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Growing up with a Compulsive Gambler

Perhaps you grew up with a parent, sibling, or other family member who had a gambling problem. Maybe you think about your own children growing up in a gambling environment. Here are some of the recollections shared by Gam-Anon members who grew up with a compulsive gambler.

1) I sometimes found money missing, and I felt like I had to hide my money.

2) Sometimes Mom or Dad would ask me for money. I knew I would necer get it back.

3) My parents led me to believe there was money put away for college, but if there had ever been such savings, there was nothing left.

4) I was so looking forward to my “sweet sixteen,” but when the time came, there was no money for me to have a party.

5) My family’s activities revolved around playing cards, watching sports on TV, sports betting, and other gambling activities. Scratch offs and lottery tickets were handed out as gifts on birthdays and holidays.

6) Family vacations were usually to places or resorts with casinos. At first it seemed like fun, but now, as an adult, I ask, “Who takes a 12 year old to a casino?”

7) My father rarely showed up for my games or school events. He didn’t even come when I won an award. We never knew where he was!

8) My parents were always fighting about money and their arguments frightened me. Sometimes they used me as a sounding board. I felt responsible, even though I was just a kid. Sometimes I felt more like the parent than the child. I felt my presence was necessary to keep things under control.

9) Dreading another violent argument over gambling, I grew to fear what might happen between my parents while I was away. I used to call home frequently to see if things were ok.

10) I remember handing Mommy tissues when she cried; I told Mommy she could hide in my room when Daddy got home.

11) I felt so helpless not being able to make things better for my mom and my younger brother.

12) I avoided bringing friends to my house. Life seemed so much calmer at their homes. When I was at their homes, I was always worried about what was happening in my home. Sometimes I would rather just stay home alone than be with people.

13) Despite growing up in a gambling home with all its problems and promising myself to never let that happen to me, I wound up marrying a gambler.

14) I’ve been lied to so much, I have trouble trusting people. I don’t think I can trust anyone totally.

15) Money has always been an issue for me. No amount makes me feel secure.

16) My mother wasn’t home at night and sometimes not even by the morning to make breakfast and see me off to school. Why did she go to the casino instead of staying home with me?

17) I was the ‘good’ child. My brother gambled, dumping his problems on our parents. They repeatedly bailed him out of trouble. He got all the attention in the family. I did not know how to act or help. How could my brother do this to us? I am so angry.

18) I have a recurrent dream — a nightmare — about my father’s gambling when I was a child.  I thought that was all behind me.

19) I was just a child when my father, the gambler, left us, telling me that I was now responsible for the care of the family.

If you grew up affected by someone with a gambling problem, we invite you to come to a Gam-Anon meeting whether or not the gambler acknowledges the problem.