Posted by: breathliftlive | 01/06/2011

Guest Blog from Sondra – Gambling Help Counsellor

I’ve been fortunate enough to have Sondra, a Gambling Help Counsellor from Hope Street Inner City Gambling Counselling write a guest blog for you to read.

Gambling and families

Jan, a 70 year old woman came to see me in an extremely distressed state. She was worried about her son Mike. Recently, he had started borrowing money from her for what seemed like a variety of reasons.  Mike had three children, a loving wife who worked, and a mortgage to pay. Jan was reluctant to refuse him.

Jan became very concerned when her daughter-in-law Patsy rang and asked if she could borrow money for an overdue mortgage payment. Patsy sounded very embarrassed and promised to pay back the money by the end of the week. Jan didn’t know what to think. Her son had asked to borrow money for the same reason the previous week and she had given him the money believing he would immediately pay the outstanding amount for the mortgage.

Later that day, Jan returned Patsy’s call and began the conversation saying she was very worried. Patsy broke down and told her that she had discovered Mike had been gambling.

Jan came to me with the question many people in this situation have asked -what was really going on and what should she do?

People who have a gambling problem will go to great lengths to hide it. They will lie to loved ones in a desperate attempt to make things right. They believe that if they keep gambling, their luck will turn and they’ll be able to get themselves out of trouble. While they are in this state of denial, their struggle to conceal their gambling and to protect others from worry leads them further and further into real trouble.

Often people in this stage of a gambling problem will become depressed and anxious and can’t see a way out.

A problem shared

The day after they had first shared their concerns about Mike’s gambling, Jan and Patsy came to see me. Although Jan and Patsy could not solve Mike’s problem, getting professional help was a significant first step towards an improvement.

Mike had been a good provider and a loving father, but he had become distant and isolated, gambling was not only affecting the family financially, it was also causing stress in their relationships. Both Jan and Patsy were willing to explore strategies that would help.

We looked at ways Patsy could secure their financial situation and protect their assets. We talked about how to approach Mike about his problem. Honesty and encouragement would be needed. Jan and Patsy needed support so that they could encourage Mike to seek help.

It is often very difficult for family to recognise a gambling problem. However, once revealed, it can be dealt with effectively. It is often an enormous relief for the gambler, they no longer feel as desperate, alone, secretive and powerless.

Small steps

Encouraging Mike to seek help and take responsibility was very important. However, there are no guarantees that people will seek help and change.

Fortunately, Mike had only developed a problem in the last year or so, and now with the problem out in the open, he had the love and support of his family to get help and turn things around.

Eventually, Mike came to see me.

We first began to indentify some of the things that had led Mike to develop a gambling problem. He had been retrenched from a well-paid job two years ago and now had a much smaller salary. The birth of their third child had added extra responsibility and pressure, and after a lucky win with friends, he had started to see gambling as a way to make extra money.

While looking at some of the triggers, Mike began to see how he mistakenly found gambling an escape and a possible way of easing his financial pressure, and soon our focus shifted to active measures to control gambling, coping strategies and diversions.

Part of the strategy Mike developed to control his gambling was to dedicate a lot more time to family and to take a real interest in family activities. He also returned to his previous hobby of swimming.

Patsy took over the management of money within the family and this, along with measures to limit his access to cash, helped Mike resist gambling.

Mike also self-excluded from the gambling venues he previously frequented.

Although things have improved, Mike’s gambling has caused financial stress, worry and pain.

Patsy struggles with trust issues and resentment, Mike still feels great guilt and shame and Jan has felt great anxiety.

Children also are affected when a problem affects their family life and sense of security. While it was crucially important for Mike to receive help, it was equally important that his family could also access counselling and support.

Mike still sees a counsellor and Patsy and Jan attend Family Workshops to help them move ahead.

Now Mike and Patsy discuss problems as they come up. They communicate openly, share possible solutions to problems and are feeling closer than ever.

Research has found that 1 to 10 people are negatively affected by another’s gambling and sometimes it is a long process to recovery. Not only for the gambler, but for those around them. But problem gambling can be treated and free confidential counselling is available, not only for those with a problem but for family and friends.

If you’re worried about gambling becoming a problem for someone you care about, contact Gambling Help on 1800 858 858 and speak with an expert. You’ll find information and support and be given the details of a free service near you.

See for information, to chat with a counsellor online, and to order free workbooks and materials.

If you are you worried that a family member or friend has a gambling problem, or if you need help or support to deal with gambling problems in your family, come to a free Family Workshop.

Hope Street Inner City Gambling is holding a Family Workshop at 10.00-11.30am on Saturday 11 June. The workshop is free, but bookings are essential, call 9332 3506.


