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My Therapy
My first memory of ever having a bet was when I was about nine years old. My mum’s boyfriend at the time, who had the occasional bet himself, put it on for me at the bookies. I remember being amazed & found the proposition very attractive, when he was explaining that if I staked a few pence on Frank Bruno to beat Mike Tyson in one of the boxing bouts they had, I would get good profit back.
As everyone knows, he lost. He never beat Tyson. I remember feeling a really upset & hard done 2. Firstly that I’d lost & that I hadn’t won the few pounds I was hoping for!! This was my first experience of gambling, & I wasn’t to know at the time but the first time of hundreds to come in the future, that I would have to recover from a gambling loss.
I started gambling regularly when I was about 13. A lad who used to babysit for us took me to the arcade in the village where we lived at about the age of 12. I remember the overwhelming desire I had to win. & I also remember him losing, I couldn’t believe he’d lost it in about 2 minutes!!
I started going down to the arcade on my own when I was about 13. I used to go down at lunchtimes from school, & sometimes after school & play the fruit machines with my dinner money.
I can’t remember much of my gambling through my teenage years. I had a problem with depression from an early age, & it really took hold when I was a teenager. I know I was gambling between the ages of 13 & about 16 but don’t have many clear memories of it.
I do remember however, that whenever we went to somewhere like Blackpool I used to go straight to the arcade & lose whatever money id taken for the day in an hour or two.
At around the age of sixteen/seventeen I started going to the pub. Firstly with my girlfriend at the time, then with my friends. That’s when I started playing the fruit machines in there. At seventeen I wouldn’t say I was a compulsive gambler. I say this because we used to go & play pool at one of our locals on a Thursday night, & me & my mates used to go down about eight o’clock.
There used to be a couple of lads there, who we knew from school, but weren’t really friends with at first. By the time we had got there they had generally spent all their money on the bandit, & even though I gambled quite regularly myself, I remember thinking they were stupid for spending all their money on the bandit, meaning they couldn’t even have a drink for the rest of the night.
At this point in my life I could still just about exercise some self control as the money I took with me to the pub on a Thursday was always spent on drinks.
We soon became good friends with these two lads, & started knocking about with them. & it wasn’t long before I was as bad as them & then soon after much worse. At this point I would say I became compulsive.
I couldn’t help myself & whatever pub we went in my first thought was always “where’s the bandit”, & after getting a drink I would always ask for my change in pound coins & go straight on it.
This is when true misery started for me. I had other problems in my life, & had had a troubled childhood. & when I look back, at this time I was using gambling as a form of escapism. I never wanted to deal with any of the problems I had in my everyday life, & would always turn to gambling instead of facing them.
I had left school when I was 16 with quite good grades, although I never applied myself. I started off with the intention of becoming a solicitor, & went to college to do A-level law, which I passed, & something called ILEX, which was a professional legal qualification. I only passed part of that & needed to go back & resit parts of the exam. But I got a job at a firm of solicitors & planned to work my way up without having to resit the parts of the course I had failed. I was extremely depressed at the time though & my job only lasted about 3 months before I got the sack for poor performance & not turning up for a week & not letting anyone know why I wasn’t going in.
I went from job to job after this. I had no direction & didn’t know where I wanted to go in life. At the age of 20, me & two of my friends were sent to a young offenders institute for beating a guy up in Sheffield town centre. Me & one friend got 15 months, & my other friend got 12 months.
I had always had a bad temper & a violent streak in me. I had already managed to accumulate numerous convictions for violence & drunken rowdiness, fuelled by alcohol. Whether or not this had anything to do with my gambling I don’t know. It certainly had a lot to do with my drinking. I was naïve & never made the link between my violent outbursts & my drinking. It has never suited me, & I should have realised this at the time & at least moderated it, as I had never been in trouble with the police when I was sober.
I digress.
When I came out of the young offenders institute, In June 1999 I was gambling within days. I didn’t have much money & I had lost my job when I was sent to the YOI. The desire to gamble had not left me while I was in there & like I say, I was back at it within days.
I managed to secure a really good job. An apprenticeship as a heating engineer. I gambled all through my apprenticeship, although I did have a period where I wasn’t gambling as heavily, as I managed to save up, which was the most money I’d ever had.
