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How can I find hope?

People with gambling problems can and do recover – all the time. Alice is the wife of Dave who had a gambling problem [names have been changed to protect their privacy].

Dave told Alice in 2007 about his gambling problem. He had been gambling for 12 years and she knew he gambled, but in his last year of gambling he lost £7,000-£10,000. He has not had a problem since.

How did you feel when Dave told you?

Panic stricken. Anxious. Surprised. I had no idea.

How long did it take for you to trust him again?

A year. There weren’t many times when I thought he would start gambling again, I was fairly sure it was the end. I knew, once he told me and told others, that telling us would break the power of it.

What would you say to someone else in the same situation?

Even though it’s the beginning of the problem for you, it is actually the beginning of the end of the problem for them. Whilst it feels like a momentous shock, and everything is spiralling out of control, actually everything is being brought back under control the moment they truly seek help. Even though it is a powerful addiction, it is not like the rest of your life has to be ruined by it.

What can families and friends do to help the gambler?

Put aside the fact that it is completely illogical to you. The power of any addiction is its secrecy, so make yourself approachable and understanding so that they feel they can be honest.

Also think of any practical things you can do, for example helping them filter the internet, have an oversight of or accountability over the finances etc.

What would you say to someone who suspects a friend or family member of being addicted to gambling?

Ask them. Be honest about your fears. Probably any addiction is a coping mechanism for a deeper issue. Don’t get fixated on the gambling but help them work out what the deeper issues are and resolve them. Chances are that the gambling urges will come under control and you will have more peace of mind that the issues that were there are resolved.

Is there anything else you would say?

It is more common than society would have you think. It is overcome-able

Don’t get fixated on the gambling but help them work out what the deeper issues are and resolve them
Make yourself approachable and understanding so they feel they can be honest

There is hope

As Alice says, gambling addiction can be horrible, but it is overcome-able. People recover from gambling addiction all the time. 

Just a note - if you feel hopeless right now and you really need to talk to someone, you can try Samaritans on 116 123 which is a freephone number in the UK and Irish Republic. Also - if you are enduring domestic violence then phone the 24/7 national domestic violence helpline 0808 2000 247