Relapse happens, but it’s not a reason to despair. It can be treated as a learning opportunity and an opportunity for change. Typically, January and February are very busy times of the year for our service, with new and existing clients contacting us for help. So, we asked some of our counsellors the main reasons people relapse during the holiday season; and what you can do to support your own recovery.
1. Family, home and work pressures.
What you can do?
Believe in yourself and your recovery. Practice positive self-talk and watch your self-judgement and resentment towards others. Feelings are not facts – listen to the facts: there may be valid reasons to leave some tasks until after the holidays; there may be valid excuses to not visit some people. Talk to people you trust and let go of people who are not supportive of your recovery.
2. Financial pressures.
What you can do?
There is no quick fix, so try to live within your means. Before getting a loan, consider seeing a budget advisor. Many loan sharks charge exorbitant interest rates and high fees, meaning a $2000 loan could end up costing you over $5000; that is, if you pay it back on time. We don’t recommend loan sharks and if you use your credit card, try to consider how long it will take you to pay it back. There are some great ideas or ways to give meaningful gifts for little or no cost, i.e. make a craft, food, or gift a voucher for your time, such as babysitting. Avoid giving money or gambling products as a gift to someone who gambles; instead give them a gift voucher as an alternative.
3. Lack of routine.
What you can do? Plan your days so they are supportive of your recovery and maybe include a social activity. Keep yourself busy: listen to music, visit a friend, do a crossword, look for new ideas and be willing to try other things instead of gambling. Seriously consider self-exclusion from your regular gambling venues or an app or website-blocking software to block online gambling.
4. No access to counselling and a lack of support.
What you can do? Have a list of people you trust and can talk to as part of your recovery plan. Stay in touch with supportive people; attend regular self-help meetings, if possible, and make new friends. Ask for ongoing support. PGF Services duty counsellor service allows people to speak directly to a counsellor when they call our 0800 number, and during the holiday season we had counsellors available on non-statutory days. The Gambling Helpline is a 24-hour, 7 day a week service which you can also call on statutory holidays.
5. Isolation and loneliness.
What you can do?
Stay away from your old gambling venues and gambling buddies and seriously consider self-exclusion. Find other things to do with your time and make new friends. Some suggestions: join a sports team, volunteer and help others, go to a cultural event, join the gym, find a church or religious community, take an art class. If you are looking for new social connections there are ‘meet up’ apps that link people with similar interests, such as walking groups or movie nights. You may also choose to try a GA (Gamblers Anonymous) meeting. These groups are available all year round and usually don’t close over the Christmas period.
6. Casino promotions.
What you can do? Unsubscribe from promotional emails sent to you by the casino. Make plans with friends or family and again consider self-exclusion from the casino.
All you can do is keep taking small steps forward and enjoy today. Keep talking to the people you trust and believe in yourself and your recovery. Allow yourself to celebrate being free from gambling harm!
To make an appointment or talk to one of our counsellors call 0800 664 262 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Bridgitte Thornley is the National Director Counselling Services and Public Health Support at PGF Services. For more information or to contact us about this blog please email email@example.com.