This blog article first appeared on Counsellor Sam and has been republished with full permission.
Partners, family members and friends often ring the Gambling Helpline (1800 858 858) wanting advice about how to talk to their loved ones about their gambling. Many times they want to talk about how to begin the conversation.
Other times the family member or significant other admits gambling has been an ongoing discussion topic that, from the caller’s point of view, goes nowhere.
Some of the common issues for the callers who have had several attempts at a conversation are:
- The person who is gambling blocks the conversation:
‘As soon as I start talking about his gambling, he shuts down and won’t talk to me. I never get anywhere’.
- The person who is the gambler gets angry:
‘We are all too scared to talk to her about her gambling because she goes ballistic whenever we mention it. We’ve learned just to accept it and not say anything’.
There may be good reasons for this kind of reaction, and it is all about the feelings that come up for a person who is having a gambling problem. Often when they are approached about gambling, they will have intense feelings of shame, embarrassment and frustration, which then cause them to either internalise (shut down and refuse to talk about it) or externalise (start becoming angry and aggressive).
Both of these communication styles are understandable ways of responding to something which is the source of such strong emotions, especially if they result in people leaving them alone afterwards and not raising the issue again. However, they also result in the issue not getting discussed. The person is often so overwhelmed with these emotions that they never have a conversation about their gambling, and nothing changes. As a loved one, you may not want to upset them further and may even be afraid about getting the same response next time.
When a person with gambling problems has a realisation about the magnitude of the impacts of their gambling on themselves and those around them they can become distressed. This distress is often fuelled by shame, guilt and frustration at not being able to stop gambling.
People are much less likely to have an open conversation when they are feeling cornered and ashamed – they will be overwhelmed and likely not be able to take anything in and think clearly about their need to begin to acknowledge their gambling problems.
One way of managing this issue is to try and engage with the person in a way that helps them feel calm and understood.
Here are a few tips about starting the conversation with a loved one who you are concerned about:
Write down some points that you want to discuss beforehand. That way if you become upset or emotional you can refer back to them to make sure you are getting your point across.
Choose a quiet environment to talk to them about their gambling – somewhere you are unlikely to be disturbed and where they feel comfortable.
Instead of telling them what you think, ask a lot of questions about their gambling. Try to get a sense of what it is like for them and what it is they are getting from gambling.
Acknowledge this conversation may be emotional for both of you.
Avoid criticisms or accusations – your aim is to get your loved one to talk about their gambling and figure out themselves what needs to change.
If you have any questions about this approach or if you would like some further advice or support from a gambling counsellor, please give us a call on 1800 858 858.
Finding creative activities that you enjoy can be an excellent way of keeping on track when you are making a change to your gambling. This is Audrey’s* story, whose renewed love of making things has helped get her back on track.
Some of the creative pieces Audrey has made: Source - Supplied
Audrey had been gambling for just over 15 years on the pokies, and came to see that it was impacting on not only her finances, but her relationship with her family, and also caused her anxiety.
The financial impact of her gambling started to become apparent, a lot of her and her husbands savings had been spent on the on pokies after work.
“Over a period of time it had become a routine to go and gamble after work, on top of the financial impact it had also pulled me away from spending quality time with my son, and hobbies that I used to love.” says Audrey
Making a change
Once Audrey realised the impact gambling was having on her she sought help. Slowly but surely, Audrey and her counsellor worked at identifying what triggered to gamble, her motivations and how to break the cycle.
One thing that really helped Audrey is her willingness to try and incorporate new activities, and restart old ones that provided a sense of fulfilment that gambling wasn’t giving her.
Furniture that Audrey reupholstered to brighten up the garden: Source - Supplied
Audrey rediscovered her passion in making things, and joined a glass making group and refurbishing furniture.
Within two months of working with a counsellor Audrey has ceased gambling, and has remained abstinent. She says “I feel more in control, and am spending more time with family and friends.”
Interested in finding an creative alternative to gambling? Speak to one of our counselors today.
Lots of people are joining free service and enjoying the daily support.
