact the Helpline.
    It is important, however, for the continued success of the forum that as many different stories remain visible as possible because it is through them new members get to know that their problem are recognised and understood. Although sharing is the life-blood of this site it is understood that there are some things that members prefer not to put on a public forum and to this end I am happy to hear from you and answer your questions. Please contact email@gamblingtherapy.org or the Helpline for my personal email address.
    I have been wondering what was going on in your life and look forward to an update.
    V

    #3619
    ailujym
    Participant

    It’s been a few months since I last posted, and reading my old posts today I can see that I’m in exactly the same position once again!

    I broke up with my CG in February and we lived separately for a while, but got back together. I missed him terribly, and did not feel strong enough then to be single. Finally I moved into the new house he had bought, partly with the proceeds of his poker-playing. I had many doubts about this but we still loved (love?) each other and it is a lovely house. Also the apartment I was living in was in a really unpleasant neighbourhood and I felt very depressed.

    Well, when we first got back together we were really happy for a while. He was going to therapy and trying to be ‘reasonable’ about his poker playing. But over the 5 months I lived in that house things gradually slipped back to being just the way they were before I broke up with him; he was staying up until 5 or 6am every night gambling – and therefore we never slept in the same bed, he would forget to wash or brush his teeth (sometimes for several days) while playing poker, and was constantly distracted, or obsessively talking about gambling/bitcoins/the next financial apocalypse/impending global doom.

    Given that he also has a job which takes him away from home a lot, I became extremely lonely as he was either out, or at home but not ‘present’ at all as he was in the obsession. Finally, after holding in my worries and anger for weeks and weeks, I exploded after he stood me up one day (he was off with some druggie friends). I became so furious that I broke a picture and kicked the front door so hard it came off the hinges. When he came home and saw the broken glass and swinging door, he was very shocked. I know it isn’t acceptable to act out on anger like this, and I felt very ashamed of myself. But the next day, he told me that he didn’t want to have a child with such an angry woman. I was so hurt by this. I’m 37, we’ve been trying to build a home to bring a child into for two and a half years – and I’m the one who’s done most of the work in that home, all the unpacking and decorating – and now I’m no further ahead than I was when I was single, before I met him.

    Anyway, at this point I realised that he is blaming me for things that aren’t my fault. I left to go travelling for two weeks. I wrote him an email saying I could no longer live with the poker lifestyle, and that a condition for us continuing a relationship would be that he would have to stop playing poker and get help. I also said I realised I had been part of the problem, as admittedly I’ve allowed him to support me financially by playing poker – while simultaneously disapproving of it. I expected he’d be angry, but initially he said he was touched by the letter and was thinking about it. Then next time we talked he said that he thought there was ‘no solution’, because even if he stopped playing poker we’d still have a major lifestyle clash, and that he had been talking to his friends who said they were surprised he ‘didn’t mind’ going out with someone like me, as I’m sober and have been in AA for eight years. I was furious as this is clearly turning it round on me: ‘it’s not my problem I’m a gambling addict, its yours for being in recovery.’ So I ended the relationship there and then.

    Now I am single, sleeping on people’s sofas, with nowhere to live. Luckily I have good friends who are willing to put me me up on sofas/in spare rooms, and I may have found a flat in a month’s time which I can afford (I’m on a tight budget as I got made redundant in June).

    But it is getting very hard being rootless and not having my own space, and I am feeling tempted to go back and try to talk to him again, as I love our home, and I feel very lost. My therapist also told me she thought I should talk to him again and see if he is willing to try couples therapy again (we tried it before and it was useless). But I am afraid if I go back now I’ll just get caught in the cycle again: I leave because his active addiction drives me crazy, but come back because I am emotionally/financially dependent.

    I’m thinking of trying to get a short-term let on a room or small flat for a month or so while I decide what to do. Any thoughts would be much appreciated!

    #3620
    velvet
    Moderator

    Hi Ailujym
    I’m sorry to hear you are still struggling. Being back in the same position is common with an addiction that goes round and round in a never-ending cycle.
    I think what struck me most was when you said that even though your CG was going to therapy he was only ‘trying to be reasonable’ about his addiction which is not remotely the same as taking control of it. A CG cannot gamble responsibly, playing with recovery sounds to me as though he was doing lip service to keep you happy and if that was the case he was not trying at all. For a CG to change their life a commitment has to be made followed by action – there are no half measures; abstinence by itself is not recovery.
    I wonder if the therapist he saw understood the addiction to gamble. I remember seeing a counsellor many years ago and telling her everything that was going on in my life and still she didn’t see that it was a CG addiction hurting me. Unfortunately I hear too often that a CG can pull the wool over the eyes of counsellors and therapists who have not comprehended what the addiction to gambling is all about and in their ignorance they do more harm than good because the CG can then say – well I did my best, I sought help. I came away convinced that the problem in my life was all my own doing and as a result I didn’t seek or get the help I needed for far too long.
    I am hoping to hear that you secured a flat for yourself because I feel that being rootless is making you vulnerable and the addiction to gamble loves those who are vulnerable.
    I am not judging, I went back on my resolve so many times I could never judge another, however, I do feel that you do know the right things to do but you are just finding it hard to do it.
    I am not surprised that you were furious about having your recovery thrown back at you as a reason for your relationship struggling. It was a stroke of manipulative brilliance to try to get you to take the blame and I am glad you didn’t fall for it. I wondered if the so-called friends he talked to play poker with him, if they are they won’t want him to stop – they probably enjoy taking his money.
    I cannot tell you what to do Ailujym but there is no way I could hope that you will return to this relationship. If you were still living with him I would try and make suggestions to improve the way things were but having now got away I think the distance between you is the best thing for you. In my view living with a CG to combat loneliness could never be a good idea – it is an addiction that brings loneliness, there can never be a certainty that your partner will come home and friends drop away because they don’t understand.
    In my opinion you will definitely return to the cycle if you go back because your partner is not making the necessary effort – maybe it would be better to ask that he makes the effort to change his life first.
    I look forward to you posting again to hear what you have decided to do. Well done coming back and posting – it was the right thing to do.
    Velvet

