gambling addiction

This is a tough one.

To actually get over to people and give you some idea what on earth Gambling Addiction is.

Obviously I’ve met a lot of gambling addicts in the last 3 years and of course they understand it inside out. But how do I get across to those that are sceptical, have no empathy with it or no understanding of what it actually entails? What on earth is the attraction? How do you get sucked in? Why don’t you just stop!!??? – Crikey, if I had a £1 for every time someone said that to me I wouldn’t be in the shit I’m in.

Quite recently someone, who will remain unnamed, said to me. “For God’s sake, there’s no such bloody thing. Just get on with your life”!

I cannot describe to you the rage that consumed me at that split second. It was all I could do to stop myself tearing his head off his shoulders, as indeed a few would like to do to me. But of course, it’s not his fault. Some people are, and always will be, blissfully unaware as to the tragedy that is gambling addiction.

So…the only way I can begin to explain this is as follows. And please bear with me on this and have an open mind…It’s important to me that you try and at least get an insight.. Crucial in fact.

It begins the night before I know moneys hitting my account, be it salary, benefits money, money someone I convinced to loan me…again!  Whichever,. I pace around thinking right, tomorrow I’ve got £110. How can I convert that into £200, £400, £1000 and so on?

Now, my Achilles heel is roulette, always has been always will be. I love it. Yes I’ve done all sorts – football, sports, virtual horse racing! For those that don’t know virtual races these are races played out every 5 minutes or so in all of the high street bookmakers. Only they’re not real horses. It’s a software based program that randomly pits 10, 12 ,16 sometimes 20 horses racing one another at different odds to win or be placed. Yep – that’s right, virtual! I reckon I spent at least 20% of my overall debts on this form of betting over the years. The vast majority though, lets estimate 60% of my total debt, was on roulette. That was my true love. I played a lot online but mostly on the FOBTs (Fixed Odds Betting Terminals) in all high street bookies. Some of you may have seen a recent Panorama documentary on this.

Anyway, back to the build-up.

I’m pacing around the night before thinking of my strategy and how I’m going to win big this time. The numbers, the stakes, when to walk out if I reach a certain monetary target. I can’t switch off now. The debt. The pain I’ve caused. This is my chance. I can fix it. Put it all right. I know I can.

I put myself to bed early, need to stop thinking about it. The next morning I’m up at 6, wide awake. Thinking and playing it all through in my head. The bookies tend to open at 9.30 so I leave at 9.15, sometimes earlier as I need to do something with myself. It’s only a 10 minute walk but I’ve got no time to waste. Time is money. I start walking, excited, can’t bloody wait, the adrenaline build ups running through every vein in my body. Is this also the start of the dopamine release in my brain my CNWL treatment teaches us about? Apparently it has very strong links with cocaine addiction. Something biological is definitely happening in my brain. Something to do with the neurotransmitters and receptors. FACT. I will explore this with you on my blog as I go through my treatment. Go look at the CNWL website or do some research if you don’t believe me.

Now I’m walking faster…and faster. Then I find it’s turned into a jog. Before I know it I’m sprinting to the cashpoint. The doubts hit me now as I draw the cash out, keying in my PIN number. My sons. My responsibilities. My girlfriend. My life and what a mess it had become. Don’t do it!

Too late. The cash is out and I’m only a quick dash to the nearest bookie. I have a favourite, Ladbrokes. I’m greeted like a long lost friend.

“Hello mate”.

“Morning. You’re starting early again”.

I mostly play one specific version of roulette in Ladbrokes. Why? Well, and I have witnesses, on this game for each of the numbers 0-36, there’s a unique spin seconds after the ball is released. You put your bets on first obviously, but the split second that ball is released I can tell you easily before it lands which number it will be. Without fail. So that’s 37 different spins, all unique and I know each one without a second thought. I’ve met a few along the way who can do this but no-one as well or as quick as me. I used to be quite proud of it in my sick head. But the only reason I had this knowledge is simple. I have spent hour after hour, day after day sometimes, ‘feeding’ my addiction. That’s nothing to be proud of, ashamed doesn’t even come close. Even the people employed there and worked there for years can’t do it. I challenge anyone, anytime – take me in with you, put £5 in (of your money of course), betting £1 a spin and every time I’ll tell you where it will land before anyone else. Shame I couldn’t tell before I put my bets on hey!!!

So my numbers – and I’m very protective of these – they are my babies. 0, 2, 7, 11, 12, 14 and 17. Always. Might add to them with other numbers along the way with all my different strategies I had mapped out, but these were mine. I felt I owned them.

My favourite is 12. Why? Because it’s the shortest spin of all the 37 spins I described earlier. It hits the 12 so quick the ‘hit’ is almost instant. There is no feeling more pleasurable during my addiction than that ball hitting the 12 when I’ve staked a lot of money on it. It’s indescribable. The hit, I imagine, is like a crack addict may get when they finally light the pipe. Or the heroin addict injecting his needle.

Now of course, anyone with willpower quits when they’re ahead. They take their winnings and leave smiling. Not a gambling addict. Not me. Hundreds of occasions I’ve been ‘up’ and I should have walked out. But you get greedy. If you’ve made £200 why can’t I get £400 or £600 …or £1000…more!! You think you can turn your life around. It sucks you in and hits you with the ferocity of a hurricane. And before you know it, you’ve lost it all. Everything. Every last pound. Money you don’t have. Money people have leant you because you talked them into it and convinced them you were ok. You feel physically sick. I actually felt exhausted, drained. The highs and lows my body has gone through on this latest gambling episode has left me bloody knackered. I struggle to walk sometimes – weird as that sounds, but it’s true.

I most recently look at it like this. It’s almost like I’m 2 different people in the same body. One has a brain and can be fairly on the ball. That person looks at the other who just wants to press the self-destruct button over and over again. The sane Roger knows I’m going to lose every penny. I actually know I’m going to lose but can’t stop myself. Unbelievable. Indescribable almost. But I hope, really really hope that gives you a bit of an insight. As I said I’ll explore this all over the next 365 days. Every part of my experiences and addiction in the hope that I can beat it and that maybe it stops just one person succumbing to its undoubted power.

Now if you’re still here and reading, especially if you’re an addict like me and can relate to any of what I’ve described, please …please look at the following as it will help you I promise:

CNWL – This is the only Clinic dedicated to problem gamblers in the UK and the treatment that’s helped me the most thus far. They do fantastic work, help is out there.
www.cnwl.nhs.uk/cnwl-national-problem-gambling-clinic/

GRASP – Set up by problem gamblers themselves. Fantastic information at your fingertips. They explain the issue far more eloquently than I ever will. I’d love to meet these guys.
www.grasp-group.org/

Gamblers Aloud – I recently started talking to Phil and looked at his website. A gambling addict who has overcome his demons and is now putting his efforts into helping other compulsive and problem gamblers. Please visit and have a read, riveting stuff.   www.gamblersaloud.com

Gamblers Anonymous – I think everyone would understand the concept here. Take a look and get involved if you’re suffering like me.
www.gamblersanonymous.org.uk

Gamcare – This will also help but I don’t know enough about them to comment yet.
www.gamcare.org.uk