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From Addict to Therapist

January 26, 2016

  • For twenty years I was addicted to cocaine and gambling. I had two lives.
  • The addiction will always be there. Every day I have to work at it.
  • I gained a place on a Higher National Diploma in counselling on the basis of my life experience.

For twenty years I was addicted to cocaine and gambling; spending £3,000 a week on cocaine, and £5-6000 a week on gambling.

I had two lives. One where people perceived me as a businessman, a father and a husband. But my other side was very dark -- mixing with gangsters; people who would hurt other people -- and I always wanted the adrenaline rush, always wanted more.

When I reached rock bottom I attempted suicide. I ended up in intensive care for 10 days. The doctors didn’t know how I survived but I believe that it was something I later discovered through treatment: my higher power.

My journey to Thailand and Cambodia was very important to me. I trekked around the jungle for a month with Buddhist monks, gave away all my money and came home. But on the very first day I returned, I went straight back to cocaine and gambling.

My Mother Helped Me Stop

I managed to finally stop by going to stay with my mother in St. Andrews. My father was an alcoholic and compulsive gambler and every night my mother would tell me about her life, what it had been like living with him.

My mother thought I was a father, a husband and a businessman, and at that point I became very honest and told her my true life story. For the next three months I joined 12 Step meetings in St. Andrews and then in Edinburgh, where my wife and two children were living.

My wife and I were separated at the time but she would let me come back at the weekend to see the children. I never really saw any of my children growing up; I was physically there, but I certainly wasn't there in mind.

Over a period of three months my wife saw a difference; she saw me change and said let’s give this one last chance”.

That Was 10 Years Ago

When I stopped my addiction I began voluntary work. I helped out with Victim Support, visited prisons, gave talks, did one-to-ones with prisoners and also helped at LEAP (Lothian and Edinburgh Abstinence Programme).

But I wanted to do more. One of the therapists at LEAP said he’d been an addict and had become a therapist. I was impressed, but I thought I couldn’t possibly do this as I didn’t have any confidence or any education to speak of.

I gained a place on a Higher National Diploma in counselling on the basis of my life experience. I then did a postgraduate diploma in Person Centred Counselling at Strathclyde University and I am now doing a Master's degree.

Placement at Castle Craig

I did my placement at Castle Craig Hospital over 15 months and I learned so much. The therapists welcomed me, taught me so much, and the patients were just amazing; they seemed to get something from me. It was the most incredible experience.

I qualified in June 2014 and was employed full time by Castle Craig by November. I think my higher power has brought me to what I believe was my destiny.

People can relate to me because of my story -- they can see the passion, honesty, reality and empathy. They know I’ve been through it, and that I know what they’re going through.

I’m so passionate about this because I know it’s possible -- to have an authentic life. But you have to know that the addiction will always be there; every day I have to work at it, I keep going to 12 step meetings to remind myself where addiction had taken me.

Transformation

Even though I had everything I could want in life, I thought I was worthless. I was emotionally and mentally drained. I couldn’t face up to my feelings.

I was a hundred miles an hour. I would go overboard with everything I did. I bought a limousine to impress my kids when picking them up from school; I was buying their affection because deep down I knew that emotionally I wasn’t there for them.

Today I’ve got the most amazing relationship with my children. My son has just finished studying criminology; while he was at university he told me that I was his case study. And my daughter is just the most amazing young woman.

To find out more about Tony's story, read his article on the new gambler profile and the vicious circle of gambling here.

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The Vicious Circle of Gambling

24/7 access to online gambling sites makes it easy to become a compulsive gambler. It quickly becomes a problem, with gamblers unaware they are caught up in the vicious circle.

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