It’s 5pm, knockoff time. You just got paid today. You are thinking of dropping into the club on the way home and going for an hour on the pokies. You’ll withdraw $100 and if you lose that, that’s it. There’s a little voice at the back of your head saying you won’t be able to stop at $100, but the urge is too strong and the little voice is suppressed. Besides, you are bound to hit a winning cycle soon and maybe tonight’s the night.
It’s midnight. You walk through the club car park in a daze. You are not sure how you got to your car. As you drop into the driver’s seat all you can think about is the whole pay you’ve just blown on the pokies… again! You can picture your wife’s frown as she opens another Final Demand letter. You can sense the fear of your children as yet another argument erupts. That little voice isn’t so quiet anymore. It’s shouting at you now: “You are the worst father and husband ever. You are worthless. You are a loser.”
Does this story sound familiar to you? If it does, then know that you are not alone. I’ll let you in on a little secret – everybody (myself included) has these struggles in their head. Whether it’s chocolate, ice cream, alcohol, or gambling, we are all regularly tempted by things we know are bad for us in excess. You, like everybody else, will experience urges that are difficult to control. You, just like everybody else, will make the wrong choice from time to time. When you do make a mistake, thoughts might pop into your head that are self-critical, self-blaming and self-devaluing. There is nothing unusual about any of that. It is all part of the bittersweet experience that is life.
So what can you do to make the right decision next time? The first step is acceptance. Accept that you, like every other human being, are not perfect. You have and will experience struggles in your head about the right thing to do. You have made and will continue to make mistakes. When you do make a mistake, accept that your mind will often be one of your harshest critics.
By accepting the gambling problem instead of being caught up and consumed by it, you’ll have more mental clarity and energy for all the other important things in life. If you are not constantly focused on just gambling, or being consumed by self-blame, how much more will you get out of life? For the first time in years, you may truly appreciate a cuddle from your child, or rediscover the joy of your favourite movie, music or book.
So far, I’ve talked about accepting our imperfections and what cannot be changed in life. In Part II, I will discuss how to make changes to what you do have control over, in order to overcome problem gambling.
If this post strikes a chord with you, and you’d like to talk about it, a professional gambling counsellor can help guide you through this journey of transformation.
Call Gambling Help on 1800 858 858.