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Don't keep it to yourself

Gambling is so "in your face" and everyone loves a winner. No-one wants to admit to losing - habitually - and not being able to stop. So it is important that you do not face this problem alone. Secrecy has backed you into this corner, and friendship will lead you out of it. 

Read Dave's story below, then we will give you some ideas of how you could connect with others.

She was much more sympathetic than I thought she would be”

DaVE's story

I got a job in a newsagents when I was 16.  The National Lottery had just started at that time, and I remember I got paid cash in a brown envelope every weekend. I used to buy a fair few lottery tickets and scratchcards but never really won anything. I was a bit obsessed by it, I remember, one particular week, I spent my whole wages for the weekend on lottery tickets. It wasn’t a good omen but I didn’t see it at the time.

When I was at university I started betting on sports online, and for a long time – about 9 or 10 years, my gambling was completely under control. I would bet anything up to £10 on football matches every weekend. I got married to Alice, and for years things went on fine and gambling was just a mild and fun habit, completely under control and not a problem.

Where it got worse was when things hit a perfect storm. Things were going wrong in my job and I was bored and frustrated. At home, my wife was pregnant. She went off on maternity leave and suddenly we went down to a single income, mine. I felt a lot of pressure. Having our first child knocked me for six. I guess I did not realise how much responsibility it was, how much attention now went elsewhere, and Alice would spend a lot of time feeding our son and going to bed really early because she wasn’t sleeping much.

Now I started betting larger and larger amounts online, and instead of betting on my team or Premier League games that I knew things about, I started betting on obscure games in leagues around the world, just because they were on different days or times, so I could keep the bets going. I had become addicted.

One fateful day I was on the website and I saw a banner for the online casino, so I clicked on it. I started playing Blackjack and found out I was pretty good. I started winning some money but of course I spent my winnings rather than banking them, trying to get even more. I would gamble late into the evening, sometimes until 3 or 4 in the morning. With the baby up, Alice would realise I wasn’t in bed and would come down and find me. She told me later that she thought I had been having an affair online. I weaved a web of lies about how busy I was at work and everything. I wasn’t busy at work though. In fact, I used to sit at my desk gambling as well.

One evening I was playing Blackjack and I started with only a few pounds and kept on building and building it up. At first I was betting £1 per deal, but then as I was doing well I started betting £10 and then £100 on every deal. I did really well – and won £6,000! Instead of banking it and walking away, I thought that if I had got to that stage I could go even further up. I kept on betting £100 every time, but now I started losing and losing and losing and I lost the £6,000. I couldn’t let it go. 

A few days after I had won £6,000 I had lost all of it, and spent another £7,000 chasing my losses. I reached a tipping point and climbed into bed, woke Alice, and told her what was going on. She was much more sympathetic than I thought she would be. I think she was just happy that she now knew what the problem was.

We randomly visited a church where I happened to tell someone I had had a bad week. He asked why, and I ended up telling him – he was a stranger but it felt good telling him. He was very real and not judgmental. It turned out that he had previously had a gambling problem 20 years ago, and he prayed for me then and there. I only gambled one more time after that – very shortly after that weekend – but even when I was doing it I didn’t know why I was really doing it. I guess it was just habit. I lost a small amount of money and then I have not gambled since that day.

I think what really helped was telling my wife and a few key friends. That helped me know I could go to those people to talk to, and that I was accountable to them. 

What will you do?

You could:

  • Call a friend and tell them; and ask them to keep you encouraged and accountable
  • Be open and honest with any professionals who are already working with you
  • If you are in emotional crisis, call Samaritans on 116 123 (UK & ROI).
  • We can link you up with a befriender who is local to you and outside your situation - this is part of our more detailed course; you can sign up for the course here.