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25 years off, one day at a time

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#1 Posted on:
Wed, 08/11/2017 - 14:54

GamblerHelp

Joined:
2017-11-07

 

Mountain climbers don’t look look down. Instead they focus 90% of their attention on where their hands and feet are, so they don’t fall off. The other 10% is where the next hold is. Inch by inch they climb a mountain.

It’s been the same for me with the gambling. I don’t count the days any more, but focus purely on staying off gambling one day at a time. Actually to start with it was an HOUR at a time, as my brain was so fried through gambling. But it’s been 25 years now since my last bet, and I have a life.  

I don’t remember most of my twenties through gambling. At 20 I was kicked out of university and gambled my education away. I went from job to job and ended up homeless on the streets of London. I ended up in a hostel where I finally told someone. They gave me the GA address which was only 5 minutes walk away, but I didn’t go. Didn't need to.

Each day my good intentions would go to **** and I would find myself gambling again, back to the cashpoint, gambling again, angry/crying and saying never again, then back at it later chasing my money. My mood swings were dramatic. I was like a hamster in a wheel, frantically going nowhere.

I became afraid of everything - the post, the telephone, being found out. I lived my life in dark places, in love with the buzz and the flashing lights. A gambling bubble of virtual reality.

That life cost me literally everything - money, friends, relationships, family, respect, dignity, my health and my home. 1% highs and 99% lows - ten years worth of pain. And I had become a compulsive liar, always telling people what they wanted to hear. Unable to look at myself in the mirror.

One of my saddest memories was gambling all my wages on Christmas Eve. I had got through hundreds that day, and ended up getting my Christmas ‘presents’ from a corner shop at 11pm with the last fiver. Four people’s presents for £5.

Soon after I got caught “borrowing” from my employer and was arrested & done for theft. Crown court with a jury, and my Mum in the dock. It was in the papers. I had lost my job, 3 stone in weight, most of my friends, family relations were in tatters, in a load of debt, and now had a theft conviction. No self respect, no dignity. All at the age of 28.

But things couldn’t continue as they were. As Einstein famously said: Doing the same thing again & again, but expecting a different outcome, is the definition of INSANITY.

 

ADMITTING I HAD A PROBLEM

I went to GA and they gave me a lot of good advice. I didn’t follow any of it, but somehow managed to get through the next week and get back to the meeting. 

GA was like a room full of mirrors where you could clearly see someone else’s mistakes and faults, but not your own. I got great support and advice from people in the same mess as me.

To give you some idea how sick I was, I sat there in the early meetings and said I didn’t have much of a problem and wasn’t like the others. I think they might have heard that before.

 

FRESH START

I started an IT business (despite not even being able to turn a PC on, let alone do anything useful with it). I got an old PC on finance - my girlfriend, now wife, helped - and found a free desk by a skip. I taught myself how to send emails and write word docs. Then I taught myself how to program & do graphic design, all from books. It wasn’t easy and believe me I wasn’t great at it. I had to read each book between 3-6 times as it made literally no sense. But eventually it went in and I could create simple things.

I got a customer and the first year I earned £6,000. But I didn’t gamble and it felt like a fortune. After a year I got a second customer, then a third. I started my own IT business and people would pay larger amounts for me to build things.

The other day I added up my earnings since I stopped gambling, and have averaged £70k a year for 25yrs. So ironically I’ve earned close to £2million by NOT gambling? go figure. A nice lifestyle... just by staying away from gambling?  Amazing what happens when you maintain your energy & focus on simple productive things instead of running round your wheel.

And on that journey I’ve had the privilege to listen to + help steer hundreds of other gamblers & their families. I’ve been into prisons to visit gamblers and setup meetings for them inside. I’ve done TV for popular daytime shows and given talks in schools. I’ve setup helplines for gamblers and started self-help groups. 

Most importantly of all I have learned that helping other people recover helps my own recovery, so for me it’s a Win-Win.

 

STRATEGY THAT HAS WORKED FOR ME AND KEPT ME OFF

I haven’t made it this far by accident, or by luck, or willpower.. I have a daily strategy that has worked for 25 years, and works now.

Incidentally I’ve personally known hundreds of gamblers over years, and can tell you that each one of the points below is necessary to succeed. Be choosy & miss ones out and you DRAMATICALLY increase your chances of slipping back your old ways. Be honest and stop kidding yourself.

 

#1. MONEY

* A gambler needs money to gamble. So the sooner you are cut off from it the better. You know that if you have it you’ll only gamble until your last pound is gone, so give it to someone else to hold onto for you. It’s not even money to us - it’s spins/credits/chips etc. Have it paid direct into their account. Hand over your cards, all of them. You definitely will not want to do all this, but failure to do it will result in disaster.

* Only carry the exact cash you need for that day, and get receipts for everything you spend and give them back to your appointed “Bank Manager” (husband, wife, mother, fathers, aunt, friend, etc). 

* Have them help you fill up with fuel, stock up food, etc so you know you have basics covered and don’t have to handle the money. 

* Do NOT give this person a hard time - you need their help, so don’t blow it. You might feel like a child, but don’t act like one. Print this off and give it to them.

* After a couple of months of this system working, I guarantee you will want control of your money back - DON'T. Never change a winning formula, its not worth the risk. It's the gambler in you that is telling you that the danger is over and you can go back to it. Don't change a thing.

