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What’s it like being addicted to gambling?
A guest post by “Bezzo” who talks about his experiences of being addicted to gambling and how hard it was to find help.

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This is a guest post by “Bezzo” who talks about his experiences of being addicted to gambling and how hard it was to find help.

In the beginning

True to life, even a gambling addiction has to start somewhere. I suppose my actual beginning was when I was very young and waiting outside the bookmakers for my uncle to place his bets on the days horse racing. Betting shops were seen as dark places, filled with smoke and old men who had nothing better to do. I guess this would be my beginning, but in those days you had to be 18 to enter, just like today. Which is probably the only thing which hasn’t changed over the years. But now there is a bookmakers on every street corner, all nicely decorated, full of bright colour and offering free drinks to anyone who pops in. Looking back it was horse racing or greyhounds and that was about it. Nothing ever happened after 5pm, shops closed as did the bookmakers. Whereas now bookmakers stay open until 10/11pm at night and the internet offers a complete new ball game, access 24/7, it’s that simple.

The middle

The addict is driven by a dream and desire to win big and that certainly applied to me. The idea that whatever the bet, you’re always one bet away from that dream turning into reality. Unfortunately dreams are exactly that and can very quickly turn to nightmares. You become a very lonely person, all of your money is thrown at the venture, with the thought that it will come back tenfold. Some days it did and you were everybody’s friend but mostly you would be chasing your losses and trying to find some common ground to heal your wounds and re-evaluate what went wrong, forming a new strategy for tomorrow. Yes an addict always had a plan for the next day, however much was lost the day before.

I won thousands over many years, but the losses, it just scares me to think about how much! The implications are very simple, your whole world is concentrated on gambling, you have a very blurred vision, like a horse would wear blinkers in a race. All I would focus on is betting, studying the form and the next best bet. If a loved one suggested going out, firstly you would have to check if it clashed with a bet, which was happening and then if you could afford to outlay good gambling money, if it came to it, gambling would always win.

The end

Hopefully, my ending is a happy one. I gambled away a fortune over many years. I always managed to hold down good jobs and made good progress up the ladder to management but then ending up falling from a great height. Not only wasting my own money, but using company funds to feed my addiction. In the end my wife and her family have probably saved my life, if they hadn’t supported me at one of the worst moments of my life I would have ended up homeless no doubt. So it’s not just about the addict, but all the affected others, husband/wife, children, family and friends.  

Conclusion

What have I learnt from my addiction that could help others and those who are trying to help them?

One of the biggest challenges is that gambling is what I call a silent addiction, unlike being dependent on drugs or alcohol, there are no tell-tale signs that someone is a problem gambler. Every person you come into contact with on a daily basis could be suffering with a gambling addiction.

As always with addictions, it’s really hard to take the first step of accepting help. The shame of admitting your problems to loved ones, colleagues and friends is a big hurdle to overcome. Gamblers tend to be loners and only ever talk about when they have won, you never hear a gambler talking up their losses. Someone with a gambling problem needs to have trust in a professional trying to help them before they are likely to admit to a problem.

Policy changes

We are still waiting for the Government’s white paper on gambling, in particular we need to find out whether there will be a levy on the gambling industry to help pay for the badly needed treatment services.

The things I’d most like the Government to do are listed below:

  1. Gambling adverts, removed from television, at worst after the watershed.
  2. Gambling companies logos/sponsorship removed from all sporting events, shirts and boards around grounds.
  3. Gambling companies to make sure all customers mainly on the internet are checked for different accounts with other companies and affordability checks done.
  4. For those falling foul of the system, better support is required, more therapy needs to be available on a national basis.
  5. We need better support, treatment centres, probably via the NHS, in hospitals, police stations, prisons, probation services and Doctors surgeries, offering practical and emotional support.

I think it will take a long time to achieve these goals, but people with lived experience of the consequences of gambling will be key to making change happen.

 

Thanks to Ben Frost for kind permission to use the header image in this post which was previously published on Unsplash.

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