Have you tried to stop gambling, but failed? Then, this article is for you! We believe gambling is doing something for you, that’s the reason it’s so difficult to stop gambling. You don’t gamble because you’re stupid. Gambling is doing something for you, the key is to understand what that is. Gambling can cause terrible things, but gambling addiction is rarely about money. If you want to hit me now, I understand. Before you do, consider the times you win. Do you stop gambling then, or do you continue until the money runs out? Suppose you continue, then it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, you keep playing anyway. Then perhaps gambling isn’t about money at all!?
The key to successful recovery is to understand what gambling is doing for you, and then work with those things. Then you work on the underlying causes of the addiction, instead of just trying to stay away from it (the most common approach). This time it’s different, this time you’ll succeed! Let’s get started!
If you want to stop gambling, you need to understand what’s behind the addiction. Let’s do the following steps:
- Understand why you gamble
- Forgive yourself
- Build motivation to stop gambling
- Create change
- Find support in others
- Work on the underlying causes
- Engage in a community
- Take responsibility for the consequences of your gambling
- Celebrate yourself
We believe gambling is doing something for us. We believe pain is the cause of addiction. Gambling, drugs, and alcohol are effective ways to escape the pain. In the literature, this phenomenon is called escapism (1). When we gamble, it’s easy to forget a stressful life, that we’re alone, or a painful experience from the past. No wonder gambling seems so addictive. Do you use gambling to escape?
The question of how to stop gambling addiction has many answers. Every person is different, and everyone has their reason for gambling. The isn’t one universal way to quit gambling, but let’s explore one method we use here on QG. This guide will explore 9 steps to deal with gambling addiction. You can read the guide as it is or as the first step of the QG platform. To quit gambling addiction, we must focus on all three stages of the gambling process.
Triggers are important, but we still want to start with what happens when we gamble. Let’s explore why a person gambles.
We also believe a sign to watch out for is when the person thinks about gambling, even when he/she is not gambling.
1. Understand why you gamble
If you want to stop gambling, you need to understand what gambling is doing for you. The Happiness Test will not tell you if you’re addicted to gambling. Instead, it’ll indicate what causes pain in your life. Perhaps it’s stress, loneliness, a meaningless job, or boredom in general. Maybe something else. Do you think a person who often feels lonely would gamble less if he got many interesting new friends to hang out with? One of many studies shows a clear correlation between loneliness and addiction (2). So loneliness could be a reason why the person gambled in the first place.
Another way to understand what gambling is doing for you is to study the moment when you gamble. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What happens when you gamble?
- Does it create a moment of peace?
- A period when nothing else matters?
Perhaps the answers can explain why it’s so hard to quit.
These questions are surprisingly difficult to answer. Most answers we get are related to the consequences gambling can have like:
- “I’ve lost everything; gambling has destroyed my life.”
- “When I win, I’m happy.”
- “I’m losing control when I’m gambling; I can’t stop.”
The consequences of gambling explain why a person wants to stop gambling, but for now, we want to understand why you’re gambling. Try to finish the following statements:
- When I’m gambling, I’m thinking of…
- When I’m gambling, I’m feeling…
- When I’m gambling, I’m not feeling… (or thinking)
Sometimes it’s easier to identify what we don’t think or feel.
*If you download the how to stop gambling addiction template, we’ll supply you with more questions/statements to help you answer the 3rd question.
Act now – 3 things you can do:
- Do the Happiness Test
- Get the how to stop gambling template
- Answer the questions about what happens when you gamble.
- The Happiness Test
- 5 whys – Find the root cause
2. Forgive yourself
Reading between the lines in the problem gambling communities, people scream their frustration, regret, shame, guilt, and even self-hatred. These feelings are excruciatingly painful and block us from any kind of learning from our mistakes.
If you spent some time with the questions in step 1, you know you gamble for a reason. You’re not gambling because you’re a bad person. You’re probably gambling to escape from something: Gambling is the best way your brain knows to escape the pain.
In our gambling relapse guide, we work with self-empathy in a communication tool called Nonviolent Communication, NVC (3). When we use steps in self-empathy to analyze something we regret, we can transform painful feelings like anger, frustration, and self-loathing into mourning. Please look at the following video:
It’s okay to be sad and mourn the mistakes we’ve made. These feelings are strong catalysts for change. Change, because we want to change, but because anyone else tells us we must change.
Take Action – 3 things you can do now:
- Check out how Samantha applied self-empathy to her gambling in the relapse guide.
- Apply the 4 steps of self-empathy to your situation.
- NVC Course
- Relapse guide
3. Build motivation to stop gambling
Do you really want to quit gambling? Why? This section aims to help you boost your motivation to stop gamble. How to stop gambling urges begins with a solid reason to change.
Take some time to write down why you want to quit gambling. Here are a few questions that might be useful:
- Why do you want to stop gambling?
