Steve shares his story of gambling addiction and his recovery journey.
I wanted to take some time to write this post about my experiences with gambling, how I led up to where I am now and ultimately seeking the help of GamCare to overcome my addiction and to share with you my story. Hopefully, you will be able to relate to this and it could be a useful tool for you to help combat your habits or addiction.
I want to go back to the time that I first discovered gambling, albeit in a subconscious, child-like attraction, using the disguise of the two pence pushers at the local seaside town. It’s strange isn’t it, putting £1 worth of 2 pence pieces that your parents or guardians gave you to get the thrill of potentially getting that big clump of coins sat on the edge of the machine; and being disheartened at the fact that you ultimately got ripped off and maybe have 38p left from your initial investment of £1. Still, let’s go back and try again.
As much as you probably think, this is just an innocent way for the arcade owners to get some kid’s pennies from them, this is in fact gambling! Planting the seed of the win to the child or teenager who decided to try his or her luck at getting the “big one, the big drop”. I’ve often found myself in my adult years playing the exact same 2p machines I played when I was a child at the seaside. Knowing my addiction was much more advanced at this stage, it did make me think that this feeling of nostalgia and excitement could be the exact reason I turned into the gambling addict I am to this day (minus the nostalgia of course).
Fast forward now to my early adult years aged 18/19, the thoughts of the penny slots were not interesting to me now, but I had discovered alcohol, and the weekly attendance at the local pubs was at the forefront of my social timetable. How is this important you might ask? Well as we, or most of us know, we have the cunningly lit up, 6ft tall box of flashing lights that screams to you “come play me!” Often called “the bandit” a fitting name for such machine. In the beginning the most I would play would be a few pounds that I had in change in my pockets, it stayed that way for a while until it happened; “The Jackpot”. “So you’re telling me, all I have to do is put a few quid in this machine and if I’m lucky, (which I of course I am due to my drunken state), I can get £75! Deal!” that’s where the first bad thing happened. The win. Who knows, if I had not won that day, I might have given it up completely and thought ‘what a waste of money these are’, but no, I won. Thus leading down ten years of a slippery slope of ups and downs, ultimately to now, almost 30 years old writing this post to try and explain how this series of events led to me being thousands in the hole, anxious and sometimes depressed in my actions from gambling.
Pub fruit machines didn’t really cut it for me anymore, although they were a big part of my lifestyle, they weren’t as thrilling as they once were. Still managing to get more out of me on a night out than is even possible to win out of the things, you can see how this is not a really viable way of spending one’s time and money. However, that is the life of an addict, constantly looking to get a thrill from something, also being drunk did not help of course. I needed something more, I needed something that would give me the heart-pounding feeling of sheer adrenaline if I could hit it big! Where does one go that is easy to access, simple to use and nobody can see me doing it? You guessed right, the ONLINE CASINO! Brace yourself as here is where it gets messy.
Assuming most of the people reading this can relate to what I’m about to explain, the online casino is a smorgasbord of potential, with thousands of games available to suit everyone’s taste. I’m not here to glamorise them, they’re evil places that have probably been the reason some people have decided to end their life because of the shame or guilt from losing more than they can afford, and letting things spiral out of control. I am no psychiatrist, but I can tell you from experience that s**t gets real very quickly when losing control in a place like this. Online casinos love to take every last penny from you, they don’t care if you’ve taken out bank loans to fuel your addiction. They love it. More money for them! As you’re sat ripping your hair out in the dark, crying that you’ve lost your mortgage payment for the month, and having to figure out a way of explaining to your partner why the bills aren’t getting paid, the owner of the casino can now put his down payment on their brand new Range Rover. I’m not saying that this has happened to me, but I know for a fact it’s happened to some of you who are reading this.
Things HAD to stop. I didn’t feel comfortable telling my partner about the amount of money I was spending gambling. I know for a fact it was more than I could afford to lose, as much as I told myself that it wasn’t, I simply kept it quiet, she thought my “hobby” of going to the casino or the local bookies was under my control and I could easily walk away if I wanted to. WRONG! As most of us do, we all have a limit that we want to stick to, in my mind I would say £50 and that’s it! So, I would ask the kind person to give me £50 credit on a machine, and ‘sometimes I would win’ is my conversation I’m having with myself in my head.
I’d get to £150 let us say and have the perfectly right thought of taking it out and walking away knowing I’m £100 up. But I’m a greedy b*****d and so it would never be enough.
“I mean, there is potential of getting 500 from this machine so let’s just keep going, just a little”
“I’m going to cash out at £100, no way am I going to let it go under that”
“My balance is £100.70, just one more spin for luck”
“Ok one more spin, it’s coming I can feel it!”
“For f**k’s sake! I’ll take £75”
“Ok fine £50 then I’m even and going home”
“Can’t believe I’m down to £10, (looks in wallet and slips £50 more in)”
“OK I’ll up my bet to get a better chance”
“S**t, that went quick, think I better go to the cashier and get them to put £50 back on for me”
“Oh my f*****g god, that’s gone too. I really thought I was going to drop it; I could feel it about to go!”
25 minutes have passed and not only was I £100 up, I’m now £150 down! This wouldn’t happen to someone who hasn’t got a problem with gambling and can take it on the chin and walk away when they’ve reached their limit. I’m not saying if you’ve done this one time you’re a fully fledge gambling addict. That is subjective to you. Only you can tell yourself you’re an addict. To some of you reading that last conversation you could think, “well that happens to me all the time but I have control” think about the series of events in that conversation that happened, I lost control 8 times in less than 10 minutes. That’s a problem.
Luckily, I had someone to turn to. The guys at GamCare really helped me understand this in more detail. It’s not my first time using the service as I thought I’d use it about 6 months prior, but part of me still liked the idea of gambling and wanted to try and find that control. I went into it with the wrong mindset and I was thinking I could just learn to avoid the situation before I lost control all them times. This ultimately failed, not because of the services GamCare provided but because in my head I wasn’t committed to changing the way I think about gambling. The best thing I’ve ever done was to think to myself “I want out!” cold turkey. Stop. I can tell you now I have lost all my urges to want to gamble. It’s honestly an amazing feeling and I couldn’t be in a better place.
Take the time to ask me any questions about my experiences. I know I can’t write an 80 page book on how I combatted this or my full struggle as most of you would have clicked away by now. But, this is a snapshot of my story and I want to be able to help others as much as possible.
Please do no hesitate to contact me to and I will try to be as active as possible in responding to your questions. Let’s do this as a team and don’t feel you are alone in this battle. You will win!
Thanks for reading.
If you’re experiencing feelings similar to those Steve mentions, we can help. As a GamCare partner agency, we provide free therapy for those affected by problem gambling. Please reach us here, or to find out more about help available to you, click here.
If you need someone to talk to right now, please contact The National Gambling Helpline is free and available 24/7 via phone or live chat 0808 80 20 133.
Check out similar blogs:
Lockdown number 2 is nearly over but we are still living in a world of R rates and restrictions. Although the focus is on COVID-19, the economy and politics, the issues we experienced pre-Coronavirus haven’t gone away and in fact, they may well be exacerbated by...
Karl shares his story of gambling addiction and his recovery journey so far. My gambling journey started in 2015 when I had a cycling accident and broke my shoulder and my collarbone. Unfortunately, due to the nature of my injury I was unable to wear a cast so...
If problem gambling is affecting you or someone close to you, where can you turn for support and what will that support be like? As individuals we are often apprehensive about asking for help, we feel we should be able to manage alone, we think that seeking help may...