How I Quit Gambling
For years, I had no success in my attempts to quit gambling. Looking back, I don’t doubt that my desire to quit was there all along. I simply lacked the actions needed to follow through on my desired intention.
Since July 15, 2010, the plan I use to continue my abstinence has continued to expand. Here’s a quick overview of my plan.
1. Coming Clean to Family & Friends
For years, I tried to dig my way out of the hole I had created by gambling all on my own.
I didn’t want anyone else to find out about my secret and always believed that I would be able to fix my financial situation and no one would ever have to know about thet debts I had accumulated at the poker table.
I had been lying to everyone and putting on a false front that life was perfect. I told everyone that my business was thriving and that I had never been happier. If they found out the truth now, I’d be exposed as a fraud. There was too much shame and embarrassment in telling the truth at this point.
But then I got caught and every lie began to be exposed.
Looking back, this was the best thing that could have happened to me. Once I was forced to finally come clean to my family and friends, everything started to change.
We are convinced that they won’t understand. That by sharing, we will hurt them more than by keeping them in the dark.
However, my experience was completely different. Everyone has been and continues to be extremely supportive of me.
I should have known this. After all, I’d understand and want to help if roles were reversed. Heck, the roles were reversed and I did everything in my power to help my friend with a compulsive gambling problem.
For whatever reason, we feel we’re different. Now, I know that isn’t true.
MY ONE REGRET
Go home and tell your wife every detail. Don’t leave anything out.”
I heard this advice given to a newcomer at our Gamblers Anonymous meeting about a year and a half into my recovery. I wish I had heard the same thing on my first night.
The night I heard this, I was still keeping a white lie. I had a debt that I hadn’t shared with my wife, but that I felt I needed to take care of “on my own”. Yes, that plan had worked so terribly for me in the past that I decided to give it another go.
Eventually, it all came out but not on my terms. I was once again exposed for my lying and it did significant damage to the trust we had begun to rebuild.
It’s my biggest regret in recovery.
I wish I had ripped the bandaid off only once and gotten everything out on the table. Hopefully, you can learn from my mistake.
EVERY PERSON MAKES ME STRONGER
As I grow more comfortable, I find myself opening up to more and more people. The best thing about this has been that it makes it easier to stay clean. Each person represents another piece of accountability. Someone that might be watching out for me.
2. Never Forget the Pain
I feel as though my brain is wired to forget.
No matter how much I had lost and how low miserable gambling made me in the moment, I would eventually forget and return to try again.
Now, I take a different approach.
ATTENDING GAMBLERS ANONYMOUS
I go to Gamblers Anonymous every week.
Why do I go?
I go for many reasons, but mostly to share my story and to hear the stories of others. For one hour a week, I remind myself of the pain and misery gambling caused in my life. Seeing new people come into the room—in the midst of their lowest point—is a great reminder that life is better without gambling.
Additionally, Gamblers Anonymous gives me another outlet to come clean about my past. Just like with family and friends, taking off the mask of my addiction has helped me to grow and develop as a person. Each meeting is more freeing than the last as the lies are replaced with facts and reality.
To ease your fears of what a meeting is like, here’s an idea of what to expect at your first meeting.
OTHER PLACES I CHECK IN
In addition to GA, I also frequently check out the Problem Gambling thread on Reddit and the accompanying live chat available on the Discord server.
I’ve seen too many others fall into a sense of complaceny. I’ve even experienced it myself.
Quitting for short stretches can be achieved without Gamblers Anonymous or becoming invovled in an online group or chat. However, quitting long-term has been so much easier now that I am part of a group.
3. Continue to Grow
Finally, as part of my recovery I am constantly seeking out thoughts and ideas from others as a way to improve my overall health and life.
Looking back, much of my gambling was driven by the wrong thoughts and actions. By learning and growing, I’ve been able to identify the areas I need to improve and actively do so on a daily basis.
The actions outlined above are the backbone of my recovery.
I’ll continue to add to this here and on the podcast. I hope this gives you insight into the plan I have used to quit gambling.
I’m confident it will work for others as my plan is very similar to everyone else I have met in recovery that have been able to abstain from gambling.