Each SMS is a micro intervention that aims to give you strategies to help you with the process of change.
Lot’s of people have already signed up and have been telling us that they find them helpful.
“Having a message sent to me every day every feels personal I really like it and look forward to it every morning. I don’t feel so alone!!” said one anonymous subscriber.
What will the messages be like?
Each message is crafted to be a small motivating sentence sent to your mobile each day to help provide you with a little extra support. The messages are written by people who understand how hard it can be struggling with a gambling addiction every day.
How does it work?
You can easily sign up for the messages here all you need to do is select which program you would like to sign up to and whether you would prefer to receive them in the morning or afternoon.
From here you will start receiving messages from the next scheduled time for that program. They come from an automated system which is completely confidential.
If you aren’t finding it helpful, or would like to sign up to a different program, you can easily opt out at any time here
Each program runs on a cycle of 28 days at the end of the 28 days you will start to see repeating messages, at this point it may be a good idea to change to a different program. If you subscribe to more than one program at a time you will receive multiple messages each day.
We are developing different themed messages and special messages to help you when we know it may be difficult. For example, over the festive season we sent people lots of supportive messages so they did not feel alone.
We will be launching new programs soon including Maintaining Change and Urge Surfing. Why not sign up here today.
People who gamble regularly rarely take the time to stop and consider whether they have a problem. To a point where it can become a normal part of their routine.
By reading this blog you may have already identified that you need to consider whether your gambling, or the gambling of someone close to you, is a problem.
The best thing to do is take a moment and think about where you are at.
Some indicators could be:
- Has gambling become a routine and not just a social outing for fun?
- Are you spending more money or time than you plan gambling?
- Could I stop gambling today?
- Can I stay away this pay day?
- How do these questions make me feel?
If these thoughts make you feel anxious, distressed or give you an overwhelming feeling that you need to gamble, then it may be time to consider some options.
You could speak to one of our Counsellors straight away – by signing up here.
Defining moments you may identify with
As gambling increases money can begin to lose its value and the amount you regularly spend can slowly increase without realising.
A bank statement or declined card may flag that something isn’t right and suddenly you realise the reality of your gambling. This can be a difficult moment in your journey but, can be an important turning point in your recovery.
Understanding that your gambling may be getting out of control and making a conscious decision to make a change is key.
Don* described how he was shocked when he sat down and looked at his monthly bank statement and realised how much he had gambled over the week.
“Gambling was fun and I enjoyed it, I had no idea my gambling was getting out of hand.
My wife showed me the monthly bank statement and I was shocked. Each pay day there were up to 10 transactions where I took out money to gamble. Over a month that added up.”
It’s normal to feel surprised and upset when you realise that gambling is beginning to take over your life.
Still not sure whether you could do with a hand? Why not take a Self-Assessment which will give you an indication of where you are at and some strategies to help.
If you have decided you would like to make some changes – check out our Making A Change section for some tips and strategies to get you started.
If you are concerned about someone else you can get some help in our Helping Others section.
Keep in mind - Life without gambling is possible and there is free and confidential support available to help you begin the process of recovery.
This blog article first appeared on Counsellor Sam and has been republished with full permission.
“If I could wave a magic wand and gambling was no longer a problem for you, how would your life be different?”
This might seem like a strange question, considering there is no such thing as a magic wand and gambling is a very serious issue.
Counsellors ask this type of question, because focusing on possibilities, rather than problems, can help you immensely with motivation.
Take a moment to imagine if your gambling problem disappeared overnight:
- How would your life be different?
- What sort of things might be possible?
Here are some quotes from clients who have been asked that question:
‘I would finally be able to focus on my kids and parenting, instead of always feeling guilty and ashamed about what I’m doing’.
‘I would feel less depressed and would be able to hold my head high again’
‘I could buy my own house and feel safe and comfortable in retirement’
‘My relationship would be much better as there would be no trust issues.’
Some really amazing and thought provoking answers wouldn’t you agree?
