How to Stop Gambling Forever

Help Someone Change

Written by Steve Rose

Steve Rose, PhD, is an addiction counsellor and former academic researcher, committed to conveying complex topics in simple language.

Gambling addiction is a complex and often misunderstood issue that affects millions of individuals and their families around the world. The rush of excitement, the escapism, and chasing the win can lead to a devastating cycle of dependency and despair. It can leave individuals feeling isolated, overwhelmed, and hopeless.

If you’ve tried to quit but keep finding yourself deeper in the cycle of gambling addiction, there is hope.

Breaking free from the grip of gambling addiction is possible, and with the right combination of tools, support, and determination, you can rebuild your life and enjoy a future free from addiction.

So how do you stop gambling forever?

Commit to short-term strategies like self-exclusion and emergency plans, medium-term tactics like therapy and support groups, and long-term approaches such as cultivating intrinsic motivation, maintaining a balanced lifestyle, and challenging rationalizations.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into a range of short term, medium term, and long term strategies designed to help you stop gambling forever. Each person’s journey is unique, and the path to recovery may look different for everyone. However, by taking a holistic approach and addressing the underlying issues that contribute to addiction, it is possible to achieve lasting change.

Short-term Strategies

The initial steps to overcome gambling addiction can be the most challenging, but they are crucial for laying the foundation for your recovery journey. In this section, we will explore several short-term strategies that will help you take control of your gambling habits and start moving toward a healthier, more balanced life.

Self-exclude

Voluntary exclusion from gambling establishments

One of the first and most effective steps you can take is to voluntarily exclude yourself from gambling establishments or betting apps. By doing so, you’re making it more difficult for yourself to access venues where you might be tempted to gamble.

Many casinos and betting apps offer self-exclusion programs where you can sign up to be banned from their premises for a set period or indefinitely. Contact the establishments you frequent and ask about their self-exclusion options. It may feel daunting, but remember that this is a positive step toward taking control of your life.

Online self-exclusion services and tools

In today’s digital age, online gambling is just as prevalent as gambling in physical establishments. To protect yourself from the lure of online gambling, sign up for self-exclusion services that block access to gambling websites. Several tools and apps are available to help you achieve this, such as Gamban, GamBlock, and Bet Blocker. By taking this proactive step, you can eliminate the temptation of easy access to online gambling platforms.

Seek Immediate Support

Reach out to friends and family

The support of loved ones can play a significant role in your recovery. It can be difficult to open up about your addiction, but sharing your struggles with people you trust can help alleviate feelings of shame and isolation. Be honest about your gambling habits, the impact it has had on your life, and your commitment to change.

By involving your friends and family in your journey, you’re creating a support network that will be invaluable as you navigate the challenges of recovery.

Join a support group or attend Gamblers Anonymous meetings

Connecting with others who are experiencing similar challenges can be incredibly helpful during the recovery process. Support groups and Gamblers Anonymous (GA) meetings provide a safe, non-judgmental environment where you can share your experiences, learn from others, and receive encouragement.

Attending these meetings regularly can help you maintain your resolve and stay accountable to your recovery goals. To find a GA meeting near you, visit the Gamblers Anonymous website or inquire at local addiction treatment centers.

Seek Emergency Financial Management

Restricting access to funds

One of the most significant challenges during early recovery is managing the urge to gamble when you have access to money. To minimize this temptation, take steps to restrict your access to funds. This might involve:

  • Giving control of your finances to a trusted friend or family member
  • Using a separate bank account with limited funds for daily expenses
  • Removing credit cards and overdraft protection
  • Setting up direct deposit for bills and essential expenses

By putting these measures in place, you can reduce the likelihood of impulsive gambling when faced with urges or triggers.

Debt management and payment plans

Gambling addiction often leads to significant financial problems, including debt and unpaid bills. Addressing these issues can help you regain control of your finances and reduce the stress that often fuels the urge to gamble. Consider working with a financial counselor or debt management professional to create a plan for paying off your debts. They can help you negotiate with creditors, set up payment plans, and create a budget to help you regain financial stability.

