The holidays can be a minefield for those recovering from compulsive gambling disorders. An invitation to Thanksgiving dinner at a favorite uncle's house can become an opportunity to bet on a football game, and the end of a delicious dinner at a favorite aunt's house can turn into a low stakes card game as soon as the dinner table is cleared off.
Is it even possible to avoid gambling triggers when they're presented to us by well-meaning friends and family at almost every holiday?
The answer is yes. You can successfully navigate those holiday minefields if you are armed with the knowledge and the tools that a compulsive gambling rehabilitation program can give you.
Being proactive in advance can help you reduce stress and avoid gatherings where there may be triggers. For example, be very selective about the invitations that you accept for Thanksgiving and other events during the holiday season.
When you receive an invitation, don't be afraid to ask about the other invited guests. Also ask about planned activities. There may be betting on sports or playing cards planned after dinner, and you will want to avoid those stressful situations.
Arriving late and leaving early will also give you the best chance of avoiding landmines, especially if you have only recently begun your road to recovery from a gambling disorder. You can still enjoy sharing the turkey and the camaraderie of your family and friends, but being informed can help you avoid any of the trigger activities that sometimes follows a meal, such as sports betting or even a "friendly" game of cards. Don't feel that you must avoid the celebrations of the season because you are in recovery, just make sure that you are informed about your options.
Additionally, it is important to have a plan so that if you feel tempted to slip, you have someone supportive of recovery that you can call immediately, such as a member of your gambling support group or a certified gambling counselor.
Family get-together's can be stressful occasions, and for someone recovering from compulsive gambling who may have tarnished their relationships with family and friends, the holidays can be akin to a high-stress battle zone. You may feel guilt and shame among people that you have previously lied to or borrowed money from, who now seem uncomfortable with you because of unresolved issues.
But this year, focus on the moment during your holiday get-togethers, not on the baggage of the past. Find joy in the company of others, and count your blessings - that's what Thanksgiving is all about.