Recovering from a Gambling Relapse

Recover from a relapse with these tips

Revisiting your game plan after a relapse, giving gambling the boot and getting back where you want to be

You’ve probably seen the ads on TV talking about quitting smoking. The one that shows the bloke has given up four times, each time he was able to be free of cigarettes a little longer, and finally he got free, he quit for good and made his life what he wanted it to be.

Just like people have been able to quit smoking, taking back control of your gambling is no different. There will be stuff ups and set backs, but every time you quit, you learn more and it prepares you for quitting for good.

You probably know the basics of getting your gambling under control, but here’s a quick review and then on to the set-back fix.

Cash and credit

Limit your access to cash – lower the daily ATM withdrawal amount on your bank account, give your ATM and credit cards to someone you trust, consider having your pay put in an account without ATM access. Have all your bills paid by Bpay on payday. Buy all your groceries, and pay for petrol or transport costs on pay day – have someone go with you.

Limit your exposure

Think about when and where you would previously gamble and avoid putting yourself at risk. Organise things to do at lunch and after work/study. Travel to and from work a different way to avoid venues.

Unsubscribe to all newsletters, websites and emails relating to gambling. Consider software to block access to gaming sites. Take the step and exclude yourself from the TAB, casino or the pubs and clubs where you used to gamble. Clubs NSW now offers multiple venue exclusion in one easy step.

Plan and occupy

Gambling takes up a lot of time and energy, removing gambling from your life means you need to fill in the gap it leaves, so plan to become more physically active and more social. Book in times and dates with friends to do things or catch up, join a class or team sport, take up a hobby. Be extra careful to book in activities for your vulnerable times – times when you would previously be gambling.

Get a coach

Whether it’s a friend or partner, your doctor or a professional gambling counsellor, have a go-to person to do things with or call when you need to. Consider GA meetings and have the Gambling Help number 1800 858 858 on speed dial – someone who understands gambling is available every day, any time of the day.

What to do when you slip-up

Set-backs are normal, you could have done well for a few days or a couple of weeks, but if you fell back into old habits don’t despair, look at what happened and learn.

Get a clear picture

List writing helps our minds process information and when we can work out what happened we can put measures in place to avoid making the same mistakes. Take a look at what was going on the first day you slipped up.

What made you gamble this time?

Where did the urge come from? Were you bored? Perhaps not filling in your free time enough?

What made you decide to do it?

Take stock – make lists

Get back to the real issues, keep track of your money and make a note about every dollar you spend. Keeping a budget can help you stay focused on the real value of money.

Write down a list of the good and bad things about playing the pokies or poker whatever gambling activity you have trouble controlling.

Write down another list detailing how you feel when you play the pokies or gamble (the good and bad feelings).

For the third list, write down how you would like your life to be, what your goals are

As the last list, write down step by step what you need to do to make these goals come to life. It might include things like starting a new hobby or a sport, joining a club like a book club, or some other way of finding friends that don’t gamble so you can have fun without gambling being a part of your life. Starting a budget is another good idea!

You can get a better understanding of your gambling and keep your mind on your goal to stay gambling free by reviewing your lists everyday. Anytime you need extra help call Gambling Help on 1800 858 858 or chat to a counsellor online at

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