I am no therapist but I want to cover this sensitive topic because I’ve been through it myself in a past relationship. One of my ex boyfriends was addicted to gambling and it took me a year to find out. No one knew about it. I remember the shame and guilt associated with his addiction, the multiple lies that led to trust issues, but also how helpless I felt… At his worst, he was able to lose the equivalent of a month’s salary in a few days, simply by gambling it online. I had to involve his family and he never really forgave me for that.
After a year of struggle, I was still clueless what to do to break the cycle so I eventually ended the relationship. Gamblers tend to think they can always earn back what they lost, “hope” is what causes their downfall. It was not an easy break-up but I figured the best way to help him was to “lose” me for good. Today I’m still convinced it was the right thing to do. But you can’t break up with everyone… What if he was my brother, my dad or a close friend?
Are some people more inclined to become addicted than others? Maybe it’s in our genes. Or are we all addicted to something in the end? I don’t know for certain but I’m hoping I can at least shed some light on the matter.
Types of addiction
Some things are famous to easily create dependence:
- Drugs (illicit or not)
- Some medication (prescribed or not)
But you can also be addicted to pretty common things… For example:
- Junk food
- Your mobile phone
- Internet or social media
- Computer games
Whether it’s an addiction to a substance or a specific behaviour, it can be very dangerous and/or unhealthy. If it’s not identified rapidly, it can lead to serious consequences.
What are the signs to look after
Below are some questions you need to ask yourself if you’re in doubt. Are they:
- Suddenly lacking interest for a hobby that used to be important?
- Neglecting relationships?
- Ignoring the negative consequences of their actions?
- Noticing any distinct change in their sleeping patterns, causing chronic fatigue?
- Becoming secretive, lying about the amount of substance used or time spent?
- Going through an abrupt change of weight?
- Changing moods and showing signs of irritability?
- Depressed with suicidal thoughts?
- Lacking concerns over their physical appearance?
Just remember that someone with an addiction will almost always understate the seriousness of their condition. When confronted, they may make excuses and try to justify their behaviour to you. So unless there are any potential medical reasons for someone’s health decline, there’s an increased chance of an underlying addiction problem.
How to help them recover from it
If you know someone who needs help with an addiction, keep in mind they don’t always want to acknowledge they’re addicted. Approaching and helping an addict could be a long, challenging, and painful process. Start with a one-on-one conversation, free of distractions or interruptions. If they’re willing to seek professional help, then great. But in some cases, they won’t. If they become defensive instead, let it go for the time being and start involving family members to plan an intervention. And even when they accept to enrol in a recovery program, stay involved with the process and keep giving support. If they’re still reluctant to change, the most difficult part is to strike a balance and set boundaries in the relationship. Unfortunately, sometimes you may need to cut off contact in order to maintain your own emotional well-being, like I did.
Below are some ways you can attempt to help them:
- Learn more about their addiction (substance or behavioural), document yourself and read about testimonies, successful recovery stories, etc
- Stay involved but not in a patronising way, show compassion
- Provide an environment free of possible triggers
- Speak up and freely express your concerns
- Look for a rehab facility or organisations that will be able to help manage the addiction
But at the end of the day, recovering from it has to be their decision, not yours. Don’t beat yourself up if you feel like you didn’t manage to convince them. Have you ever been in this situation? Did you manage to find the light at the end of the tunnel?
“I’m Not Telling You It Is Going To Be Easy, I’m Telling You It’s Going To Be Worth It.” (Anonymous).
Big Girl x