Gambling Experiences

Separated from themselves and others

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.

Not themselves

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 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. I kind of likened it, and it’s a weird thing to say, but when I was started gambling, I kind of imagined gambling as a person. Kind of like a dark shadow and he’d sit there with me. He was like my friend. And he wanted me to, he’d be like Oh don’t worry about it, carry on, it’s fine, you know, you’ll be alright, I’m here. But it wasn’t. But that’s what I kind of imagined it as a person, an identity rather than… And as soon as I stopped it had gone. I know that’s a weird thing to say, but I’m trying to rationalize it.


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. 

That day I left that shop, it was like I was powerlessness. It was it was like something took me in that shop without me physically doing it, and that was my addiction. That’s what I would, I would say it will make decisions and choices for you that you would never make yourself. When without it, it will not care about you, your family, your friends, your job, your health. It will control you. And it is so hard to get out of its grasp, you know. And people would find that so hard to understand. And for me, there is no stop button for a gambling addict. There is no stop. And whether that is winning a thousand pounds on a Monday and another 3000 on a Tuesday, that person will keep going back, and back, and back or I will keep going back, and back, and back until I’ve got zero. There is no stop. There is no win big enough. It controls everything, you know, I ever did. It controlled decisions I made. You know, the way I would meet up for family holidays I’d arrive later, so I’d got my time. It makes the slightest decisions to the most impactful. You know, and that’s what a gambling addiction…. I believe that’s what any addiction does, any addiction. Well, that is what gambling addiction did to me.


It’s, you know, it’s my bag, I take it on board, it was me pressing the button. It was me who was out of control. But I didn’t know what I was doing. I really didn’t know what I was doing. And my emotional crap, had just completely embroiled everything, that the only way of dealing, well, I don’t think I was dealing, I wasn’t functioning. I don’t think I was functioning at all as a person. I had no responsibility. I expected my daughter to be the parent and get me out of all this mess. I didn’t take care of myself. I neglected myself. I was homeless. I had to go to the food bank. I mean, it was, from being the person I was to that. Unrecognisable.


People have said that in the grips of addiction, they are not in the right mindset and unable to make rational decisions for themselves. 

But I think it’s so ingrained in your brain. What I really try and get across to people is that gambling addiction is a mental illness, it’s a disability. And I know it’s not recognized as one, but for me, it is definitely a disability. Because when you look at somebody’s capacity to make a decision, and that’s how you know, when we look into the Mental Capacity Act, there’s points there in which is that person of sound mind to make this decision, etc. To things I’ve done in my past did I have the capacity to make those informed choices? Absolutely not. Absolutely not. They were not rational decisions. I was not weighing things up. It was all one sided. Which to me comes from, watching gambling videos, it’s almost, you know, I’m not seeing the other side. If I was watching five gambling videos of big wins and then five gambling of big losses, maybe I could be making an informed choice. But I think when you take history, context into it, what you’ve been through, in terms of your gambling, I don’t think people with a gambling addiction have the capacity to make informed choices, and I think that’s where we should start looking at it.


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.  

I guess I’d say, it pretty much took over my life in terms of that’s what I thought about most of the time. I obviously, well not, obviously, but I lived a very sort of double life, so it was a very secretive thing. So not many people knew and still don’t know the extent of how badly I was gambling. And so in terms of the impact of, the emotional impact of those sorts of things, there’s lots of feelings of guilt and shame and the sort of self-loathing that goes, that went with like losing money that could have been used for other things. So lots of regret, you now, which is really difficult to cope with, especially once I kind of have been on the journey to try and stop gambling. That sort of those feelings really come to the front because then you’re like, kind of, the head, my headspace was in a different place where I was reflecting on it all, and it’s really difficult because, yeah, there’s like I say, there’s those feelings of regret and resentment and shame really, really strong. And the euphoria we all, or those feelings that you can have of winning. They do kind of fade away a bit, I’d say, over time, because it doesn’t, it goes from, well, for me, it went from Wow, I’ve just won this money to like, Okay, I’ve just won this money and it’s never like, you know, you’re probably just going to spend that money in the long run on gambling. Which is very difficult, and it’s very sort of loss of self-control. And knowing what the right thing to do is, but not being able to do the right thing is very, very hard thing to go through.


