Last few months there has been a lot of talking about gambling advertising, both here in the UK and also during my recent visit to my country of origin- Sweden. I can only assume there are similar situations in many other countries too.
The adverts for gambling are sneaky, tempting, often targeted and of course are designed to trigger even the most resistant of people to come back for another bet. If nothing else works – they might go as far as they did to one of my gambling addicted homeless ladies and send a text message directly to her phone offering a few free spins at a nearby arcade.
The gambling industry is big business which operates with the aim of increasing its profitability. What else is new? It has never been known for caring deeply about the emotional needs of the individuals that lose their money inside of its facilities. Their social responsibility is something that is being increasingly addressed- but for now let’s face it - it is in many ways a ruthless money-making machinery that does not differentiate how, or from whom, the money comes in. I felt the need to write this as to prevent angry retaliation for those wanting to engage heavily in active outrage about the ads- because really this post is going to be about helping you withstand the relentless advertising we are currently faced with. It is not about expressing my support for how they operate - there is little doubt that gambling-ads can be harmful and will continue to ‘suck in’ those who still have plenty to lose and create a false sense of hope for those who have little to lose.
I got inspired to write this post, having witnessed far too many problem gamblers who through their obsessions about the pursuing of business from the industry, experience an unhelpful shift in the focus away from what brings them forward in their recovery. Having previously been obsessed with the gambling in a destructive manner, as you are now trying to abstain from that, the mind is kind of looking for a new thing to fixate on. We DO NOT want that new thing to become the industry or its advertisement (Unless that focus is being used for problem solving and protecting you of course). The main focus for now, and until you are safely underway in your recovery, be on all the good stuff that is starting to constitute your life without gambling!
There is no harm being an activist and lobbying for changes that matter for public health- in fact, it can be empowering to feel that your lessons from recovery can be used to help prevent others, however, by the time obstacles and triggers become the main focus of our attention we can easily become preoccupied and end up in a state of anger, disappointment, sadness. At this point, focusing on those things is happening at the expense of the most important part of all – YOU yourself and your own personal recovery.
I have seen people so vengeful, angry and desperate to ‘get back’ what they lost or to ‘beat the bookies’ , that they end up spending time in prison due to ‘smashing’ a machine or committing illicit acts to fund further gambling to chase after losses. Or lose sleep and wellness in a state of ruminating angrily over the brazenness of those ads and how they are conspiring to pull one back in to gamble. At this level your feelings and energy expenditure is going to be wasted and counter-productive for your own progress
It is understandable that the rage and anger is there, not least given the ever-increasing numbers of people who are becoming addicted, many of whom are young people. Gambling addiction is a very real and very serious problem that we are facing now more than ever before as a result of the increased access and promotion for it as a fun and sociable activity. In reality, for some people, it can wreck lives and create suffering, not just for the gambler themselves but for the entire system surrounding him/her. But at the same time as it is understandable, you have to remember that it was the focus away from you and your life - and onto the gambling- that lead you down a path of sorrow. Continuing to focus on how they ‘got you’ and are ‘making it impossible to avoid them’ will typically result in more sorrow and hopelessness.Read More