I cant remember exactly what I did with the money id managed to save, but I’m fairly sure I gambled it away.
When I’d finished my apprenticeship, & I was qualified the money I was earning tripled overnight. All this meant was I had more money to gamble with.
This is around the time I started going to the bookies a lot more often, as up until this time, I hadn’t really known what to do in the bookies, so mainly went to arcades & played the bandits in pubs.
Once I started going to the bookies my losses began to become a lot heavier. I quit my job over a childish argument I had with my boss at the time, which I caused, as I was like a time-bomb at the time , & started doing gas work through an agency & doing my own jobs at night.
I was earning decent money at this point & I used to go in the bookies every night & blow it within an hour or so.
I was losing a huge amount of money, but never really stopped to think about how much I was losing over a week, or a month or six months. I was totally hooked & gambling was the only thing I ever thought about.
At the age of 23 I set my own business up. My earnings were vast. The weeks I earnt that amount I would predictably spend every penny of it in the bookies.
My misery increased & I used to walk around in a bit of a daze.
At this point, I started going to the casino & started gambling on the internet. I was losing even more heavily once this started. I won on one hand of poker on the internet one night, then spent the next 8 hours losing it all again.
My mum got me a couple of loans out for about, & I spent about three quarters of it at the casino & bookies. Again, I didn’t stop to think how much I was spending, I was just on auto pilot. I remember losing about thousands in a couple of hours at the casino, & vowed to myself I would stop. But I recovered from that after about a week & started again.
I knew I was out of control but never really considered gamblers anonymous. I reluctantly admitted to myself I had a serious problem, but was determined to overcome it on my own. I didn’t realise how much easier it would have been by coming to GA.
I printed some charts off the computer with every day of the year on them. I would put a tick in the box if had been gamble free that day & a cross if not.
I also decided that as I still lived at home with my mum, that if I had my own house & car & responsibilities like bills, it would help me, & at the time it did. When I earnt money it went on things like rent, car insurance etc & it did help me control my gambling.
I still gambled though, but a lot less frequently. I could go maybe a month without having a bet, then id go to a pub purely to play the bandit. Id tend to lose, & I suppose it was like a fix to me. I got to the stage where I could go a couple of months without a bet, but the overall desire to gamble never left me.
I did have some heavy losses, even when I lived on my own, but like I said, they were a lot less frequent.
I was only renting the flat I was living in at first. In 2005 I bought a house. I didn’t think it through though. A bit stupid really, as I lived on my own, so I had no need for a four bed detached. It was probably the gambler in me, & wanting to look like a big shot that made me buy it.
I spent a fortune on that house. The deposit, fees to the company who negotiated the discount with barratts for me, the mortgage, stamp duty, having an extension built & decorating & furnishing it all.
My business was doing really well at this point, & I took on a couple of guys to help me cope with the workload.
My gamblers mentality had never left me though, & my business started to suffer as a result of it.
I felt under immense pressure & stress when I had two employees….making sure I had enough work in for all three of us. I always had thousands in the bank, as working capital.
In May 2006 I met a lovely girl. Over the previous four or five years I had been out with a vast amount of women, & treat most of them pretty badly. I hadn’t wanted to settle down, but I felt differently in May 06, & decided to look for a girl who I could have a serious relationship with.
She had everything going for her. Great looking, good job, bubbly personality, intelligent, loyal, easy to get on with & she came from a good family.
By this point I was a workaholic. & the relationship suffered immensely because of this. I didn’t treat her particularly well over the next twelve months. I never spent any time with her or showed her much affection. I think partially because of being a workaholic but mainly because the gambling mentality & all the character traits I had developed over the years had never left me. I was driven by money, & earning as much as I could was all that mattered to me.
In January 2007 I was trying to set up another business on the internet, selling boilers & plumbing spares things like that. It was at this time that I went a week without any sleep. Going to work in the morning, working all day, getting home, walking the dog then going straight on the laptop & doing work on my website.
I started to have grandiose ideas & thought I was going to be a millionaire within months. I didn’t know at the time but I was building up to a nervous breakdown. It finally came on the 22nd of January 2007.
