Get practical support with your gambling problem Forum Friends and Family Need help coping with son’s addiction

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    Hi… this is my second time coming to the forum for help.The first time was a few years ago and was so naive how strong this addiction really is. I thought I would hit this problem head on and get it fixed. Yikes… in retrospect that was very wishful thinking. I have a 24 (almost 25 ) year old son who has been compulsively gambling since he was 19. He lives with us and the problem is he is currently quite fragile i.e. low to no self-esteem, isolates himself from friends etc . I has done some cutting of himself and as seems the case with a lot of gamblers – threatened suicide. I am just having such a hard time getting myself to the spot where I don’t think if I could just find the right words etc he would be able to stop. He is in a quasi recovery in that he knows its a problem and doesn’t want this in his life but can’t seem to get to the next part where the real work must start! I really am soooo tired of everything that goes with this addiction.




    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

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    Hi Worried
    I am so pleased you knew to come back – welcome.
    I probably remember you under another name but I have no idea what support you were given when you came before, so please forgive any repetition
    Before I say anymore I want you to know that it is because I know the addiction to gamble can be controlled that I am writing to you and like you, it is my son who is the CG.
    You have mentioned your son’s low self-esteem and isolation from his friends but you have not said anything about you and you are very important in your son’s ultimate determination to change his life.
    A way of coping with your son’s addiction that is nor recognised professionally but has been successfully used by many members, is to imagine your son’s addiction as a slavering beast in the corner of the room and to always remember that your son is controlled by that addiction but you do not have to be.
    When you speak to your son, the addiction beast in the corner is watching and waiting for a reason to gamble further and to blame you and the world for that urge. When you threaten the addiction, it comes between you and controls the conversation or argument because it is the master of threats and manipulation and you are not. Once the addiction is between you, you will only hear his addiction speak – its weapons are lies and deceit and it will seek to make you feel blame and demoralize you. As you speak the addiction distorts your words making them incomprehensible to your son.
    My CG, son who does live in control of his addiction, explained it to me by saying that when I talked to him about love, honesty and living a decent life, his addiction was hard at work passing on to his confused mind, that I could not possibly love him because he was unlovable and worthless (the same low self esteem you mention in your son). As a result he believed me a liar and didn’t trust me. He knew he was lost but he didn’t know that I knew it too, so his addiction fought back horribly because he didn’t have any other coping mechanism. The threat of suicide is the addiction’s ultimate thread and the most difficult to cope with but it is the threat of an addiction.
    I cannot tell you what to do but I think it is better not to believe anything your son says while he is an active CG because in doing so you become receptive. If you can stand back a bit and listen to what he 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. Come back on here and tell me what he is saying rather than argue with him.
    Are you worrying about this on your own? Do you have other family to support you? The addiction to gamble divides families by feeding on lies and secrecy. Unfortunately unless people have lived with the addiction to gamble, their opinions can be very narrow and not supportive so personally I think it is best to tell others as a statement rather than ask for opinions which are generally unhelpful. You can gather information here so that you can make your own informed decisions with that knowledge. Often it is better to share – especially as your son’s addiction is possibly/probably hurting other too.
    I like the term quasi recovery but I know it is an extremely fragile state. In my opinion it would be good to tell your son that you are seeking support that you are making the effort and you are stronger for it. Find out about local GA groups, perhaps tell him about this site and suggest he calls our helpline, look into dedicated addiction counsellors. Write information down about support groups in big letters and leave it where he can find it – again if you approach him verbally, his addiction will not want to hear. I think it is good to let him know without fear and tears that you are on his side – that you are seeking to understand, rather than telling him what you think he should do. There are no words to make him stop gambling but there are seeds you can sow in his mind that a gamble-free life is possible, that you will support him if he seeks it but you will not support his addiction.
    He is not alone and he will be understood in GA, on our helpline and in our forum ‘My Journal’. We have CG only groups that he can join and know that what he says is understood. Give him hope – but most importantly look after you because as part of the wreckage of his addiction, you will not be able to support him.
    Write again soon and hopefully join me in one of our F&F only groups which are listed at the top in ‘Support Groups’.


