How to prepare yourself to support someone, mentally and emotionally
If you know or suspect that your loved one has a problem with gambling, it’s normal to experience intense feelings; Loss of trust, anger, confusion, fear, frustration, and hopelessness.
However, it's important to learn to manage these emotions, so you're in a better position to look after yourself. What’s more, you’ll also be in a better position to do something productive about their gambling.
It can be easy to forget to look after yourself at this difficult time. You might become totally pre-occupied by their gambling issue and forget to consider your own needs.
But the reality is that your loved one will likely take some time to change. How much time is often outside of your control.
So, remember to look after yourself in the meantime, while taking practical steps to limit the impact of your loved one’s gambling on you and your family.
Following normal routines and taking care of yourself is just as important as helping the person with the gambling problem. Maintain your friendships, continue with your interests and hobbies, and do things you find enjoyable.
To stay healthy and manage stress:
- eat regular, balanced meals.
- try to make mealtime a family or social time.
- exercise regularly, try yoga or go for frequent walks.
- go to bed and get up at regular times.
- avoid alcohol and drugs – they can make matters worse.
- take time for self reflection or meditation
- share your worries with friends and family members that you can trust.
- get professional support for yourself and encourage the person with the gambling problem to also get support.
Don’t fall into the trap of trying to deal with problems on your own. Just like your loved one, you need support to get yourself through this. Often, we can convince ourselves that we’re being strong by not sharing our difficulties. But the truth is that we’re simply too scared or ashamed to reach out for help. Reaching out takes courage, but ultimately, you’ll be better off.
Family and friends are a great place to go for emotional support. They can lend a sympathetic ear, and practical support. But also bear in mind, many family and friends will have the best intentions, their advice may not be appropriate or accurate in your situation.
Professional guidance on the other hand, has some advantages. Some people find that as they don’t personally know their counsellor it makes it easier for them to be open and honest. Another advantage is that professional counsellors are trained to give you advice based on what research tells us has worked in similar situations, not simply based on their opinions.
Gambler's Help is a free service for people who are affected by gambling, including family and friends. There are Gambler's Help services available throughout Victoria, which provide:
- free, professional, confidential counselling for people for whom gambling is an issue
- counselling for the family and friends of people for who gambling is an issue
- financial counselling to help people with gambling-related money problems
- advice on self-exclusion programs and other support services
It may also be helpful for you to understand why your loved one gambles before you start having the conversation about their gambling addiction.