I wish to chronicle how I came to my current situation as a way to help me heal, learn from my past mistakes and the many pitfalls I fell into along the way. This journal is primarily to help me contextualise my thoughts and feelings, I found reading other peoples’ stories and struggles in similar situations helped me realise I was not alone and ultimately lead me to making a change. I hope my words may help someone in return.
My earliest memories of gambling come from seaside holidays as a young teenager playing on the penny pushers and slot machines, wasting away my pocket money. Childs play for sure, but it was a seed of something much more sinister.
Skip forward to my later teenage years and I am busy at collage with a weekend job, I remember playing online scratch cards infrequently still innocent and safe. By the end of my teenage years I am at university with student loans and tuition fees to think about, Id discovered the world of online bingo and slot machines. This still mostly under control, I budgeted well, and gambling was a luxury id enjoy treating myself to.
My 3rd year at Uni was a work placement year and I was lucky and skilled enough to get a placement a Microsoft’s UK headquarters via one of their outsourcing vendors, I was so proud of my accomplishment. This was a decently paid position for a university internship and I’m more than certain most of my earnings was slowly making its way into online gambling.
Long story short I ended up getting fired from that placement by being a stupid young adult with terrible punctuality. I ended up enrolling for my 3rd year at university instead and blowing most of my maintenance loan on gambling. I felt a failure, I did not attend most of my lectures that year and promptly failed the majority of my modules, reinforcing those feelings of failure. To compound this mix of emotions my boyfriend of the past 4 years broke up with me causing me more turmoil, I decided to retake my 3rd year and this was just a sad repeat of the previous 12 months.
July 2012 I had become a drop out with defaults across my student credit cards and bank accounts as I no longer had an income stream to pay the interest and I was starting to bury my head in the sand. Come September Id had enough and decided to pick myself up and apply to as many jobs as I could find up and down the country, after only a few short weeks I was given an opportunity at a small web development business (the owner of which I am eternally grateful to)
I slowly built up my skill set and experience over time, I had agreements in place to repay all my debt and bills were being paid on time, but something wasn’t right. I was still consistently spending all my spare money gambling, I was aware of how much I was spending but for some reason I never really considered it dangerous or self destructive. Addicts don’t have any control I thought, I am spending a lot but I’m in control.
Skip forward 5 years, I had new bank accounts and new credit cards, these had gambling debt but not to the point of maxing out or becoming out of control (or so I thought), I had recently won a decent sum of money and an opportunity arose for me to move out of my mum’s house and rent a flat with a friend. Again I think I was reasonably responsible, with bills coming first before any gambling. I managed to furnish and setup my new home in no time.
Within the first year I found I was running out of money (the gambling was obviously a contributing factor) and I came under the impression that I may need more credit to afford food bills so I started taking out more credit cards, I’m not sure if I was fooling myself or not, I must have known full well that most of this credit would end up on gambling. Gambling had become this time sink escape that made me feel better like some kind of comforter that had always been there when I had felt down. I had several favourite sites and games that I really enjoyed spending more and more time playing.
Up until this point I had always used monthly limit controls to prevent me spending more than my means, but with new credit cards I found I could open multiple new accounts across multiple online sites with their own individual limits, these were set low but they ultimately added up each month.
This processes carried on for the next 18 months, more credit cards, more accounts, more gambling it was a trap that I didn’t even realise I was in. Finally my credit was maxed and I turned to the most despicable lenders known to man; the payday loan companies. I started treating these payday loans as a ‘safety net’ if I over gambled one evening I could just get a quick loan, no problem I thought.
How foolish. I knew the dangers this sort of lending incurred but at this point I don’t think I even realised how much gambling had sunk its teeth into me, I was feeling the urge to gamble all the time, each month it was like a race to the bottom; the bottom of my salary.
During all this time I had been climbing the ladder at work and had become quite successful at least in terms of experience and salary, the client I was primarily responsible for wanted to reward my hard work with a large bonus, the timing was good as I had recently paid up my recent payday loan (which had now become monthly repay agreements)
This was early 2019, my 30th birthday was on the horizon and I contemplated if I should pay off some of my 6 credit cards, at the same time I wanted to celebrate a milestone birthday with a holiday with my flat mate. I was in charge of paying the 3 holiday instalments using the money we pooled together, big mistake.
This was one of my greatest moment of weakness, I knew I couldn’t afford to spend the money I had saved but I did anyway. Bit by bit it was swallowed by late night gambling sessions, over the course of the last 10 years the length of these gambling sessions had ballooned into 12 hour affairs that disappeared as fast as the money I was wasting.
Come August 2019 I had taken multiple payday loans and even a guarantor loan to cover my holiday and spiralling credit costs, it was at this point I started failing to pay my many credit cards. The alarm bells were sounding all around me, things were getting out of control. I was struggling to afford to pay my lenders and yet I was still gambling, I would spend chunks of my salary on gambling right before my direct debits came out, direct debits started getting rejected or becoming costly unauthorised overdraft transactions.
