How to Tell Your Family About Your Gambling Addiction

Three Parts:Preparing for the ConversationHelping Your Family Understand Your AddictionGetting Your Family's Support

If you have a gambling addiction, the thought of telling your family about it may be just as scary as the thought of quitting. While this conversation will be hard, you will feel relieved when it is over and you no longer have to hide your problem from your family. Once your family understands what you are going through, they will be much better equipped to help you through your recovery.

Part 1
Preparing for the Conversation

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    Decide what you will say. It's a good idea to have a plan for what you want to say to your family before you start the conversation. This will help ensure that you remember to say all of the important things that are on your mind.[1]
    • You may want to write some notes down and bring them with you when you have the conversation with your family. You may get more emotional than you had expected, and the notes will help keep you on track.
    • If you're worried about getting emotional and accidentally saying something hurtful to your family, try writing out a script and rehearsing ahead of time.
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    Have a plan for recovery. Your conversation with your family will go much better if they realize that you are planning to do something about your gambling addiction. Before you talk to your family, develop a clear plan for how you will stop gambling.[2]
    • You may choose to go to an addiction treatment center or see a therapist.
    • There are also many support groups available to help gambling addicts.
    • Many people with gambling addictions also suffer from mood disorders or other mental health issues, so medications like mood stabilizers or antidepressants may help you combat your addiction.[3]
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    Adjust your explanation for children's ages and maturity levels. If you have children or other young relatives in your family, you should tell them what is going on, but only in as much detail as they can understand. Teenagers are fully capable of understanding a gambling addiction and may feel insulted if you try to leave them in the dark, whereas young children may lack the maturity to understand the nuances of addiction.[4]
    • Younger children may not understand what a gambling addiction is, and that is okay. Making them understand that you have a problem that you are working to solve is good enough.
    • Older children may blame themselves for your addiction, so be sure to let them know that it is not their fault.
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    Consider telling one person first. It may be easier to tell one family member about your addiction before everyone else. This person can help support you through the stress of telling everyone else about it, particularly if you are concerned that some members of your family will react badly.[5]
    • Choose someone who is likely to be supportive and understanding, not judgmental.
    • This person can also help you come up with a plan for your recovery. If you are not sure what kind of treatment you should pursue, ask this person for help so that you can present a solid plan when you talk to the rest of your family.

Part 2
Helping Your Family Understand Your Addiction

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    Explain your struggles. Many people have a difficult time understanding gambling as an addiction because it lacks the chemical dependency of other addictions, like those to alcohol or drugs. As a result, you may need to explain to your family how gambling makes you feel and why you have been unable to stop thus far.[6]
    • You may really spell out what an addiction feels like. For example, you could say something like, "It may be difficult for someone who does not have an addiction to understand, but I feel unable to stop myself from gambling even though I know I shouldn't do it. I feel so happy and free while I am gambling, and then I feel bad afterwards, which makes me want to regain that happy feeling by gambling more."
    • Try not to get angry with your family if they don't understand why you can't just stop gambling. Recognize that they do not understand the addiction and may need some more time.
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    Be honest. This conversation is your opportunity to come clean to your family about everything you have been attempting to hide from them. Some of the things you have to tell them may upset them, but it's important that they know the truth, so always be honest.[7]
    • Avoid minimizing the severity of your addiction in order to shelter your family. They need to know the true extent of your problem in order to help you.
    • If you need to share something that will be particularly hurtful, your can prepare your family for it by saying something like, "You may already know that I have lost a lot of money, but there is something else that you don't know, and I know it will be very upsetting to you."
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    Apologize for hurting them. If your gambling addiction has had a negative effect on your family in any way, you should acknowledge that and apologize for what you have done. While there is no way to change the past, it's important for your family to know that you regret your actions.[8]
    • Let them know that you recognize the impact your addiction has had on them by saying something like, "I understand that my addiction has caused you pain and I am deeply sorry for that."
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    Be ready to answer questions. When you tell your family that you have a gambling addiction, they will probably have a lot of questions, so it's important to be open to answering them. Keep in mind that your family may have very little knowledge about addictions, so they may ask questions that seem to have obvious answers to you.[9]
    • They will probably ask you questions like when your addiction started, how often you gamble, or why you gamble.
    • They may also ask you questions about your finances, which may be uncomfortable, but try to be open and honest.

Part 3
Getting Your Family's Support

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    Talk candidly with your enablers. If you have any family members who enable your gambling addiction in any way, you need to have a conversation with them about what they need to stop doing. For example, if you have a tradition of going on vacation to Las Vegas with your sister every year, you may have to tell her that you can no longer do that with her.[10]
    • Keep in mind that enablers often do not know they are enabling. You may need to spell out the exact behaviors that cause you to feel tempted to gamble in order to help them understand.
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    Ask for help. Your family might really be able to help you overcome your gambling addiction, especially if you live together. Think about what kind of support you could use, and then ask them to help you.[11]
    • For example, you might want to ask a family member to manage your money for you while you are working to stop gambling.
    • Your family might also be able to help by keeping you busy with activities so you will not be tempted to gamble.
    • You may want to call your family members for support when you feel the need to gamble, which could help you fight the urge. You should talk to your family before you start doing this so that they understand the responsibility.[12]
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    Talk about making financial reparations. If your gambling has caused financial harm to your family, you will need to address this issue with them in order to begin repairing your relationship with them. Be honest with them about the effects your gambling has had on the family's finances and explain how you plan to make things right.[13]
    • Let your family know that you plan to help rebuild the family finances after you have gotten help to stop gambling. You may want to ask for their help in developing a plan to meet your shared financial goals.
    • Consider making a list of all of the gambling debts you have and sharing this with your family, especially if you are financially dependent on each other. This will help your family understand the true extent of your addiction and how it will continue to impact the family.
    • If you borrowed or stole money from your family to support your gambling addiction, do your best to calculate exactly how much you owe them. Taking accountability for these debts will help your family understand that you are serious about repaying them, even if it will take you a while.
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    Work on rebuilding trust. Your gambling addiction has likely caused harm to your relationship with your family, in addition to your finances. Devote some time during this conversation to talking about how you plan to regain your family's trust and what you want your role in the family to look like in the future.[14]
    • If your addiction caused you to be abusive or neglectful to your family, admit to your mistakes and let your family know what you plan on doing differently in the future.
    • You may want to ask your family for feedback. They might have specific ideas for how you can earn their trust back.
    • If someone in your family reacts negatively to your confession, try not to get too discouraged about it. They may just need a little more time before they are ready to start rebuilding a relationship with you.
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    Consider family counseling. If your family is struggling to understand your addiction or offer you the support you need, you may want to try family counseling. A professional therapist can teach you and your family how to communicate about your addiction in a healthy way and help you begin to repair your relationship.[15]
    • You could also try inviting them to attend support group meetings with you. This can help them build a better understanding of what a gambling addiction is and what you are doing to get help.


  • Be patient with your family, as they may know nothing about gambling addictions.
  • Avoid blaming anyone else for your addiction problems.

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Categories: Family Life | Addictions