A young lad of 23 told me “I’ve won three thousand five hundred pounds.” I asked him what he did with that money and he said “I bought a car.” I then asked him how long he had had the car for and he said “two weeks!” He had sold it so he could go back to gambling.
Due to the 24/7 access to online gambling sites, it is so easy to become a compulsive gambler. Before the internet, it could take years for gambling to become a problem: the bets would most likely have been smaller; they had to physically go to a bank and a betting shop, and it would all take longer. You couldn’t use a credit card in bookmakers as you can now.
Nowadays you can get instant loans, payday loans at three and a half thousand per cent interest rates. I know a lot of people who have had ten or twelve payday loans in a single month. How are they ever expected to pay that back?
Gamblers – The New Profile
Gambling has traditionally been seen as a problem for older men. According to statistics, 20 years ago only 8% of women gambled but new research shows that the rate has increased to 50%.
I see younger and younger people becoming addicted to gambling. This is because they have access to their smartphones 24/7, they use their credit cards and they don’t feel they are using real money. I know so many people who have racked up thousands and thousands of pounds of debt.
When they win money it goes straight into their account on that particular site – they don’t actually see the cash. They can’t withdraw the money for three days and during that time they are back on the site gambling with their winnings. And all this time they are saying to themselves “I’ve won all this money” and can’t see that they are caught up in the vicious circle.
Gambling and Suicide
I know three people who have killed themselves because of their gambling. I have seen statistics which show that three times as many gambling addicts kill themselves as compared to other types of addicts.
A good friend of mine was given a free £10 bet from her father to play on the bingo websites. Two years later she had tried to commit suicide, she had stolen from her family and had got into trouble with the law, all through her addiction to online bingo.
Gambling is seen as good fun and I don’t know what the solution is. On the gambling websites, they allow you to win just enough to get that adrenaline rush, get the endorphins moving, the dopamine into the brain. Then they put the brakes on, take all your money and you think “I need to get back up there.” So then you start chasing your losses and are in deeper than ever. It’s a vicious circle.
The Appeal of Gambling
For me it was the grandiosity of being in front of that card game in a casino, people giving me free drinks and feeding me. I felt like I was someone. The buzz when you’re about to turn that card is this the time I’m going to win big? For me it wasn’t the win but the lead up to it: I’ve got the money, I’m going to get dressed, look smart and walk through that door and feel the rush of adrenaline. Sitting at the table, getting the first deal. Is this the one?
Ten years on and in recovery, I am interested in cross addiction. When I stopped one addiction my gambling increased, but when I stopped gambling my other addiction increased. When I stopped both I started shopping and working to excess. Now it is about awareness – I am more aware of myself and that I could do anything to excess. I deal with it by going to 12 Step meetings and making sure that I have people around me who are aware of who I am and what I can do.
I have had to change my life, change my career and become a better person. I started by volunteering and supporting others. I went to college and university and trained to become an addiction therapist.
If you really want to change your life it is possible – I am proof of the fact. The first step is admitting you have a problem and that you cannot continue on the path you are on. You have to accept that you cannot do this on your own and put your hand out for help.