People we've helped
John, 37 from Manchester, received GamCare online counselling around four years ago.
He says: “I’d always been a gambler, mainly focussed around betting on horses and football. Then I began to play blackjack – I had a ‘system’ and I thought it would be an easy way to make money. Although I was successful, I had some very close calls and I was betting large amounts.”
After a disappointment at work, he played blackjack online one Friday and won £400. He began to transfer the money to his bank account, but reversed the withdrawal and continued to play. Within ten minutes, he had lost £14,000.
John says: “When my fiancé came home that day I told her what I had done. I felt like she had no real right to be angry, as it was my money and I didn’t feel that I was addicted. Looking back, I cannot believe how calm she was, but while she was in the shower I gambled another £2,000.”
John’s fiancé then told him that if he continued to gamble they would not be getting married, and that she would not raise a child with him.
He says: “She made it clear I needed help, and that’s what led me to GamCare. Throughout, I felt the team at GamCare were not judgmental and they weren’t looking to place blame, only to help me.
They were incredibly practical, teaching me about blocking software for gambling sites and what my motivations could be for gambling, but they were also very kind. That may not sound much, but for me it made a difference – they knew what I was going through.
When I relapsed two years ago, again they didn’t judge. They gave me some tough advice, and along with the support of my family they have helped me to move onto recovery.”
John is now married and in recovery. “I really want to thank GamCare, and to encourage anyone else struggling to control their gambling to seek help too – it can really make a difference.”
Tom, 28 from York, attended GamCare counselling and has been gamble-free since June 2015.
Tom says: “I found GamCare through an internet search and at first I contacted them via the NetLine. When I’d just had a big loss for the second time, I started to realise I needed help to stop gambling. I wanted to stop for good, and I felt counselling would be the kind of support I needed.”
Tom feels that the chance to explore his feelings and understand what triggered him to gamble was really beneficial.
He says: “What worked well for me was learning how I could refocus my energy on other things – like exercise or watching movies – that let me relax and let the urges to gamble pass.”
Tom also relied on his family during his therapy, and feels that self-exclusion from gambling sites was a helpful tool to aid his recovery. Setting daily and weekly goals, small steps followed by rewards, was a good way for him to motivate change and feel more comfortable without resorting to gambling.
He says: “The support I received from GamCare was really important – counselling was a massive help. I also participate in the GamCare Forum, and sharing my experience with other members was a big help at the beginning of my journey. Just having others in similar situations to talk to and share advice and encouragement is something I would really recommend.”
Tom wants to encourage others to seek help if they feel that gambling is becoming a problem. He says: “Letting go of [problem gambling] is hard work, and the urges take a long time to subside – you may still get them sporadically. It takes a lot of willpower and determination, but find other hobbies and realise what else you have in your life without gambling!”
Jean’s realisation that her husband had a gambling problem was sudden and shocking. Following the recent death of her mother, Jean went to the building society intending to make investments for her children as part of their inheritance from their grandmother. She discovered that the mortgage on the family home was double the amount it should be. Her husband had forged her signature to re-mortgage their home to fund his gambling.
Then she discovered the secret credit card bills – sent to a friend’s address. All Jean’s late mother’s estate was swallowed to pay the debts. Jean felt isolated, betrayed and frightened. She questioned whether she really knew the man to whom she had been married for many years. She felt cheated by the friends who had colluded to keep his gambling secret. She also felt that this was in some way her fault – that she had failed to keep her husband happy and safe.
Through GamCare counselling, Jean was able to explore these feelings, come to terms with what had happened, and decide how she wanted her life to proceed. She was able to tell herself that her husband’s gambling was not her fault – and believe it. As a result of counselling, Jean has overcome the depression and fears she was experiencing. Jean and her husband have now rebuilt their relationship.
Jason came to GamCare for counselling at the request of his wife who felt their marriage was in jeopardy. Jason wasn't particularly motivated, but during his first session Jason described the frenzied nature of his gambling. At the age of seven Jason parents went through a nasty divorce, and soon after his mother married a very violent man. Jason was beaten and punished regularly - his only respite was an occasional visit to his grandmother, where everyone enjoyed watching horseracing. One Saturday, Jason’s grandfather put a bet on the Grand National for him; the horse won and the memory of winning was one of the fondest of his childhood.
Jason spent years of his childhood with his violent, jealous stepfather and became increasingly anxious for his mother’s attention. It was his gambling that activated a response from her. Jason visited the betting shop several times a day in moments snatched from work. He would back a horse, turn to a machine and ‘before he knew it’ would have ‘fed’ £250 into it. Chasing his losses, Jason would dash to the cashpoint for more funds, resulting in further financial loss.
As he became determined to change, after several counselling sessions Jason decided to try not to gamble. At the end of his therapy with GamCare, Jason had learned to control his gambling. Most importantly, he described an increasing ability to manage difficult feelings and to tolerate and reflect upon challenging situations without gambling as a means of avoiding them.
Martha had for many years worked in the gambling industry, and she enjoyed placing the occasional bet and going to bingo on Sundays. Her life took a dramatic downturn with the death of her baby.
Martha could not cope with the trauma from this loss and the massive hole she felt was left in her life. The deep despair she felt turned her occasional bet into a gambling problem as a way to escape her sorrow. For that short period of time while she was gambling, she could zone out and felt a release from the pain she felt inside. She found it impossible to walk past a betting shop without going inside.
At her lowest point, she was so out of control that she felt life was not worth living. It was then that Martha went to Gamblers Anonymous (GA) and heard about GamCare. Through both her involvement in GA and her GamCare counselling sessions she was finally able to face her grief and come to terms with her sadness. Martha's treatment is now complete and she has managed to stop gambling. Moreover, she feels that she has learned how to enjoy life again.
Tony started gambling as a child, and when he came to GamCare he felt that it had “taken over” his life. Tony received online counselling with GamCare, and he discovered that his drive to gamble came from a sense of powerlessness and lack of direction, after giving up his dream of becoming an actor to please his wife. Even though he was successful, he felt he was only living for the ambitions of others.
GamCare counselling gave him a fresh perspective and motivation. He learned that playing machines gave him an illusion of control, since arcades had been his childhood refuge. Tony says: “I developed a relationship with these machines that provided me with what I felt was lacking.”
Tony had 12 sessions with his counsellor. He says: “I am happy to report I have not gambled or wanted to since [my last session], making it over a year in total now and I can’t tell you how good that makes me feel. I have been able to commit myself to other pursuits and have got a lot of my passion back for the parts of my life I had just about lost. My new focus on my work is paying off and I am achieving the goals I had set out to do many years ago. I have come so far in this last year and I am feeling very optimistic for the future. Although I believed I would stop I thought it would take a lot longer than it did.”
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