    Hi Velvet
    Thanks for your response. What I find the most difficult is the anger I feel. After 6 years of this I do know that screaming, yelling etc. gets me nowhere but I end up venting with my friends who while are great about it have no idea the hell it is… hence coming to this forum.
    He is going for a psychiatric assessment this week as he feels there is something very wrong with him as he says he hasn’t been happy in a long time. I know there are issues but he can’t seem to grasp that the gambling is now an addiction that he uses to cope with and nothing will get better until he addresses it.
    I have read the F&F Cycle of Addiction and the pattern is bang on. It goes round and round and I know if I don’t do something on my end to break it this could go on forever 🙁
    I start out strong with such resolve and then am sucked back into either ignoring it or feeling sorry for him, neither of which helps!!


    Hi Worried
    When I felt I was becoming powerless with a terrible anger that frightened me, I would shut myself away at and write a secret journal. I took all the pain and put it in writing, pouring it out on to the page– never to be read by anyone. I used to take all the things that had hurt me and type furiously with spelling mistakes, capital letters, underlining and strong swearing (words I have never uttered) . My fingers learned to move like wild-fire and when I had finished each session I would feel drained but there was also a feeling of release, as that particular pain was no longer whizzing round my brain causing me to lose my ability to cope. I never re-read what I had written but printed the pages off and I kept them in a secret file. I didn’t feel the need to re-read them because somewhere other than my mind my pain was held for me like an external hard-drive.
    I never got round to sharing with friends – I held the secret in shame and misery. I hope you will find release in this forum and of course in the group there is complete privacy.
    I understand the resolve gradual dissolving but unless resolve is held each wound will just add to all the others. I unwittingly lived with the addiction for 23 years – he told me then that he had a problem with gambling but it meant nothing and I went a further 2 years in confusion. Knowing what you are facing does make a difference. Realising how important you are and that you are not to blame in any way is paramount to ‘your’ recovery.
    Your son in unhappy and he almost certainly believes that nobody understands ‘his’ misery, he will believe his unhappiness to be deeper and different to anybody else. I hope the psychiatrist has some understanding of the addiction to gamble but listen to what your son is told and make your own judgement. If you don’t hear positive action from him then look for other options. Other CGs do understand your son, which I why our groups, helpline, forum and GA are so effective.
    It is ok to feel anger but it is better if it is channelled into things that will not hurt you – shouting at your son will do no good – he cannot hear.
    Stick with us – keep posting, join our groups, talk to our helpline – it does make a difference.
    Do you have other children? Siblings are affected by an addiction in the family and it is easy to take your eye of the ball and only see the addiction everywhere.
    You are not alone Worried. I survived it and I have survived it with a vengeance. You can do it.


    Hi Worried,

    As I read your post I could totally relate to everything as my 30 year old son has been gambling for a few years now (not exactly sure when it started) and I feel I’m at my wits end.
    He knows he has a problem, tells me he hates living like this (and I believe him), but just won’t take the next step to stop. So in my frustration and desperation, I googled and found this site and yours was the first post I read. And the follow up posts have me feeling a bit better about how I can manage things, so looking forward to sharing and learning here as I undertake this unpleasant journey!


    Hi KB…yes it is a most unpleasant journey – it stinks!! Its so very frustrating and I like you have been at my wits end many times. I went to Gam-Anon this week and must say it was comforting and think I will continue. Its also very hard as most of the people on the forums and all at the Gam-Anon are all dealing with husbands or boyfriends. I know we all must learn the same lessons in looking after ourselves etc. but I must admit I would look forward to sharing with somebody who is dealing with an addicted adult child.


