Cravings and Triggers


It is normal to get urges – often strong urges – to gamble when you are in recovery. The urges can be difficult to resist, but it gets easier as you learn to make healthier choices and build your support network. When you feel an urge to gamble:

  • Seek Support
    Call your sponsor, attend a GA meeting or talk to a trusted family member or friend
  • Do Something Else
    Create a distraction for yourself by finding a more constructive activity such as going to the gym, cleaning the house or pursuing a hobby
  • Take Things a Little at a Time
    Tell yourself that you’ll wait an hour, or thirty minutes, or even five minutes — however long you think you can hold out. As time passes, the urge to gamble may weaken or pass
  • Think About the Consequences
    Remember all the times you’ve lost … even when you were positive “this is the time!” Think of the better things you could do with your time and money. And think about how you’ll feel after you’ve lost your money and have to go home, knowing that you’ve disappointed yourself and your family again

If you can’t resist the craving, it’s important that you don’t use it as an excuse to give up. Recovering from a gambling addiction is not easy, and you may slip from time to time; the important thing is to learn from your mistakes and continue working towards recovery!

Unpleasant feelings such as stress, depression, loneliness, fear, or anxiety can trigger compulsive gambling or make it worse. After a stressful day at work or an argument with your spouse or coworker, an evening of gambling may seem like a fun, exciting way to unwind. But there are healthier and far less expensive ways to keep unpleasant feelings in check. These may include:

  • Exercising;
  • Meditating;
  • Breathing exercises;
  • Sensory relaxation strategies; or
  • Spending time with your family

People begin gambling for a reason and, even after you’ve quit gambling, the unpleasant feelings that led you to begin gambling are likely still there. An important element of recovery is to find alternate ways to handle these bad feelings without gambling. Plan ahead for stressful situations, “bad days” and the other unpleasant things which happen to all of us from time to time, and come up with a strategy for how you will deal with them when they come.1

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