Regaining control

If your gambling is causing problems in your life, there are things you can do to stop it being an issue. You can take steps to change your life.

Set some goals

Setting short-term and long-term goals may help you to stay focussed and clear about cutting down or giving-up your gambling.

Avoid high-risk situations

High-risk situations like use of credit cards, taking out loans, carrying large amounts of money with you, using gaming venues for socialising or gambling as a reaction to emotions will weaken your resolve to control or stop your gambling.

Talk about it

Talking about gambling problems with somebody you trust and someone who won't judge you can ease the pain of bottling it up. It can also reduce the stress that can cause you to continue to gamble.

There is no doubt that if you have help from your spouse and close friends you are more likely to succeed. Make an effort to explain your problem to your friends. Most people can understand the problem of getting addicted.

Once you can admit that your problem may have hurt them, and you can tell them so, then they will be barracking for you.

Ask for help

If you are finding it difficult, you do not have to handle your issue with gambling on your own. A support person makes it easier, especially if you've got serious problems caused by gambling.  This person might be a spouse, parent, friend or counsellor.  Many people seek professional help. Gambler's Help has free, confidential help, advice and support services.

Talk about lying

Many problem gamblers end up hiding their gambling from people around them. This is understandable as it is hard to explain to a partner, family member or friend some of the things that problem gamblers do to keep their gambling going, such as borrowing money from finance companies or taking cash from a child's money box.

When people lie about gambling and debts, they may sometimes try to gamble their way out of debt so they won't have to ‘come clean'. This usually leads them further in to debt. Coming clean about gambling with a trusted person can relieve pressure and provide the space to prepare a more thoughtful plan for recovery.

Lying is a hard habit to break. If you lie to your support person, it stops them being able to help you because they won't trust what you say. You and your support person need to talk about this and plan out how to cope.

Face the feelings

Becoming aware that you could be a problem gambler may cause feelings of shame and guilt. Self-blame and self-harm can increase stress and may urge you to gamble more. However, acknowledging the problem and taking steps to seek help can help you change your life for the better.

Be kind to yourself

Giving up when you've spent hours each week gambling can make you feel tense and irritable. This can feel even worse when you still go into the places where you gambled, like to the club if you played the pokies, or pass a TAB or the casino on your way to work.

Stop beating yourself up over your issue with gambling and focus on the steps you are taking to overcome the problem. Acknowledge your positive achievements; write them down to remind yourself of your strengths and attributes.

Learning how to relax, getting plenty of rest and eating properly can help you stick to your goal of reducing or giving up gambling. You can try:

  • Muscular relaxation training
  • Exercise
  • Yoga
  • Meditation

A counsellor may be able to help you with your own strategies.

Try to find an alternative to gambling

Problem gamblers may spend 10-20 hours or more a week gambling. They also spend a lot of time thinking and worrying about their gambling.  Many people also start gambling the first place because they don’t know what else to do.  Try to find an alternative recreational activity or hobby to fill the gap.

There are lots of ways to do this:

  • Plan ahead
  • Get to know family and friends if you have neglected them while gambling
  • Take another part-time job
  • If you are a lunch-time gambler, go somewhere different with workmates, arrange to meet someone, take a sandwich and read a book, go for a walk or a jog
  • Take up a hobby or a sport
  • Set short- and long-term goals
  • Look at other things you can do to ‘treat' yourself
  • Make your home an interesting place to be in, with interesting things to do
  • Start to do the things you may have stopped when you started to gamble too much

Prepare for a lapse

A lapse occurs when you gamble again after deciding to stop. You do not have to continue to gamble if this happens to you. You can use this to learn more about what triggers your gambling. When a lapse occurs, examine what worked and what didn't work with your plan.

Problem gamblers can kick the habit. However, you must be fair to yourself. Problem gambling is like an addiction.  It is really hard to stop or keep it under control. 

You can often predict when problem gambling will reappear. You are more likely to lose control when you have bad times in other parts of your life that make you feel sad, anxious, angry or depressed.

When you feel this way, it's challenging to stick to your plans, as you may feel an urge to borrow some money and go back to the old habit.

When you feel like you might gamble again, or if you do gamble again, there are five things you can do:

1. Contact

There's always someone there to talk through the issue.

2. Talk to a friend or write your feelings and actions in a diary.  If you gambled, look at what happened and see if you can spot ways of stopping it next time.  Look for the good bits too.  Did setting cash limits help?  Did you find it easier to talk about it instead of lying about it?  These are big steps forward and next time it will be easier to cope.

3. Control your cash

4. Fill in the gap with new things to do

5. Practise your relaxation

Self-exclusion from gaming venues

You can take part in a voluntary self-exclusion program where you ask venues to exclude you from gambling.

Read more about self-exclusion.

Money management

About one in five problem gamblers can give it up fairly easily. Most find that for quite a time they can't stop if they have cash in their pocket and the club, TAB or casino is open. Many who stop gambling take a lot of trouble to get their cash flow under control.

Getting your finances back in control can help give you the breathing space you need to deal with the other problems gambling is causing in your life.

Read more about money management.

Become a good problem solver

If problems happen in other parts of your life, don't stick your head in the sand.  Do what you've done about gambling.  Look your problem in the eye and cope with it.  Good problem solving has the following steps:

  • Recognise there is a problem and look closely at it.
  • Brainstorm all the ways you could deal with the problem. Write out a list and put down even the silly or impossible ideas.
  • Decide on the best solution and try it out.
  • Check to see if it works.  If it doesn't, start again.

Prefer to talk to someone?

Try phoning someone close to you, or contact us, to talk about how you are feeling.  We offer confidential, professional, free advice and support to anybody affected by gambling (your own gambling or someone else's). 

Telephone and online help is available 24/7 and can give you the contact details for your local Gambler's Help for counselling in person.  We can also refer you to a service away from your local area if you prefer.  Calls to the Gambler’s Help telephone help line and access to the website are free, and won't be listed on your phone bill.

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