    My son is also a CG . I have lived alongside this for 10 years. I can say that I have experienced feelings that I never felt possible. He has had a horrendous time but me also . He has been to GA ,
    and even GordonHouse but still gambles . Finding this forum has been a real turning point for me . I have read about other mums suffering the same and had great support from Velvet on the chat line . The main thing is I have learnt about the cycles and learnt how I have enabled myson to gamble , the things I have done ! Also I have learnt that I must look after myself to keep strong . I have a daughter too and along with a new partner have to understand how they feel . I feel empowered now and able to say NO to my son but also keep a good part of our relationship. My heart goes out to you because I really do feel what you are going through and hopefully we can support each other. Sam x


    Hi Worried
    Just a quick note on your Gamanon group – stick with it. Every now and then it crops up on the site whether it is harder/different to be a parent or wife/husband, etc to a CG. My answer is that it doesn’t matter – the addiction is the same so why waste energy quantifying who has the greater pain? Everybody learns from everybody else and that is what matters.
    When I first joined my Gamanon group, all the other member were wives or partners of a CG – I was the only mother of a CG. Maybe in made me do more listening in the early days. Gamanon was my route to my salvation.. How we cope is down to each and every person and it doesn’t matter who it is we love with the addiction.
    My son told me that I could have done nothing to prevent his addiction, nor was I to blame. I had been told this many times in Gamanon but to hear it from the horse’s mouth as it were has helped me progress and I hope that it will help you too.
    As yet, your son cannot speak as a person in control of his addiction but never lose hope. Youth makes them feel invincible and nothing you can say will change that until he is ready..
    How much better it is for you and you son that you put yourself first, enjoy the company of others, seek new friendships, have hobbies and interests. When the time comes for your son to realise that his destructive addiction controls him and it is that which is ruining his life, then he will have a healthy, strong mother to talk to and share with, whereas if you are another victim of his addiction you will not be fit enough to help him or you.
    Sow the seeds for him. Point him towards GA, this site, dedicated addiction counsellors but recognise that you cannot save him – only he can do that. The only person you can save is you and believe me that is so very, very important.



    Hi KB
    Although it doesn’t matter whether the CG we are concerned about is a child/parent or spouse, each story on this forum is unique.
    Please start a thread so that you can receive replies to ‘your’ particular concerns and get the individual support that you deserve.
    At the bottom of the Friends and Family Forum page click on the purple box entitled ‘New Topic’, give a subject title, write in the comments area and click ‘save’ in the green box at the bottom. Your thread will appear and you will receive replies just for ‘you’. If you are concerned that the username you have given yourself is something that your son could identify with and you would rather that he did not, you can change it.
    We have 3 Friends and Family only groups each week and the times are listed in ‘Support Groups’ at the top of this page. I would love to ‘meet’ you in a group where we can talk in total privacy – nothing said in a group appear on the forums.
    I am the mother of a compulsive gambler but I know that the addiction to gamble can be controlled which is why I am here.
    Well done on finding us – please use us and know that you are not alone anymore.
    You may never know what results come from your actions but if you do nothing, there will be no results. – Mahatma Gandi


    Absolutely did not intend to waste energy with who felt the greater pain! There is comfort in seeing that it does happen to other parents . Rightly or wrongly I do tend to feel I did something wrong and as a parent it is my job to “fix” it… after all moms have be doing it since they brought their kids into the world. I have started reading the book Co-Dependent No More and must say it gives a lot of food for thought… not just as the parent of an addict but a human being.
    I work full-time and am finding it is such a blessing to be able to cut the cycle of incessant worry… what will become of him, will he be able to find a partner etc. Unfortunately due to my work and time zone it is going to be very difficult to join a Friends and Family Chat which I would dearly love to do :(.


