I recently attended some amateur boxing matches at the ONE Fitness Center in Elgin, IL. The announcer did a great job of getting the crowd pumped up. At one point, she led the crowd in chanting “I”, “I believe,” “I believe that,” “I believe that we will win.” Sometimes the energy we call upon to push through pain, to dig deep and keep fighting, is truly miraculous. But can we apply that same drive to fighting problem gambling, when we realize that gambling is hurting us? Yes, we can.
It can sometimes be easier to stay stuck in bad patterns. My coach used to correct us all the time. He said “practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” Meaning, if you practice the wrong thing over and over again, you’re going to do that in the ring because you’ve ingrained that bad habit. I’ve seen people who get in the habit of dropping their hands, adjusting their headgear or cup, while hitting the bags and sparring. It gives them a couple of seconds to catch their breath and ease muscles that are burning. But what it also does is this. They drop their hands, adjust their headgear, cup or whatever in an actual match. Do you think their opponent thinks “oh, no problem. Just take care of that real quick. I’ll give you a sec.”? Heck no! They see their opening and go in for the K.O. punch.
So, back to my point. It can be hard to put down a behavior that’s become ingrained, even when we know we need to. Whether its alcohol, cocaine, over-eating, video gaming or gambling, those patterns can be hard to break. The good (no, great) news is this: you CAN fight problem gambling. To break these patterns, we need to establish new patterns. People and places and things that contribute to disordered gambling? Avoid these. Replace them with people, places, and things (and even thoughts) that are not compatible with gambling. Believe it or not, it can feel like running through water. For example: go to the gym when you would usually gamble; keep your phone turned off during sporting events you would usually use a sports wagering app during; tell yourself “I’ve decided not to gamble anymore, and I’m going to stick to it.” Over and over, and over again. Go to Gamblers Anonymous or SMART Recovery meetings to get support and advice from other people making changes in their lives. Slowly those new patterns take hold and get stronger. Old patterns are weakened and atrophy.
So, remember. Perfect practice makes perfect. Lay down some new pathways in your brain. Keep bobbing and weaving as unexpected turns come your way. Tell yourself: “I”, “I believe,” “I believe that,” “I believe that we will win.” You CAN fight problem gambling.