Let’s talk gambling
Five reasons to try quitting gambling again
By: Samuel Ma (Clinical Psychology Registrar), Dr Anastasia Hronis (Clinical Psychologist)
Quitting gambling can provide many people with a sense of fulfilment. You may notice that your relationships with loved ones improve, you are more financially stable, or that you can spend more time improving your fitness.
However, what happens if you find it hard to stick with quitting, and go back to gambling? This article details five reasons why you should try again. It will show that these temporary setbacks, or lapses, form an integral part of your recovery. Rather than seeing them as a “failure”, it can be helpful to look at these lapses as important opportunities for growth.
Lapses are common when trying to quit gambling.
Progress is rarely linear, especially when it comes to changing our relationship with gambling. We can be vulnerable to lapses due to a range of stressors, such as cost of living pressures, mental health difficulties, or relationship challenges. Psychologists commonly discuss feelings of shame or guilt that accompany lapses with clients. Shame and guilt can actually make a lapse last even longer and be more severe. Taking an approach of self compassion is much more useful. This involves us acknowledging that lapses are common.
This is an opportunity to look at your triggers.
Consider the factors that might have contributed to your most recent lapse. Perhaps loneliness, anxiety, or depression were prominent in the week beforehand. Alternatively, recreational substance use, people that ‘enable’ gambling, time of the week, or specific environments (RSL’s, pubs, hotels) could be identified as triggers. By looking at your triggers, you can plan to reduce your exposure to them, and manage urges to gamble if they arise in the future.
Evidence-based strategies can reduce the risk of future lapses.
Reflect on what techniques may be useful in your circumstances. Unhelpful beliefs about gambling (“not gambling for a while means I am due for a win”) can be challenged by focusing on a more evidence-based interpretation (“the odds of winning are extremely low every time, irrespective of when I last gambled”). Further, practising assertiveness can allow you to refuse future gambling opportunities. Perhaps proactively reaching out to your close social network or a Gambler’s Help mental healthcare professional specialising in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy could be a good step.
It aligns with your values.
Remind yourself that quitting gambling aligns with your values. Contemplate the direction that you want to head in the next five to ten years. The qualities of character that you want to embody are your values. Consider how you want to feel about yourself, and think about what steps are needed to take you there. Typically, when mental health professionals prompt people to reflect on their own long term values, people want to try quitting gambling again.
People are here to support you
Remember that there are people around who can support you. Whether they be personal supports like friends and family, or professional supports. Many people who are in the process of quitting gambling are helped by those who deeply care about their wellbeing, and have faith in their ongoing recovery. Professional supports are also able to help you with the points mentioned above. They can help you develop insights into triggers, reflect on your values, and use strategies to help manage urges.
If you are struggling with gambling, it's important to know that you are not alone and that help is available. For more support on this topic or any gambling issue, call Gambler’s Help on 1800 858 858 or visit our Find Support page for more options.
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