- What negative consequences does gambling have today?
- What happens if you don’t stop?
- What would it mean to you if you didn’t gamble anymore?
- What could you do instead?
We’ve created a free video course on building a change plan. The following video comes from lesson 2.
Staying away from gambling is important, but long term, you need to
Act now – 3 things you can do now:
- Write down 5 reasons you want to stop gambling.
- Answer the questions above.
- Watch the video about the gambling addiction curve.
- The Change plan program
- Read others’ shared stories and experiences
- Gambling addiction curve
4. Create change
Most people fail to stop gambling because they try to escape the problem. You can run, and perhaps you manage, but you will likely stop gambling if you find the cause of the addiction and work to fix it.
Albert Einstein once said: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If you want to stop gambling, you need to look at other areas of your life and see what changes you need to make. Here are a few places you can look at:
- What do you do in your free time?
- Your relationship to money.
- The people you have around you.
- What do you think about the future?
- What activities do you involve yourself in?
You probably read about people going to rehab to “sober up”. It works for a while, but they fall back into destructive behavior. One reason they succeeded at rehab was the change of scenery. But when they returned home, they also returned to their reality and all the old triggers. If you want to succeed, you need to change those things that got you addicted in the first place.
How to stop the gambling urges
You’ve probably heard about triggers. A trigger is something that triggers you to think about gambling. On QuitGamble.com, we define gambling addiction as:
“If a person experiences any pain and then feels an urge to gamble, he/she is a gambling addict. “
Pain can be a trigger, but there can also be other things that trigger you to think about gambling. Our triggers are individual and can be internal, like feelings, thoughts, and memories, and external things like a commercial, someone saying something, or even a smell. If you have ever walked by a bakery and smelled freshly made cookies, you know what we mean.
One way to withstand the gambling urge is to become proactive instead of reactive. When you work proactively, you look into the future for situations when you might urge to gamble and create strategies to help you withstand the urge. For example:
You’re passing the casino on your way home from work every day. Every time you can feel the pull of the slot machines.
- Take a different route home from work, which has no casinos.
- You can distract yourself by listening to an exciting book/podcast
- You can habitually call a friend on the way home from work.
The following video is part of creating a change plan program, lesson 1.
The course is free. You can access it via the members’ pages. The program will help you build the first version of your change plan.
Act now – 3 things to do:
- Watch the video above
- Write a letter to yourself with the changes you want to make.
- Write down three things you can do next time you feel the urge to gamble.
- The full course in how to create a change plan.
- The book Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success.
5. Find support in others
It’s easy to feel lonely with a problem. Feelings like shame, guilt, and fright may prevent us from seeking help and support. QuitGamble.com is an online community for people who want to stop gambling addiction. You can be completely anonymous in the community and don’t need to admit to any problems to be part of it. You can:
- Chat, and make friends
- Read others’ shared experiences
- Ask questions, discuss concerns, and best praxis to handle a gambling problem
- Work with different courses to lower the gambling urges
Another important source of support is people close to you: friends, family members, or colleagues. We know it’s hard, but the closer support you get, the higher the chances you manage how to quit your gambling addiction. To help you gather the courage, we recommend you do our Nonviolent communication course. It’s a valuable tool for learning about your feelings and needs. It’s not about finding excuses; it’ll help you understand and explain why you gambled. You can also read our affected others guide.
Gamblers Anonymous have support meetings around the world. If you prefer to go to a physical arrangement and use their 12-step process, GA is a fine choice. There are also many Facebook groups you can join. Here is an article about the differences between GA and QuitGamble.com
None of the groups above has support staff trained in dealing with suicidal people. If you’re suicidal, please google the “Suicide hotline close to me”. The people working on these hotlines are specialists in dealing with these situations. You can also contact a psychologist for support.
Act now – 3 things to do:
- Check out the members’ page to see if QG can support you.
- Read the Affected others guide.
- Talk to someone close to you.
- Affected others guide
- Quit Gamble community
- Nonviolent communication course
- Google “Gamblers Anonymous” to find a meeting close to you
6. Work on the underlying causes
We believe pain is the cause of addiction, and we use gambling to escape the pain. If you can relate to that, finding and eliminating sources of pain would positively affect your chances of stopping gambling.
So, what causes pain in your life? Spend some time thinking about it. You can ask yourself questions like:
- Do I often feel lonely?
- Am I constantly stressed?
- Does my life feel meaningful?
- Am I often bored?
If you need some help, you can use the Happiness Test. It’ll give you an indication of where to look. You can also use the questions we mentioned in the beginning. What is gambling doing for you? What happens when you gamble?
Through different self-help courses, it’s possible to target sources of pain and transform these situations into times of joy that add to your life. If you often feel lonely, you can learn new ways to find interesting people and spend time with them. It requires some effort on your part, and it may take some time, but if you’re persistent, you can do anything you want.
