Power of Relapse

Relapse – The lowest of the low. If you ever relapsed, you know the feeling. BUT, what if there was another way? What if we can use the power of relapse to our advantage. Check out this guide, and we’ll show you how.

  • Transform self-hatred to learn from mistakes.
  • How to build your defences stronger.
  • Forgive yourself through self-empathy.
Video 1 – Relapse Introduction

Jump Ahead?

Change The Approach
To Relapse

For most, gambling relapse equals PAIN, PAIN, and more PAIN. Some come from feelings like shame, hopelessness, self-loathing, and anger, some from external sources like lost respect. In some groups, abstinence is everything, and suddenly, you’re back on square one.

Looking for synonyms to relapse is just as depressing.


When did you ever succeed with anything important the first time you tried?

  • When you learn to walk? (We bet, at one
  • time, you couldn’t even crawl.)
  • How about learning to bike?
  • What to say on a date?

Why would stopping gambling be any different?

In this article, we want to upgrade the view on relapse – Upgrading because we need a more helpful way to see relapse.

The urge becomes too strong to handle.

Logically, we don’t want to relapse, but let’s make the most of it if we do. We believe gambling relapse is an integral part of the stop gambling process. Let’s begin by looking at what happens during a relapse:

In every relapse, somebody gives in to the urge to gamble. The desire becomes too strong to handle, and one’s defences aren’t strong enough. For a person trying to quit gambling, it means he/she ends up in front of the slot machine/roulette table etc.

Let’s repeat: “The gambling urge becomes too strong to handle, and one’s defences are not strong enough.

There are 2 components to relapse:

  • The urge becomes too strong.
  • The defences are too weak.

Does this make you a bad person? It makes you human, a human who needs some help. To prevent gambling from relapsing, we need to decrease the urge to gamble and plan for similar future events; what do we do next time?

Gambling Relapse = Valuable Information

Video 2 – Identify and remove triggers

Relapse can be a valuable source of information if we choose to analyze what happened and why. You’re probably familiar with gambling triggers. These triggers can be external or internal.

External Triggers
Ads and TV commercials
Someone talks about gambling
Places we visit or perhaps an armchair
A smell we relate to gambling
Some tools/devices we used for gambling
Internal Triggers
Our thoughts
Our feeleings
Our needs

In our free video course: Creating a Change Plan, we identify and remove triggers. A change plan is a dynamic document. It means that you continue to update it by adding things. If you relapse, you can choose to condemn yourself or see it as a chance to improve and make your change plan more powerful.

Let’s do the latter by analyzing what led to the relapse.

Take some time, and ask yourself the following questions

  • When did the relapse occur?
  • What did you do then?
  • Did you see or hear anything?
  • Where were you?
  • Had anything happened earlier that day that might have
  • triggered some painful feelings?
  • Can you remember what you thought of then you got the urge to gamble?
  • Were any external triggers involved?

If you want some help organizing your thoughts and answers, get our free “Relapse Template” add your email here.

These questions will hopefully give you a good understanding of what happened. On QuitGamble.com, we believe pain is the cause of addiction. Gambling is one way to escape the pain. We use pain as a collective word for feelings we don’t want to feel, stress, loneliness, boredom, anger, anxiety, etc.

Can you identify any pain involved in triggering the relapse?

Building Your Defenses

Understanding what triggered the relapse is key to understanding how to prevent it next time because, yeah, it’s likely you’ll end up in the same situation again. But let’s change the outcome by preparing you for it!

Let’s prepare your defence. In the Change Plan course, we talk about distraction strategies. If situation X happens, we’ll do actions A, B, or C.

Example of a situation when a person might feel an urge to gamble and 3 counter strategies to deal with the urge.
Video 3 – Become proactive when you want to stop gambling

Lists situations where you’re at risk of relapsing. Write down 1-3 things you’ll do if the situation occurs. It’ll take some time, but it’s worth the effort. Do you know what? You’re already building on your change plan! By working proactively and preparing yourself for future events, you have taken a big leap in your process to stop gambling. We’re cheering for you!

We need to discuss another element of relapse: The pain relapse creates. Self-hatred, shame, guilt, hopelessness, and anger are common feelings after a relapse. AND, as you remember, PAIN IS THE CAUSE OF ADDICTION. The more pain, the stronger the urge to gamble becomes. QuitGamble.com is all about fighting pain, and here is you can do it after relapse.

Self-Empathy – How To Forgive Yourself

Let’s begin this part with a question:

POLL: Who Do You Think Has The Best Chance To Stop Gambling?

