How to Stop Gambling Forever
How To Stop Gambling
How To stop Gambling Forever
This time last year, I published an article called, ‘How to Stop Gambling.’ When I wrote it, I put a great deal of thought into writing about as many ways to quit gambling as I could. I had tried pretty much all of them at some point, and I wanted to give the best advice possible as to the merits of each. Anyone looking to quit will most likely want to stop gambling forever, and I realised that article was only half the story.
If you live in the UK, I believe you’re lucky enough to be in a place where there is a half decent level of control and support available; and if you put your mind to it, there are certainly products that will assist. I still think that the UK has a long way to go in tackling gambling addiction, but it is certainly better than other countries. Sadly, we let ourselves down with allowing saturation advertising, but if you are looking to stop gambling forever, then overall you’re ideally placed.
In my article, I wrote about GamStop and although not without its flaws, I still consider it to be one of the best methods out there in helping anyone stop gambling online. However, no matter what barriers or blockers you put in place, actually stopping gambling will only ever be half the story.
In order to stop gambling forever, you must create breathing space, and self-exclusion methods are instrumental in achieving this. Used effectively, these methods allow you to apply the brakes and regain some form of control. However, using blockers alone will usually only give you a finite amount of time. I say that because a determined gambler will always find a way back or a way around any given self-exclusion method. If that is the case, then you will never achieve that vital breathing space you need to truly break free.
If implemented correctly, and more importantly timed correctly, self-exclusion will give you the time you need to think rationally about your addiction. It will also give you the time to seek practical help. This is vital to stopping gambling forever, and it is that rational thought that will ultimately lead you out of the cycle. So how do you achieve that breathing space?
The way I see it, is that blockers such as software or self-exclusion should make it an absolute pain in the backside to gamble. If you’ve put everything in place correctly then it should become more bother than its worth. It’s vital though that you put 100% effort into doing this. Anything less and you may as well not bother.
In the days before GamStop existed and before mobile phone gambling really took off, I had Betfilter installed on my computer. I had also excluded myself from my local casino chains. Once I had done that, I worked out that the only way I could actually gamble was to drive a considerable distance to a casino that I hadn’t self-excluded from. It just became too much hassle to do and there was a decent amount of time that I didn’t gamble. I thought I had cracked it and I carried on trying to re-build my life without really thinking any more about it. I went through the cold turkey stage and accepted that I had made it extremely difficult for me to gamble again. I considered myself cured but I had based that purely on the fact that I could not gamble. I completely ignored the fact that I was still desperate to gamble.
All or Nothing
It was for that reason that the blockers I had put in place only lasted so long. I couldn’t gamble online because of Betfilter but suddenly the 100-mile round trip to an independent casino became a reasonable proposition. My half-baked attempt at self-exclusion only served to make me more stressed out.
I had created a situation where I not only had the stress of the inevitable loss, but it stressed me out that I was spending more money in petrol to get there. I knew that the more it cost me to travel, the less I had to gamble with. I then had the stress of the drive and I always had the long journey back to reflect on the £1,500 or so that I had just lost. Trying to drive home whilst crying and working out how I was going to make it through the month was far from ideal. In fact, it was probably dangerous.
However, disordered gambling is an itch that must be scratched, and a 100-mile round trip was never going to stop that. Eventually I self-excluded from that casino too, and with land-based casinos no longer an option I began to re-focus my attention online. In doing so I began to look for ways to get around Betfilter. That was relatively easy, and I was back to square one.
So, to answer the question of how to create breathing space, you really must go all out. You need to leave no stone unturned. You cannot afford to leave one single route back to gambling open. You must close all the doors and nail them shut! Only then will you find yourself the space to breathe. The question then becomes one of what you do with the time you have just bought yourself.
What I discovered
On 2nd July 2018 I signed up to GamStop and coupled with all the other measures that I had in place; I had finally achieved time to think. I had already blown so much of my wage just a few days after payday and literally could not have gambled anyway. However, I had self-excluded from all land-based casinos, I had Betfilter installed, and the only way I could have gambled was to travel abroad. That was an impossibility that left cold turkey and reflection my only choice. Suddenly my brain allowed me to see what was being masked by my gambling addiction. It was blindingly obvious. I was mentally ill.
It didn’t take too long for me to realise that and I began to entertain the notion that my disordered gambling was a symptom of something much bigger. I broke down in the doctor’s office as I finally became able to tell him everything that had been going on. In the therapy that followed, I learned that gambling was a crutch that was masking everything else. It was a coping strategy that was keeping everything else together. Obviously, it was a mechanism that was causing a huge amount of stress, but that was better than what was actually wrong. As soon as I lost the gambling crutch, I finally broke. It was only because I did that, that I was then able to see the truth and set about repairing me.
I realise that everyone is different, and many will have a different take on this to me. However, I believe that any compulsive gambler is simply mentally unwell. I use the following logic for this and in considering a typical gambling addict (me included,) ask myself the following questions:
Why would anyone in their right mind continue to gamble knowing that they can never win? I ask that because any gambling addict knows deep down that’s the truth. Why would someone who knows that deliberately deprive themselves of money every single week or month in that way? Why would someone risk their relationships, their family, their job, or their freedom just to gamble?
To me, the only possible answer is that they are mentally ill. I don’t mean that to sound offensive but would any person thinking rationally put themselves through that? Of course, there will always be an argument that says that gamblers sometimes win and walk away with more money than they started with. However, that only applies to the occasional gambler. True addicts know that they cannot stop and will therefore always lose.
Therefore, the blockers will only ever be half the story because if you don’t ever tackle the real issues, you will always look for a way around them. My issues were complex and many but with the right treatment I was able to work through them. It was a hard slog and extremely distressing to relive memories from my youth but with every session I completed, the need to gamble diminished.
If You Really Want to Quit Gambling Forever
If you really want to stop gambling forever, then the first step will always be about the self-exclusion you have in place. Grit your teeth and do it to death. Sign up to GamStop, install blocking software to prevent gambling at non-UK licensed casinos, sign up to SENSE to take out land-based casinos, and exclude from all you local bookmakers. Do whatever it takes to put the brakes on and THEN get yourself some help.
Even if counselling isn’t for you, find some peer support or meetings. Or simply, think about what was making you gamble in the first place. I guarantee that something will have been wrong. You may have been suffering from depression or anxiety. You may have had PTSD like me. Or it could be any one of several issues that you didn’t realise you had. It will have been something though and it needs to be fixed before you can really recover. It needs to be fixed before you find a way around your blockers or consider boarding a flight to Las Vegas as a reasonable way to scratch the itch!
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