12 November 2019 at 10:49 am #8070SteevParticipant
This is really aimed at people who have managed to stop gambling for a while but are in danger of relapse.
Who do I want to be – in my “new life?”
When first stopping gambling, it is difficult to get past the urges to gamble and I like many others used to spend my time doing brain numbing things just to get through. This might be playing computer games, binge watching TV, talking rubbish on on-line forums or moving towards another addiction like soft drugs, sex or alcohol.
I know alcohol was a bit of an issue for me when I first stopped. I was looking for pubs without slot machines and found that most of those also sold better beer (real ale.) That, coupled with the realisation that I drank a lot slower when I was “in action” on a machine –caused me to drink more and I had to really slow down on my consumption.
Eventually, these other pastimes began to feel meaningless and I then had to think about how I could become the person I wanted to be. I was ready for my “new life” to begin. Although I was happy with my new status as a “non-gambler,” I was also aware of the negative in that phrase. I wanted a positive identity.
At first, I tried to find this in work, but I had always worked long hours and the gambling tended to kick in when I needed to relax from the stress of the job – so I knew I had to look elsewhere.
One book I found really useful in getting me to think more about things was called “Wishcraft” by Barbara Sher. Although over 20 years old – I still think the book gave lots of valuable advice about working out who I am – helping me to test out some ideas and getting a group of people together to support me in my new role.
I had choices – I could go back to music which was the thing I gave up for gambling. I had (half-heartedly) tried writing before – but always found it a struggle. I was interested in photography but had never been able to afford decent equipment. When I looked deep down at things – it was my desire to travel that won out. I had done some – plenty in the UK and had also been to Brazil several times where my ex-wife is from. But what was stopping me from seeing this as a serious option? And I came up with a strange conclusion. I didn’t deserve it!
I found myself having this strange battle in my head, that people like me don’t travel. I, somehow, needed a reason. Sorting this out in my head and with my support group took some time. But eventually I got there – and now hope that my “giving it all up to go travelling in my 60s” will be inspiring to others who are also thinking of the same idea.
But it didn’t all happen at once. I took small steps – plenty of steps actually.
One of the things I did take up when I stopped gambling was walking in the countryside. I did this as a direct contradiction of gambling. Instead of being shut inside with various flashing lights and electronic noises – I was out in the natural world. My starting point was to create a new habit for myself. So, I set myself the task of walking for 20 minutes a day. I then built this up, gradually to an hour a day; and once I had this as a habit, I decided to structure my walks. For me, this meant going down a certain route where I could measure my progress. I chose a canal walk. Partly because it would be relatively flat – and partly because the wildlife on view would be more varied. After a few weeks I reached a point where it made more sense to stay overnight on route and walk over 2 days. Again, this felt wrong – that it was expensive and I didn’t deserve to do it; even though the cost of 1 night in a hotel was a lot less than what I usually lost per day when I was in action.
I knew that low self-esteem was a big issue here and was something that I needed to work on; but by repeatedly travelling further distances and having more weekends away, I was able to retrain my brain that it was okay to do this, no-one was going to criticise me. I completed the walk and felt a real sense of achievement. I moved onto another, but I had this idea of taking things up to a major level – of being a world traveller. In February 2019, I sold my house, paid back all my debts and moved the stuff I hadn’t sold or given away into storage. I am now a world-traveller. That is my new identity and one I can hopefully (health permitting) continue with, for some time to come.
So, to those who are gamble – free but struggling, think this over:
Do you need a new identity? One which is positive instead of being some variant on ex gambler.
Can you start to move into your new life in small steps?
What is the first step you can take now? (That might be reading about others doing what you want to do, watching a you-tube video, going on an online forum.)
What are your blocks to getting this new identity? Are they self-imposed? What can you do to move past them?
Who can you pull into your support group to help you with your new project / identity?
How will you know when you have made it there?
Remember none of this stuff is concrete and if you do find real obstacles in your way (like my possible health issues) then there is no problem in going back to the drawing board and working on a plan B.13 November 2019 at 9:27 pm #8071i-did-itParticipant
This made very good reading and I can identify with so much of what you have written.
I am going to check out that book you suggested .
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