Guest blogger Matt, from the new Peer Aid service piloting in London, focuses on why peer support is so important in gambling recovery.
When my grandad first asked me to pick a horse for him, I was 11. At odds of 33/1, that horse won. From that day on, my grandad wanted me with him every Saturday – we’d watch the horse racing together and he would pay for me to place a bet.
By the time I was 15, I was visiting betting shops by myself. All the money I got from my paper rounds, weekend jobs and pocket money would likely be spent on gambling. The time I spent on gambling meant that my friends and family were at arms length.
I began to work in a bookmakers when I was 18. At first it seemed like a dream job, but I was quickly more entrenched in gambling that ever, and talking about nothing but horses and gambling all day wasn’t helping. Even on my days off I was in different betting shops and my wages were disappearing fast.
This pattern went on for years. I was lying to my loved ones, and whenever I ran out of money I would promise myself that was the end, but it never was.
Over the years, gambling has cost me money but more importantly it’s cost me time – time I should have spent with family, friends, loved ones. The relationships gambling cost me almost cost me my life.
When I reached out for help, I had finally realised enough was enough. I knew I really had to stop gambling this time, and I contacted Betknowmore UK. I spoke to Frankie, who knew exactly what I was going through because he’d been there.
I was at ease straight away, he never judged me or my past, and more than anything he gave me a sense of hope – I felt empowered, if he’d beaten this then I could too!
Because of this support I’ve been without a bet for two years. I don’t think I could have managed two days without this support, and I know that many of GamCare’s clients would feel the same. The people they meet through group sessions, through the GamCare Forum and Chatrooms, through meetings at GA, they all help us through the tough times and the good times. We know what it’s like, we know how bad it can feel, but more importantly we know what can help.
I am now working with Betknowmore, and in partnership with GamCare we’re launching a pilot for peer support to be integrated with their support and treatment services across London, called Peer Aid. In time, we’re aiming for this to be available in as many places as possible.
Peer Aid is designed, developed and delivered by individuals with lived experience of gambling harms. The service will be able to provide both one to one and group support to complement the support and treatment people receive with GamCare.
We’re actively looking for peer supporters to join our service now, so if you want to get involved, give something back and help others through what you’ve been through, get in touch!