I couldn’t see it. It was just like, you know, paperless so it didn’t feel like it was money. And I think again, I spoke to Nationwide in the middle of the week about having people, you know, even when I went to the bank and if someone had seen that, if someone may have said to me at the point, “Are you Ok? Something seems to being going on here”. But people aren’t qualified to do that, but we need to have someone there who is qualified or have people in these places with lived experience that can help people because was just too easy for me to do it.
I think the banks should form a network of some degree. So, if someone can see irrational actions happening on someone’s account and they’re trying to open another bank account, there should be some flags put up there. And I don’t mean just jumping in and saying what are you doing, but you know, it needs to be done in the right way. But there just needs to be so much more done.
So, it’s become very much kind of it is the invisible addiction. We need to talk about it. And more people with lived experience need to come forward, I think. We need to be utilizing those people, maybe in banks, maybe in governments or whatever it is, just to sort of advice and help from all sectors, you know, young people, older people, affected others as well.
Because unless you’ve got a hold on it, it will get bigger and badder. And if you’re betting stupid amounts of money now, the sooner you stop and the sooner you speak to someone about it, then the more help you can get. And I think don’t get to the stage like I did with being that amount in debt and not reaching out to people because I could have took an easy path and I could have my life. I could have done that. I thought about it because I felt there was shame about what I was doing abut actually, when you do open up the speak people, they understand it and they’re there to help you. So, you know, stop as soon as you can and think about what it is your gambling, what you’re gambling on.
Because I felt like I was in a bubble. You know, no one knew what was going on. I couldn’t tell anybody. You call it the invisible addiction, which is very kind of true. So, you can go, and you know, you can go around, and people can’t notice things that are going on.
I felt shame about it. I felt absolute shame. I mean, what I could have with £30,000. I could have took the kids on holiday. I could have bought stuff, you know. It was. It was the thought of all that money that I had just wasted on me, if that makes sense. Even though it is an addiction, and I don’t think people find it difficult to understand it. It was just the thought so when I stopped, I thought I am never going back to it because it made me cringe.
I was having some quite dark thoughts at the time. I was thinking – I was contemplating taking my life, to be honest, because I couldn’t understand how to get out of this debt. I was worried about what people would find out. If my wife found out, what would happen? What would work do if they found out? So, you know, I was in this complete space of depression and anxiety and just not knowing what to do.
It went from something that was a bit of fun and a buzz to something that just became all consuming. It literally took over your day. So, when you’ve got a gambling addiction, you don’t wake up and think Right, I’ll have a bet at six o’clock. You wake up thinking, Right, what am I going to have a bet on today? How am I going to get this? I lost £2,000 yesterday, how am I going to get that back? And you have your phone stuck to you because that’s all you’re doing. You’re thinking about it. You become anxious; you get depressed. You start taking other things.
I was in the same job, and I was earning good money. My family life was stable. So why get into that? It wasn’t like I was, you know, in poverty or anything like that or, you know, it was just something that initially started as a bit of fun. And I enjoyed it and when you won it was a real buzz. And the weird thing is, when I did win, I’d buy things for my family. It wasn’t even me, I wouldn’t spend it on me.
When I first started gambling it was very much a bit of fun, absolutely. I was just putting on little bets, football mainly. I might go to the pub and there would be William Hill over the road, getting a slip. We used to discuss the slip, football slips with mates and stuff. I’d put maybe a pound on here, and pound on there, that sort of thing… Sometimes we’d get some wins and sometimes we didn’t, but it was small amounts of money and nothing that was a daily thing at that point.
People need to be trained up and there needs to be signposting guidelines, even policies at workplaces about gambling and, you know, people supporting that space and give them clear direction of where you can go.
Make it’s something that’s going to be … because I felt like it was a bit of an interrogation when I had my chat [with an organisation] and I’m sure they wanted to help, but it didn’t feel…probably because people don’t understand what I was going through. I think if you’ve got someone there who understands what you’re going through, it makes it a lot more easy and probably more effective conversation.
I didn’t really know where to go. So, I think, and this is probably a problem for a lot of gamblers out there at the moment, and this is why we need to make more awareness because I didn’t really know what to do or where to go. I had to do a lot of the work myself and at that point I’d stopped gambling, but I was still very raw emotionally. I was still feeling very down, still very anxious. So, it took a lot out of me to go and then see the doctor and stuff. Maybe some people wouldn’t have the strength to do that. I don’t know. So, it’s difficult, but it wasn’t the easiest thing to get help for.
It went from something that was a bit of fun and a buzz to something that just became all consuming… So, when you’ve got a gambling addiction, you don’t wake up and think “Right, I’ll have a bet at six o’clock”. You wake up thinking, “Right, what am I going to have a bet on today? How am I going to get this? I lost £2,000 yesterday, how am I going to get that back?” And you have your phone stuck to you because that’s all you’re doing. You’re thinking about it. You become anxious; you get depressed. You start taking other things. Like I said, I started drinking heavily. I couldn’t tell people what was going on.
The rattiness comes in because you’re not sleeping, so you get quite jittery and ratty, and you just become a shell of what you are, really. And that’s all I can describe it as. Some days you can maybe function, you might have a few wins and you’re feeling quite good, but then even on those days, you’re looking for more. And so, it goes from something that’s a little five-minute bet to something that becomes your life, takes over your job, takes over your family life and it’s dark. It’s a very dark place to be.
Through each session I talked about it and I kind of raised all my fears each week when I got there about even what’s going to happen when people write letters about my loans and stuff because I can’t pay them now. And then overcoming that fear and actually having StepChange there was really good.
We were quite close me and my boss. You know, she was really good to me, but I didn’t know what to say. I had to tell her… and she just said “OK, well, you’ve not actually killed anyone, have you?” And that was her response. So straight away it was a big weight just fell off me because I told her and there was again, we’re talking about stigma, there wasn’t any of that “Oh my God- what have you done?”. You know, it was kind of like, “fine, and what are you doing about it? What help are you getting?” And she was just brilliant… People I told were actually good about it, and I was very lucky for that. And actually, that did take a lot of the weight of the worry off me because when you start to talk about it, it’s massive, you know, especially to people who you care for and they’re understanding.
My wife found out. I didn’t tell her. We had a joint bank account, so she kind of never really went on and looked at it. She said she had to check something because I manage it normally. And she would see transactions and she asked what it was, and I was kind of trying to put off saying it’s nothing. And then I told her. I just said, “Yeah, I’ve been gambling.” She was completely shocked and didn’t understand why I’d done it and what I was doing. When I told her the amount I was in debt by, it was literally a boom, a kind of explosion. At that point, she said, “right, I can’t deal with this”… Come back the next day, tried to sort it. I couldn’t. And then we were kind of at the verge of splitting up.