If you are looking for this type of support, you can contact the National Foundation for Credit Counselling.

Recognize Triggers and Avoid High-risk Situations

Identify personal triggers

Triggers are the internal or external cues that can lead to cravings and urges to gamble. Identifying your personal triggers is essential in developing strategies to manage them effectively. Common triggers may include stress, boredom, loneliness, or specific social situations. Keep a journal to track your thoughts, feelings, and experiences around gambling, and use this information to pinpoint your unique triggers.

Establishing healthy coping mechanisms

Once you’ve identified your triggers, it’s important to develop healthy coping mechanisms to deal with them. These coping mechanisms should be activities that are enjoyable, engaging, and not harmful to your well-being. Some examples include:

Engaging in physical activity or exercise

Practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation
Pursuing hobbies or interests that are unrelated to gambling
Spending time with supportive friends or family members
By replacing gambling with healthier coping strategies, you can break the cycle of addiction and avoid situations where you may be tempted to gamble.

Create a Structured Daily Routine

A structured daily routine can help you stay focused and minimize the opportunity for impulsive gambling. Create a schedule that incorporates work, self-care, social activities, and hobbies. By filling your day with purposeful activities, you can reduce the idle time that might otherwise be filled with thoughts of gambling. Be mindful of your downtime and make a conscious effort to engage in positive activities that support your recovery.

Set Short-term Goals

Setting short-term, achievable goals can help you stay motivated during the early stages of recovery. These goals should be specific, measurable, and realistic. Examples might include attending a certain number of GA meetings, saving a specific amount of money, or reaching a milestone in your self-exclusion plan. Celebrate your successes as you achieve these goals, and use the sense of accomplishment to fuel your commitment to long-term change.

Seek professional help

For some individuals, seeking professional help is an important part of the recovery process. A therapist or counselor specializing in addiction can provide valuable insights, guidance, and support. They can help you identify the underlying issues contributing to your addiction, develop effective coping strategies, and create a personalized treatment plan to support your recovery.

If you are looking to connect with immediate support, contact the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG). The NCPG offers a wealth of information on problem gambling, including prevention, education, and treatment resources. They also provide a national helpline (1-800-522-4700) that offers confidential support and referrals to local resources.

The short-term strategies outlined in this section are designed to help you take immediate action to address your gambling addiction. By implementing these strategies, you are setting the stage for a successful recovery journey.

It’s important to remember that overcoming gambling addiction is a process, and it will take time, patience, and dedication. As you progress through your recovery, be prepared to adapt your strategies and seek additional support as needed. In the following sections, we will explore medium and long-term strategies to further support your journey toward a gambling-free life.

Medium-term Strategies

After implementing short-term strategies to address the immediate challenges of gambling addiction, it’s time to focus on medium-term strategies that will help you maintain your progress and continue your journey toward recovery. In this section, we will discuss several key strategies that will support your ongoing growth and help you continue building a strong foundation for a gambling-free life.

Engage in Ongoing Therapy

Ongoing therapy can help delve into underlying issues, build healthy coping mechanisms, and help repair relationships affected by gambling.

Individual Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a highly effective therapeutic approach for treating gambling addiction. It focuses on identifying and changing the negative thoughts and beliefs that drive addictive behaviors. Working with a trained therapist, you will learn to recognize and challenge the unhelpful thoughts that fuel your gambling urges, replacing them with healthier thought patterns.

In addition to addressing your thoughts and beliefs, therapy will help you develop effective coping strategies for managing triggers and urges to gamble. This may include techniques such as urge surfing, problem-solving, and assertiveness training. By building your skills in these areas, you can increase your resilience and reduce the risk of relapse.

In my own work with clients, I use an approach called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), to help clients develop coping skills to manage unhelpful thoughts or cravings. If you want to learn more, check out my article on Coping Skills for Addiction.