    Although I would wish that none of the sons mentioned in these posts had become cgs and that none of you mums had to suffer the consequences of this, I AM really glad that you have started writing here now. Welcome and I hope you find the support you need and the path to living your own healthy lives.
    I have recently started volunteering with GT – I am a psychotherapist/counsellor by profession, but I came here first as a mum with a cg son, when I was feeling desperate. Unlike Velvet, I cannot yet say that my cg now lives in control of his addiction, but I can say that I am in a better place myself. I did not think it possible to get beyond that sense that my well-being was inextricably linked with my son ‘recovering’. But it is possible to find a way of living well along with partner and other family members, whilst the cg has still not chosen to be gambling-free. It is not our ‘ideal’ and is not without sorrow, but it can be a worthwhile and satisfying life.
    The mother-child relationship is different, but then every couple is different too. That said, other mums will probably find a special bond with each other. But learn from everyone, including cgs who are working for and achieving a gambling-free life.
    You will hear a lot about looking after YOU. That really is a profound and vital message. It’s best for you and, ultimately for the cg, who can only make his choices himself.
    Refusing to argue and shout etc is wise – turn away and do something to enhance your own life and you will feel stronger and more in control. You can make decisions for yourself and carry them out, but you cannot force your cg to do anything.

    Very best wishes,

    Monique (Gambling Therapy Team)


    Hi Worried
    I noticed you responded to my post on siblings so I wondered if you were still reading and if so how you were doing.
    How did your son’s psychiatric assessment go?
    I know how easy it is to start off strong and then to get sucked back in – so however you are feeling and whatever is going on with your son please always know that your words are understood and there is no judgement on this site – just care.


    My son has taken money he has collected from customers at work & gambled it…many times & we keep replacing the money. He has changed jobs twice to avoid the situation of handling money, but in this third job, a new customer gave him cash & he gambled it . He says he has told his boss that he is a cg & he can’t handle money. He said he was understanding & would make sure he didn’t have to collect cash. We are not convinced he has actually told his boss, as he has said this at the previous jobs.He was sacked from his first job for gambling £2000 he collected, but luckily they didn’t prosecute. He got another job & paid the money back monthly. He was on his last payment, when he used customers money again…we lent him the money to replace it. He had just £50 to pay us back, when we received a text to say he had gambled £950 that he had collected. He lived with his girlfriend, but she asked him to leave as she couldn’t cope in the end. He has now moved in a house with two friends & signed a 12 month lease & pays £300 a month for his share . He has only been there for three weeks, yet last week he took that money. We felt we had to replace the money, or he would lose his job, be prosecuted & drop his friends in with a huge rent to share. We know we shouldn’t keep bailing him out. I control his money & he has been to GA on & off. After each time, he is very low & says he will do anything to get help, but after we help, he seems to forget what he’s done. When we say to him that he must know of the terrible consequences of his gambling, he says he has an addiction & it overwhelms everything. He gambles on fixed odds betting terminals that take hundreds of pounds in minutes, so he is gambling massive amounts. We are completely shattered now. After this last episode, my husband hw said we are not bailing him out again. We have told him & he said he was going to find a CBT therapist…this was last week & he still hasn’t. We say each time that we will never bail him out again, so he obviously just thinks we don’t ever follow it through. We really mean it this time and we are quite certain he will do it again if he gets the opportunity.


    This is so very difficult and I know how heartbroken and devastated you feel. All I know from my 6 years on the roller-coaster is they will only get better when they are ready to. I too have heard the countless promises of therapy blah blah blah …usually after a binge when they are at their lowest. For me I have joined GamAnon and really tried to stay out of his affairs – though I am far from perfect at that yet! Unfortunately you are trying to control something you will never have control of until he hits his bottom (whatever that may be). My son has been in GA for about 7 months but has relapsed twice. He does keep getting back on the horse but I try to use all my strength to stay out of it and not be the fixer. I know it is so hard for you both but try to stay positive and get yourself to a GamAnon group it possible. Perhaps start your own thread on here so you can get support!

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