The night before I had started to think I had special powers. I thought I could absorb the badness out of people & expel it through my body into the atmosphere, & make them better people. I held Elizabeth’s arm, in the bedroom we used as an office & I felt my arm sort of vibrate & go red hot. I thought I was absorbing all the badness out of her. A bit like John Coffee, the guy in the film the Green Mile.
Without wanting to go into too much detail, the day after, the day I went psychotic, I thought I was an angel, & I thought I had super powers. To cut a long story short, that night I was arrested by armed police in my house, as I had chased my mum, step dad & girlfriend out of the house with a carving knife, as in my delusional state I thought they were keeping something secret from me & as I thought I was also psychic, I thought them holding this secret back was creating a pressure in my head, which was hurting, & I thought the only way to stop it was to get them out of the house.
Naturally they didn’t want to leave, as they knew something was seriously wrong with me, were extremely concerned & my mum was in tears. So I first threatened to kill myself with the carving knife, but they still wouldn’t leave, so I threatened them all with the knife & chased them out with it.
I was sectioned under the mental health act. I was in a secure hospital for two weeks, but was moved to a non secure unit after that.
I didn’t feel right even when I came out of hospital. I went into a deep depression & didn’t come out of it for about 18 months. I did very little work during this period.
It was about a month after coming out of hospital that I started gambling heavily again.
I don’t know if it was because I was in a vulnerable state or what really. But I had thousands in the bank. I spent on the extension I didn’t need….i think I was still slightly manic as I only built it to put a pool table in!!
The money I had left over, was gone within about three weeks.
Elizabeth left me, mainly because it was too hard for her to cope with me in the state I was in. She said if we’d had a solid relationship prior to me having a breakdown, she would have had something to hold onto, & she would have stayed. But as I had treat her badly previously she left.
I didn’t & still don’t blame her for leaving, I appreciate it was very difficult for her to cope with the state I was in.
I could have saved the relationship. Elizabeth still loved me for months after leaving & if I would have put the effort in to win her back, & showed her I could have changed, I may still be with her now. But gambling was more important, & I didn’t realise what I had lost until it was too late.
After Elizabeth left all I could think about was gambling. Every penny I got from anywhere went in the bookies.
I’ve heard it said in a GA room before, but my problem the second time round, after the period of me being able to control my gambling to some extent, was far worse.
I ended up losing my house, my car, my vans, my business my girlfriend & my dignity.
I stole to feed my habit. I sold some of my possessions to feed my habit. I even left thousands of pounds worth of furniture etc in my house when it got repossessed because I couldn’t be bothered to put it into storage. All I could think about was having a bet. I lost about thousands on that house, a house I could have saved had I been gamble free.
I finally decided to come to GA in August 2008.
It was an extremely hard decision. Again admitting you are powerless over your gambling addiction is a hard thing to admit to yourself.
But I knew I was powerless & I knew I needed help. I have to say, it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
I remember my first meeting very clearly. I felt like id had the weight of the world lifted off my shoulders. I felt empowered & liberated in some way.
I attended GA almost every week for the first 3 months. & I didn’t have a bet during this period.
I was too blaze’ & naive about how my strong my addiction was though, & after the first 3 months, sort of thought to myself ‘I’m cured.’ I started carrying cash again, & stopped coming to GA as regularly.
The inevitable happened, & I ended up having another bet, in my local working mens club, where I had been gambling uncontrollably over the previous 18 months.
I shouldn’t have even been in there if I had been sticking to GA advice religiously, as obviously members of GA are told not to frequent any old gambling establishments.
I have an extremely addictive personality, & something I have suffered with since beginning my recovery is cross addiction. When I first started coming to GA I started taking excessive amounts of cocaine. I wasn’t really aware of cross addiction at the time & just put it down to the fact that I liked the way cocaine made me feel. I didn’t realise I was replacing one addiction with another. I was either being naïve, in denial or being plain stupid, probably all three, but I suppose I was addicted to that as well at the time.
More recently after becoming aware of cross addiction, I have started drinking heavily. I know its me substituting gambling for another addiction, I’m just finding it difficult to totally stop drinking at the moment. I have cut down considerably over the last month or so, but am going to seek the help of the Sheffield Alcohol Advisory Service to get properly on top of the problem.

