Tom

Friday, 11 November 2016

Written by: Tom

I don't really know where to start … kind of like my gambling addiction, except I had no problem starting the bet, just a very big issue of not knowing when to stop, until that day of 7th October 2016 after losing £250 … it's 10 am mind and I'm down to £20 in my bank knowing full well I need to buy food and fuel for the rest of the week, it was this moment when I took a long hard look at myself and I thought what the hell am I doing to myself?

This cannot go on … the sleepless nights, the exclusion from social activities, the pain and stress I was putting my body through and disgusting amount of debts. I remember my first ever bet, at the young age of 17 – a £3 bet on a football match, I remember it well – Sampdoria vs Palermo, deep into the second half with the score at 1–1 I placed a £3 bet at 12/1 on Palermo to win … bang! A goal within 5 minutes and that saw me win £39, what a great feeling that was … little did I know that this was going to become a route to hell. My gambling after that was under control, £5–£15 a week, often at weekends when there was a big fixture list with the football or the horses.

In 2013 I achieved a great thing in my life … going to university, I was proud and willing to work hard. But with university comes a loan and with a loan of £3000 comes a healthy bank balance, perfect for a gambling addict (to be). Because I had such a large amount of money in the bank, I started to up my stakes from £5–10 to £50–100 ... and if I lost, I would just chase and chase until I won back all the money and was even again. I can remember one evening I was £500 down (not for the last time), but still completely oblivious to what I was doing and how much this would impact me.

I placed another £100 accumulator at the odds of 9/2 and somehow managed to win thanks to a Athletic Bilbao equaliser against Real Madrid … scenes, I was ecstatic ... I won all the money back, this completely cancelled out the fact that I just lost £500 in my previous bets and could have been £600 if it wasn't for a single goal. It's similar to a relationship break up … just thinking of the good moments and thinking everything will be ok but never the bad moments and never the underlying problems.

I didn't enjoy uni, and quit within 7 months, I had a few family issues and just wasn't enjoying it ... whether this was down to my gambling or not, I don't know … my head was screwed. After quitting uni, I found myself a job and started earning again – still gambling heavy every day – £100 stakes. I had an offer from 2 friends to travel around Europe for a month, at the time I was earning and living with parents & paying not a lot of rent, so money shouldn't be an issue – but it was, all stemmed from gambling, I really wanted to go but didn't have the money.

Within a week I managed to get a £2000 bank loan to go travelling ... this opened the long and dark road of loans and debts. Even throughout my travelling in Europe, I managed to still gamble whenever I could, just hoping the hostel we were staying in had internet and a computer. Throughout my gambling addiction I had 7 bank loans totalling £11,350 (not including interest) and over 30 pay day loans.

When I look at this now, it makes me feel sick to the bone, At the time I was completely brainwashed, not thinking what's best for me ... every week was a struggle to get by, hence why I resorted to the pay day loans to get me through and help pay for things that shouldn't be an issue. I was living a double life, not one of my friends or family knew what I was going through, deep inside I just wanted to cry, give up and run away and escape from the hell ... but I acted normal with a smile on my face. Just embarrassed and scared of what they would think of me. I was in bubble and lost all sense of money.

I was never interested in roulette, just sports betting ... football, tennis, darts, horses, even snooker, which I have no interest in whatsoever, so I was clearly losing my head, just looking for the right odds or even if I wanted to get my fix, I would throw money on something I knew nothing about … I just wanted that buzz from winning money. Online gambling is a killer, so mainstream and advertised – every TV advert has a gambling promotion, trying to suck people in and some people fall for it … like myself. £100 becomes just a number on a screen and you're able to deposit thousands within a few seconds – very dangerous for a addict. I used to dread looking at my bank balance because I knew how low it would be, and how much financial problems it would cause.

My average stake was £100, sometimes £200. The worst day I've had I lost £700 ... that's a holiday or a car or 2 and half weeks of hard work ... gone, within 12 hours. Disgusting. I feel like a haven't lived my life for the last 3 years, just on a dark and downhill spiral of gambling, it really did take over my life ... I would lie to friends that I couldn't go out just because I wanted to get home from work and gamble all night.

For some reason I was still enjoying it, absolutely brain dead is the right description. A few months leading up to me quitting, I won £3089 from £5 on a bet ... elated at the time but within 2 months it was all gone, no and that wasn't from going on a holiday and a big shopping trip … well, you guessed it … gambling. One of my many problems was the fact that I always thought the cure for my gambling debts was to keep gambling and win big to pay them all off. Completely brainwashed. Often staying up throughout the night gambling on tennis & football matches and forever on the FlashScores app on the phone to the point where it was affecting my work and my phone bill was sky high due to all the data being used.

Sorry for the length of this, but I have never spoken to anyone about this so it's just been building up inside me for years and it feels so good to just let it all out, because that old cliche of 'talking helps' is true, it really is. I haven't gambled in 32 days and every day I feel happier, I had an urge to gamble about a week into my recovery but I just reminded myself that I don't want to go back to the dark days and I'm better than that now.

I promised myself I'm never going to gamble again and deep down I know I'm not going to. I'm so much better off without it, I'm done with it and it doesn't interest me in the slightest. The most important part is realising you have a problem and acting, don't mope … get out there and do something, socialise with mates, take up a hobby. Keep your brain active, because from my experience just sitting in my room brings back memories of when I used to sit there for hours gambling away.

So whoever is reading this, you can do it to! Burst that bubble and take it step by step – it will be hard to begin with, but the outcome is great ... you will rediscover yourself and become a lot happier, and find that your relationship with friends and family will improve. It's never too late, I'm so glad it's behind me and I can get on with my life.Thanks!

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