Written by Daniel Korolija of the Gambling Collective
Playing online slots, video poker, and betting on Bingo is all fun and games if enjoyed in moderation. After all, everyone likes getting some money for nothing, and the shinier the machines, the better. But there comes the point when a game of chance becomes all-consuming when the fun stops and turns into an addiction.
Compulsive gambling is destructive, both for the person directly suffering from it and their loved ones. People who develop a gambling addiction can’t control themselves and often spiral ever deeper into debt, leading to very tragic scenarios. We are surrounded by stories of people losing their livelihood or families or both to this vice.
However, it’s important to remember that gambling addiction can be prevented and cured. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, there are many ways to stop on the road to ruin and get back on track.
Realizing There’s a Problem
The first step to recovery is always self-reflection. Many gamblers don’t even consciously recognize they have a problem, similar to how it happens with any other addiction. In fact, gambling addiction is considered on par with alcohol addiction in terms of prevalence and destructive consequences.
There are several “symptoms” of compulsion: The need to push for even higher amounts is a notable one, as well as continuing to gamble just to break even. A nagging urge to get back to a casino, online or otherwise, is also an indication that the fun pastime has become a potential menace. These are all common symptoms of addiction, and the sooner you notice them, the better.
Not everyone needs to quit gambling cold-turkey. If you believe you are in danger of developing an addiction, there are a few steps you can take to prevent this problem.
Gambling sites often flaunt their responsible gaming policies and will allow you to limit either your time or the amount of money you can spend in a day. You can move step-by-step and slowly but steadily remove your gambling habit from your life. Take notice of your urges and try to isolate triggers that lead to gambling for you. You can then avoid certain situations, people, or places, and the fewer reminders of gambling there are, the stronger your resolve will become, and, ultimately, you’ll be able to stop yourself from gambling.
Ask for Support
Getting rid of any addiction is a challenging process, and it’s better not to walk that path alone. Sharing with your friends, spouse, and family, letting them know about the problem, and asking them for emotional support is an excellent step towards improving your mental health. It might be hard to start, but anyone who cares about you and loves you will be understanding about what you’re going through.
You can also find anonymous support groups. Talking openly with people who have similar issues can go a long way towards healing. And of course, if you have access to them, speaking to a professional is absolutely the best way to tackle your issues. Psychiatrists and mental health counselors specializing in addiction will work with you to figure out ways for you to stay away from dangerous situations and consequently regain mental and financial stability. Getting back to a life without gambling is much easier when someone is there to guide you down the right path.
Find New Activities
Quitting gambling is not too different from quitting smoking or drinking. A person trying to quit will often seek an alternative activity to divert their thoughts away from the addiction. Smokers turn to chewing gum and using fidget cubes to simulate the physical feeling of having a cigarette in their hand. Gambling requires you to either go to a casino or sit in front of your computer, so you might think of activities to drive you physically and emotionally away from such places.
Picking up a hobby is a great way to start your journey towards gambling-free life. It can be pretty much anything you like - playing an instrument, wood-crafting, model-making, writing, or cooking. Starting a blog about something that inspires you or journaling your progress with losing your gambling habit is also a great choice. You’ll have something to look back on and might even get more support through online followers.
Starting a workout regime is another way to distance yourself from gambling. A good workout boosts our dopamine levels, leaving us happier and more energetic, on top of being good for our health. It doesn’t have to be in a traditional gym, either. You can go hiking, cycling, shoot some hoops with your friends, or take a dip in your local pool. Combining physical activity with something more spiritual, like yoga and meditation, might also help you clear your head.
Finally, just hanging out with your friends and family is essential for your recovery. Spending time with people who don’t have any connection to gambling will provide an insight into an addiction-free life and help motivate you to quit the unhealthy habit completely.
Don’t Go Into This Alone
We can’t stress this point enough: Curing addiction is a difficult task in and of itself, so there’s no reason to make it even tougher. Surround yourself with people that love you, understand you, and support you. With a strong team at your back, you’ll be able to quit gambling and get back to leading a fuller, healthier life. If you need help working through a gambling addiction, make an appointment with Jeremy Edge, LPC.