I had my first win in 1963 when I was just 8 years old on a one armed bandit, it paid out a jackpot of £5 in sixpenny pieces. Instead of walking away I played all of it back. I didn’t gamble again until 1995 when a Bingo Hall opened in my home town, even then it was just a once a week night out with my friends.
In 2001 my partner was diagnosed with a secondary cancer, he was terminal, it was then that things got out of control, he died in 2002 and by then my gambling was out of control. I never allowed myself to grieve, had to stay occupied, I was in denial. A year later I went to live in Portugal, they don’t allow gambling there and I was fine with that, however a family crisis saw my return to the UK in 2012 and I discovered that not only had gambling become available online but that my addiction was every bit as strong as when I left. In six short years I lost a 6 figure injury compensation and the profit I made from two houses in Portugal, everything, yet still I kept trying, hoping for that big win to set everything straight.
In April this year a database was created called Gamstop, it effectively self excludes you from all gambling sites online. I registered on 28/07/2018 and self excluded for 5 years. At first, I missed gambling, even regretted signing up but as time went on I felt better and easier about what I had done but I was very conscious of the fact that in 5 years time I may be tempted once more so I have been on a journey of research and self help to try and understand why I have this compulsion. In every aspect of my life I am successful but the gambling cloud overshadows all of that and I wondered why? My research has answered a lot of questions about my addiction but more importantly I have discovered that the main ‘weakness’ is a lack of self belief, not feeling good enough, subconsciously feeling that I do not deserve and it is that lack of self belief that I am working on every day and growing stronger every day, not just in my attitude to gambling but to every aspect of my life. As impressionable children we grow up in a society that celebrates our winners but in most competitions there is only one winner and many more contestants that lost. In school the high achievers are praised, the low achievers chastised or simply classed as stupid. In times of stress the inner child in us comes out and wants to run away from the problem instead of facing it. I find it no coincidence that the fruit machines, fobts, are very much geared around cartoon characters, music, colourful graphics, it’s play time, just like our toys when we were children.
In times of stress I would run, in my mind, to the place when I was responsibility free, my childhood, the problem with that was that although I had a happy childhood I felt like the black sheep of the family, I was the trouble maker, the non achiever, so sadly to regress to my childhood included feeling bad about myself. I concluded that gambling was my chosen tool of self punishment and what better way to reaffirm that I was useless than losing all of my money every day. I believed that I was playing to win but if that was the case why didn’t I stop when I was ahead? Why did I always reinvest the winnings untiI lost? I concluded that I was actually addicted to losing. Once I realised this I tried to change the way I played, yet something would take over, the eurphoria of the win would keep me going, even though I knew that eventually I would lose, yet still I kept trying. Even when I did stop when I was ahead, I couldn’t concentrate on anything, knowing that the money was there waiting to be played. This was obsession in the extreme.
So then I started to question why I was affected like this. So, my road to recovery was to self exclude myself, secondly was to respect the person that I am, appreciate that I am as important as the next person, third was to forgive myself for what I have done, yes I have lost a fortune but I am not a criminal and I stopped cowering to the pressure from family and friends that were critical of me and those who would never let me forget. Forth, I accepted that their trust in me will never return but that is no longer important to me.
For once in my life I am doing this for me, not to please others. I have embarked on a journey of self discovery, yes the old me was a hopeless case trapped by my addiction but the new me has so much to offer and it is those positives that are making me stronger every day. I do not take my addiction lightly and I will continue to research to understand better why I am attracted to such a destructive addiction. I have been to GA meetings, had one to one counselling and spent many an evening in the GA chat room and more and more I see gamblers eaten up with guilt, partners wielding power over the gambler because they have no defense and it makes me want to cry. Gamblers need love, encouragement and understanding, my new partner could not give me this, I was a gambler when we met and in fact he actually encouraged me to gamble so that he could feel superior and we are no longer together but I am happier and healthier for being on my own. We all deserve a fresh start and whilst some partners are supportive and that is great there are many that will simply reaffirm that we are worthless and make the task of stopping gambling so much harder if not impossible.
I am so grateful for the gamstop database, I realise that I am not cured but it has given me the opportunity to stop, it took the decision out of my hands and has left me free to invest my time in improving myself and understanding better the problems with being addicted to gambling. I am hopeful that in July 2023 when the gamstop database expires that I will have the desire to simply re-register for another 5 years. I realise that a blocker is not a cure but it gives the gambler time out to make sense of their lives and for that I am very grateful. I have not gambled now for four months and whilst that may not seem like much of an achievement to some there was a time when I could not go for four hours without gambling and to no longer be piling my hard earned cash to the gambling industry feels great. If you are in the UK and online gambling is your problem I strongly recommend that you use this database and give yourself a chance to start combating this terrible addiction.