People we’ve helped
I got so good at lying about gambling, now I help others open up through the Peer Aid programme.
You can talk to someone who understands. Call the National Gambling Helpline now for free support, self-exclusion and gambling blocking software.
David reached out to GamCare around three years ago. He was gambling online and had run up debts of almost £30,000.
He says: “I wanted to stop, but I needed support – I was on the verge of losing my family. I looked for help online and found the National Gambling HelpLine. The adviser listened and guided me through a series of questions to understand my situation better. I was referred for treatment with Beacon Counselling Trust, and I was also put in touch with StepChange to address my finances. I found this whole experience so helpful – even that first conversation was a major step in my recovery. The advice they gave me was amazing, and just knowing I wasn’t alone helped reduce some of the shame I was feeling.”
At first, David only bet small amounts and felt that his gambling was manageable, mostly popping into a bookmaker to place his bets. He even won occasionally, and describes the thrill of a win as something which he ‘developed a taste for’. Eventually, he was betting daily, and he began to suffer from anxiety as he felt he was risking more and more. He decided to quit completely, and managed not to gamble for three years.
When he did gamble again, again he started with small amounts and convinced himself that gambling would not be a problem. He began to gamble online, and found that they money he was spending didn’t feel ‘real’. He describes gambling with credit cards as far too easy, and found that gambling had once again become a daily fixture.
David says: “I was never off my phone – I gambled on football games, casino sites… it started to impact my work and I couldn’t concentrate on my daily tasks. As my losses continued, I began to stake larger amounts as I was desperate to recoup what I had lost. My anxiety levels began to go through the roof, and I started to have palpitations and panic attacks regularly.
I felt really alone, it was like I was living in a bubble and I was present physically in my life but not mentally. I searched online for forums where others were describing similar situations, which was difficult to read but made me more aware that there were others feeling like me out there. I felt exhausted. I knew I needed to tell someone what was happening so I could try to move past it, but I dreaded it.
When I hit my rock bottom I broke down at work and confided in my manager. They were really understanding, and that helped massively. They offered their full support and some time for me to try to get things under control. A few days later my wife found out what was going on and I felt so ashamed – I felt like I had let my family down. I tried to explain to her, but I was so overwhelmed I couldn’t get the words out. I’d already stopped gambling for three weeks, but my debts had spiralled to tens of thousands.”
David remembers this day vividly: “I went on a bender to try and drown my sorrows. I booked a hotel room and started to contemplate my life without my family. I called my brother and my best friend – neither of them had any idea what had been happening. The following morning, hungover and racked with guilt, I realised I was acting just as my father had – he ended up staying in hotels, left penniless by failed businesses and bad investments. It was a sobering admission.”
David received face to face support through GamCare and Beacon over 12 weeks. At first, he says the sessions were difficult: “I cried as soon as I started to talk about what was happening and what I had done. Over time it did become easier for me to talk about everything, and I started to make changes for the better. The sessions helped me to realise I was only human and I had made mistakes, but I could move past them. My practitioner was a great listener, and I started to feel better about myself and move forward with my family, my work and my life. I found healthier coping techniques for when I was feeling low which could help me avoid gambling again.”
Support from StepChange also really helped David: “I received specialist support to help me manage my finances and set up a plan for my debtors. This meant I could carry on working and pay my debts off is a manageable way. It took away a great deal of pressure, and I felt no judgement from their team. They were amazing and really understanding of my situation and it made a real difference.”
David also says that the support he received from his family was vital to his recovery, including helping him to set up self-exclusion from online gambling.
David says: “I felt it was important to share my own experience in the hope that others who may be struggling understand that it’s ok to speak up and get the support they need. I’ve learned a lot from my sessions with GamCare – particularly how to recognise when I don’t feel able to cope with certain feelings or emotions. Where this would previously have led to me gambling more and more, I try to find different ways of processing the way I feel now such as exercise – it helps me to reflect so I can make more positive choices. I understand that my recovery is a process and a continuous journey, but that it doesn’t need to define me. Not every day will be good, but as long as I keep checking in with myself I can keep a better track of how I’m feeling so I don’t end up in another spiral.
If you’re struggling, know that help is here. GamCare don’t offer any judgement, they’re just here to help. You may feel that there is no way you can overcome this, but you can, and you’re never alone.”
