How to stop gambling on your own

You can stop gambling on your own. How can you use self-help therapy to address compulsive gambling or problem gambling? Intro to the SMART Recovery formula here.

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SMART Recovery ®:  Self-Help for Independence from Problem Gambling

By Rich Dowling, MA, LPC, MAC

Are you finding yourself asking, “Why do I gamble so much? And how can I stop?”  You are not alone.

Compulsive gambling and pathological gambling are growing problems in the United States. Casinos, lotteries, and the availability of bookies are easier, faster, and more widespread.  Internet gambling impact reaches far and wide. The good news is that Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) based Professional Treatment and Self-Help models such as SMART Recovery
(Self-Management and Recovery Training) can be very helpful for gaining independence from addictions, including problem gambling.

Change your thinking, change your gambling problem

SMART Recovery is an abstinence based, self-reliance model founded on the idea that people generally feel and behave the way they think, with thinking being the one thing over which humans have most control. Therefore, with determination and persistence, people can change the way they feel and behave by changing their thinking. The mission of SMART Recovery is to assist individuals with their desire to gain independence from addictions in general through a change in their thinking about activities such as problem gambling, the common theme in addictive behavior being “irrational beliefs” (iBs).

What do addictions have in common?

I have facilitated SMART Recovery meetings attended by individuals desiring to gain independence from various problematic behaviors involving alcohol and other drugs, eating disorders and problem gambling. Some people have expressed concern they could not relate to the other issues only to find, as the meeting progressed, there was indeed common ground, resulting in similar emotional distress. Anxiety, depression, anger, guilt and shame are common “unhealthy emotions” experienced by people addicted to one or more substances and or activities.

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Call us today. You don’t need to face addiction on your own.

How do you change your thinking about gambling?

The “ABCs” of REBT (rebt[dot]org) method of solving problems (listed below as part of SMART’s 4 Point Program) is used as an effective formula for enhancing emotions and changing behavior. SMART Recovery’s 4-Point Program® offers scientifically based tools and techniques to assist an individual with:

1. Enhancing motivation to abstain from offending substances and problematic behaviors

2. Coping with urges without acting on them

3. Solving problems in a reasonable way (using ABCs of REBT)

Don’t let your loved one suffer.
Addiction responds to treatment. Call us to get started.

4. Balancing immediate desires and long-term goals. (See SMART Recovery website)

One tool in particular that relates to addictive activities (offered in The SMART Recovery Handbook) is the Cost/Benefit Analysis (CBA) Worksheet. The CBA can enhance an individual’s motivation to reduce problem behaviors by encouraging them to list the benefits of “Doing or Using;” the negative consequences of “Doing or Using;” the benefits of “NOT Doing or Using;” and the negative consequences of “NOT Doing or Using.”

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  • Access to top treatment centers
  • Compassionate guidance
  • Financial assistance options

One unique aspect of SMART Recovery is the individual is not “labeled” as an “Addict,” “Criminal,” or “Compulsive Gambler;” rather, it is the specific behavior that is identified with statements such as: The individual has committed a crime or gambles compulsively. So in reality, SMART Recovery is an empowerment program, encouraging participants to rate and judge individual behaviors, characteristics and experiences rather than their whole “being and essence” while having a sense of self-worth …simply by the fact they exist. This approach lessens the possibility of the self-fulfilling prophecy.

Studies that support this method

SMART Recovery’s potential effectiveness for assisting individuals to find relief from addictions including compulsive/pathological gambling is supported by research. While attending the National Center for Responsible Gambling Conference, co-sponsored by Harvard Medical School’s Division on Addictions and the Gaming Industry, I was introduced to research clearly showing CBT to be an effective model for assisting individuals interested in reducing problem gambling. Studies also show a correlation between alcohol, nicotine and other drugs, as well as gambling. Problematic gambling can also lead to more destructive actions such as criminal behavior (i.e., embezzlement) and, possibly, suicide.

Start your
recovery today.

If you have a problem with gambling or any other addiction, check out SMART Recovery, consider obtaining a SMART Recovery Handbook, attending a community group available in your area, or sit in on an Online SMART Recovery Group. Or contact SMART Recovery headquarters with questions, comments or to get assistance with starting a SMART Recovery Group.


