Have a listen to our podcast episode on where to start, when quitting gambling
Contact us to make an appointment for our free counselling service. Call or Text: 0892415401 (ROI) or 07537188575 (NI) in complete confidence. Our service is delivered remotely (Video or Phone Call).
How to Stop Gambling - What to Do on Day 1
Stopping gambling - and staying stopped require making some tough decisions and having some uncomfortable conversations. In our experience of working with hundreds of people, addicted to gambling - the people who get into long-term, stable recovery are the ones who are willing to make those necessary sacrifices. Of course, it is normal to experience resistance to these strategies - partly because they take you out of your comfort zone and shine a light on the thing that you've been working so hard to keep hidden - and partly because the little addicted voice in your head doesn't want you to stop gambling. The little addicted voice in your head will also want you to leave some 'loopholes' or 'trap doors' open. For example, it might tell you that you don't need to self-exclude from the local betting shop, as it would be embarrassing and the staff might talk about you. In reality, this is just the addiction talking you into keeping the door open to having a relapse in the local betting shop. The people who do best in recovery, in our experience, are the people who 'throw the kitchen sink' at it, in the first 3 months. That means using all of these strategies - and not cherry-picking the ones that are comfortable or easy.
- Find a trusted person, in your life, who will either help you to manage your finances (by taking control of them) or who will monitor your spending. We usually recommend that you do this for at least 3 months (with no slips/relapses). By limiting your access to money, you reduce the temptation and ability to gamble and reduce thoughts, urges and cravings. Most people don't want to use this strategy - but it is probably the single most effective tool for breaking out of the habit of regular gambling and giving yourself a clear head to get some perspective on what your priorities are. Many of the main banks in Northern Ireland allow customers to put a gambling block on their accounts. In ROI, Revolut have a block on online gambling transactions, which can be turned on or off, with a 72 hour 'cooling off' period. Most people, when they are having an urge to gamble, want to do it right now- not in 3 days time. So, even this tool can help. If you are in a position to save money, when you stop gambling, we strongly recommend putting it into a 30 day notice saver account.
- Self-exclude from all of your online gambling accounts - and then install blocking software, such as 'Gamban' on all devices that you have access to (including your kids', if you have any). It's important to self-exclude from your accounts, before putting on the blocking software, in order to prevent gambling companies from sending you 'free bets/spins' or other triggering marketing materials.
- Self-exclude from betting shops and/or casinos in your local area (or the ones that you regularly go to). Unfortunately, Ireland (ROI) does not yet have a multi-operator self-exclusion scheme, so this process often means going to each venue individually. Most people really don't like doing this and come up with all sorts of excuses not to do it. We suggest bringing your trusted person with you. Don't bring cash with you. Go at a quiet time of the day. For Paddy Power shops, you can post in a self-exclusion form, along with a passport photo and you can select up to 10 shops to self-exclude from. For the other betting shops, you will have to go in, in person, and bring a passport photo. Many people say to us, that there is no point in doing this, as they would be prepared to 'drive 100 miles' to get a bet on, when they have a strong urge. While this may be true for some people - putting yourself in a position where you actually have to travel long distances, buys you time to rethink your decision. It also puts you off making the decision in the first place, as we are all creatures of habit (meaning that we like going to the same places; same routines) - and we are also all naturally lazy. If something is convenient, we are much more likely to do it, than if it is inconvenient and requires time, energy and effort. Also, people have to come up with excuses for lengthy absences from the home, if they have to travel longer distances to gamble.
- Find other enjoyable ways to fill your time. Many of the people we work with, spend long hours gambling, or researching bets. It is extremely important to find other activities to fill the time previously spent focusing on gambling. For many people, they find that the normal daily tasks (such as concentrating on work or parenting) come back into focus, as they are less preoccupied with gambling. For others, it means finding an activity that engages the mind. This could be anything from digging out the old X-Box or Playstation, joining the gym or a sports club, learning an instrument - or a million and one other things. Many people go back to hobbies and interests from before gambling 'took over'. You don't have to reinvent the wheel, just keep your mind busy - especially in the early weeks and months.
- While some people can get by, just by following these strategies, many people find that talking to a counsellor or attending a support group (GA or SMART Recovery) really helps in their recovery. Learning relapse prevention techniques and reminding yourself of the potential consequences of relapse are extremely important, and these kinds of external supports can help with that. Some people find that attending residential treatment is the right choice for them. It's important to remember that these techniques will be needed when you leave the treatment facility.
Online Support Service and App - Gambling Therapy
About Problem Gambling
Gambling Therapy is a UK-based, free online service that provides advice and support to people affected by problem gambling, who love outside of the UK. It is part of the Gordon Moody Association, which is one of the UK's leading gambling addiction treatment providers.
The site provides emails supports, a web-forum and online support groups.
A Gambling Therapy app is also available on iOS and Android. Key features of the app are:
self assessment questionnaire
• text based live support
• mindfulness and self help exercises
• crisis support information
• daily motivational quotes
• links to blocking software
• directory of organisations that can help
• access to the GT online forums
Many people, in the early stages of recovery from gambling addiction, find it useful to hand over financial control to a trusted family member for a period of time. This approach has several benefits: it ends the secrecy around gambling, it brings day-to-day supports into your life, it makes it more difficult to have a relapse.
Speaking to an addiction professional can also help. We can be reached by email: info[at]problemgambling.ie or on 0892415401 (ROI); 07537188575 (NI) (to arrange a call-back). We provide a free counselling service to anyone living on the island of Ireland.
Many people with gambling issues find Gamblers Anonymous (GA) meetings very supportive and beneficial in terms of their recovery from addiction. You can search for GA meetings in your local area here.
SMART Recovery meetings, which deal with all types of addictions in a group setting, are beginning to roll out in Ireland at present. A list of meetings is available here. SMART Recovery UK also run online meetings, which can be logged on to from Ireland. Details are available here.
Some people find that one-to-one counselling, or a combination of counselling and group works best for them.
Lists of fully-accredited counsellors, psychotherapists and psychologists are available from the accrediting bodies, below. Make sure to check that the practitioner is experienced in dealing with gambling as an issue before starting treatment.
Addiction Counsellors of Ireland (ACI)
Association of Professional Counsellors & Psychotherapists in Ireland (APCP)
Irish Institute of Cognitive & Humanistic Psychotherapy (IICHP)
The Association for Psychoanalysis & Psychotherapy in Ireland (APPI)
Irish Analytical Psychology Association (IAPA)
Irish Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (IACP)
Irish Association of Christian Counsellors (IACC)
The Irish Association of Humanistic & Integrative Psychotherapy (IAHIP)
Irish Council for Psychotherapy (ICP)
Irish Group Analytic Society (IGAS)
National Association for Pastoral Counselling & Psychotherapy (NAPCP)
The Psychological Society of Ireland
The Money Advice & Budgeting Service (MABS)
The Money Advice and Budgeting Service is the State’s money advice service, guiding people through dealing with problem debt for more than twenty years. Check out www.mabs.ie