I’d like to thank Sondra so much for taking the time to share this with you all. Remember, if you don’t live in Sydney area let me know and we can find some help near you.

Kate x



  1. today has been most difficult.

    i received a call from my brother who is 5 years my junior. he has been addicted to one thing or another his entire adult life. it began with drugs and alcohol. then about 15 years ago when he quite the drugs he took up gambling.

    after my mothers death he inherited a great deal of money. at the time he was raising 2 children on his own. he was a good dad. once the money came he seemed to become unraveled. began gambling non stop. leaving his teenage children for days at a time.

    soon, the money was gone, the indian casinos got it all. as i have always done i bailed him out on at least 10 occasions when he was getting ready to be evicted. additionally i bought the kids food and gifts. so many promises from his all broken.

    finally, i could do it no longer. i just ran out of giving. i am the oldest of 4 and have been bailing them all out my entire life. my baby brother ended up in prison for killing a man. the second eldest a sister is an alcoholic, and then this brother. we were upper middle class. raised catholic with a strict code of discipline. at least that is the way it was for my sister and i. when the boys came along, my parents were older and more well established and so they were given more. my dad an alcoholic. not that an of this was cause for anything that happened to us adults since we were all capable of making our own decisions.

    back to the phone call. it was not really a call it was a text.

    i had stopped taking his calls about 18 months ago…………. i was empty, had no more to give. i had borrowed from my 401k.

    in the text he told me he was very very sick. he had had a fall at work about 5 years ago and had filed a work comp claim. he received the settlement about 1 yr ago and blew it all. now he has pancreatic cancer, or so he says. or is it yet another con?

    so in a matter of about 10 years this brother had blown over $100,000.00. and now again, he is calling me. but i am empty, i have nothing to give. i do not want the burden – that is the truth of it.

    he will be evicted at the end of the month, where he will go i do not know. all i know is this,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, i am desperately sad and over come with feelings of guilt. however, i simply can not be sucked into it again. i am 61 and i have been enabling him since i was in my early 20’s.


    this is not who i thought i would end up doing to a brother i love very much. but the truth of the matter is he has simply used me, his hunger for the gambling is his only true love.

    • Thank you for sharing your story. You have certainly been through so much over the years and I can see you have had the be the strong one amongst your siblings. They’re incredibly fortunate to have someone as caring as you in their life.

      I can hear from your words that you’ve reached the point where you can go no further, and this is quite understandable. You have stood by your brother for longer than most. May I ask if your brother has ever sought counselling or any type of help for his problem gambling?

      Unfortunately, and as I’ve been told many times, you cannot help someone who will not help themselves. We are always there for them, helping them whenever they need it, protecting their families, bailing them out and always hoping that one day soon it will all stop. It’s so difficult to sit back and watch someone you love and care for do so much damage to themselves and those around them without wanting to do something to help.

      In most cases, the gambler needs to truly reach rock bottom before they finally realise what we have known for years, they need help. Sometimes it doesn’t take too long for this happen but sometimes it can take years. Rock bottom can occur when the person has no more funds left, no further access to fund and nobody to bail them out. They become desperate, sometimes angry that we will not bail them out anymore and it’s hard to watch and hear the things they may say, however, it needs to happen. You can’t continue on with the burden and as hard as it seems, you cannot help them anymore. They are grown up, they have a family and responsibilities and they need to seek help to find their way through the problem.

      We can feel guilty too. We’ve stood by and assisted them for so long and when we no longer can or will, we witness the sometimes heartbreaking sight of our loved ones in pain. You have nothing to be guilty for. You have helped him and you love him and will continue to love him. He just needs to understand that this can longer continue, that he can no longer lean on you for this kind of support. He needs treatment of some kind, whether it be counselling, meetings or a rehabilitation facility. Suggest these ideas to him, offer your support in the process and offer to attend with him for the first couple of meetings/appointments if he would like but make him understand that this is his life and only he can make the decisions to fix it, for your sake, his childrens sake and his own. Perhaps you could speak with someone too. You have had to be the strong one for so long but who has been there to listen to you when you need to be heard? Other friends and family are a great support network but sometimes we need to speak to someone outside the picture.

      Please know that you are not doing anything ‘wrong’ but standing back and stopping the assistance. You are taking a stand for yourself, and showing your brother it’s time he do the same. It will be difficult and sometimes things get worse before they get better. You are kind, good and caring person and deserve to live a happy life. So does your brother but only he can make this happen for himself.

      Please let me know how things go or if you need any further help. Take care of you.


    • Please note I had replied to this post privately via email.

  2. pray for my brother

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: