So you\u2019ve fallen off the wagon, so to speak, and gone back to gambling. This isn\u2019t the end of the world, although it feels like a major setback. Experts in treating gambling addiction say that relapse is common \u2013 but you can learn valuable lessons from it and come out stronger on the other side. Learn to Identify Triggers When relapse occurs, it\u2019s due to some type of trigger or stimuli that you react to. These stimuli may be places where you always went to gamble, or people you associated with during gambling. It could be the emotional state of mind you were in or the thoughts you had at the time that triggers your repetition of ritualistic gambling behavior patterns. You need to identify these relapse triggers and the accompanying intense emotions they create before you can do anything about them. Accept that Triggers Will Always Occur It\u2019s important to recognize and accept that relapse triggers will never completely disappear. There\u2019s nothing you can possibly do to prevent every possible situation, thought, emotion or person that triggers your urge to gamble again. Just recognizing and accepting this fact is empowering. It gives you the power to move forward to the next step in your recovery. Yes, despite the fact that you relapsed, you are still in recovery. You will always be in recovery. And you will get stronger every day. What to Do Instead of Fighting Triggers Gamblers in recovery spend an inordinate amount of time fighting relapse triggers. This is counter-productive to their recovery. When you work so hard against something occurring, what happens? Your mind and body are in a constant state of alert, the \u201cfight-or-flight\u201d reaction. Sooner or later, this takes a tremendous toll in your emotional health and physical well-being. Sooner or later, without the proper tools, tactics and coping mechanisms, you\u2019re bound to relapse again. Instead of fighting these triggers, recognize them for what they really are \u2013 an opportunity to create new perceptions and look on them as opportunities for your personal growth. Opportunities for personal growth development include learning the skills to manage your life, gaining confidence in your ability to manage your life, and creating values that you choose to live by. Develop Awareness What will help, and help immensely, is to develop an emotional awareness, responsible decision-making skills, moderate your perceptions and have a clear sense of what is of personal value to you. Part of this awareness, according to gambling addiction treatment experts, is the knowledge that triggers are really an internal response and not external stimuli. Sure, you see a person or a place which you associate with gambling, but that\u2019s just it. It isn\u2019t the person or place, but the feelings the stimuli generate within you that cause the potential for relapse. Early Stages of Recovery Gambling recovery approaches recommend various methods and steps to follow. Most begin with simple recognition and move forward from there. \tRecognize and Accept Your Past \u2013 You are here now, and you did some pretty bad things or engaged in some self-destructive behavior in the past. Let go of the guilt and shame you feel or felt over your past so that you can take the necessary steps to progress in your recovery. This helps you to develop self awareness and new personal values. \tTaking Responsibility and Making Amends - Take responsibility for your past actions, however difficult or painful that may be. This means that you acknowledge how much you have hurt others by your gambling actions, possibly sabotaging your personal relationships and causing inordinate harm to others. You have to commit yourself to making the tough changes that you\u2019ll need to in order to remain in recovery. Once you take responsibility, you have to make amends for your actions. This involves making a list of all those whom you have hurt \u2013 and it may go back decades. Don\u2019t think of the amends list as a one-time task. It will be an ongoing responsibility. In order to be effective, you need to take the appropriate time to fully express yourself to that person. Making amends is not about you, it\u2019s about repairing the damage that you have done to others. \tRespect Others When Making Amends \u2013 Although you may have your list, you need to consider what and how to make amends and to whom. Start with those you have hurt the most. But before you rush out to say you\u2019re sorry, consider whether or not contact with that individual or individuals will cause more harm than good. In some cases, they are better left alone. Respect the personal circumstances of others and only approach them to make amends if to do so will benefit them \u2013 not you. \tBe Sincere When Making Amends \u2013 This is crucial. You can\u2019t hope to move forward in your recovery unless and until you are sincere in making amends to those whom you\u2019ve hurt. Of course, you can\u2019t control how your attempt to make amends will be received by others. You can, however, control your intentions in making amends. Don\u2019t think that you can swoop in and fix what you have done. Just be sincere in offering to help repair the relationship. If your attempts are rejected, it\u2019s time to accept that fact and move on in your recovery. \tAccept Who You Are Now \u2013 Early in recovery, it\u2019s tough to see the positives, especially after many years of gambling addiction or some very self-destructive behavior and consequences for that behavior. Your inclination is to downplay any forward momentum you have achieved thus far in