Why Recovering Gambling Addicts Fail

You should be proud of yourself! I know that I am, because statistically only roughly 5 percent of people with gambling addiction are seeking treatment. Relapse is going to be a big part of our healing process. 

I had one relapse, after being “clean” for a few weeks. I received an email from the betting website that offered me €20 bet. Why not, it’s a free money? Next thing I know, I lost €400, just when I was thinking I’m doing a good job with my recovery. It was very hard to accept that relapses are normal and that they don’t mean you are not on a right path of your compulsive gambling recovery.                                     

Millions of people around the globe struggle with problem gambling. It starts with the one-time desire to try, but it doesn’t take long for a person to fall into its shackles. Once that happens, it starts off a life of destructive habits, financial distress, and mental health issues. Despite knowing the negative effects of gambling, people have an uncontrollable urge to engage in the activity—just like smoking, drinking, or drug addiction.

Once gambling addiction starts, the person who is unable to resist from betting continues to chase the “high” they get from a big win. That’s despite the string of continuous losses, cheating, lying, or even stealing money to keep gambling. In extreme cases, the addicted person tends to undergo a significant personality shift. While the person may hide his or her gambling addiction and engage in working and leading their everyday life, consequences tend to build up in the background.

Most recovering gambling addicts tend to fall prey to the lures of gambling companies—be it financial rewards, free bets, football tickets and other perks. These are enough to draw a recovering person back to the addiction, no matter how much that costs them in terms of membership fees and losses. It happened with me to, I was constantly getting free bets from gambling companies.

A relapse of gambling addiction is not a verdict of failure. One should know that relapses don’t occur because a treatment hasn’t failed, or because the person lacks willpower to quit the habit. Relapse, albeit being unpleasant, is an essential learning point for recovering gambling addicts. If addressed properly, it becomes a powerful experience for the recovery process. 

Undesirable relapses of gambling addiction are common in the recovery process. Also, they can be overwhelming for both, the recovering addict, as well as their near and dear ones. However, one should not confuse a relapse with a slip. A slip is a single unplanned gambling incident; the person briefly engages in the activity, but instantly regrets the move and stops it immediately. On the other hand, a relapse is a return to gambling after not doing it for a long period. If you slip back into addiction, it’s a sign that it’s time to re-evaluate your goal to stop gambling and change your recovery strategy. 

Dealing with my addiction and all that I have caused has been hard, especially after seeing how much I hurt my fiancé. I hurt her tremendously. Finding her in tears when she thought no one was watching her, made me feel devastated, suicidal at times. We went through a difficult period when she found out and we’re still struggling. Thoughts about how our life would be if I wasn’t a gambler are hunting me constantly. 

Gambling addiction is a serious disease that will try to sneak up on us when we least expect. Just because you had a relapse doesn’t mean you have to or will keep on betting. Gambling relapse triggers will never entirely disappear. I’m trying to protect my recovery by recognizing the triggers and not falling for them. I decided to go for a run or a walk whenever I have an urge to bet. So far, I had one relapse and 50 km of running and walking.

Because of COVID 19, there are no games I could bet on. Casinos are closed, so currently I don’t have an urge to bet, because there is nothing I could bet on. Let’s see if things will change when restrictions get lifted. However, if I do end up having relapses in the future, or if you do, then we will have to change our recovery strategy and talk honestly with our therapists/support group, cause only with the help of professionals we can beat this disease.

Good luck mate, and let me know if I can help you anyhow!

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