The reason we ask this type of question is because it is good to have something to aim for. Imagining how we can change our gambling behaviour means that we are imagining a different future – where a lot of the problems that are dragging us down are gone. This vision of a more positive future can help keep us motivated when times are tough.
The hard work begins
Asking you these questions isn’t quite the end of it, now comes the hard work – remembering the negative impacts of gambling and actually making changes. This could include going to see a gambling help counsellor who can help you put in place some strategies to work towards meeting your goals.
Whatever goal you are trying to achieve, having something to aim for is a key part of the process. You might be aiming for a better relationship, spending more time with your grandchildren, a new car or better health, just pick something that is important to you. Thinking about the possibilities and keeping focused on our goals can keep us on track when things get tough.
Now, take a moment to think for yourself:
What would be possible for you if gambling was no longer a problem?
You might just find that you have been missing out on something positive, because your gambling has been taking up all your attention.
To talk to someone about these possibilities call the Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858. Alternatively, you can go to the Gambling Help NSW website to read what other people have experienced in their journey to recovery:
You have probably noticed that our website has recently had a bit of a makeover. Our modules are currently offline and we are working to have them available soon.
We apologise for any inconvenience this has caused anyone and encourage you to speak to one of our counsellors if you need a helping hand – you can access them here.
As soon as the modules are live again we will post an update. If you would like to give us any feedback about the new site let us know through the Contact Us form.
With Spring Racing Carnivals in full swing across the land, you may be feeling the pull of the punt more keenly than usual. But there are ways to curb your gambling, or even completely abstain depending on your goals.
Remember if things do get out of hand there is plenty of support available, here are some tips to keep on track.
Keeping it under control
If you want to gamble, but are concerned about keeping it within your budget here are some ways to manage you gambling:
Manage your money - Only take the amount of cash you can afford to gamble, Leave your cards at home so that you can’t impulsively spend more.
Understand the odds - the odds of winning are stacked against you, gambling companies are always set up so that they come out ahead – read more about the odds here.
If you are trying to keep away from gambling completely there are a few strategies available to keep you on track:
Get some support – enlist the help of a person or people who understand why you are staying away from gambling and contact them whenever you need a hand.
Money management – When you leave the house just take enough money to get where you are going and to buy some food, leave your cards at home so you can’t gamble even if the urge strikes.
Self exclusion – There are a number of ways to exclude yourself from gambling both online and at venues. This is a great tool for stopping your gambling even if an urge strikes. Read more about self exclusion here.
Plan other activities – Being busy can help on track. Organise to meet some friends or
The Race that Stops a Nation – (sort of)
Victorian’s even have a day off tomorrow for a horse race, the Melbourne Cup. This may make avoiding or curbing your gambling extra difficult as it will feature heavily on television and in advertising.
If possible try avoiding media and social media for the day, to help with some of the potential temptations. If you don’t encounter something that triggers you, you are less likely to feel an urge.
Go somewhere that doesn’t include gambling like a park, the beach, a café or even the shops.
Going to a Melbourne Cup event
If you are planning on going to one of the many family and friends gatherings happening across Victoria tomorrow, prepare ahead to make the day as easy as possible,
If you feel really comfortable with the person holding the event you could call ahead and let them know that you are avoiding gambling and that you don’t want to take part in any betting.
To limit the impact only take a small amount of money, or don’t take any money at all with you, this way that you can control your money.
If they have the racing on position yourself away from it, hanging out with the kids can be great as they aren’t really interested and will keep you busy.
Why not read a bit more about making a change here
Do you suspect that gambling has become a problem for yourself or someone you are close to.
Gambling for many people is a social pastime, but when it consumes someone’s time and/or money to a point where other parts of life are being adversely affected then it has probably become a problem.
But how can I know if I, or someone I know, really had a gambling problem? Here are some simple questions to consider.
If you answered yes to any of these questions then gambling may be a problem for you or the person you are concerned about.
What does this mean and what can I do?
It can be difficult finding out you, or someone you know, has a gambling problem and you may even feel distressed. If you feel this way keep in mind there are lots of things you can do to help get the situation under control.
