Starting to think about change is a big process.
Often when people begin the process of counselling, we will ask them ‘what is it that motivated you to make this appointment?’ Here is what some of our clients have had to say about the process:
- ‘I reached a point where I realised I was about to lose everything.’
- ‘It was talking to my friends and realising that they were all starting to buy houses and go on holidays. I didn’t have anything to show for 10 years of really hard work’
- ‘I had a really big loss and felt like it couldn’t go on’
To have a look at what other people have said about change, have a look at the ‘real stories’ section of our website.
Often it can take a big event to push us towards ‘taking action’. Sometimes, however, it can be a series of losses, or a gradual realisation that something has to change.
Whatever it is that has brought you to read this today, it is important to remember that change is a process – one that can take some time. Think about a client, Jim*, who has arrived for an appointment with me. I ask him to tell me about what brought him here. He breaks it down into stages:
I was gambling my pay-check each week but not too worried – I was living at home and getting meals and board for free. Gambling was a rush and I was always chasing the next big win. Mum and Dad would criticize my gambling but I honestly couldn’t see the point of stopping. Plus, most of my friends are in relationships so it was my way of getting out and about and having fun. Looking back, I think I had an overly optimistic view of how likely I was to win the next time I gambled.
My parents asked me to start paying rent or else I’d have to move out. Plus, I got my tax return and it turns out I have to pay tax this year. I had no money whatsoever and was feeling stressed about coming up with $$ on the spot. I started wondering if mum and dad were right when they said my gambling was stopping me from doing the things I wanted to. I had a look at the website and found a quiz you could take to see if gambling really is a problem:
On the Fence
A friend was telling me about his trip to South America and it got me thinking that I haven’t been on a holiday in 10 yrs. More pressure from my parents to pay rent and I started looking at rental properties – I’ll need a $1000 bond at least! I started thinking about how much I was spending on gambling and it really surprised me.
A final straw was getting a statement from my online betting account for how much I’ve spent over the past 2 years – close to $50k! I could have put that as a deposit on a house or a world trip. Called up the helpline to book an appointment with a face to face counsellor. They recommended that I start working on the other areas of my life, like my friendships and health, to help move my thinking away from gambling. I wasn’t quite ready to stop altogether yet, but they recommended that I download an app from the website that tracks your betting:
To monitor your gambling and see how much you are spending on betting, have a look at our stay-on-track app
I put the strategies into place – got my wages paid into a savings account that I can’t access immediately, cancelled my online betting account and put blockers on my laptop so I can’t access the sites. Have started face to face counselling to work on understanding and managing my gambling urges. Have joined a fitness group at my gym that meets weekly and am making an effort to catch up with old friends for coffee or lunch.
If you’re interested in talking to a trained counsellor about how you can manage your gambling, go to our website for telephone or online counselling
If you would like to see a face to face counsellor near you, click on this link
All the services are free and confidential and can be a great support in helping to change gambling behaviour.
If Jim is able to stick to his commitment to change his gambling, this stage would be around continuing the behaviour – keeping up the social support and exercise, being conscious of his triggers to gamble and when he is at risk of relapse.
One way to help to stay in this stage is to have daily reminders of how far you have come – this can stop us from slipping back into old habits and old ways of thinking. A great service is the SMS reminder service – a free daily SMS to reinforce good behaviour change
As you can see, change doesn’t happen immediately. It took a few things for Jim to move towards the decision that his gambling wasn’t working for him. In this case, it was a combination of financial stress, seeing other people benefitting from saving, and reflecting on what he wanted from his life. For some people it can take years to get to the ‘action’ phase, for some people it can be a matter of months.
The other thing to remember is that we all have bad days – there will likely be some days where Jim would struggle to remember why he wanted to stop gambling in the first place. On those days it would be important for him to have someone to talk to in order to remind him of his motivations.
If you’re interested in down loading a free workbook to help monitor your change and keep you motivated, have a look at our resources section on the website
The take home message – change does not happen overnight! But it is a process and it can be helpful to reflect on what has gotten you to this stage.