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The holidays can be a difficult season to navigate if you are currently recovering from a gambling disorder, especially due to our current state of isolation. Here are some common relapse triggers and tips on how you can avoid them.

1. Stress

This is the most common reason for relapse, since many people who previously coped with stress by spending their time gambling, now do not know where to turn. You may feel tempted to gamble as an attempt to earn some extra money if you are feeling stressed financially; however, this can lead to a slippery slope of more and more gambling.

  • To avoid relapsing due to stress, first identify why you are feeling stressed, and then explore new ways to de-stress. This could be done through cooking, painting, exercising, meditating or another activity that you enjoy doing.

2. Loneliness & boredom

This year may be especially isolating for many, due to the effects of COVID-19. You may find yourself more bored and lonely than usual, and it is important that you recognize this and try to keep busy to avoid the temptation to gamble. 

  • Lean on your support system: If you are struggling with temptations to relapse, tell meditationsomeone. Know that you do not have to try to manage this on your own, and admitting that you are struggling does not make you weak. Try to stay as connected with loved ones as much as possible. If you are unable to be with your loved ones in person over the holiday season, try to interact with them over FaceTime or Zoom as much as possible to stay connected. If there are any virtual Gamblers Anonymous meetings happening, try to join one of those. Many counselors also are offering remote sessions at this time. As always, we are also here to support you during this difficult time, and would welcome a phone conversation with you.

3. Easy access to apps/online gambling

These days, it is easier than ever to gamble. You don't have to leave the house... you don't even have to leave your bed. 

  • As much as possible, avoid tempting situations: if you still have gambling apps on your phone, or websites bookmarked on your computer, eliminate those from your devices so that they aren’t as readily available. If you can’t rely on yourself not to click on these apps or websites, try having someone hold you accountable. Maybe you would have them keep your phone for you for until a certain time of day, or block your credit cards.

4. Overconfidence

Just because you have not gambled for some time, does not make you invincible to the temptations of relapsing. You could be feeling particularly lucky one day and decide to head down to the casino. If you’re into sports betting, you could be thinking, “I know for certain that this team will win the game,” and set a bid on that team. Or you could be thinking, “I’ll just spend $50 and then I’ll quit” but that $50 could end up leading to hundreds more.

  • Set your intentions at the start of each day: Writing your goals down on a piece of paper makes it more likely that you will achieve that goal. Even if they are simple, every day goals, it helps to have a set plan on what you want to accomplish. Create a list of things that you are grateful for.

Remember that a relapse is not a failure, and despite our best efforts, sometimes we fall short. If recovery was easy, everyone would do it. Instead of giving up after a relapse, try to decipher which emotions or situations led you to relapse so that you know how to effectively handle them in the future. Evaluate the reasons why you gamble, and know that if you were able to quit gambling once (even for just a short time), you can certainly do it again. If you need support during this time, please do not hesitate to contact us.


Topics: Gambling Addiction, Recovery, relapse, holidays

Rick Benson

Written by Rick Benson

Rick founded Algamus Recovery Centers in 1992. A Cornell University graduate, Rick is an Internationally Certified Gambling Counselor (ICGC-II) and a Canadian Problem Gambling Counselor (CPGC). Algamus and Rick were featured on the very first episode of Intervention on the A&E channel.