Guest blogger Sean shares his story of gambling recovery.
When I first realised that I was going to need help, it was a very difficult time for me. I have always been a strong and independent person, and for the first time I felt like a failure – but I knew that I had to change.
It was very difficult opening to my partner and my family, as I knew this was going to have a big knock on effect with trust. Once I had built up the courage to tell the truth and put everything on the table with my partner, I was amazed at how understanding and supportive she was towards me – I certainly did not expect that, but it made such a difference.
When you realise that gambling is a problem for you, then the best thing you can do is tell the truth. You may be surprised how much help and support you receive from others in your life, and it will be a massive burden lifted off your shoulders as you no longer need to lie or hide anything from the people you love.
A key part of my journey was realising that even though I had tried to stop gambling several times, I always returned within a few weeks or months. When I was younger, no matter how much I gambled I had always seen it as a pleasurable pastime – something I always enjoyed regardless of winning or losing money. I think having that mindset was one of the main reasons that I continuously returned to gambling, even after trying to take time away from it.
In my mid-20s, I did realise that gambling was no longer an enjoyable experience, but by this point I couldn’t help myself. I stopped thinking about how much I had spent and lost, and became preoccupied with a big win – I assumed that it would happen one day, if I just kept going.
I think that there wasn’t as clear an understanding around gambling problems or clear signposting to help for those affected at that point, but I didn’t seek help or tell anyone in my family at the time. I tried to handle everything by myself, and I was unsuccessful at stopping gambling countless times. I later realised that this wasn’t going to work.
I think there is a greater awareness of the help available now, but this definitely needs to grow – we need to work together to be more open about gambling, so that anyone who needs support can feel comfortable reaching out and knowing they’re in safe hands.
I believe now that there are some good protocols in place at many online gambling sites, for instance reality checks, ID checks, deposit limits and possibility of affordability checks coming in. It’s essential that all gambling websites take their responsibility seriously – they need to actively monitor the way their players gamble, and take action to contact the people they are concerned about. I believe it makes a big difference when you hear directly from a company to check if you’re doing ok – even if it doesn’t prompt a behaviour change immediately, it can sow the seed.
I think that problem gambling is slowly being recognised as a bigger issue, and that the profiles of organisations offering advice and support, like GamCare or Gamblers Anonymous, are being raised. Gambling companies need to do as much as they can to make information about how players can keep themselves safe, and where they can find information and advice if they need it, as accessible as possible.
The best support process for me was definitely participating in group therapy sessions provided by the team at GamCare. I honestly believe without that treatment I would not be here today.
The support given by GamCare practitioners, and the other participants in my group, was amazing. The people you meet along the way are vital to the recovery process in my opinion. I am still in contact with the people from my sessions today and believe this a great motivation and support pillar.
I think more needs to be done by the Gambling Commission and gambling companies themselves to highlight the seriousness of problem gambling, and the many ways that a gambling problem or addiction can impact not just on individuals, but families and communities. There needs to be a bigger recognition that it is a major problem for many, and that there is a shared responsibility to reduce this.
I believe that organisations like GamCare and GambleAware should be heavily promoted and advertised by all UK gambling companies, as well as thinking more about the steps that can take to properly assess how their games and environments make an impact for vulnerable people.
If you’re struggling with gambling, embrace the help that is out there. The situation will not improve overnight, and it does take commitment, but if you take help from every avenue you can know it will get better gradually. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily for another, so there may be some trial and error, but you will find something that works for you.
Have an open mind about the recovery process, and take on board everything that’s presented to you. Take every day as it comes, as there will be plenty of amazing days where you hit milestones, but the road to recovery will also have its bad days and that’s where your support network is a must.
Be open and honest with your family, partners, friends about your problem – this includes your emotions and feelings, money problems you may face, everything – and this will help you to start rebuilding some of the trust you may have damaged.
For family and friends, I would say to be very open minded about the problem at hand, as you will likely never truly understand what’s going on in the mind of a problem gambler unless you are one. It may sound like an excuse, but it’s not.
My partner had no idea about the extent of my gambling or the problems it was causing until I was open and honest with her. While I tried to explain my actions or how I was feeling, my partner didn’t necessarily understand from my point of view, but she remained open-minded and tried her best to support me. This was enough for me.
I would also advise family and friends to take every day as it comes – look after yourselves too, but try to help or assist when and where you can because every little piece of support means more than you think.
If you need support, talk to GamCare now >>