I am a recovering gambling addict. It began by betting small amounts, then slowly building up to betting hundreds of pounds each day. I could easily lose my entire monthly wage within a day or two.
It was completely out of hand.
The mental health issue I faced for the longest time during my addiction was anxiety. My gambling was at its worst for two years, throughout that time, anxiety was a great struggle for me. This anxiety stemmed from the shame I felt in my addiction. I was so ashamed. I didn’t want anybody to know. Not my partner, nor my friends, nor my parents.
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I went to great efforts to disguise my addiction. It started off small, such as turning down the brightness on my phone whilst I was betting so no one could see what I was doing. Then sneaking off to the toilet to place a bet secretly. Occasionally, I would even preach about how dangerous betting is. This was successful in throwing people off the scent. When I finally made the decision to stop gambling and told my partner, friends and family about my addiction, nobody had a clue.
Other efforts were more calculated. Looking back, it turned me into a completely different person. For context, I am generally a very honest man. I like to think that people consider me to be a good person. At the height of my addiction, I started using money that wasn’t my own. My partner and I had a joint account which she used for her savings. In that account was almost £6,000. One month, after gambling away my entire wage, I was desperate for money. I tried to borrow from payday lenders, to extend my overdraft. All attempts were unsuccessful.
Whilst looking through my accounts, I remembered that joint account. After exchanging a few emails and codes I gained access. I called the bank informing them that my partner had lost her card, pin and online details. She hadn’t, but I had to make sure she couldn’t see what was happening to her money. It was completely out of character. This has been the most challenging truth of my recovery.
I was living a double life of sorts, which was causing me severe anxiety. I had lied and covered up my gambling for so long that the most important thing in at the time was ensuring that this lie stayed alive.
It was all I could think about. At work, I would sit at my desk doing nothing for hours; trying to devise a plan.
After gaining access to the joint account, I gambled away the entire balance of almost £6,000 in 20 days. When I lost my own money, I dealt with it. It didn’t affect anyone else. It was anxiety inducing, but I could live with it. When I lost my partner’s money, I was angry at myself. I was desperate. Very quickly anxiety turned to depression.
Eventually, the only course of action was to tell the truth. I had spent hours laid in bed thinking about this when I should have been sleeping. When I closed my eyes I was consumed by the anger and hurt I knew would ensue once my partner found out. There was no other option. One night, I was in bed at 10pm but didn’t get to sleep till almost 5am. I was sweating. My heart was racing. I tried to think of ways I could get out of this disaster whilst causing minimum heartache.
That night, I had the darkest thoughts I’d ever had. I never came close to acting on those thoughts, but the fact that it crossed my mind at all was truly terrifying, and was a real wake up call for me.
Shortly after that night, I came clean and have felt better ever since. There were so many tears. My partner and I have been together for almost ten years without any major arguments. There has never been a point where we’ve almost broken up. But I thought this was it.
I no longer feel anxious because I’m no longer lying.
She told me how shocked and hurt she was. How she wasn’t sure if she could trust me anymore. That truth hurt me the most. I knew these would be the consequences, but to be told directly was another matter.
Since it all came out, I have felt much better. The day that I told my partner was one of the worst days of my life but ended with the best sleep I had in years. Since then, I have felt a sense of huge relief.
Life is not yet back to normal. It will take time to rebuild that trust fully. It will also take some time to pay back everything I owe. However, I am on the right track, and am already mentally happier and healthier as a result.
If any readers are going through similar experiences, I implore you to speak to someone. I would be happy to listen or assist via email in any way I can: firstname.lastname@example.org. I have also left some links to some of the sites which helped me.