The following video is part of our Nonviolent Communication (NVC) course. In essence, we create a lot of pain by talking to ourselves and other people. We believe this course can profoundly impact compulsive gamblers’ chances to quit. It’s okay if you don’t understand every concept in the video; after all, it’s from lesson 12.

Video 4 – How to understand and forgive yourself.

Let’s apply what we learned about self-empathy to gambling relapse.
We recommend you download our free NVC Relapse Template as extra support.

Get The Template To Your Email.

Use Self-Empathy to gambling relapse

To have some information to fit in and discuss through the steps. Let’s create a fictive person who relapsed last night: Samantha went to the casino for the first time in 3 months last night.

Let’s apply self-empathy to see what happens.

When you think back on the relapse, what do you say to yourself then?

  • I can’t believe how stupid I am; why will I never learn?
  • I’ll never be able to stop gambling.
  • I’m an irresponsible jackass who lets everybody down.
  • I’m weak.

What feelings were present in the situation?

  • I felt angry and frustrated for not learning from previous mistakes.
  • I was terrified of not controlling myself and doubting my ability to stop.
  • Self-hatred/loathing for being weak and ashamed for letting people down.

In the past, we would probably have stopped after step two full of these negative emotions with one question in our head. What’s wrong with me? Could you relate to that?

Try to remember how you felt after you relapsed and write it down.

In Nonviolent Communication, we often talk about the connection between our feelings and needs. It’s our needs in a situation that determine how we feel. Confused? Then we warmly recommend you take the full course.

In the next step, we’ll look at what needs were present when Samantha relapsed.

What need did you try to meet when you gambled?

  • I had had a rough day at work arguing with a
    colleague.I felt low and sad. Gambling usually calms
    me down. When I gamble, for a moment, nothing else
    matters. Despite the blinking and all the sound effects,
    it’s quiet in my head.
  • I needed calm and relaxation. Get away from the
    stress and negative thoughts.

When we get in touch with our feelings and needs, we suddenly understand why we did something. It wasn’t out of stupidity; we tried to meet a particular need. We had a choice.

Test this for yourself to see if you still feel self-hatred, angry, frustrated, ashamed, or guilty. We guess that something happens inside you. Something changes, these feelings transform to sadness or mourning.

If we understand why we did something, why are we still sad? Because when we relapsed, we failed to meet some other needs. For Samantha, these needs were:

What need did you fail to meet when you gambled?

  • The trust in my abilities
  • My need for development
  • My partner’s trust

What needs did you fail to meet?

It’s okay to be sad when we fail at something important. Mourning is a solid motivator for change, not because we feel shame or guilt, but because we want to change. By transforming self-hatred, frustration, and anger into mourning, we free the ability to learn from our mistakes.

Remember Emerson; “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.

A gambling relapse is a temporary mistake; What you need is an upgraded strategy, something that can help you decrease the urge to gamble and build your defences stronger at the same time. That’s what QuitGamble.com is all about.

Gambling Relapse Prevention Plan

We believe pain is the driving force of addiction. On QG, you find tools to identify what causes pain in your lift (The Happiness Test), and we’ll help you decrease the pain through video courses, live chat, support groups, and the online community.

We believe a happy person is more resistant to addiction because he/she has less pain to escape. Do you think you’d gamble less if you didn’t feel bored, stressed, lonely, or worried?

We believe addiction is a defence mechanism against pain. The reason it’s so hard to stop gambling is that no matter how destructive gambling can be, it still helps people escape their pain.

But, if we can reduce the pain, we believe the urge to gamble will also decrease.
That is the best gambling relapse prevention plan we can offer you.


Pain feeds the addiction. If we only see the negatives of relapse, it’ll only add more pain, strengthening the urge to gamble. BUT, if we take advantage of the information relapse provides, we can use relapse to upgrade our gambling relapse prevention plan to strengthen our defences.

By showing yourself self-empathy, you’ll create an understanding of why you relapsed. Understanding is key to forgiving yourself, which will lower the pain. Lower pain equals a lower risk of relapsing.

Self-empathy can also transform feelings like self-hatred, shame, guilt, and anger into emotions that’ll boost your motivation to change.

When you start working on the things that cause pain in your life, you begin reducing that pain. You’re no longer just counting gambling-free days; you’re now working proactively on upgrading your life. Then, we believe your chances to kick addiction’s ass are more significant than ever before.

Good luck!

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