My Father Keeps Gambling Our Money Away

My father has a gambling addiction and is always gambling away our money. I try to tell him that he needs to stop, but he becomes mad and refuses to admit he has a problem. How do I help him, without making him more upset?

Dear Sammy,

That is really a difficult situation, and so astute of you to recognize that it is an addiction. It is a sickness, but that doesn't make it "ok" for the family, but rather, helps us to understand the basis.

It appears your father needs help and counseling, but I'm sure that you realize that. It is understandable that when you "tell" your father to stop, that he is going to become defensive and as a part of that defensive mechanism, he is going to react, in this case, with anger. None of us want to hear that we are wrong and even if your father also believes he is wrong, he isn't going to want to hear it from his child. And, it is not unusual for people to deny that they have a problem. Unless he is 100% thinking that gambling is 100% wrong, he is going to say that he doesn't have a problem with gambling. In the same way, unless an alcoholic believes that alcohol, even a drop, is wrong, he or she is going to believe that their drinking is fine and that they do not have a problem. Many times, it takes something drastic, like an accident, or death, to get their attention to realize that the drinking may be affecting them in a damaging way. In the same way, your father may not be able to admit that his gambling has proceeded to a point of being damaging, especially if the money drain has not gotten to a point of having more detrimental effects (i.e. losing a house, etc.).

Where does that leave you? That leaves you in a very tricky situation. If you are an adult child, you can choose to not enable him to continue to gamble. In other words, do not bail him out of the problems that result from the gambling. Be aware of your approach to him, and offer your assistance, out of love. A condescending or condemning tone is not helpful. Realize that he has an illness and that you are attempting to help him. If you can venture to approach him in love, over time, you may be able to suggest that he meet with someone to discuss issues that may be bothering him in his life. Possibly, through encouragement, you can help him to see a need for a counselor, even for the "other" issues, that are not gambling. In this way, he may feel less coerced into a situation and more of a free will and it may be the very thing that he is looking for, to help resolve some internal conflict.

Deborah E
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Deborah is a #1 Jazz Singer, as well as a lifelong musician, songwriter, and sound engineer. She is also a writer who pursues a love of positive psychology. She is a thesis short of having her doctorate in psychology.
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  • The average gambler loses money, but the process is entertaining, so what gambling amounts to is paying money to be entertained, and there is nothing wrong with that.

  • The Arapahoe County (Colo.) Sheriff’s report on Kenny McKinley’s death is in black and white and covers 131 pages. It lays out his gambling problems, his mountain of debt and his way out. McKinley gave hints of the darkness that surrounded him that September. In the weeks after his second knee injury, he casually told friends that maybe things would be easier if he just committed suicide. No one believed he was serious.

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