Tonight is the NCAA National Championship basketball game and it can be a great time to relax and hang out with your friends and family members. However, for those who may be struggling with a gambling addiction, the game can also bring anxiety. Nearly 24 million Americans bet at some point during this year’s tournament, and many of them may be in need of help and guidance. While the act of betting on the game seems harmless enough, it can be a trigger in the same way that being around alcohol-centered activities can make an alcoholic to want to drink.
It is still possible to enjoy tonight’s game and keep gambling in check. Start with these tips:
- Write it down. Think of three to five reasons why it is important to you to keep your gambling under control – then write them down and read them to yourself when the urge to gamble strikes.
- Lean on your support system. Keep emergency numbers handy, whether that’s your 12-step sponsor, counselor, or a friend, in case you have an urge to bet. The Problem Gambling Helpline (1-800-589-9966) and Crisis Text Line (text 4hope to 741741) are also available.
- If possible, avoid any triggers. This can include sports bars, gatherings at friends’ houses, or even office get-togethers, if you know they will be focused on sports betting.
- Avoid alcohol or drugs. Mind-altering substances can greatly lower your inhibitions, making you less likely to resist gambling.
- Attend an extra meeting. If you’re following a 12-step program, this is the perfect time to surround yourself with others who are also struggling with the temptation of the tournament and to pick up some new coping strategies. Visit Gamblers Anonymous to find a meeting near you.
- Keep Gambling Out of the Equation. You can also find non-gambling ways to enjoy the games, like inviting friends over for a potluck party or heading outside to play some one-on-one basketball, no betting allowed.
If just watching the game is a trigger for you, then use this time to run errands, catch up with an old friend or start some spring cleaning.