Arguably the worst effect of an addiction, any addiction, is how it warps the personality of the affected person. If you are a former addict or know someone that is one, you will already understand this. The change starts gradually and is explainable, but, by the end, it is no longer difficult to distinguish between what a person used to be and how they currently are. In those affected by gambling addiction, these changes will often include:
- Increased irritability
- A general lack of focus and interest in everyday tasks and activities
- An increased pursuit of things that involve a high amount of risk
- Late nights and missed events
- Evasiveness when questioned
- Financial irresponsibility
To really begin the journey of recovery, an addict will have to change again, but for the better. This will require adopting new habits and characteristics that you never had to consciously engage in or that you did, but now have to practice with more dedication.
Studies have shown that addiction alters the brain chemistry in terrible ways, as the affected person gains a dependence on the object of their addiction. This change is, in many ways, permanent, with the added effect of making the person more likely to gain a new addiction. What this means is that while a person might have initially been a gambling addict, they are now more likely to be addicted to any number of other things. The only true way to prevent this is by focusing on moderation in all things, no matter how seemingly minor. A recovering addict must try their best to do all activities in moderation, no matter how harmless or even healthy it may seem. This includes activities such as exercise, watching TV, eating, working, dating, and the like. No matter how innocuous it may seem, there will always be the possibility to overindulge, and it pays to be vigilant.
One of the biggest triggers that recovering addicts must regularly try to avoid is stress. This stress may be physical, mental, or emotional. It could be felt as the result of a long a day at work, a breakup, a difficult exam, or a number of other difficult events. When a person faces stress, it is normal to want to relive that with something fun. Often times gambling addicts begin as people who played minor games of chance like online poker or sports betting to escape the drudgery of work. Once you have acknowledged that you have an addiction and you want to get better, avoiding stressful situations that could lead you down those same paths becomes a priority. However, it is not always easy to avoid stress, so, in addition, you will need to begin building different and healthier stress outlets. These are relaxing and fun activities that you practice when you start feeling unduly stressed. Some recommended activities include meditation, social activities with loved ones, exercise (be careful not to overdo it), and reading.
Start a journal
This is one of the more productive activities that you can, and definitely should, take up on your road to recovery. A journal is a great way to track your progress. This continuous personal reassurance will give you the confidence and mental fortitude to continue down the right path. It is also an important way to highlight potential triggers in your environment. In the process of reading and writing your journal, there will be certain events, objects or people that you will find coincide with your urges to relapse. Identifying them will help you understand ways they can be confronted or avoided. Additionally, your journal will reveal important milestones to you that you might not have considered before. For instance, you might, over time, find that a particular object is less and less of a trigger for you. To reap the benefits of a journal, it is important to record things regularly, daily if possible. You must accept it as a safe place, and be as honest with your thoughts and feelings, whether or not they have to do with your addiction. Finally, a periodic review of your journal is important as well.
In life, few people make a conscious effort to order their social lives. For most of us, friends and acquaintances are made and lost based on circumstances, more than anything else. You might find yourself regularly interacting with someone because they move in next door, or you lose touch with an acquaintance because they moved away. This has to change when you are a recovering addict. Everyone in your life has an influence over you, and it is important that you try your best to only socialise with those whose influence is positive. This will sometimes mean cutting ties with friends who encourage you to gamble or even family who make you feel the type of stress that led you to it in the first place. There will be people you can’t easily cut ties with, like neighbours or co-workers, but you still have the power to minimise this as much as is possible.
Take every day one step at a time
There are many days that staying strong will be difficult, almost impossible. On these days, the best thing to focus on is that, if you can make it through this one day, you will be able to make it through the next one, and then the one after that, and so on. As long as you can make it through this one day, you will be fine.