Hi there, this is my first post and just typing is making me sweat! Forgive me if I ramble.. but getting it out there is proving immensely cathartic. I feel an essay coming on. I have been reading these forums for the last few hours and feel inspired by the honesty to tell my story.
I have finally plucked up the courage to address my pathological gambling. It’s been 5 days since I had a bet. I am 43 now and I have been gambling in one way or another for about 30 years.
Like many other resonant posts on here, it started when I was young. My dad was a gambler, along with several other addictive behaviours. We would play poker for match sticks, and then he introduced me to the horse racing which quickly became a bonding opportunity as my parents relationship broke up. Then when I was about 15 I won £1000 on a premium bond I never even knew I had, and for the first time I had some money of my own. I Bought that remote controlled car I always wanted and a few moths later the rest had been casually thrown in a pub fruit machine in a few LSD fuelled binges. Then i quickly dropped out of school. I started working, had some disposable income, and The internet was new and exciting.. so I started gambling online. I played poker, sometimes would have a bet on football, and went through a phase of scratch cards when the lottery started. But my poison of choice soon became the horses. I guess it was a hobby that I managed with control for several years, but gradually it got worse and more regular. I think I have probably bet on horses every day for maybe 8-10 years. Having a smart phone made it so easy, and I could hide it and do it in secret. Something I became incredibly adept at. I deludedly believed that the more I bet, the more I engaged with it, the more I would understand the ‘game’, the more I would learn and the better I would get. How wrong I was!
My lovely wife and I have been together for 20 years, married for ten and blessed with two wonderful children. Until a few days ago she had no idea. Exposing my secret became my biggest fear as I knew how much it would upset and hurt her. Over the years I tried to curb myself with deposit limits and lower stakes but never had a break and the compulsion just got worse. I was gambling at work and at any opportunity really. Weddings, funerals, births, holidays... it didn’t really matter. As long as I could find a few minutes, I could bet on my phone. I became detached and sought ways to isolate myself so as to gamble. And increasingly I found horse racing to bet on around the world at all times of the day.
In the last 3 years I have known I had a problem.. even almost blurting it out to my wife on several occasions recently. But the fear of facing the demons and the music was too overwhelming. Maybe I could just get that big win to retire on and keep my secret.. the classic gamblers mentality. As a high functioning addict I managed to scrape by in the other spheres of my life.. but deep down I was empty.. a void that I couldn’t fill. I’d go to sleep wracked with guilt, wake up thinking about it and worse still, I knew I was affecting the ones I loved. Bad gambler, bad husband, bad father, bad friend, bad colleague, bad son, bad person. The guilt and shame has been unbearable at times, so I smoke a lot of dope and over eat late at night to suppress the feelings, and punish myself.
When isolation started I thought maybe I could knock it on the head... there would be no horses after all. But I turned to slots for a few days, and then found racing still going in other territories. And as the advert says, once you pop, you can’t stop. When the racing started back up in France last week I hit it pretty hard. That was a warning.
About 6 days ago it all started to unravel, my wife wanted to see the joint savings account that I’ve so effectively controlled and used like a pay day loan facility. one that I can never quite keep up with the repayments. I had what I perceived to be moral red lines.. no loans, no credit cards.. cos if I did that I really would have a problem. But I already had the problem. And slowly but surely it all started to come out. I couldn’t confess it all in one go.. it was too much to let go of and at first I guess I thought I could stage manage it, maybe even protect her feelings by staggering the bombshells. But I know it all needs to come out. Catharsis and the chance to get better must surely start with some long over due honesty.
Once it started to come out I realised that the time to tackle this was now, before the savings were all gone, before I lost the house and before I lost my family. Quite suddenly I felt the enormous weight I had carried for so long begin to lift. I needed to talk about it and most importantly for the first time I actively wanted to stop. Telling my mum and close friends was a significant and difficult step. But I could feel that “born again moment” (as one of your regular contributors often says), and I needed to *** the mettle. So I took those first tentative steps and self excluded from the many sites I frequented plus set up Gamblock. This was not easy.. I had sweaty withdrawal feelings immediately, but I also quickly felt immensely relieved. Then we transferred any money left to her and she began taking protective financial measures.. closing accounts, cancelling over drafts and telling the bank and mortgage company that her husband was a liar and a degenerate gambler.
My wife is understandably devastated.. the years of secrecy and lying have come as a great shock and an even greater disappointment. And each revelation hits her like a body blow. I’m not the person she thought I was And the fall out over the last few days has taken its toll on the children, which is terribly hard to see. I don’t know if we will survive it together, I really hope so. And I’m determined to get better, to be a better husband, father and person. I hope we can make it out the other side and be stronger for it, but I don’t blame her for wondering if it’s really worth finding out. As she perceptively said : “you will always be a gambler, and I don’t want to be your keeper”. Her priority is understandably the children now. I hope she will support me as she has done many times in the past, but I have to face up to the possible consequences of my actions, however hard.
And here we are. Day 5 gamble free. I never thought it would or could happen and I had dark thoughts of taking this secret to my grave. But it almost seems crazy now. I’ve found a resolve I never thought I had, and withdrawal has so far been bearable. It’s only day 5 and I know there will be harder days, triggers or challenges ahead. I am not looking forward to the horse racing starting up again soon. But I hope I can make it through those moments.
It’s time for bed I think. If you have made it this far through my post, thank you for taking the time to read. It does feel good to release some of these feelings. Hang in there, try to be honest, make some good choices, seek help and open yourself up to the possibility of a new beginning.
Hi Luke my husband could so easily have written your story.
Please ask your wife to get some help and support for herself. She has been shocked and is wondering what the hell is happening to her. Gamcare offer the helpline, chat and here. Also Gamanon which is for family and friends of gamblers is available. All meetings are online each evening 7-9. All anonymous, all people who have experienced what she is going through. Just go to the website and login. Honestly it's the best place and will help her cope and safeguard herself.
to help you keep on track there are many blocks to put in place. The first being your access to money.