Gambling and the holidays

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gambling at christmas
  • For many, the holiday season is the most joyful time of the year, but for people struggling with gambling, it can also be the most challenging. It can be a time of loneliness and longing for things to be better.
  • Family gatherings can be challenging because gambling addiction can result in broken relationships and a lot of hurt feelings between family members.
  • Isolating a person who is struggling with gambling is one of the worst things you can do to them. If possible, keep them busy.
  • Avoid forcing difficult conversations during the holidays, as doing so will only make existing conflicts worse.
  • Try to help your family member get the gambling support they need throughout the holiday season, whether in person or online.
  • Keep in mind though, a person struggling with gambling will only seek help when they are ready to make changes.
  • As with substance misuse, several attempts at changing gambling behaviours may be required before a change occurs in a sustained way.
  • Fewer than 20% of gamblers with any level of gambling disorder ever seek help due to shame, stigma, and feeling that they should be able to “do it themselves”. 

Reduce Exposure to Gambling Triggers

At holiday gatherings, a family member or loved one can help a person struggling with gambling to avoid triggers. Before you go, if you can, talk to your loved one to learn about their triggers and how you can help.

Try not to watch sports

Don't show a game on TV if your loved one is addicted to sports betting. Instead, when you spend time together, encourage everyone to put their phones down and turn off the television.

Try to avoid serving alcohol

A person experiencing harms from gambling may benefit from abstaining from alcohol because drinking lowers inhibitions and may encourage them to place risky wagers.

Keep them engaged

Gambling addiction is often sparked by boredom.

Take Care of Yourself

Addiction affects the entire family, not just the addict. It's important to check in with yourself and remember that their actions have nothing to do with you.

Before you can help someone else, it's important that you're in a good mental and emotional state first.

A few practical suggestions to keep in mind:

  • Get enough sleep, eat well, and ask for help when you need it
  • Meditation, journaling, and individual counseling are other option.
  • Join a support group for addicts' families.
  • You can only do so much to help another person recover
  • You can offer support and encouragement, but only your loved can decide whether to attend treatment and receive the assistance they require when they are ready.
  • Your loved one is not continuing their addiction to hurt you, and their addiction is not a personal failure on your part.

Related article: You may have heard it before, ‘Gambling is Not Child’s Play

Call the PEI Gambling Support phone line at 1-855-255-4255 (toll-free) to speak with a trained professional who can provide you with a variety of supportive services such as information about in-person counselling through Addiction Services, Gamblers Anonymous meetings, SMART Recovery meetings, and other resources. Callers may also choose to be referred to local Addiction Services for counselling.