Therapy is also helpful in addressing the root causes of the addictive behavior. If you want to learn more about this topic, check out my article on the Root Causes of Addiction.

Family therapy and couples counseling

Gambling addiction often has a profound impact on relationships, causing conflict, mistrust, and emotional distress. Family therapy and couples counseling can help address these issues and support the healing process for all involved. Through these therapeutic interventions, you and your loved ones can work together to rebuild trust, improve communication, and develop healthier relationship dynamics.

By involving your family and partner in your recovery, you can create a supportive environment that fosters positive change and growth. Moreover, addressing the emotional impact of your addiction on your loved ones can help you gain a deeper understanding of the consequences of your behavior and strengthen your commitment to recovery.

Build a Support Network

Strengthening existing relationships

As you progress in your recovery, it’s important to nurture and strengthen your existing relationships. This may involve repairing damaged relationships, deepening your connections with supportive friends and family members, and demonstrating your commitment to change through your actions.

Take the time to reconnect with loved ones and express your gratitude for their support. Openly share your experiences and emotions, and listen to their perspectives and feelings as well. By fostering open and honest communication, you can cultivate a strong support network that will be crucial during challenging times in your recovery.

Developing new, healthy friendships

In addition to strengthening your existing relationships, it’s essential to build new connections with people who share your commitment to a gambling-free life. Developing new friendships can provide you with additional support, encouragement, and accountability as you navigate your recovery journey.

Consider joining clubs, groups, or activities that align with your interests and values. This may include sports teams, hobby clubs, or volunteer organizations. By engaging in these activities, you can meet like-minded individuals who can support your growth and recovery.

Develop Alternative Hobbies and Interests

Exercise and physical activity

Engaging in regular exercise and physical activity can be a powerful tool in your recovery. Exercise provides numerous benefits, including reduced stress, improved mood, increased energy, and better overall health. Moreover, engaging in regular physical activity can help you develop a positive routine and fill the time you previously spent gambling.

Choose activities that you enjoy and can commit to regularly. This may include walking, running, swimming, yoga, or team sports. Be patient with yourself and celebrate your progress as you work to improve your physical fitness.

Creative outlets and social activities

Developing new hobbies and interests is crucial for replacing the time and energy you once devoted to gambling. By exploring creative outlets and social activities, you can build a richer, more fulfilling life that supports your recovery goals. Consider trying activities such as painting, writing, photography, or playing a musical instrument. Engaging in these creative pursuits can help you express your emotions, reduce stress, and provide a sense of accomplishment.

Social activities, such as joining a club, participating in group classes, or volunteering, can also help you build connections with others and expand your support network. By filling your life with meaningful and enjoyable activities, you can reduce the appeal of gambling and maintain your focus on recovery.

Strengthen coping skills and managing stress

Mindfulness and meditation

Practicing mindfulness and meditation can help you develop greater self-awareness and emotional regulation, which are essential for managing triggers and coping with the challenges of recovery. Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment, while meditation is a focused practice that helps you develop a deeper sense of calm and relaxation.

Incorporate mindfulness and meditation practices into your daily routine, starting with just a few minutes each day. As you become more comfortable with these practices, you may find that they help you manage stress, reduce cravings, and maintain a balanced emotional state.

Assertiveness and communication skills

Developing assertiveness and effective communication skills can be beneficial in various aspects of your life, including your recovery from gambling addiction. Assertiveness involves expressing your thoughts and feelings clearly and respectfully, while also being open to the perspectives of others. By practicing assertiveness, you can set healthy boundaries, manage conflicts, and communicate your needs effectively.

Consider seeking support from a therapist or counselor to help you develop your assertiveness and communication skills. By doing so, you can improve your relationships, better manage stress, and reduce the risk of relapse.

