March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month, designed to help raise awareness of the prevention, treatment, and recovery services available for those adversely affected by gambling. Gambling doesn’t only impact the problem gambler themselves, family members are often caught up in the storm. In the interest of better understanding of the consequences of problem gambling, family member Annemarie has shared her very personal story with us.
Problem Gambling and How it Affected My Life
I grew up in a family that was plagued with alcoholism, drug abuse, problem gambling and many other mental health issues. At the time, I wasn’t aware that any of these issues were problems as I was too young to understand what was really happening. As I grew up into my teenage years, I began to understand that there was something wrong with all of this. It’s very hard when it’s your family members, you love them and you know that something is not quite right. As I entered my early twenties, I knew that it was completely dysfunctional and came to the realization that nothing was going to change. The only thing that I could do was to remove myself from the dysfunctional environment in an effort to move on to a healthier life for myself.
Changing my environment helped, but did not fix everything. You are still connected to family even though you live on your own. The dysfunction has a way of creeping back into your life. Problem gambling leaves a great destruction in its path. I found myself struggling with trying to deal with emotions of anger, confusion and desperation. I felt myself preoccupied with trying to fix the problem gambler only to have more and more relapses happen. The problem gambling took over as my primary focus and I had trouble concentrating on myself and my own life.
One day, I was given the business card of a problem gambling counselor. That was my lucky day as I called the number and started to get help for myself. It took a while to talk through history and my story. They not only actively listened, but were able to understand because this is their expertise. I felt greatly relieved for the first time in a long time. I later learned that gambling recovery was about me as a family member, not the problem gambler. I learned a lot of lessons in small group meetings, most importantly that I needed to work on myself in order to live a healthier life. I learned the importance of setting up healthy boundaries and applying this to my everyday life. As time went on, I found that these strategies worked.
I feel blessed to have found a gambling support program that has helped me enter into my own recovery. It is my hope that if I help myself, it will eventually help the problem gambler. I feel that the quality of my life has improved. I still worry, but I’m not constantly consumed by thoughts of the problem gambler. The strategies that I learn in small group are applicable to all other areas of my life, not just with problem gambling. It’s very comforting to meet with a group of people who are going through the same thing that I’m going through. It’s a safe and non-judgmental environment. I look forward to attending my meetings, learning more each time and working hard to maintain my own recovery.
If you or a loved one is struggling with problem gambling and needs help, please contact us at (860) 740-3883 in Middletown or (475) 238-6221 in New Haven.