Get practical support with your gambling problem Forum Friends and Family Lost trying to help a family member in her addictions – any ideas or experiences appreciated

Viewing 5 posts - 1 through 5 (of 5 total)
  • Author
  • #6652

    This post is my attempt at finding at least something I could hold on to to try and help my aunt with whom something very wrong and addiction-like has obviosly been happening during the past months and/or years. I’ll try to be as brief as possible but also try to say everything of use so very sorry in advance for a possible wall of text.

    My aunt (grandma’s sister) used to live with her parents and husband but, long story short, a few years back they all passed away and ever since she’s been living on her own. The rest of the family is trying their best of course, my grandma talks with her a few times every day, we meet frequently – just to let you know that in no way was she abandoned afterwards. OK, so enough historical backround, let’s get into more recent stuff.

    Flash forward a few years and she took a job in a shack with slot machines. I don’t want to disclose my location but they’re _very_ popular here – and also illegal. Still, it’s kind of a grey area so theoretically the state is fighting them but in practice, nobody gives a damn. So my aunt started working there with a work colleague from one of her previous jobs (telemarketing) who was a pretty lowlife character to begin with (alcoholic husband, alcoholic father, living off welfare, never worked etc) and sometimes borrowed money from aunt during that previous job but all in all, nothing particularly bad. So in the beginning, they divided their shifts 50/50 and it went pretty OK. Aunt was still frequently visiting us (or we were visiting her) but she also had some occupancy besides sitting at home or being with her family all the time and it earned here some money to live off beside her pension.

    Over the next months, though, slowly but steadily a weird shift started happening. Aunt was spending more and more time in the shack because the colleague constantly had some kind of excuse. Of course they were all bullshit like having to prepare dinner or the likes but it fitted well with the character of that woman cause actually doing work obviously isn’t what she’s used to. Also, aunt started talking more and more about her and the job. More and more often in the free time the topic gravitated towards the job or her colleague. Also, phone calls started – and I don’t mean that her colleague called her from time to time. Aunt would come to our home and the phone would ring for 30 minutes **straight**. One ringtone ended, another one started. Or she would go to the countryside with my grandparents as they often did together and for the whole duration of the trip, the phone kept ringing. She always ignored the phone in our presence and when she finally did answer it when arriving to the country for example, it turned out to be some absurdly unimportant thing like the colleague asking about a book for her daughter’s school assignment or asking how the day was going. Something was wrong.

    During the next weeks and months, aunt would become more and more attached to the job. She talked basically only about that, she didn’t miss one day, she started going to the countryisde with my grandparents less and less until she stopped altogether. She would come to a few family parties telling us that she’d have to go in an hour or two because they agreed with the colleague she’ll change her promptly – then, the phone would ring and she’d be ready in 5 seconds to walk out the door. She spends every day for 8 to 12 hours in the shack, every day, be it weekend or not. Every time she blames the colleague saying that she allegedly called and asked her because <some BS excuse here>. She constantly talks about how she would rather work someplace else but she does nothing to change her job and when we did give her a few numbers, she didn’t call even one of them. She behaves like a robot, regardless of how she feels, she spends the whole day every day in a slot machine shack with no sunlight. A few times she looked like she was obsessed that she just _had to go_ and that really made us understand things are not good.

    What also surprised us was that, despite spending the whole days there, she’s constantly out of money. She stopped going to the shops with my grandma or my mom like she used to. She stopped buying things that she used to. Her days consisted of working in the shack but she was constantly broke. Also, a couple of times grandma heard that she was drunk when talking to her over the phone. To this, aunt also always had a great excuse – this player brought a champagne, her colleague brought wine, it was someone’s birthday etc. It was constantly something, always made sense. It’s not like she was drunk every day but there happened to be periods when grandma heard her being under influence four times during two weeks, while at work – something she would never be before.

    At the end of last year, things started going even more out of control. Aunt started coming several hours late to family parties or holidays. Every time blaming it on the colleague for which she “had to cover”. She came totally drunk to one of the family birthdays. On her birthday that she invited us to, she prepared nothing, for the first time in her life. Bought some fried meat from the store (which he’d always been a fierce opponent of), didn’t make the cake, didn’t prepare the tableware and saw no problem in it whatsoever. This may sound minute but trust me, this is so much unlike her that it really felt very, very weird. She also stopped going to the countryside with grandfolks – and even then, she keeps lying. She tells grandma that this one time she’ll go and then she calls the morning of the trip and says that well, she can’t, because her colleague had to go to the hospital or whatever and she had to cover for her. Every time.

    During that whole time, she kept claiming that everything was alright. Yeah she would rather work elsewhere, yadda yadaa, but well what can you do. Repeated questions about what’s happening to her yielded no answer. That’s why she decided to go for desperate measureas and just go to her apartment and look through her stuff. Grandma found several loan agreements, from various times during the past months and a summary of various loans with checkboxes about what had been paid and what hadn’t. It’s hard to tell the total cause this were all her scribblings and not all agreements were there but it was easiily 8 to 10 different loan companies. Turns out she also hasn’t been paying rent for at least a year then. None of her jewelry could be found either.