your recovery. And relapse looks to many recovering gambling addicts like a failure. It shouldn\u2019t be. Early recovery is all about building a foundation for the rest of your life. It doesn\u2019t happen overnight, and there will be stumbling blocks. Accept it and move forward. \tCreate a Blueprint, a Vision for your Future \u2013 Each recovering gambling addict needs a goal, a plan for the future. It doesn\u2019t have to be set in stone, however, as plans and situations change over time. New opportunities will present themselves, ones that you should allow yourself to take advantage of. When things get tough, you feel depressed or that you haven\u2019t accomplished as much as you\u2019d like, return to this goal, this blueprint or plan for your future. It will remind you that you have objectives to strive for and will help you regain your self-confidence and stability. \tLearn How to Make Healthy Decisions \u2013 Your decision-making skills are something that you will need to work on. In the past, you\u2019ve made some very poor decisions based on self-interest and selfishness, giving into cravings and hurting others \u2013 and yourself. Those were compulsive decisions that were based purely on emotion. In contrast, healthy decisions require good personal values. In order to develop your healthy decision-making skills, you need to work on creating strong personal values. Learn to think ahead to the long-term consequences of your actions \u2013 what will happen if you do or don\u2019t do a particular action \u2013 before you engage in that behavior. Thinking of your actions in relation to your personal values will help you avoid indulging in instant gratification responses that got you into trouble with gambling in the past. \tLearn to Identify Options \u2013 This takes some time to do, but it\u2019s critically important in your recovery. You need to be able to identify available options. Things aren\u2019t just black and white. You don\u2019t have to succumb to triggers just because they occur. How this works is as follows: \tIdentify options \tFilter them through your personal values that you\u2019ve created \tThink about the consequences of doing or not doing the option \tDecide what you\u2019re going to do \tPost-action, go over the wisdom of your choice \u2013 and learn from it \tRecognize That Rebuilding Trust Takes Time \u2013 Those closest to you have probably been hurt the most by your gambling addiction. Your relationship with your spouse or significant other, children, family members and friends may have been damaged almost beyond repair. In the event that a continuing relationship is desired, the all-important matter of trust is an area that will take many months to rebuild. There\u2019s only one way to do this. You have to show by your actions that you are worthy of trust. You need to stick to your new beliefs, your plan of action. Do what you say and say what you mean. Consistencies of your actions will gradually, and eventually, help you to rebuild the trust you need in your relationships. And, you need trust in order to continue in your recovery. Above all, you need to learn to trust yourself. This may be excruciatingly difficult for you to do at first, since you haven\u2019t had much luck in the past being true to yourself. But it\u2019s time to start now. Take it day by day, and step by step. \tKeep Life in Balance \u2013 When things get all out of kilter, it\u2019s easy to allow the stress to take over and give into the urge to gamble. An antidote to this is to create balance in your life. Have a healthy mix of work and leisure time. Make plans with the family and friends. Do things for others without expectation of anything in return. Make a daily schedule of your activities, if that will help. Yes, you can schedule in free time \u2013 time to take a walk, enjoy a hobby, go to a movie or out to dinner with your spouse\/significant other or close friend. Just be sure your choices are responsible ones and not those that will lead to negative consequences. As for health, get regular exercise. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and whole-grain foods. Drink lots of water. Stay away from too much caffeine, and avoid liquor and nicotine since they can also make you tense. \tHandle Things as They Come \u2013 Don\u2019t anticipate problems. Handle day-to-day situations as they come. Keep a positive outlook and don\u2019t let pressure to achieve certain results push you into actions that are counter-productive to your overall plan. \tBelieve in Yourself \u2013 You\u2019ve come a long way since first entering treatment and, now, in recovery. You need to believe in yourself and your ability to create and live the life you desire. With a solid plan, development of new perceptions, better decision-making and rebuilding trust in your relationships, you have every right and possibility to make your dreams a reality. \tTalk with Counselor, Family and Friends \u2013 Whenever you feel you\u2019re at a crossroads or need help, talk with your counselor, therapist, family and\/or friends. Attend a 12-step meeting to get reinforcement and support from others who have been in the same situation. Remember, the first 90 days of recovery, according to gambling addiction treatment experts, is when 2\/3 of relapses occur. After that time, the newly-accumulated skills and coping mechanisms you\u2019ve developed, and your new quality of life in recovery will help solidify your ability and confidence. So, after relapse, now you have the opportunity to take what\u2019s happened, learn from it, and move forward. Believe you can do it, because you can.