Gambling addiction is a very pure type of addiction as there are no substances taken. It is also legal and of itself is not shameful. But as gambling develops into an addiction, it tends to become a solitary activity. Yes the betting shop may be full with people, but you are alone in there. And now online gambling has become easy and accessible.
Also, most addicted gamblers put a fair amount of effort and make use of a significant level of expertise in the bets they place.
Finally and since the ostensible purpose is to make money, it is possible to justify the effort made and the unfortunate costs involved (as the losses mount and the temptation to double up becomes irresistible), as being in your long-term interest and in the interests of your family and those you love.
Notwithstanding, the principles that lie behind successful recovery from addiction apply equally well to stopping gambling addictions. This is because all addictive behaviours have much more in common than they have addiction specific differences.
These are the general principles I apply to all clients who come to me wishing to recover from addiction, including gambling.
First, you need to realise that willpower on its own will not stop a gambling addiction
Just consider some of the powerful emotions at work that are feeding your gambling addiction – the feeling of power and control as you make the gamble, the buzz from the memory of past triumphs, particularly that early one and the feeling of escape and the protection and relief you will get from all those life problems which are crowding in. So you need to confront these powerful emotions early on or else they will always win.
Second you need to take your time
Just as you would not build a house without good foundations, so you cannot stop gambling, if large parts of the rest of life are in a mess. And it goes without saying that your key relationships will be bad or nonexistent, there may well be problems with the work you do and how much control you feel that you have.
Now these problems might predate your addiction and/or have been made much worse by it. Whatever it is, you cannot hope to jump out of the addiction without having somewhere to land and somewhere that you believe you can go. So it might be tiny steps that you take at the beginning to show you the possibility of a more fulfilling life and bring you a measure of control.
Third, changing the relationship to your gambling dependence
It’s about being less friendly toward it and separating you from it but not necessarily to begin to hate it. It is after all doing its best to keep you safe and it does reflect something of your personality – who you are and what makes you tick. And so it is much better to learn and adjust, to find better and healthier ways to be fulfilled and stretched.
Fourth, know that when the time comes you will be ready to get rid of the gambling addiction
One of my central insights, borne from my work with many addicted individuals is the realisation that when the ducks are in a row, your gambling will either stop or cease to be a problem. At that time, you will have replaced it with activities that are more satisfying, that you will be feeling better about yourself, that you are calmer and more in control of your emotions. It is that you have not recovered from your gambling addiction but moved beyond it to something much better.