People explained that when you are addicted to gambling, you are not able to make sensible decisions. They are behaving in ways that make no sense, but they seem to have no control over what they were doing. This is because they are experiencing addiction, and addiction means that people lose control and repeatedly do something that causes them harm.
People blame themselves for their addiction. They feel shame and self-hate and this cuts them off from other people. They are trapped and alone in their gambling. They can end up feeling there is no hope of ever being able to escape gambling.
Many talked about feeling like two people. The gambling person and who they really are. They describe watching this gambling person behave in ways that made no sense but felt powerless to control.
The gambling person would do things that were the opposite to who they were or their values. They may be deceitful or behaving badly to those close to them. They are damaging their lives with financial loss or debt.
People have said that in the grips of addiction, they are not in the right mindset and unable to make rational decisions for themselves.
Self-hate and self-punishment
People have intense feelings of self-blame, shame, guilt, and self-hate due to gambling. They feel ashamed of the gambling and the things they do because of the gambling.
For some people, gambling becomes a form of self-harm or self-punishment. Many people describe a cycle of misery, with gambling, followed by self-hate, followed by more gambling to punish themselves.
In many cases people start to hate gambling, but by this point they have little control and cannot ‘just stop.’
Gambling became a self-harm tool for me. I’ve got this image of me sat with a laptop, and every time I click that button, I may as well have been stabbing myself in the leg. It becomes this numbness where it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose. It’s just this thing of you may win big, but you’re not actually feeling that euphoria of anything. It’s just something that’s happening and you start upping your deposits and it’s just something to keep you there. It just keeps you gambling. I don’t think you have that conscious thought of, “I’m going to end up with nothing here.” It’s just robotic. It’s absolutely something that’s taken over you.
Denial and avoidance
Some people do not want to recognise or acknowledge they are experiencing harm, because they want to continue gambling. They feel they cannot face life without gambling or gambling is all they have.
I wanted to carry on, carry on betting. They were telling me I had a problem. I was like, “No, I haven’t.” When someone tells you something like that you go into denial and it’s like a fight against it. If you think it yourself, it’s like, “Oh, I can do something about it,” or someone tells you you’ve got a problem, it’s like, “No, I haven’t. I can stop this. You can’t stop it. I can stop it. I don’t need any help.” Obviously, it caused arguments.
Alternately, people are experiencing a great deal of harm, and continue to gamble to avoid confronting the harm.
Secrecy and isolation
People do not want others to know how much they are gambling or the difficutly they are in because of gambling. They go to great lengths to keep this from others. They are ashamed and afraid of how people will react if they knew. They feel unable to ask for help. This keeps people isolated and lost in their own gambling world. They remain trapped in gambling, experiencing more harm.
I didn’t want anyone to find out really how bad it got because I didn’t actually enjoy doing it or want to do it. I just felt ashamed that I was ruining my whole life. It got to the point where I wasn’t even paying my bills, my rent either which – that’s not me. I always aspire to be paying my way and support others.
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.
Many people lose hope of ever being able to stop gambling. They do not believe that there is a different life for them and they cannot face other people. They think the only way out is to end their life.
I was then suddenly not in a relationship, not having to go to work. I had all day every day to myself, so my gambling just spiralled even worse. I was in a terrible place mentally. I had nobody to answer to if that makes sense or be accountable to or be part of that relationship. I spiralled out of control, like I say which ended up with an attempt on my own life Christmas Eve that year. I spent three days in hospital on sort of drips and blah blah blah blah. But after a couple of days in hospital, I was laid in my hospital bed gambling on my phone. That was how powerful it was. I was still in the hospital bed using my phone to gamble.
It was horrible… Because I was that addicted to it, I thought there’s no way I’m going to be able to stop, and I’ll get myself in more and more debt even though I was working full-time… As soon as I had money in, that part of my brain just don’t think straight because the gambling side just thinks, “If you put that money in, and get it up to what you owed you could pay it all off.” Then I thought, “Then that’s a clean slate,” not gambling. Yes, there was quite a few times that I felt like I wanted to kill myself. At that moment in my life, anyway.