How to Set Realistic Goals for Success in Problem Gambling Recovery

If you are considering that your gambling may be getting out of control, here is something to consider: in what ways does gambling fulfill you? Many gamblers start off gambling for fun, as a way to be social with others, while some say it is “to make money.” Problem gambling can begin when someone thinks it is a good way to escape from life and its stressors, or that it will take care of all their problems with just one “big win.” This is often where gambling crosses the line into disordered gambling. It’s when gambling isn’t fun anymore. It can be a need to escape other problems in one’s life, a compulsive desire of a win that will never be achieved, no matter how much time or money the gambler spends.  

If you feel you may have found yourself at this point in your gambling experience, then now is a good time to reach out to someone who is knowledgeable about your situation. Someone who is there at the end of the phone 24/7 to help and support you. In Florida, this connection to problem gambling support can be found 24/7 by texting or calling the confidential and multilingual 888-ADMIT-IT HelpLine. 

Let’s explore your gambling in this way; what need did gambling fulfill for you in the beginning? Does this reason still hold true for you today? Ask yourself why it does or it doesn’t give you the payoff it once did. Explore how your gambling thoughts and behaviors have changed over time. When trying to stop the insanity and get off the problem gambling train, you first need to understand what is it that you like about it. What does it fulfill for you that nothing else can? One of the main ways is that compulsive gambling helps someone to escape from something uncomfortable in their lives, in much the same way as alcohol or drug use. Once this is understood, then you can find ways to get these areas back in order and fill that hole with something else. 

Let’s take a look at some stressors in life that you may be trying to escape: 

  • Responsibilities 
  • A bad relationship 
  • Physical pain 
  • Emotional pain 
  • A stressful job 
  • Loneliness 
  • Financial consequences 
  • Legal consequences 
  • Past trauma 

Start from the beginning by answering the question of what the payoff to your gambling was. Does the gambling still have the same effect for you? Why or why not? And lastly, what do you think happened to change this for you? If you thought gambling was fixing something in your life, what was it? Did it succeed? Does it still? 

“The best way to escape from a problem is to solve it.”  

– Alan Saporta

There are 8 major life impacts of addiction: 

  1. Family 
  2. Social 
  3. Legal 
  4. Physical 
  5. Financial 
  6. Spiritual 
  7. Emotional 
  8. Occupational 

In order to work through each area above, you must explore each one individually. Setting goals is the best way to start making changes – taking it one small step at a time. When setting goals, it’s important to make them realistic from where you are today, considering all the small steps you need to take before you get the future results you want. By taking small steps, you can be and feel more successful and willing to take the next small step. There is no “quick fix” to any of these problem areas. Especially with problem gambling, the risk of relapse is high during recovery. Be wary of sabotaging your own efforts by acting on immediate gratification needs – that’s the addiction talking! 

In order for a goal to be successful, it has to be specific, reasonably attainable, and measurable.  

Once you have found some confidence in succeeding with these small steps towards a goal, it will become easier for you to continue changing for the better. The question is how do you know when you have accomplished the goal? Let’s look at an example with financial problems, and you can the work through the areas from above you need to work on.  

Example: Goal Setting for Financial Problems 

  1. Describe the problem; “I have creditors calling about my credit card debts, wanting money. I can’t pay them all, so I won’t pay any of them. I am afraid to call them.” 
  2. Goal: To start a payment plan to pay off the debts over time. 
  3. First small step to change: “I will call the 24/7 888-ADMIT-IT Problem Gambling HelpLine right now to talk to someone knowledgeable about the situation I’m in, who will connect me with free resources that can help with financial and other issues. I do not have to worry about speaking with a HelpLine Specialist, because the conversation is 100% confidential and non-judgmental.” 
  4. Second small step to change: “I will sit down next Sunday and go through all the bills I have been throwing in a corner, afraid to look at. I will find the most recent bill for each account and throw the rest away.” If you think this will be too emotionally overwhelming for you, find someone you trust to be there with you. This is important, so the challenge of recovery itself does not put you in relapse. 
  5. Third small step to change: “I will use the A Chance for Change financial workbook and Budget Tool I got for free from 888-ADMIT-IT to organize all my bills and all incoming and outgoing financial information. I will then call one creditor to set up a monthly payment plan.” When speaking to them, be realistic for what you can really send them. Continue this process, one bill at a time, and stick with it! Pay one off then another one off. As you go, you can work towards bigger payments. You can make it work if you go slow and take it one small step at a time. 

Now pick another area you would like to work on, write a small goal, and work through it with each of these areas of your life that are in need of change. 

Don’t Know Where to Start?
Call or Text 888-ADMIT-IT. 

The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling (FCCG)’s “A Chance for Change” Recovery Workbook series closely examines how individuals can escape the grips of compulsive gambling by creating and maintaining a plan for positive change and dealing with relationship troubles, financial issues, legal problems, and the many other impacts. This is just one of the hundreds of free problem gambling resources that are just a call or text away in Florida: 888-ADMIT-IT. Start today and take charge of your life! 

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