Updated: Oct 13
Disclaimer: This blog post contains references to suicidal ideation.
My name is N. My last bet was on 7th December 2016.
Today I am 1,342 days gamble free thanks to support I received from my partner, family, the Addiction Recovery Agency (ARA) and Gamblers Anonymous (GA). I am sharing my experiences in the hope that it could help others currently struggling with problem gambling.
How and when did my problems with gambling begin?
I have gambled from the age of eighteen. I spent roughly six years being able to control it, gambling with friends and then by myself.
I first noticed the problem after I went to my horse racing track in April, 2016. From there, the problem developed through me playing the roulette machines in betting shops. I started to play these more and more and with more money. I had also just had my first daughter, so I used this as an excuse to get some ‘me’ time with time away from the house and me forgetting all the stresses of work and home.
What sort of impact was gambling having on my everyday life?
I went from betting with friends, to going alone to different betting shops, to taking massive amounts of money from the bank account each time to gamble with.
I started going to the betting shop multiple times a day, often during my thirty-minute lunch hour at work. I was emptying my bank account, using my partner’s bank card and even our daughter’s savings account. I would hide from the postman, knowing I had stopped paying my bills and had taken out various loans, credit cards and overdrafts.
One of the hardest things to do was all the lying to different people and keeping up with these lies. In the end it got the better of me. I became suicidal as I could not take the pain in my head, the amount of debt I'd built up, stealing my partner’s money, and all the lies. I started planning a way out, but wanted to make it to my daughter's first Christmas. I wanted that one last happy memory. I planned to do it on 27th December 2016.
At what point did I realise I had a problem and what made me seek help?
I realised nearly every day that I had a problem; then the problem also became “How do I stop?”. By the time I got away from the shop feeling sorry for myself, I was already thinking of how I could go back home, and what excuse I could make up.
After about 9 months of being addicted to gambling, I was caught out by my partner’s friend. He told her where I was and what I was doing. The day my partner found out, I was working and she rang me at around 4 pm, asking where I was.
I told her I was at work.
She confronted me, telling me that she knew what I had been doing, and that she wanted me to take her bank card home as soon as possible.
I was at work until 6 pm, and spent the last two hours back and forward from the toilet, trying to find yet another loan company to lend me money, so that I could pay her money back, and she wouldn't know I'd stolen everything. However, I just could not get access to one.
6 pm arrived and I was debating: do I go home? Do I go to my nan's? Or do I just end it right now? But that was not how I'd planned it.
I strolled home, I got through the door and broke down in tears. I confessed everything to my partner. She knew everything except that I'd planned to end my life. I was expecting her to go crazy so I stayed in the kitchen crying my eyes out while she sat on the sofa calmly talking to me. She told me I needed help, and that I've had my last gamble.
Strangely, I felt relieved. ‘Someone wants to help me’, I thought.
We found our local GA group and the first meeting was a week later. I went to the meeting thinking ‘I'm doing this for my partner and daughter’, but I still planned and wanted to end my life a few weeks later.
We had our daughter's first Christmas with lots of family around on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. I spent the whole time thinking 'It’s nearly the end;. My family have had a good couple of days, they are happy, and they have seen me putting on a smile. Then a bombshell hit: my partner told me she was pregnant again. I was more stressed than ever. I could not sleep.
The next morning, 27th December finally came, and I couldn't do it. 'I must stay here for my family', I thought. 'I must give recovery a try'.
How did I find the support available from ARA? What kind of support was I offered?
We found ARA online as a local organisation which specialises in problem gambling support. I managed to get some counselling with ARA in between the GA meetings.
How has my life changed since being in recovery?
My life has changed dramatically. I'm still in debt and I do find it hard when I get frustrated. I have had another daughter, we have moved house, but somehow I have coped with everything by simply talking to my partner, letting her know I'm stressed and can't cope and then we discuss it and get through it.
Most of all, I still have my family, and I've watched my children grow up.
My tips for people who are currently struggling and thinking of seeking help:
Do it. Get help as soon as you can.
The best thing for me was my partner finding out, as I couldn’t bring myself to tell her. If it wasn’t for her finding out, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and I may not even be here. I was so annoyed at the moment she found out, but looking back it was the start of my road to recovery. Finally opening up to my partner that day gave me real insight into the rest of my life.
I never in a million years thought that my life would be like it is today, but here I am living life with my family.
If you have been affected by any of the issues within this post and need support, please know there are organisations out there to support you
ARA provides support to problem gamblers and those affected by problem gambling across the whole of Wales and much of South-West England. To contact ARA for FREE and confidential counselling about you’re or someone else’s problem gambling:
Tel: 0330 1340 286
If you are anxious, confused, down, lonely, upset or suicidal, you can contact the Samaritans on:
Tel: 116 123