Gambling has some unique aspects that make it different from addictive substances, like alcohol, tobacco and drugs. Gambling is about money. And gambling is not a substance that you put into your body. These features make it hard for people to understand gambling as an addiction. They also add unique dimensions to the stigma.
Gambling is based on risking your money to try and win more money. Gambling addiction results in financial damage to the person gambling and those around them. People have said that the fact gambling is about money really adds to the stigma and shame. ‘Gamblers’ are seen as ‘trying to make easy money’. Both the person gambling and the people around them can not understand how they could be so reckless with money.
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.
There an attitude of like, Oh, it’s hidden, we’ll like sweep it under the carpet, these people are like, you know, just irresponsible people that can’t control themselves. Surely you wouldn’t be that stupid just to lose all your money on gambling? Is that the attitude that a lot of people have and can we change that attitude so generally, people are more supportive?
But then obviously, bankruptcy has its own label. In a sense, it was a relief that, you know, I wasn’t hiding from the door and windows, I was getting all this mail. But the guilt, of having a woman of my age, just allowing all this to happen. It was just it was just so out of my control. I didn’t know how to work my way through it.
Part of the stigma is that people do not understand how gambling distorts a person’s relationship with money. People become addicted to the activity of gambling and the experience they get from it. Eventually, money is merely the means to continue to gamble.
I know a lot of people don’t understand. Basically, they just think it’s just because of the money, if that makes sense. They’ll just think, “Oh, it’s your money you’re gambling.” It’s the money while you gamble online. It’s literally not the money. It started off being the money, wanting a big win. A bit of fun wanting a big win but then when you get addicted to it, it’s not even money. Money’s irrelevant, it’s just a tool you need to gamble. When I got to the point where, yes, it’s not money. I don’t know how to describe it. They said, “Oh, you can just stop.” They said, “Oh, you can just stop gambling” but it’s literally not like that. My dad, he didn’t at the time understand why I couldn’t just stop because he says it’s money. You can just stop. I’m like, “Money ain’t the issue.”
Gambling is not a substance but an activity. Gambling does not produce clear physical signs, like there are when people use alcohol, tobacco or drugs. There is not a bodily limit to how much gambling a person can do, like there is for the amount of a substance you can take in at a time. So, people can keep gambling hidden and be harmed for longer, and the harm can be very intense, very fast. This means it is a very dangerous addiction. But one that it is not easy for people to see and understand. This adds to the stigma.
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.
If you’re an alcoholic, you might spend £30 or £40 in a day and you’d be flat on your back and you wouldn’t spend anymore. If you’re a drug addict, a similar story, you’d get your fix for that day, and once you’d had your fix, you’re not going to spend any money. Somebody who’s addicted to gambling could spend thousands and thousands and thousands of pounds in a day and still not stop.
Gambling addiction is now a serious, serious problem. It’s like ruin whole family. Because it’s a matter of money, totally. Like anyone alcoholic, they cannot consume alcohol more than £50 or £100 per day. But gambling, they can finish all the money.