My Backstory by a Recovering Addict
“A Gambler is nothing but a man who makes his living out of false hope” – William Bolitho
As a gambling addict, the amount of times you will see the above picture in real life is frighteningly regular, to the point where it becomes the norm. Yet again, you find yourself waiting on your next payday. You are already convinced that when the day comes, that will be your chance to win it all back and redeem yourself. You can’t run bad forever, right? Wrong!
My story started ten years ago, at the age of 18. Life hadn’t always been great but I was in a position where I was financially stable, I had a decent amount of savings for a person of my age, a job which I loved and made a fair salary from each month. I was very sociable, had many good friends and a future that looked bright and one I looked forward too.
It was the weekend and I was out on the town with my best friend. We were catching up, having a few drinks at a bar. It got to that time where all the pubs were closing and if you wanted to stay out you would have to go to the dancing..or so I thought. I sat and complained about how time had flew in that night and how I wished the night was able continue, neither of us were really dressed for the dancing. We hadn’t planned on staying out so late, it was just the way the night had went. I was ready to go home when my friend made the suggestion of going to a casino. She had been looking online to see what other options were available for us at that time. It turned out to be what we believed then as the only decent option for us. As two young women, looking to continue our chat, have a couple of drinks and not having to be dressed up to the nines for it either. She explained it was a five minute walk around the corner, seemed ideal and off we were. We waited in line to get in, it took around ten minutes. We brought out our I.D to show, had our photo taken, you have to become a member to enter the casino. With our membership we were given several vouchers for the gaming tables, some for ‘Blackjack’, ‘Roulette’ and a variety of different slot machines. There was too many to count. Our plan on going was to stay out for a couple more drinks, finish off our chat from earlier on and get the last bus home in an hour. Watching my friends eyes light up at all the freebies we’d just been given for a chance to win money and the butterflies I was feeling in my stomach at what seemed like a fantastic opportunity. I knew then, we would both be sharing a taxi home.
We walked down a massive flight on stairs to what seemed like a basement, there was no visible windows or doors . However, that did not take the look away from the place. I remember it being very colorful and bright, very enticing and attractive looking. Everywhere you looked people were having fun, laughing, having a drink, winning money. The amount of times you would hear coins falling from the slot machines with people winning money was unbelievable..or so I thought that’s what it was at the time. Me and my friend looked at each other and smiled. We both couldn’t wait to get involved in what was in front of us.
I was in the mood for a glass of wine, it was my round and I asked my friend what she would like and if she had saw where the bar was. Before she had the chance to reply a waiter or how I now know them from casino’s as, a ‘valet’, asked what we would like to drink and told us that he would bring our drinks over to us. Table service I thought, nice touch. Neither myself nor my friend had been to a casino before so we decided to look at our vouchers to see what we fancied to attempt first. I had heard of ‘Blackjack’ before, however I couldn’t recall from where. My friend had too so we decided to wander over to the table to use our free ten pound voucher. What was explained to me by the casino dealer was that you are given one free bet with this voucher, where you have the chance to win ten pounds. There didn’t seem to be any negatives, only an opportunity presenting itself. It was free I thought, I didn’t see any harm in it. My thinking was that I could win ten pounds and that would cover the drinks I had just ordered. At eighteen years of age, ten pounds seems like such a large amount of money, why wouldn’t I play the game? I couldn’t see what was ahead for me at that time and on that day I took my first gamble.
I won the ten pounds, my heart was racing when the dealer went bust and I was handed over the chips. I went to walk away to cash in my chips and the dealer asked me why I wouldn’t want to stay after being so lucky. I agreed and decided to sit back down. When the valet came over I was unaware you could pay with chips to buy your drinks, so I reached into my pocket to bring out my purse to pay for them. Conveniently no staff told me or my friend this was an option that night. After the drinks were paid for my friend then used her free voucher. She wasn’t so lucky but that didn’t bother her, she had just witnessed my win and thought if it was that easy to win ten pounds, surely she could too. We both went home up that night, the exact number I cannot remember. It was nothing extravagant but it was certainly enough to keep us keen to come back the following night and that we did.
For months after this, the casino became our nightly haunt and it started to show it’s darker side. I also started to see a change in my friend as well as myself. I am sure she did as well but it was nothing at the time that either of us were willing to admit. It started with us going in with twenty pounds to play and if we lost this we would go home. We soon began to realize that we were going home earlier each night and after a chat we had came to the conclusion that we must not have been bringing enough money with us to win. Ironically, we would not use the cash machines to take out more money as they would charge for each transaction and we felt that this would be throwing our money away. We had these various, ridiculous ideas. We couldn’t see either that no matter how much money we bet with, it wouldn’t really make a difference to the outcome of how the cards played out. The betting would only continue to get bigger.
A few more months down the line, myself and my friend had a fall out. She couldn’t afford to go gambling and she was furious that I was able to go to the casino and that she wasn’t. I offered to allow her to borrow money but her anger took over and she began to shout at me so I ended up hanging up the phone. That wasn’t going to stop me going out that night. Plenty of people went to the casino on their own, so I could too I thought. Not once did I think about how my friend was feeling at that time, the addiction was truly beginning to show.
That night I went to the casino alone and it was horrific, I had taken one hundred pounds and had lost it all within half an hour. How quickly I had went from taking with me twenty pounds to one hundred was not a thought at all in my head. All I could think about was getting more money out and winning it back. I wasn’t happy about the fact I was going to have to walk for ten minutes to a free cash machine and made a comment to the dealer about this. He then told me that if I went to the cash desk I could put pay for my chips by card, the minimum was £50 and my eyes lit up again. Yet again however, that money went quickly and I was back and forth to the machine more times than I care to remember. It got to the point where I was too embarrassed to go back to the cash desk that I started to go to the cash machine and pay the extra fee. It didn’t matter any more to me. That night I left myself with twenty pounds in my account to get by on and I had a week before I was to get paid. I was not in a good financial state. It was all looking very grim.