As a free member of QG, you can access the following courses.
QG is just one platform. There are thousands of self-help programs on platforms like Udemy or Skillshare. If you want to learn something, these platforms could be helpful, even if you need to pay for the programs.
Act now – 3 things to do:
- If you haven’t done the Happiness Test, you can do it now.
- List 3 things that cause you agony today.
- Write down 3 things you can do to counter that pain or take one of the courses on the member’s platform.
- The Happiness Test
- Choose among 15 different courses on the members’ pages
7. Engage in a community – Help yourself by helping others.
In the famous TED talk, “Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong.” (4), Johann Hari says:
“The opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it’s connection.”
We want to encourage you to engage in any kind of community. The QG community is one option, but connecting with other people is the most important. What are you interested in? Follow your interests and join a group of people with similar interests. These communities are full of friendly, open-minded, and kind people.
There is incredible power in helping other people. When you give of yourself and help others without thinking about what you can get from them, magic happens inside your brain. Kindness releases the happiness hormone Oxytocin (5). Oxytocin is like dopamine, a pain killer. That’s why we experience our problems and pain as more minor when we focus on other people (6). We want to encourage you to explore this phenomenon for yourself. Try something simple as:
- Helping someone cross the street.
- Give food to a homeless person.
- Or take a bag and pick up some trash on your next walk.
It’s a beautiful video about how helping people can change your entire life.
Suppose you’re afraid of sharing your gambling problem with somebody close to you. Engaging in a community can help you make new friends. It might be easier to talk to these people.
Act now – 4 things to do:
- Watch Johann Hari’s famous Ted Talk.
- If you’re a member of QG, share your story, or start commenting on other people’s posts. Your opinion, empathy, and engagement can help other users in their struggles.
- List a few things you can do for other people over the next week and do at least one thing per day. Notice the feelings it creates in you.
- List 5 interests of yours and look for local communities or clubs for people with similar interests.
- The QG community
- Beat loneliness program
Let’s ask the question again. Can a gambler ever stop? The answer is yes! But there are not really 5 ways to do it; there is only one way to stop forever: to get rid of the pain that caused the addiction in the first place.
8. Taking responsibility for the consequences of your gambling
We can’t change the past, but we can take responsibility for our past actions. We talked about the importance of forgiving yourself. In this part, we look at the consequences of gambling and what you can do to decrease the pain these consequences continue to cause.
Common consequences of gambling addiction:
- Financial problems and debt
- Lost trust in yourself
- Bad self-confidence and self-esteem
- General health problems
But long-term gambling problems often have negative consequences for the people around too.
- Broken trust
- Unpaid loans
- Lost friendships
- Broken relationships.
Again, we can’t change the past. We can only start rebuilding and do our best to repair the damage that’s been done. We don’t have any courses on how to deal with gambling debt. Hopefully, we’ll create something helpful later this year. In the meantime, we can recommend you seek help from some debt professionals who can help you.
Our Nonviolent Communication course has a lesson on using NVC in recovery. Part of that is to heal broken relationships and bad past experiences. Broken trust takes time to repair, and sometimes we need to accept that a person doesn’t want anything to do with us anymore.
The consequences of your past gambling will continue to cause pain until you do something about them. If you never want to gamble again, dealing with these sources of agony is just as important as things like boredom, stress, anxiety, and loneliness.
Act now – You can do this:
- Try to list all the negative consequences gambling has caused you. It’ll be painful, but when you’ve done it. You have a robust list to start working with.
- Nonviolent communication course
9. Celebrate yourself
Quitting gambling requires a lot of work. Let’s try to make the process more enjoyable. In the third step, we talked about motivation. One way to stimulate motivation is to use incentives. If you’re doing something challenging, you should celebrate yourself for every achievement you make.
Be proud of yourself, and give yourself a high-five for going through this how to quit gambling addiction guide. (We know it’s long.) Knowing that you have something fun to look forward to can help you do that extra exercise or choose to go for a walk instead of picking up the phone (it might be a trigger).
We talk about incentives in the change plan program’s fifth lesson. If you want some inspiration, you can watch the following video:
Act now – 2 things you can do:
- Give yourself another high-five for taking the first steps to becoming gambling free.
- Spend some time thinking about appropriate incentives for you. How do you want to celebrate your achievements?
- Our goal-setting course
- Change plan program
(2) Exploring the Loneliness and Internet Addiction Level of College Students Based on Demographic Variables Contemporary Educational Technology 2019 10(2)
(3) Center for Nonviolent Communication
(4) Johann Hari Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong
(6) Oxytocin, an Opioid Alternative, Ready for Regular Clinical Use to Manage Chronic Pain, Forest Tennant, MD, DrPH, 2017