Three Tips for Overcoming Problem Gambling

Research shows that addictive drugs and gambling cause similar changes in the brain. But there is a way to break the destructive cycle of highs and lows.

A mounting body of evidence from neuroscience research shows that both gambling and addictive drugs have the potential to rewire the brain in the same way. In the case of gambling, the euphoria accompanying a win happens because the brain’s reward-seeking structures are stimulated. Our brains are hard-wired to seek out euphoric experiences and some of us have genetics that make the search for euphoria especially urgent. Euphoria is a powerful experience: it makes us forget all our problems, it makes us feel invincible and it silences all our negative self-talk. The brains of gamblers who have a pre-disposition towards addictive behaviour may make a strong association between euphoria and gambling. The brain knows at a sub-conscious level that gambling can instantly switch off uncomfortable emotions, hence the descent into gambling addiction begins.

I am no stranger to addiction; I have firsthand experience of its devastating effects and I believe wholeheartedly that anyone facing an addiction problem can break free, if there is a strong enough desire to do so. I have learned innumerable lessons about recovery from addiction and what sticks with me is the idea that recovery is simple but not easy. Below, I describe three simple methods for achieving freedom from gambling addiction. These methods are not merely theoretical concepts – they come from my personal experience:

1. Play The Movie

Whenever you feel the urge to gamble, pause. Just stop for one minute. Just 60 seconds. In your mind, play the movie of what happened the last time you gambled. And the time before that, and the time before that, and the time before that, etc. My guess is that it’s going to be a disaster movie. Remember this: If your gambling usually ends in regret (and if you’re addicted to gambling it normally does), how is this time going to be any different?

2. Keep It In The Day ... or the hour ... or the minute ... or the second.

Gambling has severely screwed your life up. Your financial history is the monetary equivalent of nuclear Armageddon and the fallout probably has probably affected the people who are closest to you, those whom you care about most. You’re wracked with shame and guilt, but no matter how ashamed you feel, you cannot change the past. I know that’s a tough message, but remember the flipside: the future is not yet written. The only thing you have control over is the present moment – this moment, right now, while you’re reading this. If the idea of never gambling again seems too daunting, it doesn’t matter because the rest of your life hasn’t happened yet. You can, however, decide that you’re not going to gamble today. Or if today is too long, break it into smaller chunks. You can decide not to gamble for the rest of this hour. Or even the next ten minutes. Or even the next second, while your finger hovers over the app on your phone, just about to commit to placing another bet. Remember that when you decide not to gamble, you are taking one small step away from your gambling addiction – and life WILL get better, eventually.

3. Reach Out For Help

If you are firmly in the grip of gambling addiction, you’ll probably find it very hard to abstain from gambling on your own. When you join a support group, you’ll find a community of like-minded people who are all there for the same thing – recovery from gambling addiction. You’ll find a positive message of recovery, understanding of the kind that you can only get from people who have lived with active gambling addiction and a constant reminder that you are not alone, that recovery is achievable and that, one day at a time, your life can eventually be productive, happy and gambling-free.

Gambling Addiction: Recovery Resources

I have assembled a list of online resources to help you make a start in your recovery journey, with a focus on recovery from problem gambling in my local city of Southampton. Click on the links below to find out more.

The gambling commission – a guide to self-exclusion from online gambling websites

GamCare – UK nationwide support for problem gambling – guide to self-exclusion

BeGambleAware – national gambling helpline and guide to online self-exclusion

GamStop – The Uk’s national online self-exclusion scheme for gambling

Multi-Operator Self Exclusion Scheme – register your details online

Gambling Therapy – global online support for problem gamblers

Gamblers Anonymous – find a meeting of likeminded people in Southampton

SMART Recovery – Southampton meeting

23rd September 2019