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FIRST PERSON: Staring Into The Gambling Abyss

“I read a news article recently about a young man in Cornwall who had taken his life following accruing gambling debts of 10k. Obviously I don’t know the person or his family so it is not right or appropriate to either name the person involved or attempt to consider the circumstances that led to this tragic death. Reading about what happened however did make me review my own personal situation.

Nobody knows that I have just successfully completed my one year anniversary for going cold turkey following an on-line gambling addiction. I’m even writing under a pseudonym as my family, friends and employer have no idea as to what I put myself through. Gambling is the perfect form of escape when you are vulnerable or at odds with the world and it’s constantly in your face every time you watch an ad break on tv or attend a sporting contest. It’s glamourised and lures you in with the incentive to win. The online aspect is even more deceptive as you are not trading in paper money and it is a lot harder to admit that there is an issue when you are simply losing an electronic figure.

I can happily admit now as to why gambling sucked me in and want to share my own experience in the hope that others may not feel the need to go down the road I did. The very sudden and unexpected end of a relationship four years ago weighed heavily on my mind with the sense of loss and heartache being particularly difficult to deal with. As a man I did not know what to do – I wanted to cry but couldn’t, to suddenly be able to win money off the back of my own endeavours and live the high life gave me a sense of confidence which had gone after being told by the person I had loved and done so much for that I was no longer required. Whilst life went on after the event I had never properly spoken to anyone about my abject feelings of despair and frustration which meant I turned inwards on myself. I made the wrong assumption that to talk about yourself was in every instance a sign of self-obsession and that you simply got on with life again and put events you can’t explain down to being ‘one of those things’.

Looking back I shudder at the year spent pretty much gambling 24/7. Placing bets overnight on sporting contests I knew nothing about but just fancied the look of, checking the internet every morning on waking and during the day umpteen times to see how my bets were faring. The worst aspect was the in-play option where I never parted from my laptop when watching sport on TV so that I could jump in at a moments notice to lump on accordingly. Gambling had taken over my life and the feelings it produced provided me with the emotional roller coaster that I had missed since my relationship ended.

Obviously there were great wins and staggering losses. I remember putting every single penny I owned on an Andy Murray tennis match to settle my debts and the abject feeling of terror when he very nearly lost. With hindsight I needed to hit rock bottom before I faced up to reality and that fortunate near miss was the catalyst. After a loss a few days later I knew it was time to change or face a horrible oblivion. Everyone is different in how they cope with addiction and for me it was cold turkey and cancelling my on-line account. I’ve not even walked into a bookies since September last year and never will. The high water mark was this summer and being contacted by William Hill as an old bet I had made at the start of the football season had come in successfully. To get the money repaid and not even want to gamble it again as well as telling the organisation that I had a problem with no intention of gambling in the future was a huge success. The entire money won also went to charity.

Looking back now I would implore anyone who is feeling despair, loneliness or any negative emotion on even a semi-regular basis to discuss this with the right people no matter how trivial it may feel. I’ve been under going counselling for a while to come to terms with my feelings of rejection and it’s been the best thing I have ever done. Real strength comes from acknowledging your problems and wanting to change, please don’t fall into the trap I did of being the silent type. My failure to acknowledge my unhappiness just saw me turn in on myself with horribly self-destructive behaviour. Through counselling I have been able to make great strides and feel much more at one with the world in which I live. I read and hear all the time how we shape our own destinies through our thoughts, deeds and intentions and now I realise how true it is. By getting myself into a real mess and then pulling out of it I have experienced this first hand. Please talk, be open and share with those who listen and can help. I look back now at the abyss I was staring into and although I’ve escaped and am a better person for it, I would not wish what I went through on anybody.”

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