    Grandma tried talking to her about her liabilities (not telling her straight what she knows about just yet) – aunt kept lying until she finally admitted to two of them. She also admitted to not paying the rent, but only two or three months’ worth of it. During that whole time, she kept saying that there was nothing to worry about and that she’ll pay it back slowly. She also said that she took one of the loans… for her colleague at work and that she has all the paperwork but she’ll retrieve it and show it to us. To our surprise, the agreement that she had shown us in the following days (allegedly “retrieved from her colleague”) was… the same one that grandma had found at her apartment.

    We really, really want to help her. We love her, we’ve always been close but there’s just nothing we can cling to to have her talk and start helping. She’s lying more and more, as can be both seen and as grandma tells us. There’s constantly the topic of the job and the colleague, who is calling her 24/7. The loans. The alcohol problem, the full degree of which we do not know.

    I’m just throwing this all in the wind with the hope that somebody lived through something similar and something will struck a cord with them so that they may help us try to understand what’s actually going on. Maybe something in her behaviour is typical to some specific kind of addiction. I don’t know but what I do know is that things are spiralling downwards and it hurts us so bad to see aunt, who had always been so honest and kind, to keep falling to the bottom.

    We thought about her colleague using her and her good heart but now we don’t even know to what degree things allegedly tied to her colleague are really her colleague and which are just aunt’s lies to let her be cause she saw that it’s a handy excuse. That’s not to say that things aren’t wrong with the colleague – there’s _definitely_  a lot wrong with her cause this kind of compulsive calling someone 24/7 isn’t normal, but I have no idea to what extent this is the root of aunt’s problems and to what it is scapegoating. Alcohol episodes do occur but also it’s not like aunt is drunk all the time and even if she were alcoholic, there’s no way she would be able to drink as much as she borrowed – and yet that money disappears, she’s always broke. We even thought about whether she’s not addicted to gambling and isn’t playing the slots herself – but she’s always been so clear on how ridiculous playing slot machines is when she talks to us that it’s the hardest one to believe. She sees people throwing their savings away there every day and when she talks about work, she constantly underlines how “dumb” she thinks they are and what she would do if she had the kind of money they throw in the gutter. The players and their company in the slot shack is shitty as you may imagine though not in the aggressive or dangerous way. Aunt has also always been afraid of medicines and would always check whether she could take a given amount of everything even if it were prescripted (hell, she even lately asked me if she can take one acetaminophen pill if she she’s gonna drink one glass of champagne at the birthday) so substance abuse does sound unlike her too… There’s just so many lies all around now that we know nothing – who’s to blame, what’s to blame, when she’s lying.

    If you have any ideas what may be going on and how we may even approach helping aunt – please share. Any help will be greatly, greatly appreciated.



    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

    Read about the friends and Family Online Groups

    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 Fleece
    I have read your post through a few times and whereas I can see that your aunt probably has a problem I would have to make a guess at what that problem was based on what you have written – and guessing is not good enough.
    It seems to me that the relationship she has with the other woman is not a healthy one but apart from me thinking that maybe she is co-dependent with this person, it would be wrong of me to assume that either woman is addicted to gambling.
    This forum is for the families of those affected by someone with the addiction to gamble but apart from your aunt working in a place where there are gambling machines, I cannot hear any evidence of a gambling addiction.
    I am sorry that you have this problem and if it becomes clearer to you that your aunt is gambling, I would be delighted to support you.
    Look after yourself because regardless of what is happening with your aunt, you do not deserve to be weighed down with so much stress. In my view, she is not your responsibility – you cannot change her, only she can do that and to do that she has to want to change herself.


    Thank you for your message. My guess about gambling came from her constant lack of money and evident addiction to her workplace – this led me to believe that would be a good place to spend all the money she earns and borrows. Maybe that’s too little evidence, though, as you mention. This leaves me back at square one, though – and I wouldn’t want to leave her all by herself with this and just patiently stand aside looking at my loved one sprialing down with a company she never used to be a part of just for the glimmer of hope that one day she’ll want to change when she hits the rock bottom, with so many loans that I won’t be able to help her anymore 🙁


    Hi Fleece
    I fully understand your feeling when you say that you can’t ‘stand aside looking at my loved one spiralling down with a company she never used to be a part of just for the glimmer of hope that one day she’ll want to change when she hits the rock bottom, with so many loans that I won’t be able to help her anymore’ – but sadly, if it is a gambling addiction that holds your aunt in it sway then you cannot save her. Trying to save someone with the addiction to gamble usually ends up with the loved one enabling the addiction to grow due to lack of understanding about how to support best.
    However, telling you aunt where support is to be found is a great way to help her. Maybe you could download the 20-Questions from the Gamblers Anonymous web site for her, so hopefully she can recognise her behaviour is something that is recognised and for which there help if she is willing to embrace it.
    I wish you well Fleece – I know what it is to feel helpless whilst watching a loved one with an addiction.

Viewing 5 posts - 1 through 5 (of 5 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.