Rich Dowling is a founding board member and Volunteer Advisor for SMART Recovery. He is owner of The Thought Exchange: Center for Personal Achievment, specializing in assisting individuals gain independence from addictions and create a healthier, happier, more satisfying lifestyle.  Change Your Thinking, Enhance Your Life! ®

About the author
SMART Recovery® offers free, self-empowering, science-based mutual help groups for abstaining from any substance or activity addiction. SMART stands for Self Management And Recovery Training. The SMART Recovery 4-Point Program helps people recover from all types of addictive behaviors, including alcohol, drugs, substance abuse, gambling addiction, and addiction to other substances and activities. SMART Recovery currently offers more than 650 face-to-face meetings around the world, and more than 16 online meetings per week, including a weekly online meeting for Family & Friends.Phone: 866-951-5357 OR 440-951-5357


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  1. I am trying to quit gambling. I have to do something before I loss everything. I am thinking to move back to my home country. There is not casino there.

  2. Yeah ,probably a good approach would be move yourself to a place where Casino aren’t allowed
    Or maybe work in a way to close the Casinos
    I live in Costa Rica , here i had my first experience with Casino and realize my own hell, now i am trying to freedom myself from this addiction , i tried several strategies and i failed in all
    i am trying to quit alcohol , cos normally i use to go to casino when i am drunk
    god has mercy of me

  3. I have a terrible gambling problem, it has taken over my life. Payday comes and I am broke by noon, I am in financial ruins, it is my only escape, my son in autistic, and has isolated both of us, so i escape to a machine….. no i cant stop…..dont know what to do….

  4. I need help got my check today an now I’m broke I can’t believe that I couldn’t stop what’s wrong with me even when I win I loose I’m so tried of this I’m stressed depressed an everything I can’t sleep d ont no what to do please help

  5. Hi. I have an addictive personality which has begun to affect my life in a destructive way. When I was single it was ok to drink, smoke, take drugs and gamble with little consequence to others. Now however that I’m married and have two children , my actions effect others which is unfair. Although I take drugs no longer i still drink to much and that usually leads to gambling , which hurts me and my family financially. When I’m in my drink/gamble environment I feel happy and content this is usually only brief but the opposite of a big loss and a hangover can lead to anxiety and low esteem and a feeling of loneliness. I looking for ways to break this destructive cycle.

    1. Hi Ant. You may want to call the helpline you see on the website to get in touch with a trusted treatment consultant.

  6. Hi I ve lost every thing to gambling My house I had an accident it reached a settlement everything gone now I m sweking help. Please help me

  7. I had been gambling for 5 year. I lost everything as a person. I ran out lies. I am on the verge of homeless. I can’t live with the guile and shame. My 17 year old daughter have to live through this. Please help me.

    1. Hi, Thavarat. You may call the helpline displayed on our site to get in touch with our trusted treatment providers who can help you access adequate treatment program.

  8. i have been gambling for the past 7 years and i got really bad within the past 2 years i played slots and i actually since febuary banned myself from the casino but that didnt stop me cuz then i started playing scratch offs and i lost 5,000 dollars i have not gambled in the past 3 days i am trying my hardest not to think about if ,but i have been feeling really sick over what i have done i am depressed cuz i cant believe that i did what i did its hard to control the urges ,my question is if i had the money then what am i trying to achieve to gamble and to win more just to loose it all i will never be satisfied with any amount and that makes me feel like im selfish and only care about money that is a horrible feeling

  9. i dont understand how to stop my gambling addiction the uk government play with hum men life allow bookies to rob people like me who do not have money to eat two time meal even don’t know why is gambling is so important for entertainment. criminal.

  10. Stopping gambling is the hardest thing I have tried 25years ago and I still have not managed to achieve. I have tried to up stain but temptation has made the urge so great that on every opportunity I fail and I have spent each time more than before and have less and less left, which means unless I stop it will not resolve. Helpful is not to have a car and not to get access to money – but I mention to somehow overcome this and find a lope hole. My mind is sad and wants out and wants that I stop – With help and believe in myself and confidence growing I am determine to stop this demise. – I will do it! It is day 5 !

  11. I have had enough the problem is I’ve said this 100 times. I just loss some basketball games by a basketball. I have to quit I spend about 50,000 a year,depressed,think about suescide sometimes. I need help so I started reading some of your comments

  12. Hi Juju,

    In addition to the SMART program, be sure that you Enroll in the Self -Exclusion Program from
    Whatever casino you play at. I wish I had known about this months ago! It would have saved me thousands of dollars!!
    But when I did enrolled , I felt empowered and it was the beginning of getting my life back on track .
    It means you cannot even goon the premises of the casino. No shows,coffee shop ., nothing!
    If you do , the first time security will escort you off the premises. After that you could get arrested.,
    It is a very simple form to fill out and they were very nice about it. You can sign up for 1 yesr up to a lifetime ban. It took courage to do this but I
    Felt so good afterward. And I walked out of the casino with my dignity in tact.
    Now when I get the urge, I can’t just jump in the car and drive to the casino for my gambling “fix”
    I need to divert my attention to do something else.
    It has been getting easier and easier every day and I ( and my bank account) are on the road to recovery.

