Guest blogger Steve considers how important it is to address underlying assumptions when tackling a problem with gambling.
As part of my recovery, I’ve been examining some of my ‘underlying assumptions’. I considered when my now wife and I first started attending events as a couple.
The usual pattern was that I would be ready to go in plenty of time, and would end up pacing up and down with racing heart, sweaty palms and convinced that we would be late and that the evening was ruined. Then my wife would casually walk down the stairs and cheerily ask “Are we ready?”
Ready?! Was she taking the mickey, I’d been ready for ages! The subsequent car or taxi ride would be frosty, despite us both wanting to go to whatever the event was, and both wanting to enjoy it.
This was happening every time we went somewhere together, and although I tried to adjust my thinking to ‘don’t worry about it, we will get there but we will be a bit late, its fine’, there were still occasions when I could feel myself getting angry.
Over time, I realised I needed to examine the underlying assumptions we both had.
Growing up, I was always taught that we needed to leave early (in case of traffic) as being late is disrespectful. On the other hand, my wife was always told that no one should arrive early to a party, as it gives the host more time to get things ready. Both of our underlying assumptions wanted to show respect to the host, but both were very different.
Understanding each other’s underlying assumptions was key. I now knew that my wife wasn’t trying to annoy me or be disrespectful at all. She knew that I was getting worked up because I thought it was rude to be late. We now agree on a time to leave and everyone is happy!
You’re thinking – that’s great, but what does it have to do with problem gambling or recovery? Well, I applied the same method to my assumptions about gambling…
When I was growing up, my family would pop into the amusement arcade and I would play on the slot machines. It was always fun, and a few of my friends even had fruit machines at home that were fun to play and would let you feel carefree for a short while.
Now later in life and experiencing work stress, I feel that I accepted those ‘free spins’ to relieve it – it had been fun before, this was no different, right? Not quite. Gambling should never be approached as an answer to your problems, whether financial or otherwise.
Gambling only added to my stress – as with other addictions, you seek out the thing which is, in fact, making your life worse. My addiction spanned three years and I even stole to fund it.
I have since wrote down a list of the good things gambling has done for me, and another list of the bad things gambling has done – I call it my ‘Scales of Reality’, and GamCare has something similar available to help you list out the advantages and disadvantages of stopping gambling. Be honest!
For me, the negatives were vast and far outweighed the positives! The reality is that gambling for me is not fun, and now that my underlying assumptions have disappeared, I am more secure in my recovery. Think about your underlying assumptions too, and how they may affect your relationship with gambling.