My name is Guy, and I’ve had a gambling problem for over 20 years. My best friend just chronicled by plight in a book called Inside the Mind of a Gambler. I wouldn’t let him use my real name because I want to keep my anonymity.
I’ve been gambling for about 20 years and have spent in the region of 100,000 pounds and raked up some serious debt problems, been bankrupt and suicidal. I have also had relationships break down due to the debt I was in.
For me, it all started in my early 20s when I won 100 pounds on a lottery scratch card. This opened the door to me exploring the bookies and playing on the machines in the shops. I used to go to the bookies on almost a daily basis with a mate of mine who also gambled. I had some decent wins, but overall it has cost me dearly. What the average person doesn’t realize is that gambling is an illness and if you’re an addict, it’s like taking crack cocaine — except that you’re hooked on betting. Just like drugs, it’s also very difficult to stop.
People think you gamble to win money, but it’s not always the case. As a pathological gambler you don’t value money like the normal person — it doesn’t really mean anything to you. It’s purely something that enables you to keep playing. The gambler is more than likely either betting to escape his or her problems or betting as an “action gambler” with friends (a social aspect). The problem is that as a pathological gambler, I would gamble to escape my depression and anxiety, hoping for the big win. It’s a process; you win, you spend and you lose.
How did I quit? I had to take some radical steps: self-excluding from shops, closing online accounts, controlling my time. I spoke to GamCare on several occasions, which also helped me to quit because they give you tools to help change your thought process. For example, if I thought, “I feel like going to the casino and spending 1,000 pounds in the hopes of winning 10,000,” they would help to change my focus to what I could potentially lose and how that would impact my life. They helped me to focus on the positive things in my life. The key for me was to change my lifestyle, such as spending my time playing sports, keeping busy with work and not going near betting shops. You have to be prepared to make a radical shift in your daily activities, thoughts and focus.
Stephen Renwick writes in Inside the Mind of a Gambler that a gambler has to want to stop, which then makes it possible to curb the addiction. If you don’t really want to quit, you will no doubt fail. I would suggest reading my story in the book and then take stock of your life to see if you are heading down the same road. If you are, I suggest taking a different path in life before it’s too late. Once you’ve read my story, (Guy), look at the advice on how to quit and try to implement some of the ideas. You have to remember that gambling addiction is like taking a drug that will eventually destroy your life.
I wish you all the best in quitting your gambling problem.