 

#2. DEBTS

* Tell your family/other half about your debts - ALL of them - so that they can help pay these people back. Make an offer to pay a bit a month - even £10 - no more sticking your head in the sand.

* It’s important that you pay the debts over the longest term possible, as it’s a lasting reminder of the consequences of your actions.

* Ask them to freeze the interest, and go for 5 or 10 years repayment terms. But repay you will, and it will help fend off your next bet.

* As well as paying back yr debts, keep a little back for doing something nice, a small treat, whatever you can afford.

 

#3. TIME

* A gambler needs time to gamble. So fill your time with small, productive tasks. If you’ve got a gambling problem there’s a TON of stuff you’ve been neglecting: your personal appearance and health, the house and garden, your work, relationship, friends, etc.

* Get fresh air. Take exercise. Take pleasure in normal things again. Rediscover old hobbies. 

* Spend as much time in the company of others. When you’re with people you won’t gamble. Don’t be a loner, mulling over your mistakes. Thinking about what you've lost will take you straight back there.

 

#4. DAILY PROGRAM

* It helps to have an hour-by-hour daily program which you write the night before and carry around in your back pocket. Don’t just wing it and let the day happen to you or you’ll end up gambling, guaranteed.

* Tick things off as they’re done or later that night when you doing your next list, you'll feel good.

* Work out how much money you’ll need in advance, and plan for it.

 

#5. GAMBLING THERAPY / PRECAUTIONS

* Go to Gamblers Anonymous. Tune out the gambler voice in your head that says you don’t need to go. Trust me, you do. I really wanted to sort this on my own, but I came to accept that it was bigger than me and I needed help. Willpower alone will not solve this.

* Attend a GA meeting once a week without fail. I was 2 years clear before I skipped a week. 

* Ban yourself & self-exclude yourself from everywhere, even establishments you’ve never been to and from types of gambling that you’ve never done. Like an alcoholic, you’ll drink anything where supply is scarce.

* Distance yourself from gambling acquaintances - tell them you have a problem, and delete their number from yr phone. They won't miss you, as they're not true friends.

* Don’t go in or near gambling establishments. Walk on the other side of the street. Take a different route.

* Change channel the moment gambling comes on the TV, or walk out of the room. 

* Have someone install gambling block software onto your phone and all PC/tablets, and only they must have the passwords so only they can change or uninstall it.

* I you are seeing gambling ads on your phone or laptop, it means you didn’t do the last step.

 

LESSONS I’VE LEARNED...

  1. The only way to win at gambling is not to play.
  2. You are never ‘cured’. I’ve may have done a reasonable job of rewiring my brain, but the old underlying patterns are still there if I wake them. If I was to have just one bet today, I have no doubt whatsoever that my accounts and anything else I can get my hands on would be empty tomorrow. I’ve personally seen people do this after 10 years abstinence, very sad. For extra insurance my wife is instructed by me to leave and take the children if I gamble, no matter what I say.
  3. You have to either be a gambler or a non-gambler. Black & white, no grey area. Those that try to control or regulate their gambling never do so for very long. Anything that throws us off emotional centre will send us retreating back into our isolation cave where we can self-medicate our pain.
  4. Gambling addiction is progressive in its nature. That means we constantly need more of it to get the same adrenaline/dopaminebuzz. So if you keep at it you can expect the rollercoaster to get a LOT scarier as the bets get bigger, the debts get bigger, and the stress becomes unbearable. Don't even think about getting yourself checked out, as the effects gambling has on your brain and your heart are extreme.
  5. You need to help others in order to help yourself. Otherwise you are just another temporary version of your selfish self, thinking about yourself. Help others to recover through simple support & encouragement and you will help yourself. Sometimes you end up giving advice to others that is meant for yourself.

 

It has worked so far - by taking it one day at a time. Hopefully there's some things in my experiences that you can identify with or use to bolster your own recovery.

Also check out my gambling addiction blog for more detail on the above and additional information that will help you stay off. 

You’ll also find me on Twitter @GamblerHelp

 

All the best,

Mike

 

Posted on:
Wed, 08/11/2017 - 16:11

Bal

Joined:
2015-04-18

Hi,

What a fantastic post in which the solutions sound so simple.

My last punt was 2 and a half years ago and my poison was the fobt. Like you cash was handed over and it returned to me 9 months later - however receipts are always available!!.

As someone who pops into the GC chat rooms i will be recommending all have a read of this.

Best wishes

Posted on:
Thu, 09/11/2017 - 00:05

guest account

Joined:
2017-03-20

Hi Mike

Thanks for sharing your story and all the tips that went with it. Really inspirational and honest and definitely helpful to me personally. 

25 years GF, wow, congratulations, now that's something to aim for isn't it?! 

Posted on:
Thu, 09/11/2017 - 00:12

GamblerHelp

Joined:
2017-11-07

I was lucky to make it through 25 hours to start!

The time off gambling is irrelevant - it's what you do with that time and how you spend it that counts, to put something back rather than be on the take.

Posted on:
Tue, 21/11/2017 - 22:31

Redbar

Joined:
2017-05-13

Great post.. Yes there is always a bit of us in everyone's story. I went about 8 years gf then life changed boredom set in, you know the score, but am on the right road again but with the support I didnt get the 1st time round.

It's a ongoing road and I don't believe will ever be cured but blocks and no means keeps me a step ahead of the bandits (no pun intended)

Excellent work u have achieved in 25 years with others and yourself as well keep up the fight

Red x