8 Lies you tell yourself to justify not not giving up gambling: and how to counteract them ..#3-5
#3. ‘ But I’ve ‘invested’ so much….no way can I quit now’
#4. ‘It will take too long to repay my debts any other way…’
#5. ‘I just need to be more focused…….’
#6 ‘if I can go back to how I used to gamble it might work’
#7 ‘No I am not addicted, it is not as if I wake up craving or anything….’
#8 ‘If I was addicted to gambling, surely I would have big debt. Since I don’t – it means I don’t have an issue’
Previously in this blog series I have posted individual ‘lies’ and responded to them. I have here decided to put an entire 5 lies together and address them together as they are slightly different but still arrive at the same issue. They are all in complete contradiction of REALITY and if you were to go with the statements you would be required to deny at least aspects of your current life situation to yourself. Some of them you may wish to do your own breakdown with – if they are particularly relevant for you.
Denial is a central topic in addiction – one of the hallmarks in fact, irrespective of if we are talking about alcohol, gambling, sex and pornography or anything else. Denial is an also prevalent in our thinking day to day even when unrelated to addiction. If you are someone who pays close attention to your thoughts, you won’t have to look far before you can detect times in the day when we are likely to go into momentary denial about something.
‘nooooo I didn’t just leave my keys and lock myself out, did I?’
‘I cannot believe I missed the train, I am going to be late for the interview now’
Clearly these moments of denial are slightly different from the often-prolonged state of denial seen in individuals with addiction. I am bringing it up however to illustrate what a common feature of our human nature that this really is. Anything that is painful, uncomfortable, and difficult to bare will automatically urge us humans to engage in avoidance. This is a well established psychological phenomenon. It is so tied in with our human nature that we have to learn to act counter-intuitively in order to not get caught up in unhelpful patterns of behaviour that only serves to satisfy us in the short term. As a self-protection mechanism, a bit of denial can on many occasions can get us through a difficult stretch of time without having to lose much functioning only to then have a bit of a collapse when we fully absorb the painful reality of a situation. When talking about addiction however- both prolonged and momentary denial tend to lead us down the wrong route of action! By telling ourselves that we don’t have a problem – and generating great justifications to back this theory up with – we are able to maintain a problematic behaviour without fully incorporating into our consciousness just how much damage our actions are causing.
When you realise that you have missed the train- you may stand in anger and frustration, take it out on the platform controller or other similarly unhelpful behaviours rather than swiftly taking a decision to find an alternative route. This may cause some delay to your journey and most people would quickly ‘snap out’ of their denial and understand that the only way to address the issue is to think of an actual solution instead and act accordingly. When you are addicted to gambling (or anything else) and tell yourself that you are not really addicted ‘it is just that… (insert any of the statements in the heading…) you are denying an entire cluster of previous experience with this activity plus blocking out any painful emotions that you would need to deal with should you admit to yourself that you are in denial. You are also not contemplating the longer term feelings that you will be generating by having yet another session of gambling. Needless to say; the longer a state of denial goes on for- the more layers of pain you will accumulate. You will end up with a Mount Everest of seemingly insurmountable pain; and tell yourself that only through the use of more gambling can you begin to climb it. Talk about reverse logic!
One of the first things to do when tackling your addiction is actually to accept that you have one. Acceptance is very difficult and takes courage and honesty. It requires you to stop believing your own lies and face up to some facts that are so unlikable that you will potentially want to run to the nearest betting shop for a zone-out session deluxe. Please don’t. The mountain will just keep growing. And your problem solving skills keep on rusting.
The journey through recovery can be long and difficult, but as I always say to people in therapy; it is also rewarding, full of moments of awakening and gratitude and ultimately also a way to live life more consciously and make choices that makes sense and provide well for your future happiness.
There is one technique that I will keep returning back to is that track record. I want to spend the rest of this blog post discussing and taking a closer look at how to actually properly construct your personal track record of past gambling experiences in order for you to stop living in delusion where your past with gambling is being glorified and falsified in order to justify a continuation of the activity .
Please follow the steps below to construct your own, indisputable evidence that should be brought out each time when you are noticing your mind heading off into an unhealthy direction. Without any filters of denial and without actually denying yourself a proper look at something that is ACTUALLY happening for you. A track record of your gambling experiences is basically a real uncensored account of your gambling sessions and their outcome.
Use a notebook that you dedicate to your gambling recovery; whilst recording the answers to the best of your ability. Find below some example sections to include but obviously feel free to get creative; this is for YOU to look at in the future when you feel tempted to lie to yourself about the historic gambling patterns.
Money tracking: Plot your money expenses during the month – how much (amount or percentage) tend to go towards gambling? Does money to gambling get prioritised over and above food, shelter and other necessities? Are you in debt- and if so, how much should be paid off monthly? Are these payments being attended to? Here you can learn a lot from how you operate with your money and depending on what tends to happen it can give you important clues about Be as specific as you can be and go as far back as you can remember. It is important to try to be honest with yourself, so it may be necessary to bring out your bank statements and actually tally up all gambling related expenses. Warning! This WILL be a painful exercise but also a very important exercise in facing up to the level of devastation that gambling is causing you.
Emotional tracking; use a few recent gambling episodes. (or if you are still not convinced it is bad for you – you can start tracking from this point onwards) Try and get a sense of the feelings that you had before your session started. Then record how you felt afterwards. Was there any discrepancy? You might wish to take down a few mantras that you create in the moment you are still ‘in the feeling’ following a loss. This can be a powerful way of bringing back the connection to that feeling at a later stage when your mind might try to trick you to block out some of the pain you felt.
Review the consequences on other areas of your life. Is gambling preventing you from living in a life that is reflective of your values in any of the following areas? If you google ‘Acceptance and Commitment therapy’ (particularly by Russ Harris) there are plenty of helpful forms that you can use to assist with this task. For example, you can use the ‘Values assessment’ form to assess the impact of your gambling on a range of different life domains such as Physical health, Family and romantic relationships, parenting etc. Yet again; this is going to feel a bit painful but please recognise that it is better to find out now that you are killing your own flow in life by gambling – than to wait until you have hit rock bottom and have far more work to put in to start addressing the impact that gambling has had on your life.
While creating your track record and beginning the daunting task of facing up it is important to recognise that emotional pain will be present. Living in reality is painful from time for everyone since it necessitates that we deal with problems when and if they occur, as well as coping through difficult feelings; some of which we may not always be able to see coming.
This is all part of what you will need to learn as you start your journey through recovery and for many this realisation makes the brain go ‘no way that is just too much- I can’t cope with that’. Again, this is the voice of denial. Anytime you hear the word ‘can’t’ in your head – please stop and think. What choice do you have? If you decide you can’t stop – what further choices might be removed from you if you continue gamble?
When giving up you can expect to feel a bit bare and hollow. Be gentle on yourself and understand that you have taken a very critical step that will offset a lot of internal turmoil; but is for the greater good for you and everyone around you. In the short term there may be unpleasant feelings from which you feel you now have no escape. Keep reminding yourself the only way to get better is to keep the gambling out. As Psychologists we cant offer many guarantees. Im willing to overstep this rule and offer you two right here: if you continue to gamble when you have lost control your life will be worse than it is right now. If you stop there is no stoppers for how good your life can become with your ongoing dedication to your recovery.
If you have not done so already it is often necessary to get some professional help to support you through your mission or breaking away from the gambling.
It can also be wise to engage your family and some trusted friends in supporting you.