Dear Dr Sivri,
Ever since I can remember, I have had a problem with gambling.
Over the years I have lost a lot of money, and it hasn’t been too big a problem because most of the time I have been single, and I have always managed to find money from somewhere or another.
If I am being honest, it has affected my past relationships, but I have just continued gambling anyway. The problem is that it is affecting my current relationship, and I really want to stop now.
I’m a 38-year-old man, who now wants to get married and settle down. But I’m in serious danger of losing my partner, who says she is going to leave me as she can’t take my lies anymore.
I know I shouldn’t, but I have found myself lying about where I go and lying about having money, when in reality I have gambled it all away. I gamble online a lot, especially during this lockdown, which is a real problem as it’s so easy. Please help.
(Name & address supplied)
Thank you for reaching out. The first step in finding a solution is admitting you have a problem in the first place and then looking to find a solution.
The Process of Change has five main stages and you are probably on that process now, on level two or three. So let’s look at this process in greater detail:
The Process of Change
- Pre Contemplative: Not accepting you have a problem and living in denial.
- Contemplative: Accepting you have a problem, and working out what to do about it.
- Preparation: Finding people who can help you and looking to take a course of action.
- Action: Actively working through your issues and implementing a plan of action.
- Maintenance: Continuing to practice and maintain your new behaviour patterns as you create new patterns of thinking and behaving.
So now you have reached out, you are actively looking to start this Process of Change.
Most people who gamble in casinos and betting shops look for excitement. It’s an escape from their monotonous day-to-day existence. Some lack excitement in their relationships, or they feel insecure and helpless in other areas of their lives, so they crave an environment where they can escape to and not be judged.
Gambling isn’t necessarily about winning. More often than not, it is about the thrill of the chase and the excitement it provides. That’s why online gambling is so addictive now. Many people are bored and have nothing better to do, so they spend hours on gambling apps and sites spending all their money. Chasing an illusion that doesn’t really exist.
The only winners when it comes to gambling are the betting shops, casinos and online betting companies. That’s why there are so many!
The core question you need to be asking yourself is: “WHY exactly am I addicted to gambling?”
Sometimes people have addictive personality traits, so they will always end up being addicted to one thing or another. For you clearly it has been gambling.
So what can you do about it? Firstly you need to build a Network of Support around you, plus a Network of Accountability.
Create a network of people that can help you, who you can report to, and who can guide you through your weaker moments. People in your life, especially partners, want honesty and want things presented in a way they can understand. They don’t want excuses and denial. So it is very important that you are honest with people, but most importantly, you need to be honest with yourself.
Ask yourself deeper psychological questions such as:
- WHY do I continually do this?
- WHAT do I hope to gain from doing this?
- WHO can help me through this?
- HOW can I break this negative pattern of behaviour?
It’s important you work out your deeper psychological reasons for doing what you do. As said, it’s rarely about the money you hope to win. In some cases it is of course, and if for you, you are looking to gain quick money, then you have to understand that your levels of ‘Self Talk’ need to be like this:
- “I am only throwing good money after bad”
- “I have to understand that there is only one winner, and it’s not me”
- “Why do I have money problems in the first place?”
- “Is gambling the end result of other addictions I have?”
Some gamblers genuinely have a poor relationship with money and struggle to save, as they overspend in every area of their lives. So for them, gambling is a bad way to try and recoup some of their lost money.
Sometimes serious addictions require professional help, and once you understand the process of change, you will realise that something like Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy will help you understand who you are, and why you do what you do.
Also, once you reach Levels Four and Five on the Process of Change, a professional will be better equipped to help you deal with any negative thoughts or potential relapses you will no doubt encounter.
Don’t be too embarrassed to get the help you need. Gam Care, the National Helpline for Gambling addiction, is open 24 hours a day. You can call their freephone number on 0808 8020 133, or visit their website www.gamcare.org.uk.
No one will judge you negatively on your journey of recovery.
Dr. D. U. Sivri
Dr D.U. Sivri is a UK-qualified, professionally insured psychotherapist who works with all types of counselling, coaching and therapy. Born in London, Dr Sivri’s unique, eclectic style of therapy has helped hundreds of people from all over the world find resolution to their problems. He has published multiple books, and is a regular media commentator on human behaviour, and emotional/psychological issues and management.
Dr Sivri is also T-VINE’s new agony uncle (‘Ask Your Abi’). If you have a problem, email firstname.lastname@example.org and he will try to answer.