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Excessive Gambling : Relapse Prevention

Are you trying to cut back or stop altogether?  Are you going through situations or feelings that make this goal harder to reach? Like most people who have developed an addiction to substance abuse (alcohol, cannabis, etc.), you also run the risk of having a few slips or even relapse during withdrawal.

Before we continue, it is important to distinguish between a slip and a relapse. Both often begin in the same way, but the difference lies in your reaction in the face of gambling again. In the case of a slip, you quickly regain control of yourself. Relapsing means going back to losing control and gambling after a period of abstinence. It is an important phase to understand and one that an excessive gambler can work on.

Does relapsing worry you?

You and your loved ones may have a tendency to either view your relapses as setbacks or on the contrary, to trivialize them. Giving up or minimizing are not behaviours that can help fight a gambling addiction. On the one hand, taking a relapse lightly increases the risk of missing the signs of further loss of control. On the other hand, dramatizing a relapse could affect your motivation and lead you to believe that you are unable to change your addictive behaviour.

Know that a relapse does not equal failure but is instead an integral part of the Cycle of Change as shown by psychologists Prochaksa and DiClemente at the end of the 1970’s with their model of six stages :

  • Pre-contemplation
  • Contemplation
  • Preparation
  • Action
  • Maintenance
  • Relapse.

In light of this, if you do relapse, continue with the steps you have already undertaken and ask for help towards achieving a sense of well-being or at least to improve your situation. Relapsing allows you to engage in a new Cycle of Change. You are not back at square one again. You have made many efforts and the starting point will differ from one time to another. At this point, analyse the context in which you relapsed. It is a good time to identify new elements for the next step in the process of change and to put in place new strategies for winning your battle against gambling.

How to avoid a relapse

Each excessive gambler has his or her own triggers. A factor (or combination of factors) that trigger the urge to gamble may be different from one gambler to another. These triggers can show up alone or interact together to make you forget your resolutions.

It is therefore important to be able to identify and deal with them to prevent further relapses.

Here are some tips that can help you remain in control during a crisis.

Controlling negative and positive emotions

  • Feeling negative emotions such as frustration, sadness, irritability, loneliness or anger may lead to the urge to gamble. You may even falsely believe that gambling will make you feel better.
  • On the other hand, you may also want to gamble to celebrate a special occasion, a joyous event or simply because you are feeling particularly good. Be careful, as gambling is not a good way to reward yourself. Do not forget that you are working towards paying off your gambling debts.
  • You may also be going through an unexpected joyous occasion such as coming into some money or something positive at work. This might lead you to believe that you are lucky and that you will surely win.

Avoid opportunities to gamble

Being near a gambling establishment or meeting friends for a poker game, for example, are opportunities that may be hard to resist.

Change your habits

If you have gotten used to gambling after work, you may find it a hard habit to break. The same if you have always gambled on the same exact day of the week, when you were alone or with the same friends.

Be realistic

You may even believe that you will be able to control a gambling situation that has already caused problems in the past. You must remember why you became an excessive gambler in the first place.

Resist the temptation to recoup losses

If you are unable to pay your bills, trying to win back money that was lost might seem like the right solution. You have to let go of this erroneous idea and remember how you became addicted to gambling in the first place.

Do not give in to peer pressure

If you are part of a group of friends that gamble, it maybe hard for you to tell them that you have stopped.

Do other activities

  • Problems at work, financial problems or stressful relationships may make you feel like gambling is a good means of escape.
  • As well, when you are bored, you may be tempted to find a little excitement by gambling again.

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