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. 

I think the only way I can describe it, the way I look at it sometimes, it’s like the last thing you think before you go to sleep is, “I’ve got to stop doing this”. And then you get up the next day and you start doing the thing you don’t like. See, it’s getting up every day to continue doing something you don’t like all day and then just thinking “I’ve got to stop”. But never being able to do it. That was it for me. It was just the constantly repeating the same thing all the time now, it’s doing real damage. So, to me, I was just trying to act in a way and it just became a self-punishment every day that you couldn’t get out of, you couldn’t stop, just repeat Groundhog Day. It just chipped away at you. Every day, another piece of what you are is eroded and gone. And I think that’s the best way I can describe it. That’s what it felt like for me, just shit, here we go again, here we go again – everyday.


But a very good way I found to knock yourself down very quickly and for other people to see the consequences very quickly and for you to feel absolutely horrendous when you tell them is to gamble. Because I knew that I couldn’t stop gambling. I wasn’t doing it to win. I was doing it to escape, like I said at first, and I was escaping at first, but then I started to feel the consequences and when I felt the consequences, I felt like I deserved the consequences, whether those consequences be not being as good at work, not getting the promotion that I deserved. You know, just missing family things, feeling crap about myself. They were feelings that I felt – it’s weird, feeling crap about myself I felt comfortable with. I feel like it’s where I was supposed to be.


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. 

Yeah, it’s like a roller coaster journey, that’s sort of how I can describe it, it’s up down, up down. The pre-empting going to gambling, so that experience where the thought first come into your head is almost like a rush. And you start to deceive yourself. So, for me I used to end up, I’m going to win the jackpot, I’m going to win, and I’d talk myself around. An even if I thought, I never thought I was going to lose or anything. It was just this adrenaline rush of sweaty palms, and I would think “oh yeah, this is going to be the day”. And then actually sitting there in the casino and going on slots, whether it was online or anything like that at all, even if I did lose, it didn’t matter, it didn’t matter to me because I would go and find money and I’m going to win that back. The actual involvement in gambling for me was, it’s something it’s hard to describe, it’s hard to describe. It’s almost like for me as a gambler, I became addicted to the lows. The numb normal living of life in terms of not being able to pay bills and always sort of like living on the edge, sort of thing, how am I going to get by, it’s almost like I was addicted to that as well because of probably justifying the gambling. But when I was low, it wasn’t a low which was so unbearable, which is if I compare it to when I stopped gambling and everything came to a head in my life, that low was horrendous. Whereas when I was gambling, everything seemed to be Oh well, I’ll win it back, its manageable, you can get through this. So you start pep talking to yourself. And it’s like you have no control over what you’re doing. So I would say to my 14 years of gambling addiction, I was zombified. I was never present.


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. 

Once it started, what I would say becoming noticeably on the road to becoming pathological or whatever term you would use for it. It was like wildfire, how quickly it went. How it made me feel at the time, it became very quickly the only thing I was bothered about, even though subconsciously I was aware that it couldn’t have been right because it then became very, very quickly something that became very secretive. On the outside, I was still gambling because everybody, because most of my friendship groups, most of my, even to a certain extent, professional groups, we all liked to bet. That side of it, and my partner at the time she’d always known that I gambled. That side of it, had to show was still at a certain level whereas it wasn’t, it was up here. It almost very quickly became my own secret.


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.

No hope

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.

Get Support

If you feel like you need support or someone to talk to about your own or someone else’s gambling, there are several organisations who can offer help, support and answer any questions you may have.

Take Part

We are inviting people to share their experiences of any kind of difficulties due to gambling.