The following day I looked for ways of getting more money. I refused to touch my savings as I saw this as a step too far. However strangely enough, I found out about overdrafts and seemed to think that this was a smart way to go. The smiling bank staff made it sound oh so appealing. I was a smart kid and all of a sudden I started to become gullible or perhaps I did not want to admit to myself that I knew fine well what I was doing and how wrong it was. The only aim I had was to get back the money that I had lost and I had every belief in my head that this was what was going to happen. It had to, I refused to believe it wouldn’t.
I continued to go alone as my friends financial situation wasn’t any better and we still weren’t getting on very well. She was now beginning to place the blame on me for her financial state which of course angered me and she wasn’t willing to take any responsibility for it herself. Over time I was slowly beginning to lose my longest ever friendship with a girl I had known since we were at nursery together. My best friend who I did everything with was no longer a concern to me and I couldn’t care less. I began to develop strange friendships with gamblers a lot older than myself. Where we would stay as long as we could in the casino. Time was starting to become no object and I would often see myself leaving the casino and going straight to work. The overdraft was continually extended to the point where I was no longer able to. My work started to suffer as I wasn’t fully there, mentally. Then one month I got my wage in and it just covered my overdraft. I then went back to the casino that evening and spent it all in the one night. I couldn’t believe what I had done. I felt sick with myself. I wish then that I had done something about my addiction but I didn’t. I started to borrow money left, right and center. Pay it back and then still be short myself. After this, I did for me the unthinkable. I chose to dive into my savings. They were short lived and my gambling addiction continued to worsen.
One of the worst times of my life was when I had to go to the bank with my father. I had been given a default on my account. I hadn’t paid into my overdraft for months. I had my wages coming into a my previous savings account so that they were not being swallowed up in to the overdraft. Yet again so I could gamble with them. It was now at the point where I was spending thousands of pounds on ‘Blackjack’, I was completely lost in the game. Before the meeting with the bank, I had to have the awful chat with my father. The situation with the bank had been sent on to a debt collection agency. The letter came through my door and my heart was racing. I had been trying to run from my problem, I wasn’t willing to face it. I didn’t understand what was happening to me, I was terrified. My dad was of course furious with me, as expected. He told me he would pay it off but that I was pay the money back to him. The money was paid to the debt collection agency and the following day we went to the bank. The bank was having none of it, they closed my account. I tried to get a visa debit card with other banks and they would not allow this, I was terribly embarrassed. I had no option then but to go for a basic bank account. My self esteem plummeted, I started to feel myself becoming depressed. I had lost my self respect, my fathers belief in me. Most of my family found out, viewed me completely differently and I thought I had lost my best friend forever. I was disgusted with myself. Sadly though my gambling only got worse.
After everything, I was fed up with myself. I felt I had amounted to nothing, that I wasn’t good enough anymore. I became extremely destructive in all aspects of my life and the gambling was a massive part of this. My best friend eventually got back in contact with me, she was in a better mood as her financial situation had got better. I had also just finally paid my dad back the money I owed him and I had just a little to spare. She suggested we try another casino, maybe we would get lucky the first time going to a new one. She also felt that the one we had been going to had too many bad memories associated with it. I agreed and we went to a different one. I noticed my friend had no intention of playing ‘Blackjack’, however she was very interested in another card game, ‘Three card poker’. She had saw it online and was desperate to try it. I left her to it and did my usual and went over to the ‘Blackjack’ table. My money was gone within an hour. My friend however was up over a hundred pounds. I was shocked, I hadn’t saw her have a win in so long. I had six pounds left in my bag and was feeling pretty low. I had done it again. My friend then suggested I try out this game she was winning on. I decided to put on my last and I put it on a bet called the ‘Three card bet’. I hadn’t a clue what I was doing. After two hours my six pounds have managed to transform to over three hundred. I couldn’t believe my luck and I quickly became hooked on it.
From then on I continued to play ‘Three card poker’, I never really went to ‘Blackjack’ and when I did it was only on the odd occasion that the ‘Three card poker’ table would be closed. It became my life, it affected various relationships. It got to the point quite quickly where I wouldn’t even think about all the money I had lost because I knew that I was never going to get it back. Gambling became more about escapism for me. I felt disgusted with myself and my life outside the casino, I felt like a complete failure and that there was no turning back now. I was giving in slowly over the years, I had admitted defeat. I also became addicted to playing poker. Whether that be tournaments or cash games. My money was chewed away on that also. I found that I wasn’t taking care of myself properly. I realized I no longer cared about myself. I wasn’t even at all bothered about this, I was too far gone.
Years later, I came out of a long term relationship, I felt that the person was dull and boring and that they could not keep up with me. Truth of the matter is, I was too busy gambling to see what a great guy this person truly was. I know now, after all this time that the relationship wouldn’t have worked out for various other reasons. However, I am also aware that my gambling certainly did not help matters. It wasn’t until I met and started to see someone who enjoyed gambling on the same things as I did myself, that I started to view things differently. When you really care about someone and you see them lose money you know they can’t afford, it hurts you also. When you see how gambling affects that person and how it makes them change, it scares you. In a way, it forced me look at my life. To do something about my addiction. To think about what it is that I truly want. I still at this point have no idea what that is but I am hopeful that the steps I am about to take will lead me in the right direction, towards knowing. The situation with this person went on for a long time and is no longer. I will say that I have learnt a lot from it and it has made me even more determined not to gamble again.
Tomorrow I will be attending my first GA session. A new experience for me and one that is long overdue.