10 Personal Challenges With Better Odds Than Gambling

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      “Compulsive Gambling is when an individual is unable to control their desire to gamble. A compulsive gambler will continue to make wagers regardless of how often or how much they win or lose.” –Aaron Sternlicht, LMHC, CASAC

         Compulsive gambling problems can arise for all sorts of reasons. No two cases are exactly alike, since we’re all individuals with our own life stories. For some, a need for money leads to losing big. For others, it’s a predisposition toward addictive behavior that drives us into debt. Another common cause, however, is simply a love for the game. If you’ve built an enthusiasm for constructing the best hands in poker and calculating the greatest odds in roulette, there’s a pretty good chance you crave creative outlets that challenge you to go boldly. Here are ten alternative strategies to scratching that itch without breaking the bank.


            Anyone who’s ever baked a quiche knows what a challenge cooking can be. Eat great food and impress all your guests by upping your culinary game. Invest in sous vide appliances and start learning how to prepare delicious melt-in-your-mouth steaks. Once you have a handle on the hard stuff, show off your finest fare at local competitions. Maybe you can make it to the finals!

“Cooking helps mental health in that it can be a creative outlet. It’s a way to channel energy, can be used as a distraction, help build mastery in a skill, and a way to express emotions through a different medium.” –Counselor Nicole Lambert

Reading and Writing

            Reading, in and of itself, isn’t difficult. But reading all kinds of genres? Gaining sagely knowledge on the world around you? And then applying what you’ve learned by way of presenting your own material? Now that’s tricky. There’s money to be made in self-publishing, so why not write about your life and the struggles you’ve endured? Who knows, maybe you’ll give hope to someone who’s presently going through a gambling addiction of their own.


            Just because you’re too old for varsity doesn’t mean you can’t still kick the ball. Gather your co-workers and organize a company softball team. Call up some friends for a neighborhood soccer extravaganza. Channel those competitive urges of yours in a more productive fashion and earn bragging rights if you win.


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            There are plenty of games out there which don’t involve purchasing chips and tokens. Schedule a monthly board game night where your expert financial forecasts can translate to a big game of Monopoly and your military background gives you an edge at Risk. Or get a group going for trivia night at that swanky bar downtown. You can even pick up a dedicated gaming console and impress your friends at Street Fighter. Whatever floats your boat.

Martial Arts

            Speaking of fighting, have you ever thought about going back for that black belt in karate? Most towns and cities have at least a few options for disciplined fitness through the martial arts. From kung fu to tae kwon do, tai chi to Brazilian kickboxing, there’s so much fun to be had. Take your competitive spirit to the next level and participate in tournaments when you’re ready.


            Maybe fitness sounds fun but you’d rather not restrict yourself to forms and stances. There’s bound to be a gym nearby, so maybe your next big hobby rests in massive biceps. The web is full to bursting with information on how to plan your total body makeover, and it will take careful planning to enrich your core strength.

The Stock Market

            This one comes with a disclaimer: if you’re worried you’re not ready to make big decisions with your finances yet as you recover from a gambling addiction, it’s best to steer clear of this option for now. Otherwise, why not spend some time researching trends in the market and putting your money somewhere with better odds for success? You’ll be playing into many of the same mental strategizing as you might have done in blackjack, but on a grander, somewhat safer scale.

Starting a Business

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            Similar to stocks, you’ll want to veer clear of this if you’re in need of rebuilding financially. Once things are back in order, though, you can consider the benefits of starting a business completely from scratch. Watch a few seminars online, meet with people who have pulled it off, and carve out a niche for your town’s economy. From coffee shops to construction firms, there’s always something we can strive to create.


            Let’s bounce back to exercising for a moment. Marathons are a great place to experience high-octane thrills and seek out a celebratory victory. You’ll need to make yourself a strict schedule if you’ll want a shot at winning — this is a timesink, through and through. Daily goals will need to be surpassed. Challenges will need to be exceeded. You’ll have to give your all if you even want to complete the course.


            We’ll close with something a bit unconventional. There’s nothing quite like tossing aside our real selves for a little while in favor of a scripted persona. It takes a serious dedication to the craft and a willingness to step outside our comfort zone. In short, it’s perfect for folks who are seeking a difficult win. Don’t expect to quit your day job — most acting gigs are small-time pay and done for fun — but if your city has a theater troupe and you have a passion for the arts, what’s stopping you from being someone else?

“Drama therapy, you might use theater games, storytelling, and enactment to help cope with grief and loss, isolation and conflict. Drama therapy can also promote positive changes in mood, insight and empathy and facilitate healthy relationships.” –Robin D. Stone, LMHC

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