A great first step is talking to someone. The old saying “A problem shared is a problem halved” really is true!
Who could I talk to:
- One of our Counsellors – you can start chatting to them straight away – just click on “Get Started”
- Your GP – they are very friendly and have access to lots of resources
- A close friend or family member
- A trusted member of your community ie. a spiritual leader or elder
If you would like to know more about the signs of a gambling problem check out:
About our service:
Our services are free, confidential and available 24/7, regardless of how you have been affected by gambling we can help you every step of the way.
If you want to speak to someone you can start a chat session at any time at the top of the page or call 1800 858 858 and you can speak to a local service.
If you are having suicidal thoughts call the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
This blog article first appeared on Counsellor Sam and has been republished with full permission.
Reading this article (and others like it) can be one of the many ways you can help yourself to stop gambling. But how you may ask?
Research shows that recognising that you have a gambling problem, and committing to change is a really important step in your recovery process. You are here because you want to change and by seeking out articles like this, one you are reaffirming that you want to change, so well done for getting to this step!
A commitment to change can come in many forms, some ways can include:
- Calling a friend instead of Gambling
- Choosing a different way home from work, so you don’t go past a venue
- Leaving your bank cards at home so that you can’t withdraw any money
- Reading a blog like this one that helps you reappraise your gambling and ways you can cope.
Even just putting off your gambling one day at a time can be a great approach to getting yourself further along in the recovery process.
For example Manda, a recovering gambler said ‘I would take it one day at a time – I’d say, I won’t go today but I’ll go tomorrow. And then, when I made it to tomorrow, I’d see if I could make it another day’.
This might sound quite minor, but all change begins with a small step. Making a commitment not to gamble even for one day is a great start!
Research also suggests that it helps to understand that relapse is a fairly normal part of recovery for most people and while it can feel very frustrating at the time, it is often a really helpful learning opportunity.
Many people find after having a small gambling relapse, they think about their behaviour differently. It can give you the opportunity to reflect on the harms than can be caused by gambling and motivate you too change.
A client we have seen called Todd remembers the shift that happened for him:
‘I had been trying to stay away for several months, but relapsed after a particularly bad week at work. Because I’d blown so much, my wife asked me to leave and so I stayed with my brother for a week or so. Although I was devastated, it was helpful to talk to him about what had happened and he got me ready to get help. I started seeing my gambling for what it was – an escape from the stresses of work and family life. I developed some good strategies and now manage my stress in a much healthier way.’
So remember by recognising you want to change, committing to that change and learning from any moments of relapse you are progressing your road to recovery, we are here to help you with the steps along the way!
If you would like to speak with a counsellor about how to put some more changes into place, please call us on 1800 858 858.
We hope you are finding our updated site helpful, it’s been designed to make it easier to find information, more engaging and to be responsive on different types of devices including smartphones.
We have launched this news and articles page as a tool for people seeking assistance with gambling related concerns.
We want to share a wide range of content including people’s stories of recovery, strategies, research opportunities and relevant news stories that will help inspire our community.
We will be posting new stories on a regular basis and welcome input from people who would like to become involved. Use the Contact Us page to send us your idea.
If you would like to chat to a Counsellor you can start straight away it's free, confidential and available 24/7.
Gambling Help Online (GHO) is run by Turning Point and funded as part of an agreement between all State and Territory Governments and the Australian Government.
The GHO service operated by Turning Point provides 24 hour online chat (real time) counselling, 24 hour email-based counselling and support, a range of web-based self-help information and referral and support materials.
These services are confidential and freely available to all Australians including those concerned about their own or another’s gambling, the broader community, health and welfare practitioners who may come into contact with people experiencing gambling problems, and gambling venues.
It provides Australians with an opportunity to access counselling and information services when they are unable or reluctant to access face-to-face services provided in each jurisdiction.
This service complements and increases the range of services available in responding to problem gambling issues by offering a private and anonymous way to seek professional support online with an immediate response.