Josh* shares how he regrouped after stumbling on his path to stop gambling.
Relapse is a common part of change. Don’t let it stop you from making changes to your gambling.
“I’d been a bit worried about my gambling for ages before I could bring myself to really face it. The thing that pushed me to quit was going through my credit card statement and adding up the losses. The total made me want to be sick. We wanted to buy a house and have a baby (one day!) but we were never going to make it if I kept on the way I was. I closed my online sportsbetting accounts that night and told myself I’d never place a bet again. I really meant it.
I was going ok for a few weeks until I went down the pub with mates and had a few too many beers watching the footy. My team wasn’t even playing but I couldn’t resist. All my friends were placing bets and everyone was happy. I lost a few hundred that night.
I hated myself when I woke up. I didn’t know how to handle my frustration with myself so I ended up picking a fight with my girlfriend over something stupid, which just made everything worse. I spent the whole day in a crappy mood and I couldn’t even tell her why. I didn’t feel like I could tell anybody.
I tried to squash the feeling down but freaked out the following week when my friend texted to invite me to the pub again. It felt like I had to choose between never seeing my mates again or losing all my money.
I ended up finding Gambling Help Online that day and talked to a counsellor online. I felt really goofy at first, like I didn’t have enough of a problem to be wasting their time, but the lady I talked to was really patient and helped me realise that I’d been more stressed out than I thought.
She told me that stumbles were normal when you’re trying to change your habits, and that basically everybody tripped up now and then but it didn’t mean I wouldn’t get better.
We talked through strategies to stop myself when I was tempted to gamble and she helped me recognise some of the triggers that seemed to make things harder for me.
It was pretty obvious that going to the pub with my mates wasn’t a good idea right now, but that didn’t mean we had to stop hanging out completely. I told my mates I was trying to save money for the house so I’d be skipping the pub. We started hanging out at the park more, kicking the footy around. Nobody seemed to mind.
I started seeing a gambling counsellor regularly. It was really weird talking to a stranger about such private stuff but it helped. He helped me sign up for self-exclusion programs and switch to a bank account that didn’t allow gambling transactions. He also helped me figure out that my gambling was linked to boredom and that I needed to find other challenges to occupy me. I’m still trying things. For a while, I got pretty into woodworking and baking sourdough. I tried to be one of those guys that gets really into bodybuilding but that’s definitely not for me. I think next I might learn to surf.
I had another hiccup a few months later but this time I knew what to do. I told my counsellor about it. This time I told my girlfriend too, and that went better than expected. She was worried but relieved I was seeing a counsellor already.
Now, it’s been almost two years since the last time I placed a bet. The pandemic was rough but I managed to resist the temptation. We’ve saved a lot of money, safely stashed in a high-interest savings account my girlfriend manages. We’re going to start seriously looking at houses later this year.
It’s always possible I’m going to relapse again, but now I know how to make things easier on myself. I know I’ll be able to regroup.”