For most people who gamble, the process of making a real, lasting change takes time. They may make the decision to quit or reduce their gambling in an instant, but the journey towards a life of freedom and control requires commitment, support, and a willingness to keep trying—even when they slip up.
If you’re considering making a change to your gambling, take a look at these five stages of progress that most people go through. Because when you know where you’re going—and what to expect along the way—it’s that much easier to get there:
Stage 1: Not ready to change
At this stage, your friends or family may have told you that you have a gambling problem. But you’re not ready to think about changing, talk about stopping, or work with a pro.
You may be feeling stressed and anxious about losing money, but you continue gambling to try to win it all back. Gambling is constantly on your mind. You might feel guilty about your gambling behaviors, but you don’t see it as a real problem.
Many people spend years, even decades, at this stage before they’re ready to make a change.
Stage 2: You’re ready to consider making changes
You now realize the negative impact gambling is having on your life. You see how it hurts your relationships, finances, and priorities, but you don’t know how to move forward. You’ll talk about making a change, but you’re not ready to act.
At this point, you may be considering stopping gambling on your own, joining a Gamblers Anonymous group, or working with a professional counselor. You’re beginning to realize a life free from gambling-related problems is possible for you, as soon as you take that first step.
Stage 3: You make a plan to change
At this point, you’ve recognized that gambling is negatively impacting your life, you’ve decided you’re ready to change, and you’re willing to plan how to make that change. Being willing to make the plan is a huge step forward. Now, managing your gambling isn’t just something your loved ones tell you to do—you’re willing to make this change yourself.
You might even start setting simple boundaries, like limiting how much time and money you spend gambling. Depending on the change you see for yourself, you may even consider taking a short break from gambling to reevaluate your priorities.
Stage 4: You start making meaningful changes
In this stage, you take the first significant step forward towards a new lifestyle. You’re willing to admit that gambling has been a real problem in your life, but you’ve decided you won’t let it keep controlling you. You’re ready to take bigger steps, like stopping or reducing your gambling. You may even ask your friends and family to help you make these changes and support your new behaviors.
At this stage, you might slip up from time to time. These back steps will be frustrating, but you’ve experienced the freedom and relief that comes from not gambling, so you’re willing to keep moving forward.
Stage 5: You’ve regained full control of your life
In this final stage of progress, you have successfully changed your gambling and are enjoying your new freedom. You’ve decided to stop gambling for six months or more, you are able to focus on other priorities, and your relationships are improving.
You may still slip up and gamble from time to time, but you’ve built solid habits and self-confidence that allow you to get right back on track. With every slip-up, you learn how to better control your gambling and keep moving forward.
No matter which stage you find yourself in, making a change and solidifying your progress is easier with the help of a professional.
When you work with a NPGAP certified problem gambling professional, you have built-in support through every stage of change. Here’s how our free counseling program works:
You and your counselor will build a progress plan you’re comfortable with.
Your counselor will help you stay on track through each stage of the process and teach you new skills to manage your gambling. They’ll also offer extra support and services when you need them.
Over time, you’ll get better and better at controlling your gambling until it’s no longer hurting you or your friends and family.
Of the people who chose to work with a professional here at NPGAP, a full 80% saw progress within just six sessions. With an individualized plan, supportive counselor, measurable progress, and resources, you too can make changes that stick.
Every person has the ability to change their gambling. But why go it alone?
Working with a NPGAP professional is free and confidential. Call the hotline 1-833-BETOVER (238-6837) to change your gambling or get information to help your loved one.