  13. Hi juju. I’d suggest that you check out a SMART Recovery online meeting. I think you can find what you’re looking for in their program.

  14. Nathan, first and foremost, nobody is saying it’s easy. The first step must start with you — like with any addiction — you
    gotta be willing to quit. What I’m trying to say is, you have to take it one day at a time, and every day spent without
    gambling will get you closer toward your cure.

    I would agree with you that the belief in higher power plays a huge part in recovery, however, if you think that by getting yourself thrown in jail, you will escape the gambling, you’re wrong. I’ve seen people gamble more money from inside the walls, than on the outside. And in the end, if they don’t have money to pay, either they check into the seg, or something much worse happens, such as they get smashed or even shanked.

    There is help, but you gotta help yourself first. You gotta first realize it’s destructive to your life. For me, it worked after I reached the bottom, and then organized the “Ocean’s Eleven” style casino heist and for the first time, I had millions of dollars of casino’s money. Of course, don’t try that, but if you want to read about it, the book is called ARIZONA DREAM, and it’s coming out in about two months.

  15. FOR anyone that is reading this rubbish don’t expect me to agree with BS about recovery over gambling if you are a true gambler, I Happen to be one of those people and i research every day through blogs experiments, scientific research, also through doctors and G.A and Drug research into solving the Powerlessness of a gambler. From all my research i can say for a fact that you will not just wake up one morning and have a new brain that has never gambled. The effect is to strong that gambling has over me i don’t know about you, But the gambling is 10 fold my master. If this is true for you i have only 3 options for you that will 100% solve your gambling addiction. sounds like a lot of options right, well you be the judge.

    1. give all your money to your spouse or friend, and all your info, and get your pay to go straight into her or his account. you are never to see cash money again in your life only credit that u sign for.
    2.get your self thrown into Jail. you cant gamble from there.
    3.Force your self to believe in a higher power god or some thing. and you then believe so much that u then live by the laws of that religious outlook on life. almost like jail . most religions have over 70 laws. you change as a person in the process beware sometimes for the worse.

    none of these 3 are a fitting option for me so i continue to research,
    in the mean time i gamble like hell. information is only information.
    i only want Real answers that can be put into action. Ive dont it all so no i dont want to see a shrink or a hypnotherapyst or g.a or doctors or specialists or any government help facility. Done all those.

  16. Hello everyone! You have to be strong in your struggle with gambling.
    I know it is easier said than done, but every day without gambling,
    you are closer to your freedom. If you relapse only once, you’re back
    where you started. You gotta cut your loses and accept the fact that
    you’ll never win your money back. And even if you win a jackpot one
    day — let’s say 5 million — if you continue with your gambling lifestyle,
    within 1, 5, or 10 years, you will give everything back and much, much
    You gotta know there is only one way to beat the casino. Don’t

  17. Hi Erica. Yay! Hooray for the positive changes you continue to make. Also, check out SMART Recovery. Their program is wonderful (and free!) and may be a good match for a self-started like you.

  18. Thank you for your feedback and I agree, a therapist will be a good thing. I was seeing someone at a problem gamblers center that did not take my insurance, oddly I could aford the 123.00/hr then but certainly can’t now. I will check my insurance and see if there is anyone in my network specific to gambling addiction or just addiction. For know I am focusing on daily meditation, returning to yoga and walks in the woods when possible. I have set up my extra bedroom as a ” meditation studio” for some peace. Also, looking at my checking account daily and seeing even a small balance rather than overdraft is helping. I know it will take me months to get to where I can “extra money” but as least now I have something. My husband says he is proud of me which is nice, hesays he wants to try to stop as well but I feel by saying try he is not committing. As I look at his account I see ATM withdrawls for a couple hundred dollars and when I ask he says he is gambling just a little. I’m not commenting as I know it doesn’t help but I feel disaster on the horizon for us.
    Jeff’s comment about missing experiencing life are so true. The time wasted in side a dark smoking controlled environment is time I will never get back. Also, the depression that follows those hours is overwheming and takes away any desire to enjoy my personal environment. Jeff, thanks for the kudos. It’s Sunday morning, cool and clear and I’m off for a hike with my best friend, a big black lab.

  19. Hi Erica. Sounds like a good plan. And you may want to see a therapist again to strengthen your commitment to life without gambling, as well as explore the underlying issues that compel you to gamble. Counselors are there when we need them….and going to therapy can be a lifelong process.