Financial Recovery and Planning

Establishing a budget and savings plan

As you work to regain control of your finances, it’s crucial to establish a realistic budget and savings plan. This may involve tracking your income and expenses, identifying areas where you can reduce spending, and setting savings goals for the future. By creating a clear financial plan, you can reduce the stress and uncertainty associated with financial instability.

Consider working with a financial advisor or counselor to help you develop a comprehensive budget and savings plan. They can provide guidance and support as you work to rebuild your financial security and plan for a more stable future.

Rebuilding credit and addressing outstanding debts

Addressing your outstanding debts and rebuilding your credit are essential steps in your financial recovery. This process may involve negotiating with creditors, consolidating loans, or establishing a debt repayment plan. By taking proactive steps to address your financial obligations, you can regain control of your finances and reduce the stress associated with debt.

As you work to rebuild your credit, be patient and committed to the process. It may take time to repair the damage caused by gambling, but with persistence and dedication, you can create a stronger financial foundation for your future.

The medium-term strategies outlined in this section are designed to support your ongoing growth and recovery from gambling addiction. By implementing these strategies, you can build a strong foundation for a gambling-free life and continue to make progress toward your recovery goals.

In the next section, we will explore long-term strategies that will help you maintain your recovery and prevent relapse as you build a healthier, more fulfilling future.

Long-term Strategies

As you progress in your recovery, it’s essential to focus on long-term strategies that will help you maintain your gambling-free lifestyle and prevent relapse. In this section, we will discuss several key strategies that will support your ongoing growth and help you build a strong foundation for a fulfilling future without gambling.

Cultivate Intrinsic Motivation

Identifying values and priorities

Cultivating intrinsic motivation and a sense of purpose is crucial for maintaining your commitment to recovery. To achieve this, start by identifying your core values and priorities. Reflect on what is truly important to you in life, such as family, health, personal growth, or career success. By clarifying your values, you can create a guiding framework for your decision-making and actions, helping you stay focused on your recovery goals.

Setting long-term goals aligned with your values

Once you have identified your values and priorities, set long-term goals that align with them. These goals should be challenging, yet achievable, and should reflect your aspirations for personal growth and fulfillment. Examples might include pursuing higher education, starting a family, or advancing in your career.

By setting long-term goals that align with your values, you can cultivate a sense of purpose and direction in your life. This sense of purpose can help you maintain your motivation to stay gambling-free, even in the face of challenges and setbacks.

Maintain a Balanced Lifestyle

Regular self-care

A balanced lifestyle is essential for maintaining your physical, emotional, and mental well-being throughout your recovery journey. Regular self-care practices can help you manage stress, prevent burnout, and maintain your overall health. Incorporate activities that promote relaxation and well-being into your daily routine, such as exercise, meditation, spending time in nature, or engaging in creative pursuits.

Establishing a healthy work-life balance

Achieving a healthy work-life balance is crucial for preventing stress and burnout, which can increase the risk of relapse. Strive to create a balance between your professional responsibilities, personal relationships, and self-care activities. Set boundaries around your work, and prioritize quality time with loved ones and engaging in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment.

Ongoing Support and Accountability

Continuing to attend support group meetings

Even as you progress in your recovery, attending support group meetings such as Gamblers Anonymous (GA) can continue to provide valuable support, encouragement, and accountability. Regularly attending these meetings can help you stay connected with others who share your commitment to a gambling-free life, and allow you to share your experiences and insights with those who are just beginning their recovery journey.

Staying connected with your support network

Maintaining strong connections with your support network is essential for long-term recovery. Continue to nurture your relationships with friends, family, and recovery peers. Regularly communicate with these individuals, and seek their support and guidance when faced with challenges or setbacks.

Utilizing a sponsor or mentor

Having a sponsor or mentor can provide additional accountability and guidance throughout your recovery journey. A sponsor is typically someone who has successfully maintained a gambling-free lifestyle for an extended period and can share their experiences, insights, and support with you. By staying connected with a sponsor or mentor, you can benefit from their wisdom and encouragement as you navigate your ongoing recovery.

