Want to quit and stay quit? Find out more about how to stick to your goals and maintain change.
People with gambling problems often find that many of their social contacts and activities involve gambling. One of the most important aspects of maintaining change is finding ways to spend the time that used to be spent gambling.
Finding something else to do to fill the void can be difficult at first. Nothing is going to be as exciting as gambling. But it is important to remember that nothing is going to feel as bad as the remorse after another gambling loss.
Filling the void can also help with the inevitable urges or cravings that will come your way.
Now that you have decided to quit or cut down on gambling, it is helpful to think of other ways to spend your time. Most people find that gambling took up much of their time and/or money and without it life seems empty and dull.
Planning to act, think and feel differently can help. Some people find they have to fake it till they make it - to try different ways of thinking, acting and feeling until it becomes a habit.
It is important to develop activities other than gambling to 'fill the gap'.
Tapping into your thoughts and thinking can be really useful when trying to change behaviour such as gambling. Sometimes our minds can play tricks on us and set us up to gamble. By getting in touch with our thoughts we can start to challenge and change our behaviour and negative thought patterns.
Some examples of thoughts that contribute to an urge to gamble are:
- "I'm feeling lucky"
- "I'm only going to spend $20"
- "It's a good way to pay for the bills"
- "I can have bit of fun, it's a good break"
- "Once won't hurt"
A way to overcome these thoughts is to challenge them. You can do this by asking yourself.
- What evidence do I have for this, where has it gotten me?
- What would my partner/loved one say and feel?
- How does this fit with my goals. How would I feel?
Be kind to yourself and remind yourself that these are only thoughts. they cannot harm you or control you, you are in control.
Sometimes feeling bad or sad can trigger the urge to gamble. Try an alternative activity that helps you manage and cope with your emotions.
- Loneliness: call a friend, catch up with friends, join a club
- Boredom: watch a movie, go to the gym, walk, clean the house, surf the net
- Restless: go to the gym, exercise, dance, swim, go fishing
- Sad: do anything that is physical to elevate your mood
- Angry: Express your frustration in a productive way, talk to someone about how you're feeling, run up a hill, yell at the sky
If you start to feel overwhelmed with how you are feeling remind yourself that these are only feelings, they cannot physically harm or hurt you. You can take control.
Have you ever noticed that when you win you want to play again? Rewards can be a powerful tool to help you maintain change and keep your goals on track.
Why not reward yourself with a movie ticket, a gym membership or maybe a weekend away?
If your answer is I'm not worth it, I have too much debt or I have no time, maybe you are undermining your efforts to change. If so, it might be helpful to speak to a counsellor today.
For help with maintaining change you can: