8 lies you tell yourself to justify not giving up gambling: and how to counteract them..
# 1. ‘ But my friends might be wanting to go to casino, stags in Vegas, days out at the race tracks etc …I need to be able to live a normal life’
Most problem gamblers I see in therapy have one thing in common. They have decided that the gambling is no longer serving them well. On some level it has been acknowledged that it is causing harm to their life: financially, relationally, emotionally or professionally or in many cases in all of the above. It could be tempting to think that from that time onwards, recovery should be a straight forward process. This is however far from the truth. Varying degrees of denial about the impact of the gambling addiction can come– even after the time where there is a baseline understanding that the gambling is a big problem and needs to stop.
In order to help you pay more attention to your own denial I will today start posting the 1st (out of a list of 8) most common ‘excuses’ that problem gamblers present to me, and to themselves, even after they have once and for all told me that they should probably quit. I am also going to act out the ‘correct’ voice in your head and give you some good counter arguments & strategies that you can use to set yourself straight once you notice your thinking sounding anything like the statements below. Each day this week I will be posting another one so stay tuned…
# 1. ‘ But my friends might be wanting to go to casino, stags in Vegas, days out at the race tracks etc …I need to be able to live a normal life surely….’
This is probably one of the most common excuses, and also a common triggers for relapse. It is not that it does not have some truth to it. It does. Your friends might be wanting to go to Vegas for their stags. You might be wanting to not miss out on a day at Cheltenham’s and more than likely your friends might on occasions be wanting to head to a Casino or to the bookmakers at some point in the future when you are around. It is tempting to think about these situations form the point of view of what you think you should be able to do. But here is where the fantasy gets confused with reality. If you are posed with a dilemma where you want to do something that you simultaneously know is putting you at risk..
…PLEASE CHECK YOUR TRACK RECORD!!
This is the answer to a lot of tricky situations you will find yourself in going forward in your recovery. Your personal track record will help illustrate to you some of the very critical information that you need to make an informed and conscious decision about your future ability to resist gambling in any given situation!
a) the percentage of times that you ended up gambling more than you had intended – assuming you kept a record of your intentions
b) the level of loss of control over your gambling; i.e., how unable you were to stick with the amounts that you had told yourself you were allowed to gamble for
c) your inability to cash out even when you were indeed winning
d) the aftermaths of the gambling episode and the impact it had on all areas of life.
If you go over your gambling past, even if your track record at this point is purely in memory rather than a neat record of gambling related activity- then I can almost guarantee you that your arguments to continue to put yourself at risk will at least be weakened. Telling yourself that you should be able to continue to enjoy gambling in the same way as before, without suffering the consequences is a bit like telling yourself that you should be able to tolerate a food you have developed allergy to again and again, just because you enjoy the taste of it. It wont work! The sooner this can be accepted you can start finding constructive ways of managing future situations without having to stress each time a temptation occurs in your life. Having read this segment you might still have a voice in your head saying ‘yeah but what if it is my Brother’s stag then what … (or similar). I appreciate that there might always be unique situations; situations that are genuinely outside of your control or ones where simply you would rather opt to be part of a night/day out at a gambling facility for whatever reason. If that is the case I urge you to take a close look at which barriers you have put in place to disable any attempts you might make to gamble during the event (for more info on barriers please see my previous blog post https://www.headward.co.uk/blogcontent/2018/11/15/4-first-steps-to-stop-gambling
Follow the blog for more ‘Lies you tell yourself’ that will be published later this week…