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Section 7
'Lotto Fever.' Tempting Fate, & 'Girls' Night Out' - Learning to Stay Stopped

Question 7 | Answer Booklet | Table of Contents

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In the last section, we discussed breaking the addictive cycle.  As you know, the addictive cycle of gambling can be broken first by understanding the five stages of quitting.  The five stages of quitting are pre contemplation, contemplation, commitment and action, maintenance and relapse.  

In this section, we will discuss staying stopped or avoiding relapse.  How can a gambler serious about recovery fend off relapses?  Three simple guidelines to avoiding relapse or staying stopped are using support systems, watching company, and watching where they go.  As you listen to this section, consider how you might apply these guidelines directly to the gambler or how they may be suggested to the family.

Three Guidelines to Avoiding Relapse

♦ Guideline #1 - Using Support Systems
First, let’s discuss using support systems.  Whether it is Gambler’s Anonymous or a therapist, the recovering gambler must make use of his support structure.  How might you encourage the family of your gambling client to persuade the client to attend meetings regularly, participate, talk, and listen?  I find that the family can often be of great benefit to the client regarding working through the steps of recovery outlined either in group or private therapy. 

Clients like George, age 47, often find group therapy beneficial.  George stated, "Listening to newcomers tell their gambling stories really helps me.  I hear what they are going through and they sound just like I was."  George had been in recovery from his gambling problem for three years when I last spoke with him. 

George indicated that he still went back to meetings, simply to ‘remind’ himself of the past.  George stated, "After a long enough period of time, I get complacent.  I start thinking I have everything under control and maybe one or two card games will be okay.  Then I see the new people coming in and they show me exactly where I am.  And I get strength from that to resist the feel of the cards."

♦ Guideline #2 - Watching Company
Next, let’s discuss watching company.  Just like an alcoholic in recovery is admonished to dispense with drinking buddies and find a new set of pals, the gambler is also encouraged to avoid social interactions which promote gambling.  Warren, age 37, asked about his wife, Lauren’s friends. 

Warren stated, "Lauren and her friends go out every Wednesday. They call it girl’s night out, but they always wind up at the casino. I’m worried that if Lauren’s continues to hang out with them, she’ll relapse."  How might you have responded to Warren’s concern? 

I stated, "If Wednesday nights are ‘girls’ night out’ at the casino, maybe Lauren can find some different ‘girls’ for whom Wednesday nights are Bible study nights or book club nights. This doesn’t necessarily have to mean giving up the friendship of her former gambling compatriots, but it does mean not tempting recovery by consorting with them in gambling venues. If they remind her too much of her gambling career, however, it may mean finding new friends." 

♦ Guideline #3 - Watching Where They Go
In addition to using a support system and watching company, a third way to avoid relapse is watching where they go.  As you know, it’s one thing to lead a normal and settled life in a society in which gambling opportunities are everywhere, but it’s another thing altogether to put recovery to unnecessary tests.  The difference between the two depends on how strong the urges and how great the temptations. 

If a client can drop in to a convenience store for a sandwich without catching ‘lotto fever,’ then by all means he or she needs not deprive himself or herself.  But, clearly, any activities or places which fill the recovering gambler with a yearning for action may require avoidance.  Recovering compulsive gambler Mike Brubaker, who counsels gamblers, misses raffles and fund raising because of the temptations that those activities present. 

Mike states, "I always try to think through what would happen if I won anything.  My mind would start racing and before I knew it, I would be off and running.  I have to keep reminding myself that even when I won, I lost because winning always led to more gambling." 

Clearly more risky to recovery is outright jeopardizing recovery or tempting fate.  For example, I client who is planning the family’s vacation in Las Vegas is clearly not avoiding relapse.  Also, accompanying friends to a nearby casino or riverboat ‘just to watch’ would be beyond tempting. 

As you are well aware, the mere sight of a piece of rock cocaine induces cravings in cocaine addicts despite how long they have been clean.  Could the family member of your client benefit from that knowledge as it relates to gambling addiction?

In this section, we have discussed staying stopped.  How can a gambler serious about recovery fend off relapses?  Three simple guidelines to avoiding relapse are staying stopped are using support systems, watching company, and watching where they go.

What are three simple guidelines to avoiding relapse and staying stopped? To select and enter your answer go to Answer Booklet

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