The bills from the bank, the threats of car insurance cancelation on failed payments, begging the payday lenders for extensions. The realisation I had lost control of my finances was sinking in. I was suddenly consumed with dread, sleepless nights full of worry and regret. I couldn’t help but feel like I deserved to feel this way, after all this situation was my own making, I had been given every opportunity to escape this spiral.
The road to recovery started when I stumbled into an article describing how many of these payday lenders were not doing their due diligence required by the FCA and were being forced to repay much of the interest they had charged, It took a lot of letters and waiting but one by one my lenders agreed they shouldn’t have lent to me knowing full well I had so much existing debt and other loans. Some wrote off thousands of pounds worth of interest and capital, others removed remaining interest payments and a few refunded me.
January 2020 the last of my payday lenders responded and had written off my largest loan. I was elated, such a burden had been lifted I vowed to never again borrow from a payday lender. I had identified that It was gambling that got me into that mess so I also promised myself I would limit or stop my gambling habit, much like any addiction it continued unchecked.
April, final payday loan repayment is sent, I’m loan free. I consider the promise I made in January. I had failed, I was a failure again, Despair was sinking in. I’m 30 years old, I’m supposed to be an adult but I cant control myself, I know full well gambling is destructive and I have narrowly avoided financial oblivion in its wake.
I became aware of GAMSTOP at some point in the previous year possibly via the ‘When the fun stops, stop’ campaign. Mid April I’m visiting my mum, I’m staring at the GAMSTOP website, I think of all the opportunities and support my mum had given me over the years, completely unaware of the financial hell I had recently escaped, I start to fill in the account creation form, I fail the identification checks. Due to my many credit cards and loans over the last few years I cant correctly answer the financial questions used to prevent fraud. Defeated, I close the website and the gambling continues.
Mid May, lock down is in full effect and I’m spending more and more time staying up late gambling. One night I knowingly overspend my budget, I know full well the money I was gambling was for the rent, I contemplate a payday loan to cover the cost. A massive sweat of panic comes over me, what have I done. I’m at the tipping point once again, about walk knowingly into ‘moneygeddon’. I finally come to this realisation that I’m an addict, I have lost control, I make up excesses and look for ways out but the simple fact was I was completely addicted to gambling.
This sudden epiphany hits me like a train. Every fibre in my body is screaming.
It’s. Time. To. Stop.
I access the GAMSTOP website, I go through all my records and get all the correct identification information, I add all my emails and past addresses and ban myself from online gambling. I call my landlord the next day and explain that I made a huge mistake and will be late paying this month, he was very understanding and I was able to arrange to pay him double rent the following month. I proceed to call my multiple credit card providers and setup agreements to aggressively pay my debt.
We finally come to the present, August 2020. My financial situation has vastly improved already, I’m on track to clear all my debt by 2021. I feel so proud of myself each time I pay a lender in full, my finances have slowly started snowballing in my favour. But in the back of my mind I’m still feeling that urge, that ever present tick of ‘wouldn’t it be fun to spend some time gambling?’, whats worse is I see gambling advertising EVERYWHERE, It honestly scares me. I know the road ahead will be laid by my self determination to not gamble, its not enough to rely on GAMSTOP. I must learn to better myself and overcome this addiction.
I’ve never spoken to anyone about this problem until now, a combination of arrogance, shame, regret and fear has been holding me back. Having gone through this journey again in written form it has helped to put things into perspective. I fear that a lot of online casinos have way too much freedom to entice vulnerable people and more legislation is required to reign them in. Similarly self exclusion needs to be made easier and faster. If online casinos are required to do identity checks why cant GAMSTOP be included directly on these online sites as an operating requirement?
Anyhow that’s been my experience with gambling, I’m looking positively toward a gambling free future and I hope these experiences stop me making the same mistakes ever again. Cheers.
Hiya my friend
What a story you had to tell, but the bit that got me most is this time as like us all one day something just clicks. It could be we've no funds left or we've seen the light, I was gamble free for over a year and got an email from a well known site, thought well £10 won't hurt no one will know as you can guess 1hr later lost nearly £8000 I had to awake as this wasn't even my money. But enough about me I'm so glad you've got a plan and your debt will be paid off in not that long a time. You've worked it out well you should be so proud off yourself, but I meant to say I would also register with gamban it costs £25 for the year but well worth it plus remember if you want to gamble and look long enough you'll find away but the idea behind it is when you get the urge your at a high but by the time you've worked a way round the urge should've lessened given us the strength not to go on. I'm not saying you will as what you've achieved yourself is amazing but the more blocks in place the better. As I've never came across an addiction that can cost you so much in such a short period of time and leaves us paying it off for years. Well keep up the good work and I'll be watching if I can help with anything I'm here
Thank you for your thoughts and kind words @kevthekev40 I think the real struggle ahead will be the fight against the urge to gamble. Like you mentioned its very easy to get sucked back in, I've set myself some realistic saving goals over the coming years and I'm working hard towards them, each time my mind drifts and I start to think about gambling I reassure myself that my saving goals come first and foremost as they will be the key to my future.
Taking a real measured approach on all my income and outgoings has given me some startling perspective on just how much I was wasting on gambling and its helping me through this 'cold turkey' term.