Monitor and Manage Relapse Risk

A relapse prevention plan is a crucial tool for maintaining your gambling-free lifestyle. Regularly review your plan and make updates as needed to reflect your current circumstances, challenges, and goals. By staying engaged with your relapse prevention plan, you can proactively address potential triggers and vulnerabilities and reduce the risk of relapse.

Recognizing early warning signs

Developing an awareness of early warning signs of relapse is essential for maintaining long-term recovery. These warning signs may include increased stress, changes in mood, neglecting self-care, or engaging in risky behaviors. By recognizing these signs early, you can take proactive steps to address them and prevent a full-blown relapse.

Seeking support when faced with challenges

No matter how far along you are in your recovery journey, challenges and setbacks are inevitable. When faced with difficulties, it’s crucial to seek support from your network, therapist, or support group. Reaching out for help during challenging times can provide you with the encouragement, guidance, and resources needed to overcome obstacles and stay on track with your recovery.

For more on this topic, see my article on How to Prevent a Relapse.

Continuing Personal Growth

Engaging in ongoing therapy or counseling

Continuing to engage in therapy or counseling can be beneficial for maintaining long-term recovery and personal growth. A therapist or counselor can provide ongoing support, help you navigate new challenges, and assist you in building resilience and coping skills. By maintaining a relationship with a mental health professional, you can ensure that you have access to support and guidance as needed throughout your recovery journey.

Pursuing education and skill development

Investing in your personal and professional growth can contribute to a more fulfilling and purpose-driven life. Pursue education, training, or skill development opportunities that align with your interests and long-term goals. By focusing on personal growth and development, you can build a stronger sense of self and cultivate a greater sense of purpose, which can help you maintain your commitment to a gambling-free life.

Embracing a growth mindset

Adopting a growth mindset – the belief that you can learn, grow, and develop throughout your life – can be a powerful tool for maintaining long-term recovery. A growth mindset can help you view challenges and setbacks as opportunities for growth and learning, rather than as insurmountable obstacles. By embracing a growth mindset, you can build resilience, maintain a positive outlook, and continue to make progress in your recovery journey.

The long-term strategies outlined in this section are designed to support your ongoing growth and recovery from gambling addiction. By implementing these strategies, you can build a strong foundation for a fulfilling future without gambling and maintain your commitment to a gambling-free life.

Overcoming a gambling addiction is a lifelong journey that requires dedication, persistence, and self-compassion. By focusing on your personal growth and well-being, and by seeking support from your network and professionals, you can create a healthier, more balanced life free from the destructive cycle of gambling addiction.

Notice Common Rationalizations

One of the most significant challenges in overcoming gambling addiction is the tendency to rationalize one’s behavior, often leading individuals to believe they can moderate their gambling rather than stop altogether. These rationalizations can be highly convincing and can ultimately lead to a relapse. In this section, we will explore some common rationalizations that may hinder your efforts to quit gambling and provide suggestions on how to counteract these thoughts.

“I can control my gambling.”

The belief that you can control your gambling is a common rationalization that may lead you to attempt moderation instead of complete abstinence. This thought may be fueled by occasional “wins” or instances when you were able to limit your gambling in the past.

Counteract this rationalization by reminding yourself of the numerous instances when your gambling spiraled out of control, resulting in significant financial and emotional consequences. Recognize that even if you were able to control your gambling occasionally, the overall pattern of behavior is destructive and cannot be sustained in the long term.

“I’ve been doing well; I can handle a small bet.”

After a period of abstinence, you may feel more confident in your ability to handle gambling and may rationalize that a small bet is harmless. However, this line of thinking can quickly lead to a relapse, as even a small bet can reawaken the addictive cycle and lead to a loss of control.

