I have a problem with gambling. I want to stop gambling but don’t know where to start.
For anyone who thinks they have a problem with gambling, an important place to start is being honest.
A cycle of problem gambling can be broken, and it starts with the person with the gambling problem being honest about their gambling – admitting that problem gambling is affecting their life.
Problem gamblers are often caught up in a series of lies, not only to other people, but to themselves.
People troubled by problem gambling often lie so that they can get more money to gamble and have more time to gamble. They commonly lie about where they are going and what they are doing, where they are and who they are with. Problem gamblers often lie about what they need money for, how long they have been at the gambling venue, when they are coming home, and so on.
Someone with a gambling problem commonly lies to themselves, telling themselves that this time they will win and they will “get back” the money that they have lost. Some gamblers also dream about sharing their big wins with their friends and family. They keep telling themselves they’ll pay back any money they have borrowed (or stolen), but in reality a big win is unlikely and they usually put most of their winnings back into gambling. Problem gamblers keep chasing their losses, and the lies start again.
Many people with gambling problems believe they can keep their problem secret and often lie to family and friends to hide the extent of their problems. Usually, the constant lying tends to make the person with the gambling problem feel bad about themselves and they commonly become more isolated and alone. They no longer attend activities with their family and friends and often withdraw from everyone – especially those they owe money.
A person with a gambling problem can often be in denial about how problem gambling is affecting their relationships, work performance and health, and an honest look at these areas can be the start of turning around a gambling problem.
Start by asking questions and answer them honestly. When you lose money gambling do you feel anxious and depressed? Do you worry when you don’t have money to pay bills? Is your physical health suffering, maybe headaches, heart burn, indigestion or sleep problems?
Once a person with a gambling problem tries to be honest with themselves and those who are close to them about the effect problem gambling is having on their life, stopping or controlling their problem gambling will often take a different turn.
How to turn around a gambling problem and make positive changes
Anyone with a gambling problem needs to put in place some type of strategy to prevent their money from going to straight to gambling.
For many people with problem gambling, money has lost all meaning. They tend to place bets for large sums of money no longer realising the value of the amount they are risking. They no longer save money to buy things like they did in the past, and often don’t use money for anything other than gambling or think about what money can buy other than gambling.
Many of the best money managing strategies are simple:
- Carry only small amounts of cash and leave credit and ATM cards at home, perhaps with someone you trust.
- Lower daily ATM withdrawal limits
- Set up payments so that only a small amount of money is put into an account with ATM card access each week and manage salary deposits so the bulk of your money goes into an account with no ATM-card access.
- Set up automatic bill paying or direct debits to make rent/mortgage and bill payments on pay day or ensure money is deposited into separate accounts (with only passbook access).
With the support of those around them, the person with a problem gambling may decide to seek professional help.
Specialist gambling counsellors are in most areas and free counselling services can be found by searching help near you on www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au.
You can also speak with a counsellor by calling Gambling Help on 1800 858 858 or chat online with a gambling counsellor http://www.gamblinghelponline.org.au.
Alternatively, you might prefer to talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.
Sometimes people who are problem gamblers also need financial help as many find it difficult to cope with debts.
Financial counsellors can help the person with problem gambling by providing helpful ways to manage money. They can also negotiate with creditors and assist with debt management. Financial counsellors can found by calling 1800 858 858 and the Credit and Debt Hotline 1800 808 488 can also provide assistance.
Problem gamblers sometimes need legal help, especially for debt or crimes committed to support gambling addiction. Gambling Help 1800 858 858 can also direct people to free legal advice. Legal help can also be found by calling the Law Access Line 1300 888 529 or 1300 889 529 TTY.
It is important to remember that those who are close to someone with a gambling problem are often relieved to be told the truth and asked to help by supporting the problem gambler as they seek specialist help.
Tools to help
By clicking on this link and answering the questions about gambling honestly http://www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au/GamblingHelp/GamblingCalculator.aspx you can see how much money you are actually spending each year on gambling, and assess whether that is causing financial problems.
Keeping a Gambling Diary may help a person with a gambling problem take control of their gambling and understand it. Click on this link to download a gambling diary or to have it sent to you http://www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au/GamblingHelp/workbook.aspx
A person with problem gambling can now begin to think about the reason that they gamble e.g. to win money, for entertainment or excitement, to escape, numb out pain, socialise, boredom, and loneliness and so on.
The next step is to come up with other healthy ways and activities to fill their needs, ways to get the same feeling without resorting to gambling. The person with the problem gambling may also need to distance themselves from their old gambling friends and find new friends.
Once having examined their motivation to gamble the person with the gambling problem can now more readily decide whether they want to stop or control their gambling.
If the person with the problem gambling decides that they want to stop gambling they may wish to consider Self Exclusion. They will be able to exclude themselves from clubs, casinos, pubs, TAB and online betting. Click on this link for more information http://www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au/content/take-action.aspx
If they decide to control their gambling, it may be necessary to change some aspects of their thinking. Most importantly the person with gambling problem should now be expecting to lose money, be able to set a budget and stick to it, and never chase their losses.
If the person with the problem, gambles heavily on the poker machine clicking on this link to watch a DVD about the myths and truths of poker machines may help
Finally, being mindful and honest about where the person with the problem gambling is going, what they are doing and their real intentions are may also help.
Remember specialist, confidential free help is available, call 1800 858 858 or click help near you www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au