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People we've helped

Steve's story

Steve, 35 from Norwich, began gambling online around four years ago, and during this time Steve says he felt like he was becoming a completely different person. 

He says: “I was suffering with stress, mostly related to my work. However, when even moving jobs didn’t seem to help, I turned to gambling. I would neglect my wife and children – I spent hours watching a ball spin round a wheel or the wheels on slot game turning on my mobile phone. I didn't realise it at the time but the thing I was craving was actually destroying my life – I became someone I didn’t recognise, and I did very shameful things during that time.”

Steve eventually felt so trapped by his gambling behaviour that he experienced suicidal thoughts. Everything came to a head in December 2017, and when his family were fully aware of what he had been going through they encouraged him to seek more support.

Steve says: “When I realised how severe it had gotten, I looked online for help and found GamCare. I had a telephone assessement, and then received face-to-face sessions at Breakeven, my local GamCare provider. These sessions have helped me understand more about my gambling and that was key for me – not just the practical aspects about restricting my access to money and ensuring I keep busy with other things, but understanding how much pain I was causing for myself and my family.

I’ve found that the more you understand about your gambling behaviour, the easier it is to handle. I’ve done lots of reading about addiction and recovery alongside support from GamCare and other counselling, and I’ve made positive changes to my life. I’ve just qualified as a life coach, and my goal now is to work towards becoming a counsellor myself. I want to help others recover, and I’m working towards opening my own recovery centre in North Norfolk.”

Steve says accessing support is a vital part of the puzzle when making your way to recovery: “GamCare has helped me and I would recommend that if you’re struggling with gambling, you give them a try.”

Linda's Story 

Linda, 57 from South West England, received GamCare face to face counselling and telephone support.

Linda says: “I started gambling in my 30s, at first when I went to see greyhound racing. Then I took a trip to a casino and played roulette. Before I knew it, I was preoccupied with gambling, and I thought nothing of losing £1,000 a night.

Then my husband told me we needed to relocate because of his work, and I found myself without any funds to pay back the loans I had taken out. I had to tell my husband about my financial situation and enter into an IVA. My husband took out a loan to pay towards this, and I resolved I would never put us in that situation again.”

Linda went for three years without taking part in any gambling, but she felt she didn’t have the right support in the long run. She says: “I think my biggest mistake was thinking I could beat my compulsion by myself. Eventually, I started going to bingo, which wasn’t so bad at first, but soon I was visiting every day and buying the top package. Then I began to play machines in every interval.

One day, I realised I wasn’t visiting the bingo hall every day to play bingo, but to play on fruit machines. Sometimes I would play multiple machines at a time – I was completely hooked.”

Linda took out more loans in order to carry on paying, but when things came to a head she had to tell her husband what had happened.

“I couldn’t face telling him in person, I wrote him a letter. I was so low, I was at the point of taking my own life. It was at this point, after separating from my husband and moving into a rented room, that I contacted GamCare for help.”

Linda received face to face counselling from her local GamCare provider, before being referred to the National Problem Gambling Clinic in London for further support. She says: “Talking everything through with the GamCare practitioner helped me understand so much – I was also given advice on how to watch out for the situations which trigger an urge to gamble, and how to reward myself for acknowledging those situations and dealing with them more positively.

My husband attended some of these sessions with me, so he could understand how to help me. We have now reconciled and he has control of our finances. His love and support is invaluable to me. I have taken this all on board, and I’m in a far better place now – I’m emerging from the depths of depression, and it feels wonderful to live a life without any more secrets.

I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for GamCare – I urge anyone gambling compulsively to reach out for the help they need, before you reach a crisis point. GamCare provide excellent support for gamblers and their families, without passing any judgement.”

John’s story

John, 37 from Manchester, received GamCare online counselling around four years ago.

He says: “I’d always been a gambler, mainly focussed around betting on horses and football. Then I began to play blackjack – I had a ‘system’ and I thought it would be an easy way to make money. Although I was successful, I had some very close calls and I was betting large amounts.”

After a disappointment at work, he played blackjack online one Friday and won £400. He began to transfer the money to his bank account, but reversed the withdrawal and continued to play. Within ten minutes, he had lost £14,000.

John says: “When my fiancé came home that day I told her what I had done. I felt like she had no real right to be angry, as it was my money and I didn’t feel that I was addicted. Looking back, I cannot believe how calm she was, but while she was in the shower I gambled another £2,000.”

John’s fiancé then told him that if he continued to gamble they would not be getting married, and that she would not raise a child with him.

He says: “She made it clear I needed help, and that’s what led me to GamCare. Throughout, I felt the team at GamCare were not judgmental and they weren’t looking to place blame, only to help me.

They were incredibly practical, teaching me about blocking software for gambling sites and what my motivations could be for gambling, but they were also very kind. That may not sound much, but for me it made a difference – they knew what I was going through.

When I relapsed two years ago, again they didn’t judge. They gave me some tough advice, and along with the support of my family they have helped me to move onto recovery.”

John is now married and in recovery. “I really want to thank GamCare, and to encourage anyone else struggling to control their gambling to seek help too – it can really make a difference.”

