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On the last track we discussed attaining and maintaining abstinence from gambling. Three effective methods for attaining and maintaining abstinence from gambling are self help groups, photographs, and time management.
On this track we will discuss relapse prevention. How can a gambler serious about recovery fend off relapses? Three simple guidelines to avoiding relapse and staying stopped are using support systems, watching company, and watching where they go. As you listen to this track, 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
Clients like George, age 47, often find group therapy beneficial. George stated, “Listening to newcomers tell their 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. Then I see the new people coming in and they show me exactly where I am. And I get strength from that.”
Guideline #2 - Watching Company
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
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, as you may know, 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.”
Would you agree that Mike’s avoidance is a judgment call, and that how recovering addicts handle situations will vary?
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 Indian 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?
On this track 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.
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