I haven’t taken cocaine for over two months & as far as this is concerned, I don’t think I’m going to need any help in staying stopped, as the way it makes me feel afterwards is horrific & I think this is enough of a deterrent for me.

Over this last 16 months I have attended GA infrequently, & I have gambled for short periods & abstained for short periods.
I’ve been pretty miserable for the majority of 2009 if I’m honest.

I now know that GA is pretty much a lifetime commitment, & I will never be cured, I will just be managing my problem.

I’m sure over the coming months, things will get easier & the desire to gamble will get less & less. If it doesn’t, I’ve got the tools in place to prevent me from having another bet.
I am going to come to a minimum of one meeting a week & Wednesday’s meeting in Rotherham, work permitting.
We are now in 2010. This year could be a very good year for me. I have recently tendered for a contract, I have won the contract. It’s to be reviewed on an annual basis.
I will have more than 20 guys working for me on this contract, so hopefully I will be able to deal with the stress I’m undoubtedly going to suffer, better than I did in early 2007.
I’m still keeping the other side of my business open, doing private work, as this is really picking up at the moment & I am doing a big promotion this month & next.
The potential for my business is endless.
My destiny is in my own hands & providing I can abstain from gambling from now onwards which I know I can do with the support of GA, I know my life will become amazing & I will enjoy it like never before.
My name is John, I am a compulsive gambler.
Well Hi John,
What an amazing story and how well you wrote about it. I was intrigued as I thought in parts I was reading about myself and kept thinking that it was me that you was writing about. I live on the other side of the world in Australia, I am now a 64 year old woman who has been in recovery throught the GA program for ten years. I tried many things through life to try and stop my hideous gambling and it was only after getting out of prison and running straight to the Casino to once again start my career of gambling. I had had many fantastic jobs through my life but lost them with as much disarster as you did. The more pressure involved in the work the more I gambled, so the end part of your story concerns me really and just something for you to think about. John have you a sponsor within you GA group? If not you need to approach someone who has been around the group for a long time, someone who you like and trust, someone who you can talk with in confidence, someone who you can't 'pull the wool over their eyes', someone who you know will tell you the truth if they think you need it! I had so much ego that it took someone in my group to finally pull me up and to tell me that I was full of sh........ and to get honest and a bit more humble before I could expect recovery.
Well John, if your job dosn't work out you can always become a writer - well done!
I'm Helen and a compulsive gambler - 10 year GA member.
That is the most amazing story I have ever read. I would love for you to come back on and update us with your progress. I hope you are gambling free and you business and life are successful and enjoyable.
hi Johm.

First of all thank you for sharing your amazing storey.
Cambleing has also robbed me of everything my self respect. home. life savings.and so on as inportant as the money i lost was to my family.
They have lost a lot more the kids lost ther dad my wife lost her you i stopped gambleing for a long time and when i started again.
Also like you i lost all control completely one night i won what some people would earn in a year.and then i gambled like a madman makeing bets i new deep down i Could not win it was as if i wonted to lose.the realy crazy thing is i am not working and completely broke.after i lost it all in less then two hours i did not have enough for a pack of cigs no petrol to take my kids to school utillity bills that needed to be paid. My point is i think depresstion is a major contributor to this illness i am currently being treated for clinical depresstion,and like you have battled depression al my life.
As part of my treatment i am attending a anxiety management course.dealing with negative thoughts and actions i am in the early stages of the course.but i am very intrested to see has any body else Taken this approach to trearment for ther addiction.
Your storey sounds so relevent to mine its uncanny.take care and god bless.

I just want to say thankyou! Thankyou for a wonderfull post that mirrored a story of mine but most importantly thankyou for making me wake up.

My GF knows I used to have a "compulsive disorder" and had stopped and yet last night I walked in and played poker for money at there home.

Not much but it was the thought proccess!!

In fact I have been witholding from my usual posts as I went away recently and played in the casino for 4hrs.

More out of shame for myself as I was very strong indeed.

This addiction never leaves you and I know I dont really want to go into that mission again hell bent on money being my motive, come nervous breakdown which i suffered also before.

Anyway part of the recovery is admission when guilt and then take a day at a time.

Thanks John...


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