Recovering from a gambling disorder takes time and there is no overnight solution. The impact this can have on affected others is devastating. It may be the case that your family member is not be ready to stop gambling just yet. To them gambling may have been ‘the something’ that they perceive is missing from their life and if this case whatever you say or do may have little or no impact at all.
However, by having a better understanding of how your family member may be feeling it may help you as you look to support them. The Cycle of Change identifies 6 stages of change a person may experience in the challenge they face to overcome their gambling disorder.
Stage 1 – Pre-contemplation: Despite your best efforts your family member may not appear to show a willingness to give up gambling or may not even see it as a problem. Do not blame yourself and do not get into any unnecessary confrontations. Start to look at the ’12 Things to Do’ guide and do your reading around Stage 1. This may help you to develop your understanding of a gambling disorder.
Stage 2 – Contemplation: Your family member may have acknowledged to themselves and maybe to others that there is a problem. Even though they may not be fully committed to giving up gambling they are now becoming more aware about the dangers of a gambling disorder. This is often referred to as the ambivalence stage and they may start to see that their behaviour has negative consequences. Your family member may have also started to develop a love/hate relationship with their gambling. Continue to review the ’12 Things to Do’ section and start to look at the strategies and small changes that you could start to make.
Stage 3 – Preparation: Your family member may have started to accept responsibility to change their behaviour. They may have even started to have thoughts what life beyond gambling might look like and more importantly may have started to make plans on how to get there. Encourage where you can and appreciate that the desire to stop gambling ultimately has to be their decision but that you will be there to support whenever you are needed.
Stage 4 – Action: This is where the plans your family member have made start to become reality. They are still at a very early stage of their recovery but being able to recognise their willingness and possible enthusiasm may help you to recognise the journey they are on. Keep reviewing the ’12 Things to Do’ guide to see if there are any further strategies you can introduce now that your family member has started to engage.
Stage 5 – Maintenance: Your family member will have been gamble free for approximately 6 months. You may have started to notice a positive difference in their attitude and behaviour. Be prepared for mood swings and just because they are having a bad day doesn’t mean they are tempted to or have gambled again. Try to refrain from asking them if they are okay or trying to over analyse a situation. This will just make matters worse and you will just end up suffering from a bout of unnecessary anxiety. It is important to remain supportive and encourage where you can.
Stage 6 – Termination: In this stage, people will have been gamble free for an extended period of time and will have no day-to-day desire to gamble again. Most people remain in the maintenance stage and if they stop engaging in the behaviours that keep them in recovery, then the chance of a relapse increases. A person can have a slip, immediately regret it and get back on track and doesn’t necessarily mean there will be a full-blown return to gambling but you must be mindful that any relapse can have negative consequences for your family member. It is also worth noting that If at any time your family member did relapse and gamble again you will be in a better position to not only spot it but to understand it too. A relapse may might not be through gambling but through substance misuse or another process addiction like shopping for example. The same must be said for the affected other too. The strategies that you have learnt and the barriers you have put in place are there to protect everyone so do keep doing the things that have worked to support you reaching the termination stage.
James Prochaska – Changing for Good
Carlo C DiClemente – Addiction and Change