“Admitting any addiction is not easy. For me, it was gambling, and while I now haven’t had a bet for eight years, it’s only now that I am comfortable to talk openly about it. I do so today in the hope that my story can help others avoid the harm gambling can wreak when it hurtles beyond a fun pastime.
Both my Grandads were gamblers, so perhaps it’s in my DNA, but I was drawn to the thrill of a bet from an early age. ‘Pitchy’ in the playground by 11, cards by 13, down the dog track by 15, sneaking into bookies by 16. The allure of getting a coupon up or landing a Lucky 15 provided hours of enjoyment.
And it genuinely WAS enjoyable to begin with. However, this hobby mutated into a harmful obsession, and I later found myself engulfed in a perfect storm of easily-accessible online sports betting and credit cards on tap. Spectacular wins gave way to mounting losses and the intense pressure of trying to dig myself out of a dark hole.
It was all-consuming. There were days I would bet on every horse race in Britain then follow it up with a punt on an obscure overnight football match, thousands of miles away. Not so enjoyable.
Gambling at that frenzied pace affected my mood and relationships, caused stress, anxiety and debt. It got to the stage where I daren’t look at my bank statements. Ironically, my salvation finally came because somebody else did just that.
My perceptive partner knew something was amiss and recognised the tell-tale signs of a problem gambler. She staged an intervention, opening my bank statement, challenging me and most importantly offering to help.
For me it was blessed relief, I wanted to quit but I couldn’t do it alone. Faced with the realisation that it was gambling or her, I swore never to bet again.
Less than two years after making that promise, my partner tragically died from breast cancer. I owe it to her to forever honour that vow.”