im new here but have a problem which is just so much bigger than me.
im 34, married with children, mortgage, a good job. Life is pretty good except for my gambling which over the last few months has just spiralled. I’ve always liked to got to bingo and played it online too, I like to play online bingo and play on the slots at the same time. Last year I had some wins which I withdrew from my gambling account. But since then I’ve convinced myself another big win is coming, and have increased my stakes so I now spend £100 in an hour, the last few months Ive spent all my spare money on online slots and today I’ve just spent £300 on my credit card on slots online and I’m so mad at myself. I tried to tell myself that it’s not an issue as I’m only spending my “spare money” (bills are always paid etc) but I’m earning good money and I’m always skint, my hubby laughs about where my money goes but he has no idea I’m gambling it. Every month I tell myself I’ll stop but I never do, and now I’ve started to use my credit card.
I don’t know how to stop... I’ve done self exclusion but then I just join another site, I can’t bring myself to admit this to my hubby as I tell myself I can stop when I clearly can’t.
I feel like such a failure and I have no idea how I’ve got here.
Hey mum_wife, welcome to Gam Care. First things first, you are not a failure, you are a sick person trying to get better. How you got here isn't important right now, what is important is getting barriers in place to help kick start your recovery. A few suggestions (and that's all they are and they are based on what has worked for me, you do not need to do these things)
1) Self-Exclusion/GAMSTOP – As most of my gambling was online, especially for the last number of years, self exclusion was a must. Luckily in the UK we have a scheme called GAMSTOP which will self exclude you from the majority of online bookmakers, casinos, bingo sites etc. for up to 5 years.
2) Telling my partner and family everything – In my experience this is something that is impossible to do alone, I have tried in the past and failed miserably. It got to the point where the only person I was letting down by gambling again was myself and I didn’t care about letting myself down. This time I sat my partner down and told her I had a gambling problem and needed help. I have two young kids so there was a lot to risk by doing this, but it was the right thing to do. Then I sat my Mum and Dad down and told them the same thing. I personally extended this out to friends and people in work, the more people that know then the bigger the support network. For me though it was a vital step to admit to those closest to me that I could not do this on my own.
3) Money – Before I sat down with my partner I wrote out all the debts I had in a notebook, every single one, to the exact penny. There’s no point going into this hiding one debt, recovery is about being open and honest. I also wrote out a budget and again, this was to the penny. I then worked out how I was going to pay my debts back and in what order and how my budget would work going forward. I have not over exerted myself when it comes to paying my debts, why put added pressure on the situation. I am currently paying 10% of my salary towards my debts each month and it will take ten years to pay back, I am fine with that. Another massive barrier I set up was to give my partner full control of my main bank account that my salary is paid in to and my bills are paid out from. I do not have access to this card and she has the app on her phone. I have another bank account which she knows about and I get money paid in each month which is to cover petrol and money for me for the month. It is a Monzo account which has a function to block gambling transactions. My partner can also check this bank account at any time to make sure everything is as it should be. If I pay for anything in cash I make sure I get receipts so I have a record of what that money was used for. People may say this is being treated like a child, that by doing this I cannot be trusted with money, and they would be absolutely right. I have a long track record of proving I cannot be trusted with money so why run the risk.
4) Gamblers Anonymous – Once I decided I was going to admit I needed help I looked for nearby G.A. meetings. I checked for times that I knew would suit me and that I would be able to make weekly. I found one in Newry that has a Monday meeting between 9pm and 10:30pm and I knew I had no plans for this time, so no excuses. I travel around 25 miles to get there and it is one of the best things I have done in my recovery. I was talking to someone towards the end of 2018 about my gambling and they had mentioned G.A. but I said I wasn’t that bad, I was wrong. I had all these preconceived notions about G.A. that it would be full of old men all talking about how much they would love to have a bet or preaching to me about God and trying to convert me to go to church, Yes, there are some old men but apart from that it’s not how I imagined it would be. It is a place I can go where I will not be judged, where I will be understood, where I will be supported through the bad times and where the good times will be celebrated. It’s a place I can dump my $hit on the floor (not literally) and where I can listen and learn from others. It is a simple program for complicated people. Once in G.A. you can find a sponsor and work the steps which I have found to be extremely helpful.
5) Other Therapies – This could be counselling or CBT etc. Gamblers Anonymous isn't for everyone but there are a lot of people who get a lot out of counselling and CBT. If you reach out to a Gam Care Adviser they will be able to give you more details.
6) Podcasts/Audio Books – I listen to as many things about addiction and recovery as I can. All In: Addicted Gamblers Podcast, After Gambling Podcast, Podcast Recovery are my weekly listens.
7) Acceptance – This is probably one of the most important things I found in the early stages of recovery. I accepted I can no longer gamble and I accepted that I can never gamble again. I also accepted that this journey is for life and I just have to take it one day at a time. Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.
Sorry if that's a bit full on or too much information but as I said before, it's just stuff that has worked for me and maybe one thing in there works for you.
Any questions just ask
You've recognised it's a problem in time to stop it ruining your life and that of everyone around you. Don't waste the chance. Tell your husband and enlist his help. Making yourself accountable to someone else makes it very much harder for you to gamble in secret. Once you've done that look into all the other physical blocks you can put in place then start to address the underlying issues with counselling sessions (free from Gamcare) and attendance at GA.