If you read the following posts you will see that since the age of 18 I have always enjoyed recreational gambling (safely and within my limits). I can’t deny it,gambling passed the time, it gave you access to a community that you could chat to whilst playing…..and heck sometimes you won. Win Win.
So when did Win Win turn into Lose Lose?
The winter of 2012 me and my partner moved into a new home with the view of potentially expanding our family (I have a two year old this point). On paper my life looks set! Nice home, nice job, nice child….nice everything! Or so I thought.
I continued with my recreational gambling. I mean, when you’re stuck at home with a baby there’s only so much you can do to pass the time, especially when all your friends are busy at work. I was always low stakes bingo …..until one day.
That day in 2013 when I had been playing bingo and the little box appeared advertising a slot game. In between waiting for a bingo game to start I played the slot game…..it was fun and I won – I think £75 from a very small stake. Despite never having played slots before in my whole gambling lifetime, I was curious. I tried out other slot games and I liked them. They looked friendly, full of promise, they were full of surprises in the form of free spins and bonus rounds. I played around with a few games but soon developed my favourites. My small stakes betting was doing well. I used the rule, deposit what you can afford to lose and if you win bank some and keep some to play. Back then I didn’t understand the number one rule, which is ‘the only winner is the gambling operator’.
This level of play continued for a while, small stakes, a nice win, getting my money back, and then came the thought ‘what if I upped my betting’. I’ve been so lucky surely if I increase my stake I will win more?
And so I did, slowly but surely I increased my stakes. Did I win more? Yes I did. Did I withdraw it… yes I did and then I cancelled it because I needed the extra play time. I was sucked into the game. That’s the difference between a healthy gambler and one with a problem, one knows when to stop, the other will keep going regardless of anything,
I couldn’t admit I was the ‘one betting regardless’. I thought ‘yeah for sure I’ve gone a bit crazy, but I can get this under control’. Silly me! Not so funny how the mind tricks you. At this point I had spent 5k on slots…. I was beside myself. Anxiety ate me up, it was my biggest failing to date. I wrote my partner a letter, took off my wedding ring and cried under a duvet (like most 30 somethings do). His compassion took me by surprise and we wrote it off as a foolish mistake (because everyone makes those). We were so naive back then, we didn’t understand addiction or how bad it can get, especially a behavioural addiction. Surely one can control the decisions they make and their actions……sadly not in my case. I went to the GP bereft that I had spanked 5k which was so out of character. I presented emotionally distressed and confused. He was a nice chap, gave me a few leaflets and off I trotted…..not helpful.
Time ticked on and I refrained for a while. But unbeknown to myself moments of boredom, low mood,anxiety and a desire for excitement drew me back. This time was different. I didn’t play bingo instead I went straight for the slot games. Playing small stakes didn’t last long. I craved the anticipation and satisfaction of randomly hitting a bonus round knowing it had the potential to pay out big in relation to my stake. I had become a chaser. It was from this point I was also living a double life.
My partner worked full time and I worked part time. On my days off I cared for our child – if you can call it that. Don’t get me wrong I met all her basic needs, I fed her, I changed her, I played with her for a short while…but my laptop was always on in the background, calling me. And for this I am ashamed, because she deserved more and she didn’t get the best of me. Sadly, my partner had no clue. My laptop would be fired up in the morning when he left for work and shut down the minute I heard his car pull up in the evening. This went on for two years, and in that time things went wrong…..very wrong.
Playing small stakes and winning no longer satisfied me. I wanted more, so I took bigger risks. Sometimes those risks were rewarded, other times they weren’t . If I won big I wanted to replicate it so I’d spend all my money chasing it, and if I lost I needed my money back so I’d be chasing my loses. At this point all logic and reason has gone out the window and I’m playing with money I don’t have…..I’m betting on credit cards.
It started with the one credit card. But in time I maxed it. This led to getting another and another and another, it goes on. All on great promotional deals for the time being, until those deals ended and the interest kicked in sky high.
Things were starting to look bleak, but I continued playing. It reached a point where if I went to bed I could hear the tune of the game in my head. I dreamt about the games. It was there all the time!
I did start realising things were not great, but like any addict you convince yourself that you can turn them around. As the situation worsened my anxiety rocketed, ‘how am I going to pay all these monthly credit card bill’s?!’ I panicked. Still at this point my partner has no idea. Every night when he came home from work it took the upmost energy to pretend to be normal. While in the back of my mind my head is constantly screaming ‘what the fuck are you going to do? How can you fix this’
Things then start to get desperate. As a gambler you reason with yourself ‘ Right if I bet x amount I’ll win x amount and enything will be ok’. So I did, I started depositing £1000 at a time. Believing for sure that I’d bank some and if I had a big win I’d be quids in. And at times those occasions happened, I had nice wins. Was it enough to clear the credit cards, no. So I continued to gamble, until there was no winnings left. And I’d deposit again, and again and again.
The whole while despite getting my self deeper and deeper in debt, I couldn’t stop. I deposited so much so frequently that I was granted VIP status. This meant access to a privileged level of bonuses, like a percentge back on my losses.
After a really bad session of losing and chasing loses I’d vow never to play again. And I’d be good at that… until I had the email to inform me that my account had been deposited with bonus funds. Despite wanting to stay away from it, I’d think to myself ‘well, this money isn’t mine. It’s free money. So let’s play and give it a try’. So back on I went, I played, I won and I lost and I deposited more. The anxiety was killing me, I couldn’t breathe for fear of being found out. I couldn’t breathe for fear of not having a solution to my fancial shit storm. I went through each day not breathing but somehow pretending to everyone that everything was fine…..until it wasn’t.
In its desperate times when I’d applied for credit with the sole intention to gamble, but with the hope this would solve my problems, my thinking became even more illogical. I’d bet bigger…..because I’d win bigger, then everything would be ok. And so I found myself sat with nine credit cards, typing in their details and depositing £1000 at a time. £1000 is a lot of money to me so I thought it would allow me a good opportunity to win. I was wrong, before I knew it £1000 was gone in 20 minutes. I felt sick, I felt horrendous ,I feared the material consequences and what I’d lost….my marriage, my house, respect from others, my sense of self. And yet I HAD to play more to make it right, there went another £1000. And so it goes.
It went this way until I couldn’t breathe, my anxiety levels were killing me. Pretending was to too hard, but the stigma of admitting (especially as a female) was harder. All forms of credit were gone, I couldn’t rescue myself anymore . Such was my thinking. The guilt, deceit and financial shit storm was overwhelming. Did I not consider these things beforehand? Yes I did. Did it stop me from doing what I did? No it didn’t, such was its power.
Hundreds of thousands of pounds staked. Tens of thousands of pounds in debt. It was time to fess up.