Problem Gambling and Relationships: How to Rebuild Trust and Heal with Loved Ones

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Problem Gambling and Relationships: How to Rebuild Trust and Heal with Loved Ones

As a person in recovery from a gambling addiction, I know firsthand the devastating impact that addiction can have on relationships. For years, I struggled with gambling, pouring countless hours and dollars into an activity that left me feeling empty and ashamed.  But perhaps even more damaging than the financial toll was the effect it had on my relationships with others.

 

Gambling addiction is often referred to as a “hidden addiction” because it lacks the visible signs of substance abuse. It’s easy to hide behind a screen or slip away to a casino without anyone noticing. For me, this secrecy became a way of life. I convinced myself that I could handle my problem on my own, and that admitting it would only lead to judgment and rejection. I lived in constant fear of being exposed, and my shame and guilt only drove me further into isolation.

 

The impact on my relationships was profound. I became distant and unreliable, often canceling plans or disappearing for hours at a time. I lied about my whereabouts and made excuses for my behavior. I prioritized gambling over spending time with loved ones and became defensive when questioned.  The more I tried to hide what was going on, the more it consumed me.  

 

It got to the point where I couldn’t hide the effects of my gambling anymore.  My fiancée knew something was wrong, but like a lot of affected others, she couldn’t understand the root of the problem.  I was too afraid to confide in her, fearing the shame and judgment that I was certain would follow.  Finally, she gave me an ultimatum, and I had to choose between opening up to her, or losing her.  That was my own personal rock bottom.

 

Coming clean to my fiancée was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but her reaction surprised me. Instead of anger or disgust, she showed compassion and understanding.  She positioned herself as my ally in a fight against a common enemy, and helped me see that I wasn’t alone in this.  Even more, she educated herself about gambling addiction to better understand what I was going through, and worked with me to put practical barriers in place to prevent me from sliding back into unwanted behaviors.  

 

Through my own experience, I’ve learned that rebuilding trust after problem gambling is a gradual process that requires patience, consistency, and vulnerability. It’s not enough to simply apologize and promise to do better. I had to take concrete steps to show my commitment to recovery and to repairing the damage I had done. This meant being fully transparent about my actions, my triggers, and my recovery plan. I gave my fiancée complete control over our finances and made sure she had access to all of my accounts. I committed to daily check-ins and open communication about my thoughts and feelings.

 

I also had to work on rebuilding trust with my family and friends. Many of them had no idea the extent of my problem, or that it even existed in the first place, and it was painful to see how my actions had affected them. Slowly, through consistent effort, I began to mend those relationships as well.

 

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in recovery is the power of vulnerability. By sharing our stories and struggles, we create space for empathy, connection, and healing. When we’re honest about our imperfections, we give others permission to do the same. This vulnerability has been key to rebuilding intimacy and trust in my relationships.

 

If you’re struggling with gambling, know that you’re not alone and that there is help. Here are some practical steps you can take to rebuild trust and repair relationships in your own life:

 

1. Take Responsibility. If you’re ready to share your story with your loved ones, do so transparently and take responsibility for your actions. 

 

2. Communicate openly. Check-in with your loved ones regularly and be honest about your thoughts, feelings, and triggers. Express gratitude for their support and keep them updated on your progress. 

 

3. Put practical barriers in place. There are many ways you can separate yourself from the ability to gamble. Consider temporarily giving control of your finances to a trusted loved one, self-excluding from online and land-based casinos, and sharing your location with an accountability partner.

 

4. Consider professional help. Working with a therapist or counselor who specializes in problem gambling can be extremely beneficial. It’s not a sign of weakness to seek help, rather a sign of your commitment to your goals. A professional can help support you through the process of rebuilding important relationships in your life, and offer tools and strategies that can help.

 

5. Seek support and advice from others. Being able to talk to someone else who has shared lived experience can be a great source of support.  You’re always welcome in the Evive Community, and there are also peer groups available in your community such as Gamblers Anonymous and SMART Recovery. Individuals in these groups may be able to offer advice on how they have repaired important relationships in their own lives.

 

6. Make amends. Apologize sincerely for the hurt you’ve caused and take action to make things right. This might mean paying back debts, following through on commitments, or simply being present and reliable.

 

7. Be patient. Rebuilding trust takes time, and there may be setbacks along the way. Stay committed to your goals and keep showing up for your loved ones. Celebrate milestones and progress together.

 

8. Find new ways to connect. Problem gambling can strain relationships and create a sense of disconnection. Look for new ways to bond with your loved ones, such as trying a new hobby together, planning regular date nights, or volunteering for a cause you both care about.

 

Lasting behavior change is a journey. There will be ups and downs, but with commitment, support, and self-compassion, it’s possible to rebuild trust and create stronger, more resilient relationships. By taking responsibility for your actions, seeking help, and communicating openly with your loved ones, you can break free from the cycle and find hope and healing.

 

As a final note, I want to emphasize the importance of forgiveness – both for yourself and others. Addiction thrives on shame and isolation, but forgiveness is a powerful antidote. Forgive yourself for past mistakes and extend that same grace to your loved ones. They may need time to heal and rebuild trust, but holding onto anger or resentment will only hinder your own progress.

 

In my own journey, I’ve found that the relationships that have survived are often the strongest and most meaningful. They are built on a foundation of honesty, resilience, and unconditional love. By sharing our stories and supporting each other, we can break the stigma surrounding problem gambling and inspire hope in others who may be struggling.

 

Sam DeMello Founder of Evive

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