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Gambling Addiction: Is going cold turkey your best bet?

Updated: May 16, 2023

Written by Germaine Lee

Some say that abstinence (‘cold turkey’) is the best way to get rid of an addiction. “Just stop gambling,” they say. But is that enough? Does it really work?

Surprising as it may seem, "just quit" is not the answer to gambling addiction. After all, multiple failed attempts to quit is a defining trait of an addiction. Self-help often does not suffice. Without proper intervention, gambling addiction can spiral into devastating consequences such as heavy debts and family crisis.

Top 5 factors in recovering from gambling addiction

In 2021, our team of counsellors conducted a survey with 85 former clients—ranging from 25 to 74 years old—who struggled with gambling addiction. These are the top 5 factors on how they managed to walk out of addiction:

(1) Counselling. “Attending individual and group counselling” emerged as the top factor for success. Through working with our counsellors, our clients managed to meet their recovery goals, including staying away from gambling for at least a year, with a handful succeeding for 10 years and counting.

(2) Peer support group. Many cited attending a peer support group as a key factor in their recovery. Participants in the support group encourage each other, keep one another accountable and share practical tips on how to manage gambling urges. Doing it together—and knowing that you are not alone—can be a tremendous strength for recovery.

(3) Family and social support system. Good family and social support remains essential for many recovering from addiction. Being in a positive and supportive environment encourages them to persevere and become better versions of themselves for their loved ones.

(4) Facing my problems courageously and making amends. Many clients found it important to have an inner resolve for change, including taking ownership of their problems and making amends for their mistakes. Such determination helped them to face the addiction head-on and overcome it with time.

(5) Spiritual beliefs. Spiritual and religious beliefs play an essential role in helping many of our clients resist the urge to fall back into old habits, and to see themselves in a new and better light.

The journey of overcoming gambling addiction can be difficult and daunting at times, but it is not impossible. And it doesn’t have to be a lonely one. Getting proper help and being open to support from loved ones is already half the battle won, and you can be certain that it will only get better from here.

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