Mark had a successful career in the financial markets before his gambling behaviour began to take a toll.
He says: “I got to the point where I started chasing my losses with gambling, and that’s when I really felt everything went downhill. I began stealing from the company I worked for in order to fund my gambling, which I still feel very remorseful about. Eventually, my conscience took over and I admitted my actions to the company and handed myself in to the police.
I went bankrupt and was living in a car I did not own, so I went to see my GP. While the organisation they referred me to didn’t have expertise around gambling, they did give me the number for GamCare. I was very alone and needed help and this was a massive support at the time.”
Mark was reluctant to join a group recovery course at first, and started having one-to-one sessions online with a GamCare practitioners.
“Everything was still so raw when I started talking to GamCare. My practitioner was excellent, and after my initial four sessions, I joined the group course for another six. I think I got just as much from the group sessions as the individual ones. Interacting with others with similar problems helped me to understand that I wasn’t alone, and being able to share experiences and listen to others made me appreciate that I wasn’t the only one feeling all these negative emotions. After these sessions, I received additional cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) through the NHS, which was also very helpful.”
11 months after handing himself into his company, Mark was prosecuted for his theft. He spent 15 months in prison, where he took part in several courses on mentoring and counselling as well as working for Barnardo’s. Now, Mark is going through a mentoring programme on probation.
He says: “I used to feel like there was no point talking to anyone as they wouldn’t understand, but in times of crisis we all need someone. For me, that someone was the team at GamCare. They kept me going and now I’m looking forward to helping others to stop gambling, or even starting in the first place.”
Carly found help through GamCare on a long night in December last year.
“I had been struggling with gambling for around three years. My ‘rock bottom’ was last year, when I lost my home, my job and the relationships that were the most important to me. I knew something had to change, otherwise I would feel like giving up altogether.”
When Carly lost her job, she felt at a complete loss. Her mum was so worried about her that she arranged a doctor’s appointment to make sure she received some additional support. After visiting her GP, Carly searched for help with gambling online and found GamCare.
“It was so scary to click on the button for live chat with GamCare, but I knew that I needed help and a little voice in my head said this was the right thing to do. I bit the bullet, and ended up speaking to the Adviser for over an hour. They recommended one to one support going forward and told me they could refer me straight away. I was stilled scared, but I said yes – I had taken the step to admit that I had a problem and needed help, something I had denied for a long time.”
Carly had been involved in an abusive relationship, and had a son that she desperately wanted to be able to support. “I wanted to get back to how I had felt before that relationship had such a big impact on me. I wanted to feel like I had before throwing my money away gambling became the only way to find a buzz or a sense of worth. I was miserable, I felt completely careless and unlike myself, and I wanted to change that.”
GamCare contacted Carly for a telephone assessment and connected her to a practitioner in London. Walking to her first appointment, Carly still wasn’t sure about her next steps: “It was a really long, hard walk from the station as I was so scared and upset. I still felt like nobody would understand – everything I had seen said gambling was something for men, not women and not me, but I knew I needed help. My palms were sweating but the appointment was ok – I thought to myself, just be honest and they can help you. And they did.”
Carly accessed 12 sessions of one to one support with her practitioner in London. “My practitioner listened to me with great empathy, and I didn’t once feel like she was judging me in any way. I really believe this was the key to me turning a corner, and I started to feel less like gambling was defining who I was somehow. My road to recovery started with gradually building up my self-esteem, my self-respect and more of my confidence. There were times I felt so low I almost gave up, but I’m really glad I stuck with it.”
Since her sessions with GamCare, she feels she has been able to make more and more positive changes in her life: “I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time, I can smile and laugh again and I don’t have to hide who I am any more. My relationship with money is much better, and I’m working on rebuilding the relationships that mean the most to me. I’m getting involved in local projects to help others, and I feel more comfortable talking about how I’m feeling now. Staying away from gambling altogether is the key for me – I have self-excluded from everything – but keeping on talking about what’s going on in my life is also really important.”
Carly wants to let others know that finding the right help for them doesn’t have to be hard. “Don’t stay living in darkness, and never be ashamed to ask for help. Gambling won’t make you happy, and there are plenty of people who are here to help, you just have to ask.”
