Building your quit gambling muscles

Having ‘stuffed up’ doesn’t mean you give up…

At gambling help we often get stories from people who have been doing well controlling their gambling, perhaps not gambling for a few weeks, and then being devastated by a fall into old patterns – angry they’ve “stuffed up again”.

While disappointing at the time, relapses are common and are part of the process. Don’t be hard on yourself, learn from the relapse, strengthen your approach and gear-up for another go.

How’s your quit muscle?

You’ve probably seen the ads on TV 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 quit for good and made his life what he wanted it to be.

It’s all about resistance training, making your quit muscle stronger, and taking control of your gambling is no different. There will be stuff ups and set backs, but every time 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. Put money towards all your bills via 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 and be sure to tell them you won’t be going to places that offer gambling. Think about doing a course or joining a 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 for support when you need to. Consider GA meetings.

Have the Gambling Help number 1800 858 858 on speed dial – someone who understands gambling is available every day, any time of the day, it’s free and confidential.

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, maybe a few months. It’s unusual for people who are giving up not to have some close calls or complete set backs. If you fell back into old habits don’t despair, look at what happened and learn from the slip, make that quit muscle stronger.

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 repeating the same behaviour. Take a look at what was going on when you slipped up.

What made you gamble?

Where did the urge come from? Were you bored? Perhaps not filling in your free time enough? Was it something you saw, something you heard?

What made you decide to do it? Did someone encourage you to go with them? Were you thinking about money, was it payday?

Take stock

Get back to basics, remember gambling needs money, time, and a ‘game’. Revisit your money management plans, look at how you keep yourself busy and think about self-exclusion and the other ideas to keep you away from venues and gambling sites. Keeping track of your money, knowing where every dollar went and 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. Include how you feel.

For the third list, write down how you would like your life to be, what you want to achieve by being gambling-free. Think about what you need to do step by step to make these goals come to life.

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 a few more ideas or support call Gambling Help on 1800 858 858 or chat to a counsellor online.

The easiest way to stay on track and pick up after a relapse is to have an expert on your side. Think about regular appointments with a gambling specialist. You can find free, confidential support near you by putting your postcode into the search box here.

Remember a relapse isn’t when you give in, it’s when you give it more. Refine your no-gambling game plan and build your quit muscles.