To counteract this rationalization, remind yourself of the progress you’ve made in your recovery and the reasons why you decided to quit gambling in the first place. Focus on the long-term benefits of abstinence, and recognize that even a small bet can jeopardize your recovery and the positive changes you’ve made in your life.

“I only have a problem with certain types of gambling.”

It’s common for individuals struggling with gambling addiction to rationalize that they only have a problem with specific forms of gambling, such as sports betting, poker, or slot machines. This belief may lead you to attempt moderation by avoiding your “problem” games while still participating in other forms of gambling.

To challenge this rationalization, recognize that the underlying issue is not the specific form of gambling, but the addictive behavior itself. Even if you switch to another form of gambling, the same patterns of compulsive behavior and negative consequences are likely to emerge.

“Gambling is the only way I know how to relax or have fun.”

The belief that gambling is the only way to relax or have fun can be a powerful rationalization that may lead you to attempt moderation. This thought is often driven by the immediate gratification and excitement that gambling provides.

To counteract this belief, focus on developing new hobbies, interests, and social connections that can provide a sense of enjoyment and relaxation without the risks associated with gambling. By exploring alternative ways to have fun and cope with stress, you can break free from the belief that gambling is the only source of enjoyment in your life.

“I can’t face the shame of admitting I have a problem.”

The fear of admitting to yourself or others that you have a gambling problem can be a significant barrier to seeking help and committing to abstinence. This fear may lead you to rationalize that you can control or moderate your gambling, rather than acknowledging the need for professional help and support.

To overcome this rationalization, recognize that admitting you have a problem is a sign of courage and strength, not weakness or shame. By seeking help and support, you are taking a crucial step toward reclaiming control of your life and creating a healthier, more fulfilling future.

Understanding and challenging these common rationalizations is an essential aspect of your recovery journey. By recognizing the faulty thinking that can lead to attempts at moderation, you can strengthen your commitment to a gambling-free life and reduce the risk of relapse.

By focusing on the strategies outlined in this guide and seeking support from professionals, peers, and loved ones, you can successfully break free from the destructive cycle of gambling addiction and create a more balanced, fulfilling life without gambling.

Conclusion

Overcoming gambling addiction and maintaining a gambling-free life is a challenging and lifelong journey. However, by utilizing the short-term, medium-term, and long-term strategies outlined in this guide, and by acknowledging and challenging common rationalizations, you can successfully break free from the destructive cycle of gambling addiction.

Remember that the path to recovery is not linear, and setbacks are a natural part of the process. By staying committed to your recovery, seeking support from professionals, peers, and loved ones, and focusing on personal growth and well-being, you can create a healthier, more balanced life without gambling.

It’s essential to practice self-compassion and patience as you navigate the ups and downs of your recovery journey. Embrace the growth mindset, and view challenges and setbacks as opportunities for learning and growth. By doing so, you will build resilience, maintain a positive outlook, and continue to make progress toward a fulfilling future free from the grip of gambling addiction.

Fascinated by ideas? Check out my podcast:

Struggling with an addiction?

If you’re struggling with an addiction, it can be difficult to stop. Gaining short-term relief, at a long-term cost, you may start to wonder if it’s even worth it anymore. If you’re looking to make some changes, feel free to reach out. I offer individual addiction counselling to clients in the US and Canada. If you’re interested in learning more, you can send me a message here.

Other Mental Health Resources

If you are struggling with other mental health issues or are looking for a specialist near you, use the Psychology Today therapist directory here to find a practitioner who specializes in your area of concern.

If you require a lower-cost option, you can check out BetterHelp.com. It is one of the most flexible forms of online counseling. Their main benefit is lower costs, high accessibility through their mobile app, and the ability to switch counselors quickly and easily, until you find the right fit.

*As an affiliate partner with Better Help, I receive a referral fee if you purchase products or services through the links provided.

As always, it is important to be critical when seeking help, since the quality of counselors are not consistent. If you are not feeling supported, it may be helpful to seek out another practitioner. I wrote an article on things to consider here.


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