My Top 10 Tips to Beat Gambling Addiction
Everyone’s recovery is personal, what works for some doesn’t always work for others. It is one of the reasons I have put ten tips on here and asked everyone who posted their story on my site to also include one tip that worked for them.
Below I have compiled a list that incorporates the ten things that most helped me in the hope that you will be able to take at least one thing away from it and apply it in your own journey of recovery.
1 – Always minimise your opportunities to gamble
This is the one that I paid most attention to in the early days of recovery. I know myself and my weaknesses and at the height of my addiction I would always find a reason to ‘pop’ into the bookies and my CNWL treatment helped me to analyse this in more detail.
The concept is simple, take all the steps you can to eliminate every single opportunity to gamble.
Never go out with cash point cards and carry as little cash as is absolutely necessary. Don’t make excuses eg ‘I always need money when I go out’. In that case only carry the amount of money you absolutely need for whatever it is you are buying or doing or, better still, give them to your partner to look after. Self-exclude from bookies (see Tip 7) block yourself from gambling websites and mobile phone apps.
You’re a gambling addict so accept that temptation will always be there and try to minimise your opportunities to gamble until they are virtually eliminated.
2 – Admit defeat
This is the one I really struggled with and continue to struggle with on a regular basis.
I hated something getting the better of me and have lost count the amount of times I have frittered away thousands of pounds unable to accept my losses. At one of my group sessions at CNWL someone simply said those two words, ‘Admit defeat’ and its impact on me was huge and will live with me forever.
You WILL NOT WIN on a regular basis. It doesn’t happen because the compulsive behaviour inherent in our addiction leads us to carry on and ‘just one more go’ leads you to lose all your winnings in the blink of an eye.
I have written until I’m blue in the face on this site about my feelings on the industry and its lack of regulation. Whilst we are hopeful things WILL change in the future the reality is we have to accept it’s not happening right now and your opportunities to gamble are endless. The sooner you accept your losses the sooner you will be able to move on with your life and your recovery.
3 – Seek help
There are many ways you can get help and fantastic support and I will only list the ones that I have experienced and have helped me turn my life around.
CNWL Gambling Clinic, Soho, London – Google them, phone them and get on the waiting list. In my view quite simply the best treatment available.
Gamblers Anonymous – Helped me in the early days and I still occasionally go to meetings. Google and find the nearest meeting to you.
Other help that I know is available, although I haven’t experienced it, is through GamCare. Also join as many forums online as you can and maybe even get involved in the fight against lack of industry regulation.
4 – Surround yourself with people
My gambling addiction was the loneliest experience of my life. By its very nature it brings with it shame and deceit and the last thing I wanted to do was having anyone know of my secret life.
You will not beat it alone. Fact.
The sooner you have the courage to ‘come out’ and tell loved ones the better in the long term. Still to this day I have a support network of friends who I can speak openly too and needless to say I am also now in touch with many fellow gambling addicts. The more people you can open up to and seek support from the better as far as I’m concerned. When I first did the website it was still very taboo and less accepted as an issue. I believe that has changed and you will be surprised how empathetic people actually are to the problem.
The more support you get the stronger you become and I have no doubt there is no way I could have got remotely close to beating my addiction without the support from friends and loved ones.
5 – Be transparent about your finances
This actually falls under Tip 1, minimising your opportunities to gamble but I feel it warrants a headline of its own.
I was an expert at hiding my addiction and the debt that came with it. I learnt very early on that I had to establish a whole new relationship with money. Why not follow the principle of what I did on here and have a weekly cash count with your partner. I kept receipts for every single purchase, even newspapers, and on a weekly basis went through my finances with my partner or friend. When you have ‘come out’ with your addiction it becomes increasingly hard to hide any income to someone who is helping you keep a track of your finances.
I remember early on I learnt to appreciate the value of money so much more. I wrote about this on my diary and simple things like food shopping in Sainsburys were oddly fulfilling. I hate shopping at the best of times but actually now find myself taking my time over purchases I make and have a whole new respect for money.
6 – Increase your ‘nice’ activities
Increase your enjoyment of life without gambling.
Simple things like join a gym or evening club of something that interests you. The key is keeping yourself busy, boredom is my enemy and if I have time on my hands it only increases the likelihood of relapse. If you can do something physical its my belief that this only increases your mental well-being too. I hate jogging for example but force myself to do it as I know the benefits are many.
There is no excuse for not doing this one as there are so many activities you can conduct and enjoy. Needless to say even if jumping out of an aeroplane with a parachute isn’t your cup of tea it sure as hell beats spending the afternoon in the bookies with the inevitable outcome.
7 – Self Excluding
This is a bit of a bug bearer for me as I have previously written about. Be aware that even though you may take steps to complete a form and self-exclude from all your local bookmakers they very rarely police it – surprise surprise. That said its an absolute must to create safe havens around your home and workplace.
For bookies you need to go into the premises (take a friend) with 2 passport sized photos and ask at the counter for an exclusion form. Complete it there and then and walk out never to return.
There are a number of software packages that block gambling websites and same applies to mobile phones. No excuses, do this immediately!
8 – Give something back
This is really worthwhile. Look into any local charities you could get involved in if having too much time on your hands is an issue. Its remarkably fulfilling and needless to say uses your time in a much more positive way.
Maybe even do something for charity. I will (I hope) shortly be looking into completing a number of adrenalin fuelled activities which I also hope will raise some money for worthwhile causes.
Also think about getting involved in the fight against lack of regulation. For some the constant browsing over gambling related threads in online forums may be too much but I found it extremely helpful to at least try and contribute.
GRASP is a great one to start off with www.grasp-group.org.uk
9 – Keep a crib sheet in wallet
I have a black wrist band I wear and the idea is that every time I feel compelled to gamble, before actually walking into a bookies I would look at my wrist band that reminded me to look at a crib sheet I had written and keep in my wallet.
The crib sheet contained my own personal, hard hitting messages to myself on reasons not to gamble. I won’t detail all of them but they included:
- Gambling ruined my life.
- If I don’t gamble I will be able to afford a holiday for my boys.
- If I start to gamble I will lose any winnings and all my cash.
- I will gradually get my self-respect, and other peoples respect, back if I can stop gambling.
Your crib sheet is personal to you but if none of the other tips has stopped you from gambling always make sure you read it before opening the door of that bookies or entering your login details online. My mentor Philip Mawer uses a similar concept called the chip of change in his book Overcoming Gambling.
10 – Reward your non-gambling
This is a bit of a contentious one I learnt from my CNWL treatment. Contentious in that some partners may find it difficult to accept rewarding yourself for not gambling. But as CNWL say its challenging the thought process involved, please get on the waiting list for CNWL where you will learn full details.
The automatic thought process is:
- ‘Yes gambling would be fun, but not gambling would be better’.
- If you contract with yourself to get something pleasurable if you do not gamble, then this will act as a challenge to the desire to gamble.
A couple I used were spending 99p on iTunes at end of day/week or putting a pound a day away for my kids holiday. Of course they don’t have to be monetary as if you were in my shoes I didn’t have a penny to my name. Think outside the box a little with this one.
Today I have not gambled