While it is true that problem gambling has many negative impacts, it can also meet our own needs. (For example, it may help people to feel good about themselves, or it may help them to forget about their troubles.) Therefore, it is not easy for most gamblers to simply stop or cut down their gambling, despite the knowledge that this is the necessary step they must take to resolve their problems.If you have a concern about your gambling and want to stay away from it for a while, here are some “tried and true” things you can do to take back control of the situation:
- Limit your access to money.
- Avoid gambling opportunities.
- Ban yourself from the casinos.
- Deal with your “high risk” times.
- Replace gambling with healthy activities.
This may not sound very appealing – most people like to be able to get their money whenever they want it. However, if the money is readily available, it’s tempting to use it to gamble. That’s why it’s so important to limit access to money. The more steps you take to block your access to money, the more success you’ll have in interrupting your gambling. Try starting with the tightest restrictions that you can tolerate, then ease up as you become more confident that you can control the urges to gamble.
Ideas to limit access to gambling:
- Voluntarily give financial control to someone else.
- Get rid of bank cards and credit cards, or at least cancel cash advance privileges.
- Carry only small amounts of money. Ask yourself how much money you actually need in a day.
- Change banking arrangements. (For example: require two signatures for all withdrawals; move money from joint accounts to a significant other’s account, etc.)
- Cancel any credit lines.
- Be accountable for money spent. (For example, arrange to show your receipts to someone.)
- Pay bills by phone or direct payment.
Avoiding gambling opportunities is important for those who are trying to get their gambling situation under control. For most people, it takes hard work just to deal with the urges to gamble, but when an opportunity to gamble presents itself, their temptation to gamble often overcomes their will power to stay away.
For people whose gambling has been the center of their social outings with family or friends, it may be necessary to suggest other activities, such as attending a movie or dining out.
It’s also a good idea to let others know about the decision to quit gambling, and ask friends and family to stop suggesting gambling as an activity to do together. This tactic is often taken by people with other problem behaviours, such as smoking. When a smoker declares the decision to stop smoking, that declaration reflects the individual’s knowledge about smoking and the desire to make a healthy change. Similarly, by announcing the decision to quit gambling, the individual is revealing the knowledge that, without the myths and psychology, gambling is nothing more than a game of chance. There is nothing wrong with making a decision not to play, and friends and family need to respect that.
For people who have done most of their gambling in the casinos, another effective method of avoiding gambling opportunities is to fill out the Voluntary Exclusion Form, which is available at most casinos. Once someone completes the form, he or she is banned from the casinos for a period of time. By staying away from gambling, the urges to gamble would eventually lessen and the individual would find other activities enjoyable again.
While easy access to money (as mentioned previously) can cause the urge to gamble, a person’s “high risk” times may also be a temptation. If you have been gambling for a while, you may notice a pattern in your gambling activities. These patterns are your “high risk” times. Look for them in your gambling by asking yourself these questions:
Is there a certain time of the day or week, such as payday or weekends, that you usually spend gambling?
Where, when and who you gamble with?
Is your urge to gamble triggered by having free time, experiencing stress or feeling isolated from others?
Once you know what your high risk times are, you can make plans to deal with them.
Having a plan for dealing with your gambling temptations can help you resist them. Here are some suggestions:
- Schedule and take part in activities with others during times when you usually gamble.
- Be accountable to someone during your free time (phone your spouse as you are leaving work, agree to meet someone over lunch, etc.).
- Recognize your feelings (tired, bored, depressed, frustrated, lucky, etc.) and explore another way to deal with them. There are countless things a person can do to deal with these feelings without risking your wellbeing with problem gambling.
- Limit your use of alcohol or other substances – lowered inhibitions can lead to increased risk-taking, including gambling.
As mentioned earlier, gambling usually serves some function in a person’s life. Some people gamble for excitement, while others gamble to escape from stress, depression or boredom. You’ll probably find that it’s easier to stay away from gambling if you can get involved in more healthy activities.
At first it might not be easy to remember how you filled your time in the past. Often, as people become more and more involved in gambling, they abandon the hobbies and activities that brought them pleasure in the past. Reconnecting with the activities that you used to enjoy may take some effort, but you’ll probably find it rewarding. As well, taking part in these activities may help you stay away from gambling.
Making a list of activities that you can do in your spare time is a good way to ensure that you’ll have options if you get an urge to gamble. You will likely have more success at resisting your urges if you can do something else that you enjoy.
Be careful, though, that you don’t replace gambling with another addictive or unhealthy habit.
All of the suggestions in this section can be tried at any time or in any order, but it is important to keep these things in mind:
- Be prepared to put as much effort into carrying out these suggestions as you were putting into gambling.
- Don’t feel discouraged if you are not successful right away. Making changes in your gambling is a process; mistakes and setbacks are expected.
- As long as you keep doing the right things, you will have a better control of your gambling situation.
- Ask for help – people can’t help if they don’t know what you’re struggling with.