Have you ever wondered what it takes to stop gambling? Kindbridge’s very own, Marc Lefkowitz, ICGC -II, discusses the steps he’s seen work over his 30 years of assisting people with gambling problems.
1). Determine and admit if gambling is creating problems in your life that are disrupting or causing harm to family or other relationships, career, education and/or financial wellbeing. There are many screening tools available online that can help you with assessing the problem.
One example is the Brief Biosocial Gambling Screen (BBGS). A “yes” answer to any one of three questions means the person is at risk for developing a gambling problem or disorder.
1. During the past 12 months, have you become restless, irritable or anxious when trying to stop/cut down on gambling?
2. During the past 12 months, have you tried to keep your family or friends from knowing how much you gambled?
3. During the past 12 months did you have such financial trouble as a result of your gambling that you had to get help with living expenses from family, friends or welfare?
2). Seek professional help. Gambling addiction can progress quickly with harmful consequences. There are many qualified therapists and counselors that are well trained in helping people with problems gambling and affected individuals, to include friends, family and loved ones.
Often other potential problems are associated with gambling addiction that include; depression, anxiety, mood swings, loneliness, boredom and a breakdown in interpersonal relationships. Professional help can address these issues and decrease the need to “self-medicate” by gambling.
3). Join a self-help support group such as Gamblers Anonymous. At meetings you have the ability to relate with other people with problems like yours. Other members with success in abstaining from gambling can share relatable solutions to help you maintain your abstinence. Acquiring a sponsor and making regular or daily contact can be a valuable tool for recovery as well. Meetings can be found at gamblersanonymous.org and Zoom meetings at gamblersinrecovery.org. There are also 12-Step meetings for affected individuals, such as family and friends at gam-anon.org).
4). Identify and avoid “triggers.” Triggers are cues that can create an urge to gamble. When you identify a trigger, create a strategy to avoid it. Examples can be taking a different route rather than driving past a casino, stop watching sports games or poker tournaments, avoiding acquaintances where your relationship revolves around gambling, or calling someone prior to a risky situation.
5). Ride out urges to gamble. Acknowledge that urges come and pass. Using techniques of meditation, spiritual principles or calling someone can work in helping the urge pass more quickly.
6). Keep positive. A common strategy to refrain from gambling is to think about the consequences from a relapse and loss, and the shame or guilt associated with it. Examples are loss of family, job, career, education and/or financial devastation. Another strategy is to keep positive and think about what you get to keep if you do not relapse – your family, job, career, education and/or financial freedom.
7). Replace gambling with other healthy activities.
During episodes of problem gambling many gamblers stop participating in activities they used to enjoy such as hiking, playing sports, cooking or traveling. It’s helpful to reacquaint yourself with these activities, or find new ones to replace the gambling. Making plans to engage in these activities with people that do not gamble is also helpful.
7). Address your financial issues. Many problem gamblers find themselves in precarious financial troubles and are under pressure from creditors. Often gamblers will chase after their losses to try and solve financial problems only to incur more debt. There are credible non-profit consumer credit counselling services that can help create a plan to solve your financial difficulties. Also, Gamblers Anonymous has a “pressure relief” strategy to alleviate debt with a reasonable payback plan.
8). Consider self-exclusion or internet gambling blocking software. Self-exclusion is a process where a gambler voluntarily bans themselves from physical gambling establishments and/or online gambling venues. Physical casinos generally have provisions to allow arrest for trespassing and forfeiture of jackpots. Self-exclusion for online gambling usually offers a feature to deny access to the website. There is also online internet blocking applications, like Gamban, to deny access to most gambling websites.
9). Do not go it alone. Gambling addiction is a progressive and powerful illness often leading to severe consequences to self, others and community. It has a high rate of denial as compared to other addictions. Its alluring feature is unlike other addictions. In a gambler’s dream world you can win and solve all your problems. “Today is going to be different”. However this rarely happens. Don’t go it alone.
10). Reach out for help whether it be a therapist, counselor, support group, sponsor, clergy, friend or family member. There is hope and gambling addiction is treatable. Let recovery set you free.
Call Kindbridge for help right now. You can be talking to a therapist about your gambling issues right away.