By: Marc Lefkowitz and Dr. Nathan D. L. Smith
The stress and struggles, they all start right about now. Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season and away we go. For most it means family, friends, and festive food. However, for people with a gambling problem and their families, it can be a precarious time of year. Turkey day football, college bowls and nfl playoffs are on the menu for sports bettors. Casinos decorated for the season are waiting with perks and comps. Relationships and families are tested due to financial stress and lying to hide the gambling. Christmas presents offer a challenge. Gamblers may chase their losses only to dig a deeper financial hole. Isolation can become the norm. These are the typical situations people with gambling problems find themselves navigating to try and both feed their need to gamble, and hide their gambling during this time of year.
For many these days, gambling is a new experience. Legal sports betting is a relatively new phenomenon sweeping the US these days and sportsbooks and casinos are bombarding the airwaves with unbelievable deals to attract new bettors to their products. This is no surprise. Every product that enters a market and gains traction advertises their product heavily to bring new clientele in the door. The problem presents when those with a tumultuous relationship with gambling ignore what the casino or sportsbook already tell you. They don’t hide it. They’re going to win in the long run.
Usually, the first problem for people that gamble excessively is financial. Unless diligently following a budget, when these gamblers start losing, they chase after their losses. They have won in the past, and believe if they just gamble long enough, their luck will turn around and they can win it all back. It just creates greater losses. This burden can then lead to lying, missing work, tension with relationships, and/or borrowing money. In the early stages, problems like this can be solved before they progress into addiction: a repetitive pattern of unhealthy behavior experienced over weeks or months. Loss of the ability to stop or control your gambling is a symptom of gambling addiction. As we all prepare for the holidays, here are some suggestions if you recognize some of these problems developing in yourself or a loved one.
9 Effective Ways to Stop or Control Your Gambling Problem When Especially Vulnerable During Christmas and the Holiday Season
Talk it Out
Many are afraid to talk about a gambling problem. Along with problem gambling comes shame and guilt, especially when money is involved. Talk to your family, a friend, therapist, or clergy. If this hasn’t been a persistent problem, your family and friends will most likely understand and offer support. If you are still afraid to reveal your problem, or it’s more serious, try talking to a therapist or clergy. In that case, confidentiality is assured. Though it may feel overwhelming at first, talking helps.
Turn Over Your Money
If you’re afraid you can’t stop and still have available cash, find someone trusted to hold your money. This can be important this time of the year especially with Christmas bonuses, cash gifts, and other financial windfalls associated with the season.
Gambling Blocking Software
If you’re Gambling with apps, the Internet, or on your phone, there is software available to block access to betting sites. Download and install the software for a sense of relief and peace of mind right away.
The odds are always with the house. More than likely if you try and win the money back, you will just create more debt.
When invited by family, friends, or co-workers to attend parties or events, say yes. Engaging with positive people can help in avoiding cravings to gamble. Accountability with friends or other trusted contacts is another bonus of avoiding isolation.
Throw Away the Mailers
Throw away the casino mailers or delete the gambling emails/texts as soon as you get them. If they’re giving you something for free, it means you’re probably losing multiples of the value of the gift. Unsubscribe from emails, delete the applications on your phone, and ask to be taken of promotional lists.
Plan Alternate Activities
On days when you usually gamble, plan alternative activities. As an example, if you like betting pro-football on Sundays, instead plan family outings such as a picnic or taking a hike. Any activity that breaks your unhealthy patterns is a benefit.
Take a Break
If you can, take a break from gambling during the holidays. It can be a relief from the normal chaos of this time of year. If you are unable to stop, it might be an indicator of a more serious problem. If you can’t take voluntary break of 30 days on your own, it may be time to seek professional help.
Seek Professional Help
There are many licensed therapists and certified counselors well-trained in treating persons with a gambling problem and their loved ones. Accountability coaches and trained counselors can help you faster than you think. Join peer support groups, try group therapy focused on reducing gambling-related harms, or talk to a therapist trained to help you navigate a successful recovery program. There are more resources available today to help people struggling with gambling disorder than ever before.
Here at Kindbridge Behavioral Health, we have helped many a gambler regain control of their lives with our teletherapy counseling programs. Reach out for more information today.