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Although the holidays are supposed to be the happiest time of the year, for some, it can be the most difficult time of the year. Instead of being a time of happiness and togetherness, it can be a time of loneliness and longing for things to be better than how they are. 

Even when spent with family and friends, the holidays can be a stressful time, which can cause people to revert to their old destructive habits. Addiction can cause broken relationships and a lot of hurt between family members, which can make family gatherings difficult.

Whether your loved one is currently in recovery, or is needing to begin their recovery, here are some ways in which you can support them during this season. 

5 Tips for Supporting Your Loved One

1. Set Realistic Expectations

Don’t expect the holidays to solve all your family problems, or to cure your addicted loved one. Although the holidays can be a great way to bring people together, it can also bring up a lot of hurt and negative emotions among family members. 

Don’t use the holidays to force difficult conversations that will only lead to more hurt. Keep in mind that the holidays may not be a joyful time for your loved one, as recovery can be incredibly difficult and uncomfortable. Be prepared for your loved one to be in a negative mood, but don’t take their negativity personally. 

2. Don't Shame Them

Shaming someone doesn’t do them any favors - it will only make matters worse. Don’t accuse them of ruining your life, or ruining the holidays. Don’t make snide, belittling comments about their addiction or how they have hurt you.

Shame is often at the root of an addiction, as it can make people feel worthless, and as though they are a disappointment to others. When a person experiences these feelings, they become more prone to relapse as a way of coping with their shame. 

family eating dinner and lighting sparklers

3. Help Them Avoid Triggers

As a family member, you can show your support by reducing their exposure to gambling triggers. If you are able to, have a conversation with your loved one or their counselor beforehand to find out what their triggers are, and how you can help.

  • Don’t watch sports. If your loved one is addicted to sports betting, don’t put a game on TV. Instead, encourage everyone to put down their phones and turn off the TV while spending time together.

  • Don’t serve alcohol. Avoiding alcohol can also be helpful for problem gamblers, since drinking lowers inhibitions and may make them feel more confident to make a risky bet. Many people with gambling disorders are also prone to developing an alcohol use disorder.

  • Keep them busy. Boredom is a major trigger for gambling addiction. Gambling passes the time and gives a boost of adrenaline. 

4. Keep Them Busy

One of the worst things you can do for someone struggling with an addiction is to isolate them. It has been said that the opposite of addiction is connection. If your family member usually attends Gamblers Anonymous meetings or other forms of counseling, make sure they continue to do so during the holiday season - whether in person or online.

5. Take Care of Yourself

Addiction does not only affect the addict - it affects the whole family. It’s important to check in with yourself during this time, and remind yourself that their actions are not a result of anything you have done.

In order to support someone else, you need to first ensure that you are in a good spot mentally and emotionally. A few practical things that can help are:

  • Getting enough sleep
  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Asking for help when you need it
  • Spend quiet time alone
  • Meditation 
  • Journaling 

You may also consider attending individual counseling, or a support group for family members of addicts.  

Remember that there is only so much you can do when it comes to another person’s recovery. You can offer support and encouragement, but ultimately, only your loved one can decide to go to treatment and get the help that they need when they are ready.

Their addiction is not a personal failure on your part, and your loved one is not continuing in their addiction to hurt you.

If you have a loved one who is struggling with a gambling addiction, Algamus Gambling Treatment Center is here to help. Algamus is one of the only gambling-specific treatment centers in the U.S., and has 30 years of experience treating all types of gambling disorders.

We can provide you with tips and resources for how to support your addicted loved one, and can help them understand why they need treatment. We accept most commercial insurance providers, and are able to accommodate your loved one during the holiday season, or in the new year. Reach out to our gambling counselors for support during this season.

Topics: Gambling Addiction, holidays

Rick Benson

Written by Rick Benson

Rick founded Algamus Recovery Centers in 1992. A Cornell University graduate, Rick is an Internationally Certified Gambling Counselor (ICGC-II) and a Canadian Problem Gambling Counselor (CPGC). Algamus and Rick were featured on the very first episode of Intervention on the A&E channel.