Mike's story

Mike, 38 from London, recently attended face-to-face counselling with GamCare after coming across our services online, including through the responsible gambling pages on betting sites.

Mike says: “I’ve been a gambler most of my adult life, and I was familiar with GamCare. When I actively decided to seek help I knew I could turn to them.

My gambling behaviour became compulsive in my late twenties, and after ten years of suffering I decided to see what help was out there for me.

Counselling sessions worked well for me, and I managed to stop gambling completely while attending weekly sessions. GamCare were also able to provide me with a token for free blocking software for my computer, which really helped.”

Mike says that support from his wife has been vital as he works through his recovery: “By and large my wife looks after the family finances now. I wouldn’t say that my sessions have ‘cured’ me, but I am definitely gambling less and have found greater willpower to deal with the issues that draw me to gamble. I’d recommend GamCare services to anyone struggling with gambling.”

Tom's story

Tom, 28 from York, attended GamCare counselling and has been gamble-free since June 2015.

Tom says: “I found GamCare through an internet search and at first I contacted them via the NetLine. When I’d just had a big loss for the second time, I started to realise I needed help to stop gambling. I wanted to stop for good, and I felt counselling would be the kind of support I needed.”

Tom feels that the chance to explore his feelings and understand what triggered him to gamble was really beneficial.

He says: “What worked well for me was learning how I could refocus my energy on other things – like exercise or watching movies – that let me relax and let the urges to gamble pass.”

Tom also relied on his family during his therapy, and feels that self-exclusion from gambling sites was a helpful tool to aid his recovery. Setting daily and weekly goals, small steps followed by rewards, was a good way for him to motivate change and feel more comfortable without resorting to gambling.

He says: “The support I received from GamCare was really important – counselling was a massive help. I also participate in the GamCare Forum, and sharing my experience with other members was a big help at the beginning of my journey. Just having others in similar situations to talk to and share advice and encouragement is something I would really recommend.”

Tom wants to encourage others to seek help if they feel that gambling is becoming a problem. He says: “Letting go of [problem gambling] is hard work, and the urges take a long time to subside – you may still get them sporadically. It takes a lot of willpower and determination, but find other hobbies and realise what else you have in your life without gambling!”

Jean’s story

Jean’s realisation that her husband had a gambling problem was sudden and shocking. Following the recent death of her mother, Jean went to the building society intending to make investments for her children as part of their inheritance from their grandmother. She discovered that the mortgage on the family home was double the amount it should be. Her husband had forged her signature to re-mortgage their home to fund his gambling.

Then she discovered the secret credit card bills – sent to a friend’s address. All Jean’s late mother’s estate was swallowed to pay the debts. Jean felt isolated, betrayed and frightened. She questioned whether she really knew the man to whom she had been married for many years. She felt cheated by the friends who had colluded to keep his gambling secret. She also felt that this was in some way her fault – that she had failed to keep her husband happy and safe.

Through GamCare counselling, Jean was able to explore these feelings, come to terms with what had happened, and decide how she wanted her life to proceed. She was able to tell herself that her husband’s gambling was not her fault – and believe it. As a result of counselling, Jean has overcome the depression and fears she was experiencing. Jean and her husband have now rebuilt their relationship.

Jason's Story

Jason came to GamCare for counselling at the request of his wife who felt their marriage was in jeopardy. Jason wasn't particularly motivated, but during his first session Jason described the frenzied nature of his gambling. At the age of seven Jason parents went through a nasty divorce, and soon after his mother married a very violent man. Jason was beaten and punished regularly - his only respite was an occasional visit to his grandmother, where everyone enjoyed watching horseracing. One Saturday, Jason’s grandfather put a bet on the Grand National for him; the horse won and the memory of winning was one of the fondest of his childhood.

Jason spent years of his childhood with his violent, jealous stepfather and became increasingly anxious for his mother’s attention. It was his gambling that activated a response from her. Jason visited the betting shop several times a day in moments snatched from work. He would back a horse, turn to a machine and ‘before he knew it’ would have ‘fed’ £250 into it. Chasing his losses, Jason would dash to the cashpoint for more funds, resulting in further financial loss.

As he became determined to change, after several counselling sessions Jason decided to try not to gamble. At the end of his therapy with GamCare, Jason had learned to control his gambling. Most importantly, he described an increasing ability to manage difficult feelings and to tolerate and reflect upon challenging situations without gambling as a means of avoiding them.

Martha’s Story

Martha had for many years worked in the gambling industry, and she enjoyed placing the occasional bet and going to bingo on Sundays. Her life took a dramatic downturn with the death of her baby. 

Martha could not cope with the trauma from this loss and the massive hole she felt was left in her life. The deep despair she felt turned her occasional bet into a gambling problem as a way to escape her sorrow. For that short period of time while she was gambling, she could zone out and felt a release from the pain she felt inside. She found it impossible to walk past a betting shop without going inside.

At her lowest point, she was so out of control that she felt life was not worth living. It was then that Martha went to Gamblers Anonymous (GA) and heard about GamCare. Through both her involvement in GA and her GamCare counselling sessions she was finally able to face her grief and come to terms with her sadness. Martha's treatment is now complete and she has managed to stop gambling. Moreover, she feels that she has learned how to enjoy life again.


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