“Just wanted to thank each one of you for all the help and advice during my journey dealing with problem gambling. You all honestly saved my life during early stages of my recovery and the support and time spend listening to me on the NetLine is much appreciated. Thank you for showing me the way to safer and brighter direction of my life.”
“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!”
“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.”
“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.”
“I just want to express my sincere thanks to the GamCare team for their time and commitment – this is something that I should have done a long, long time ago.
No matter what situation you are in, contact GamCare for help. It’s so easy and so very worth it. As I write this I am on day 95 of my gamble-free life. Every month I know that my debts won’t increase because of gambling.
GamCare has changed my life and those of my loved ones for the better and there is nothing more satisfying than that. A crushing weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I am a much calmer, happier person now. Thank you so very much again.”
“Contacting GamCare felt a huge step. I had no idea how to start the conversation and I mulled over this for days.
Finally, I took the plunge and it was the most important step I could have taken. The Adviser talked to me like an equal and instantly put me at ease. They made me feel that I had made the right decision and that I would have support to get through this.
Everything happened in such a timely manner and soon I was sat across from a GamCare practitioner who was trained to work with gamblers. I was nervous, but again it felt like the right decision. I worked through 12 sessions, all free of charge, and gambling became easier and easier to resist.
My practitioner not only worked with my gambling behaviour in the present but also what triggers it. I found it quite literally life-changing, and I’m slowly putting my life back together.
I want to say a huge thank you to GamCare. It all started with a reassuring person on the end of the phone, but GamCare have helped me to make a change for the better.”
“I contacted GamCare about six months ago, first over the phone and then through their NetLine. I had spotted their details in betting shops as well as online, as I’ve had multiple relapses while trying to address my compulsion to gamble.
I finally decided enough was enough. I was sick of the stress and depression gambling was causing me, it felt like a massive hole that I couldn’t climb out of, and I was thinking about suicide. If it wasn’t for the adviser who chatted to me that day I don’t know what I might have done. They helped me see sense and realise there was more to my life, and they helped me make my decision to carry on and work towards recovery.
I’ve tried several different options for treatment, including support over the phone as well as face to face with a practitioner. I didn’t feel like that was for me, so I joined one of GamCare’s online groups which I was more comfortable with. I’ve also attended meetings with Gamblers Anonymous to support my recovery.
The GamCare team have given me advice to help put barriers in place, like getting gambling software blocked on my phone. They also advised me that one of the most important things I could do was to be open and honest with my family, even if it was hard or painful at first.
Now, my family relationships have never been better at present – I no longer feel like I have to lie or hide the truth. Remember, you are not alone. There is help out there, you just need to give it a chance!“
“I began gambling online around four years ago, and during this time I felt like he was becoming a completely different person… 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.”
“I found GamCare online and got the ball rolling in my recovery by talking to an Adviser on their NetLine. I had tried to stop gambling many times before, and each time I started again within a few weeks or months. Nothing had changed, and I now realised I needed help if I really wanted to halt the effect gambling was having on my life.
Last December, my partner discovered how bad my gambling had become, and how much trouble I was in. It hit me that there was a lot more at stake than just money.
Because I live in quite a remote area, there are no Gamblers Anonymous meetings or other face to face support options available nearby. That’s why help through GamCare was such a lifeline – online support was my only option.
I attended online group sessions, which allowed me to dig deeper into the reasons that gambling had become such a compulsion for me. The sessions helped me better understand my situation and develop methods to adapt the way I handle difficult situations that don’t result in gambling.
I’ve made really positive changes at home and work now, and I feel more productive! The biggest change for me was opening up to my family – being honest with myself meant I could be more honest with them.
There were some practical steps to take as well, to make it harder for me to turn back to gambling if I was having a bad day. I used blocking software called gamban, which blocks gambling sites and apps without blocking anything else, as well as signing up for GAMSTOP – a self-exclusion scheme which applies to almost all of the gambling companies licensed to provide online services across the UK.
My partner was also a great help, and was always there when I needed her – even though she didn’t quite understand what I was going through, as she has never gambled.
When you realise that you have a problem with gambling, seek help. There are many ways in which you can receive help; what works for one person may not work for another, but there is help out there waiting, you just need to take the first step.”
“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.
I received online counselling treatment. 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.”