  20. So today is payday and as I divvy up my check I see that I will have very little left as we are so far behind so I’m a bit depressed about that, infact I won’t be able to get all caught up but it’s a start. I’m leaving myself enough for food and gas for 2 weeks. I live in calif. and drive into nevada past many, many casinos. Of course my thought now is the classic” I can win”! Hah, I recognize that I use gambling as a stress release, its so mind numbing to sit in front of a video poker machine for hours, easy to dissappear. I am remembering the horrible feeling I get when all is gone. Moving forward …

  21. Wow Erica… That is amazing… I can assure you that it will not be Monday morning when you are going to be proud of yourself. Be proud of yourself NOW. Imagine in the morning how great you are going to feel and then the same Sunday morning… Celebrate your success a few years ago and that will make you even stronger this time… For me it is not about the money as I have been very blessed financially, for me it is about being in control… We all work so hard for our money and I am sure not going to give it to someone else while they sit behind there desk or fly around in their private jet they bought with your hard earned money. Keep in touch Erica and I can’t wait to here your success stories from this weekend!!!! Go see a movie with a girlfriend!! Possibly attend Church.. Just stay busy!!!! Proud of you for sure!!!!

  22. A few years ago I did attend 1:1 therapy at an gambler addiction center and I was succsessful for awhile then fell back. I am now on day 6 of abstinence and with payday around the corner I am making my game plan to get through the weekend. I have my bills ready to pay on friday morning and know how much I will have left over. When I look at it on paper I can see how much I can save or spend. This is the first time I have laid my finances out to see. I am planning my time off with productive things, mapping the hours into a time line. I know my husband is not happy that I will not join him at his work this weekend(musician in a casino) and I hope he will come to understand my focus. He too is a gambler and I’m sorry he has to work in that environment but now I feel the resolve to succeed and I need to maintain this feeling. I know that when Monday comes I will be proud and have gas money! I will have the dough to get back to yoga, at least twice a week at my favorite studio. I keep these thoughts in the front of my brain. I need to feel good. thank, you for your communication.

  23. Everyone, I am in no way trying to preach to you. I quit gambling several years ago and quit smoking/drinking 3 months ago. While I am very financially successful I felt like life had no meaning. I knew I needed to quit smoking and drinking but didn’t really want to quit. When both my heart and mind decided to quit the battle was on. I can honestly tell you God has given me the strength to quit and I give him all the glory. You work so hard for your money only to make the casino richer. Oh I know the fun, the social enviroment, the excitement, the possibility of winning is engraved in your mind. You have to find other passions in life. Healthy ones. There is so much out there to experience. Can you imagine how awesome it would be for you to be the one helping others who are addicted to gambling. You be the one telling them how great your life is now!!! I tell you from the heart there is only one way to be totally satisfied and that is if you have God in the center of your life… The battle is already won!!!!!

  24. Hi Erica. Have you thought about consulting a gambling hotline when it’s payday? Planning ahead can help. But for chronic gambling disorders, it’s really best to see a psychotherapist who can provide you with some understanding of WHERE the compulsion comes from and how to control it. Are you interested in therapy?

  25. I, too have lost a furtune, not millions but enough to eat up my retirement , head towrds bankruptcy, owe thousands in back taxes and not be able to help out my kids. I makea generous salaey and am always broke. Now,I am on day 5 of not gambling only becasue I have not been to a casino. No problem casue I’m broke. This weekedn is a payday so the callenge begins

  26. I have an addictive personality , first im attending narcotic anonymous meetings the narcotic problem is not that bad but it still exists, i was told that if you are addicted to one thing , its easy to be addicted to something else and my biggest problem is gambling, even when i win i put most of the money back in the machine, , i live in las vegas and theres no shortage of places to gamble
    any advise you could give me to stop would be appreciated, i dont have time to go to both narcotics anonymous and gambling anonymous , is there things i could do on my own or with online support to stop throwing my money away
    thanks in advance for anything you could help me with

  27. Get into Gamblers’ Anonymous as soon as possible. There is no other way for a true compulsive gambler to achieve recovery.

  28. Hi Athlene. Help is available if you are willing to ask and seek it. I’d suggest that you start by reading about gambling compulsion, and learn more about the disorder. You can check for books online, and even order then in electronic versions to get them ASAP. Then, I suggest that you consider seeking help with a certified counselor who specializes in compulsive disorders like gambling. A counselor can help guide you to make decisions that are healthy for you (and your loved ones) and to create a plan for treatment that you can work on over time. Finally, have you considered looking into support groups like Gamblers Anonymous?

    It will not happen overnight, but you can get better if you work on yourself!

  29. I’ve lost $2.5 million dollars to gambling, all on line at TD Ameritrade, now I have a long term illness, I gave ou my disability policy in order to get $700,000. Guess what, I lost that too. I am depressed and scared that I might loose my house. I feel guilty because I can’t help my children enough for college.


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