Experiencing gambling difficulties hinders and disrupts a social life and the connection to a community. Taking part in social groups and activities that matter to you and feeling that you belong are very important to being happy and healthy. This also has practical benefits, as you can get information and resources for daily life, and help when you need it. Not having such connections contributes to mental and physical ill-health and early death, and to being less well off. So, this disruption to social life is very damaging.
Gambling takes people’s attention, time, and money away from social groups and other leisure activities. It can damage people’s social standing, because they are behaving in ways that go against group values. Communities tend to not understand gambling difficulties. People feel humiliated and ashamed, and this isolates them. The extent of gambling and gambling advertising in daily life can mean people end up in social and digital exclusion to avoid it. The experience of being rejected, ostracised, or alienated from the community can be long-lasting.
People have said gambling takes all their attention away from other leisure and social activities. Also, as gambling takes all a person’s money, they cannot afford to go out or take part in other things. They are usually hiding their gambling. So, it can seem like they are being anti-social, unreliable, or letting people down. The lies and deceit can lead to them being seen as untrustworthy.
And the other thing is that when I was gambling quite often, I’d arranged to socialize with people but by the time it actually came round to going on the event, I’d have no money to go. So, I would either cancel or make some form of excuse or try and borrow money, the money to go which again just puts you in a shameful place. So, you know, it was a cyclic behaviour which was just continuous.
People have described how they may end up borrowing money from a wider and wider group of people. From family, friends, acquaintances and then people they hardly knew. They say that they have ‘ruined their reputation’. They have become known for always being ‘broke’, not paying people back, or a ‘pest’ for asking for money.
But the urge to gamble, when I’d lost, say I lost all my money, the urge got stronger. It was really weird… It was just like, “Oh, my God,” I was going through contacts through Facebook. People who I hardly knew. People I’ve not spoke to in years. Just absolutely ruining my reputation by saying, “Oh, I’m really – can you bank transfer me £50,” to people that I barely knew. Oh, God. The stuff that I said and did, obviously, I used to ask family a lot.
I was always someone that always had access to people that would lend me money. Family, friends and extended friends. Because I was always someone that worked. I was always someone that had a job. The perception was doesn’t gamble more than he can afford or doesn’t gamble excessively. There was no even mention of that. That is someone that could always deliver on promises that he made, and it was only a matter of time before those promises were let down. I let people down, I let friends down, I let family down.
People can feel especially separated from the group if gambling is contrary to the beliefs of the community they belong to. Gambling may stop the person doing things that are important to community membership. This could be not marking important religious or cultural events. Or a group may not approve of gambling as a leisure activity and have strong beliefs in the importance of hard work and paying your own way.
I don’t have a single pence to buy a bottle of milk in my festival, big festival, like Christmas, we celebrate Eid in India. I don’t have any money to buy a bottle of milk, pint of milk. So enough is enough. And just keep roaming, no one trust me. My friends, if I phone them, they just ignore my phone because one minute, two minutes later, I will ask for money. Can I borrow some money? So, they ignore me. I’m from Muslim town and my family members, my mum is a teacher, my father in government… So, for me, gambling is impossible, impossible for me, because we hate this type of thing, gambling, drunken.
I just felt ashamed about gambling because– I don’t know, there’s so much stigma about it in society nowadays. One of big things was as well that my dad at the time, he absolutely despised gambling, and I was ashamed… I didn’t want him to find out. 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.
However, being in a group where gambling is a big part of common activities, also creates problems. The person may feel different from everyone else and like there is something wrong with them because they can not handle their gambling.
It’s something that only recently I’ve been able to acknowledge and get the right type of help for. Back then at the start, it was a case of, “Okay, I’ve messed up.” I did it wrong. I did it wrong. I went about it the wrong way and then not too long afterwards, I did it again with the acknowledgment of, “Well, I did it wrong last time. I’ll do it right this time. Things will be different,” but it doesn’t work like that and it took, I think another relapse, another stay at gambling 2017 where I got into that again and needed help to pay off the debt again.
So, people can feel they no longer belong or deserve to be part of their community. Or they could feel that they had lost their standing in their community. They feel humiliated and ashamed. This makes them feel like they are not deserving of friendship, support or doing things that are good for them. This leaves them isolated and stuck in their gambling.
I saw my best friend and told her everything… I felt like a human being, that I sat there that evening with my friends feeling like I belonged. Because I’d spent so long feeling like I didn’t belong, that I didn’t deserve nice things… But that lying to people is as toxic as the gambling because it keeps you in this place that you don’t feel very good about yourself, that nobody’s going to understand you, so what have you got left at the end of the day? You’ve got gambling and it works on silence.
Trying to stop gambling can disrupt a person’s social life. This is because gambling and gambling advertising is everywhere, and they must avoid it.
Some people have had to come off social media because they could not get rid of gambling advertising. Some even stopped having a smart phone or access to Wi-Fi. People may have to give up social groups. For example, they may have to stop spending time with a group of friends or with family members who gamble. They may have to give up other social and leisure activities because they are associated with gambling and gambling advertising. Or gambling has stopped them enjoying the things they used to. This could be football, a favourite TV or radio show, or a television channel.
It’s awful and it takes some getting back as well. I like to think I’m starting to get it back now, but I haven’t been able to enjoy anything else for years, really. I do stuff to pass the time, like I say, I go and watch football and stuff like that, which is it’s OK, but I don’t enjoy it like I used to. Since I used to have those highs of playing roulette or whatever, I’ve had very little interest in anything else ever since.
The damage to a person’s participation in social groups and standing in the community could be long term. They could be rejected or ostracised. Or they may continue to feel alienated from the group. They may feel like people do not understand. People often continue to make decisions about who to tell about their gambling and who to conceal it from. This is to protect themselves and their social standing.
You don’t talk to people about it because it’s seen as quite a dirty habit almost. And my wife’s the only person who has ever known about it. Other people may have deduced, I mean, I’m nearly 40, I’ve always been in well-paid jobs, and I don’t own my own home. We rent and we don’t have loads of money because we’re covering other stuff so other people might have made their deductions. I’ve always managed to, with my own family, kind of talk myself out of it in the sense of, “So well, we’ve badly restructured”, and things like that. And whether they believe that or not, I don’t know.