Affected others – interview with a daughter of a gambling addict

It’s easy to despair, feel lonely and helpless when someone close to you suffers a gambling addiction. But, you’re not alone; millions live close to someone with a gambling problem. Kelly is one of them. Her father is a compulsive gambler. Here is a summary of her interview in The Addicted Gambler’s Podcast.


  • Being affected by a family member with gambling addiction
  • Living close to a gambling addict for a long time
  • How she confronted her dad
  • Lack of support from the family
  • Anger, frustration, and protecting herself
  • Finally admitting a problem, but what happened directly afterward?
  • His behavior isn’t a reflection of how he feels about you. It’s more a reflection of the power of the addiction

The interview with Kelly is about her life today and how it’s been since she first discovered her father’s gambling problems. How she has tried to help her father, the resistance she’s met from him and her family. We believe you’ll benefit from the full interview if you’re an affected other.

It’s been 15 years since Kelly first interacted with gambling when her dad took her to the casino to celebrate her 18th birthday. Already, then she had her first thought that something wasn’t normal:

We were playing some games, and all of a sudden, I got bored of it eventually, and I’m like, can we go? And we were up, and then I think we were down. He was like, Oh, okay.

As we were leaving, I remember he was taking another five bucks and doing it in the game, another five dollars. I could sense that he was a little frantic about it like he didn’t want to leave and wanted to keep playing. I remember thinking, this is not normal. Alarm bells! But after that, I didn’t think about it until years later.”

Ten years later, she discovered that her dad had “borrowed” money to use his terms from her aunt without asking. Kelly decided to confront her father. She wrote a letter in a loving tone:

”I told him, I love you very much, that he has nephews that look up to him. I said I see how you are with them. You’re so important to your family. He’s a chef, and he’s a fantastic chef. I told him all these wonderful things about himself. I said I hope you do this because I want you to be happy and have a good life.

At this point, I’m just not feeling nice about it anymore because I’ve been approaching you, I feel like somebody should be.”

He responded with anger and denial. Instead of being angry, Kelly showed compassion, trying to see things from his point of view. In the interview, she said: “I get that if somebody is calling you on your shift, your wallet, and you’re not ready to deal with it, you’re probably just going to lash out. So yeah, I was hoping it would go better, but what do I expect?

It took five years before he admitted a gambling problem. But, instead of trying to stop gambling, he asked Kelly to co-sign a loan agreement. Brian, one of the show’s co-hosts, shares some of his experiences here. To use his words:

I did the same thing. I mean, you’re like, all right: I’m going to get help. But right at this very moment in time, I’m screwed. I’m behind on my rent.

I buttered people up. It’s insane. I was asking for money, but I wasn’t going to pay the bills. I mean, maybe I would, but I was taking the money to the casino so I could get my money back. Then I’d pay the bills, and everything would be okay because I didn’t even have to get a job”.

Can you relate to Kelly’s father’s behavior? Jeff calls himself and other gambling addicts “bullshit artists”. Then he says something powerful: “I hope you realize that? His behavior isn’t a reflection of how he feels about you. It’s more a reflection of the power of the addiction. It’s the addiction that sometimes causes us to do these things that you can’t even logically explain. Things like, how could your dad do things that are so hurtful?

Thoughtful comment: It’s something to remember when we deal with people with gambling problems. In the how to help a gambling addict guide, we want to help you understand that gambling is doing something for the person. If we can understand that, separating the person from his/her problems is easier.

How did the rest of the family react to his gambling?

“I’m on my own. Nobody in my family has wanted to deal with it. I don’t know if they’re in denial about it. I’ve spoken to his brother, and he’s like, are you sure it’s that big a deal? I’m telling him everything, and he’s like. But are you sure? I’m like, yes. Like what you just heard? I get it. People don’t want to believe.

Sources of pain

Kelly mentions a lot of loss in her family. Her dad has suddenly lost two brothers, and she thinks some things have not been dealt with. She also believes her dad is depressed.

How much responsibility do you have as an affected other?

They are discussing this rather extensively in the podcast. Kelly wants to help her dad, but how far is she willing to go? How far is she expected to go? Jeff says something bright here:

It’s a slippery slope when you start to get involved in something you don’t have control over. You don’t have control over what he’s going to do, and you can’t make him be ready to get help when he’s not.

But yet, as long as Kelly makes sure that he knows the door is open and when the time comes that he’s ready actually to get serious about it, then you’ll support him. To me, that’s what being a loving daughter is about. You must protect yourself and your mental health with this. That’s just my view.

Jeff has a fair point. Of course, we feel responsible for people close to us. But we can only control so much, and feeling responsible for things we can control is dangerous. In the section about co-dependency on, we also discuss the topic of responsibility.

This text was a quick summary of podcast episode 60. If you want to listen to the full episode, click here.

Founder of QuitGamble Anders Bergman
Anders Bergman
Anders Bergman MSc, MA
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