    #3621
    ailujym
    Participant

    Dear Velvet,

    Thank you so much for your post. It has really helped me to stay strong. I am still staying with friends but I have started looking for an apartment. I am not going back to live with my CG. Everyone in my life who cares about me has advised me against it, and I know they are right.

    But it is still extremely painful. Today I had to go to the house where we were living together, and where he still lives as he owns it (partly through the proceeds of poker!) I had to go as I needed some important documents, medication and warm clothes. It was heartbreaking. Seeing my ex for the first time in two weeks, the house where I tried so hard to make a home (when I am currently living out of suitcases in spare rooms), and the cat whom I really love (she has been sleeping on my blanket ever since I left 🙁 I miss the good stuff and our little world so much. And that’s the dangerous part…that’s where I start to get drawn in to his line that he cannot stop playing poker as he ‘has to make a living’ and it’s really not that bad and he doesn’t play that much and it’s not because of poker that he doesn’t sleep or wash and lives on burgers and chocolate…it’s just because he has a few bad habits and can’t I be more accepting and tolerant?

    I also know that it is a whole crazy, toxic ‘system’, supported by his parents, and they have way more power in this situation than me. He is very much still under their control, and they are obsessed with money and financial security. They put a great deal of pressure on him in that regard, especially since he has chosen a profession (against their wishes) which doesn’t usually reap great financial rewards. My ex told me they are happy he plays poker as he makes a lot of money at it, and I know this is true as I have talked to his father about it. And now that he has bought the house, he’ll have to keep playing in order to pay for the repairs that need doing, upkeep etc. He does appear to make good money at it, that’s true – but as I said before it’s the behaviours that go with it that I find so toxic to live with.

    I also believe that he is so talented in his profession and would go much further if poker wasn’t sucking up so much of his energy and time, but he sees poker as enabling him to do the work he loves. When we discuss these issues, we see everything from opposite angles.

    Anyway, I know it is no longer my problem as I have left. It was just so hard today. He kept saying that it felt so strange and wrong breaking up, that there was still such a strong connection between us – which is true…and he was so happy to see me, that the house feels so empty and pointless without me. It wasn’t manipulation to try and draw me back in, as he has been the one instigating breaking up our civil contract, so he has accepted the breakup. It was genuine sadness. So then…why won’t he do what it takes, when we are both in so much pain?

    But I know that I just have to keep moving forward with my life, find a nest for myself and focus on my needs. I have a strong spiritual faith and I believe that if he is meant to find recovery he will…but I can’t wait for that to happen.

    I agree with what you say about therapists often not understanding the true nature of addiction. Mine thought I should go back and keep trying to talk things through and try to get him to go to couples therapy. I knew that would not work – we did it before and it was useless – so I didn’t even try.

    Anyway thank you again for your comments and I would be happy to hear your thoughts on the above.

    #3622
    ailujym
    Participant

    Hi everyone, I just wanted to post an update on my situation in case it may give some strength and hope to others.

    I just moved out of the home I shared with my CG for the second time. It was totally heartbreaking, but I know it was the right thing for me.

    Reading the advice on this site, the main piece of advice to F&F of CGs seems to be ‘put yourself first’. In my case, doing so has meant ending the relationship with my partner and leaving…and although I am extremely sad I also know I have saved myself a lot of future misery.

    When I went to the house to take my things away my ex cried like a baby…but EVEN THEN, with both of us in so much pain, he would not say he was willing to stop gambling. He still insists that it is not a problem because he makes a lot of money playing poker. That may be the case, but how many people would be happy with a partner who stays up all night gambling most nights – never shares a bed with them, forgets to wash, eats rubbish, and is always exhausted because of his nightly gambling sessions… I’m sure you all know the drill. For me it was the behaviour around the gambling, not the activity itself that was so destructive and toxic.

    The last straw for me was the way he gaslighted me, saying it wasn’t his gambling that was destroying us, it was my intolerance of it! That was when I knew I absolutely had to get out or my self-esteem would eventually be crushed.

    So I’ve found a very nice apartment for myself in a new town where I have friends, and am making a fresh start. I have been supported all the way by friends, family, my therapist, and the 12-step fellowship I am in….and for this I feel very lucky. I urge anyone who is caught in the madness of a relationship with a CG to reach out for support, and lots of it, because the addiction will try every possible tactic to gaslight you in to compliance.

    I cannot help hoping that the pain of the separation from my CG may trigger a ‘revelation’ for him – I am the second woman to leave him because of poker, but my sponsor says he is probably decades away from any such realisation as he still has a house, successful career, attention from women etc etc. So I know I need to let this hope go and move on with my life.

    I just wanted to say that it is possible to escape the madness, that although it hurts it feels so much better to be away from that darkness and toxicity and self-esteem battering…and many many thanks for the support I’ve had on this forum.

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