AO Recovery

Telling people

People have described how others learnt about their gambling difficulties. Shame and stigma make it very hard to tell those close to them or ask for help. But telling people was often an important point in their recovery journey. Their life ‘changed for the better’ when they did.

Some people disclose their gambling to others. Many find doing this a huge challenge. People are cautious about telling their loved ones. Shame and stigma make them fearful of how others will react. They are careful about who they chose to tell.

Family were shocked. Yeah, very, very shocked. And I had a couple of family members that I didn’t talk to me for quite a long time because they thought, What’s going on? They didn’t understand gambling. They didn’t understand gambling addiction. Why did you do it? It was that sort of attitude, which, they have all educated themselves now and actually are very supportive of everything I’m doing to try and make change. But at the time it was hard, I felt isolated, alone, when actually I was surrounded by so many loving people, when I was gambling. Everything I was carrying, I could be at a family function, say 50 people and I’ve never felt more alone because my connection with gambling stronger. Because I couldn’t do it there, I just wouldn’t say anything. I was quiet, silent. But at the same time, fighting these feelings of, I just want to tell someone, I just want help. But knowing I do that would ruin my life or what I thought at the time, you see, would be to ruin my life. So yeah, it was just this internal battle all the time. Almost wanting help, but then scared of letting go of gambling, because that’s more comfort blanket, that’s my security, that’s what loves me and that’s what I love. Am I ready to get rid of that, but I know I can’t carry on doing what I’m doing. But then if I do say anything, everyone’s going to turn on me, they’re going to judge me. And I’m going to be seen as this hated person.


People’s concern to keep their gambling difficulties secret is very strong. Some do not tell anyone about their gambling until they reach a crisis point. At this point they may feel suicidal or buried in debt. Then, they feel as if they are left with no other options.

There was one night I won £7,000 off a bonus and then it was “I don’t have to work or so many months now. I don’t have to do this job that has become so painful to me.” Then you would wake up in the morning, and there would be nothing left, and you would hate yourself. You would lift your head up off the pillow, remember what had happened, and put your head back down and then get up and you would get on with life, and then it would start again. Then there was one day when I was sitting in my kitchen, and it felt like gambling surrounded me. It was all four walls of that room, and I did not know what to do. The thought process was, “I don’t know how to make this stop. I don’t know how to make this go away. I’m the problem, so I must be removed.” I remember then going, “I’m equating that to I’m going to have to kill myself.” That really woke me up, and I reached out for some support.

It may not be the person’s choice to tell people about their gambling. Some delay their decision to tell people until they are ‘found out’.

It was probably about three years ago when my wife questioned me because she’d seen that I’d been going into the savings, which was again to gamble with, and she just asked me what have I been doing, so I knew I had to say what I’d been doing because I couldn’t think– well, I didn’t think I was probably going to get caught, and I felt as though I could probably replace it, so- I should have come clean. I know I should have come clean, but she caught me, so upset.

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.

You’re thinking, “How can I get that money back,” and then you’re thinking, the biggest thing is the amount of people you’ve let down. The shame of letting those people down and instead of being upfront and saying, “I’ll put my hands up. I’ve made a huge mistake.” You almost don’t want the embarrassment of having to say that. I know it would be almost the coward’s way out but you feel as though you can’t come forward and tell people what you’ve been doing whereas like I say, both times I’ve been caught out rather than come forward. You think, “It’s probably a blessing I have been caught out”.

People spoke about what happened when people did learn about their gambling difficulties. People can react with initial shock or angry. Sometimes relationships end. But people often describe the huge relief they feel when they reach out to friends, family, treatment, or support services. Some of the stress and shame starts to lift. They find there are people who will support them.

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.

They try not to talk about it around me. I’ve got a lot of friends, and trying to hide it from me. I say, “You don’t have to hide it. You can still talking about it. I’m not going to disappear.” That’s the respect for me they’ve got, not to try and encourage me to go back. I think being open with them, telling them all my situation, it definitely helps because they all know now. If I was to become distant they’d be thinking to ask the question, “Are you all right? Are you gambling again?” I say, “No, no. I’ve just had a bad day at work,” or something like that. At least now they know if there is a problem, then you can ask that question.


I reached out for some support with the National Gambling Helpline, and I attended counselling sessions that had a gambling theme to them. One of the best things that ever happened to me it was one day that I had a counselling session and it triggered me. It made me incredibly emotional, and I went home, and I gambled £500. The next day, I saw my best friend and just told her everything, because I couldn’t hold it back. It just all burst out of me. I always said to people that is what broke the hold that gambling had over me, it crumbled away, and I felt like a human being that I sat there that evening with my friends feeling like I belonged.

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.

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