Compulsive gambler's addiction '˜almost ruined my life'

A compulsive gambler has described how his life was brought to the brink of ruin in the wake of news that Northern Ireland has the UK's highest rate of '˜problem gambling'.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 8th May 2017, 9:57 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 7:02 pm
The anonymous gambler said addicts keep going until you have nothing more to lose
The anonymous gambler said addicts keep going until you have nothing more to lose

The addict described how he had squandered the trust of close family and friends and racked up huge debts to feed his habit.

The Belfast man, who has since brought his problem under control, now plays an active role in Gamblers Anonymous and, as such, has asked for his identity not to be made public due to the nature of the organisation.

The recovered addict, speaking after a report published by the Department for Communities at Stormont showed that Northern Ireland has the highest proportion of ‘problem gamblers’ in the UK, said the true extent of problem gambling here is hidden.

He described how the problem started: “When I first started gambling it was all about fun, but whenever you’re a compulsive gambler, it doesn’t become fun. The first couple of times I got a big win and then I was permanently, constantly chasing that big win. It didn’t matter how much money I won.

“You’re completely numb. You don’t feel it. I remember one day winning two grand and it didn’t phase me in the slightest. I wasn’t excited. I was just looking forward to the next day because I had two grand to give back to them.

“I was excited because that was me sorted for my gambling the next day. That’s how bad it is.

“There’s no amount of money a compulsive gambler can win to make them happy. There’s people who have lost homes, wives, everything and they just keep going. You’ll keep going until you have nothing more to lose.”

He said a major turning point came the day before he was due to go on holiday with his wife, only to be forced to admit that he had gambled away all their money.

“We went to the credit union to get a loan to pay for a holiday and I had gambled all of it,” he said.

“We were going away the next day, with no money. We had to get family, her father, to pull us out and lend us the money.

“I don’t like talking about my earnings and the money I was bringing in but whenever your family see you with no money and they know what your job is, but you have to tell them you have no money, it is tough.

“It very nearly ruined my life. I had borrowed money from every payday going. I had borrowed money from my own circle of friends and I’d racked up significant debts, all because of gambling.

“I had a very good job and a very good life. All my gambling was secretive, everything was behind closed doors. The thing that separates gambling from something like alcoholism is that it’s hidden. If you see me coming towards you, wearing a suit and carrying a laptop bag, you wouldn’t know.”

He added: “Eventually I told my wife that I’ve got this problem. I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t eating. All I was worrying about was money. It just becomes the only thing you’re living for.

“The hardest thing is the people you’ve hurt. The money is only money but not when you’ve hurt the people close to you.”

• To contact Gamblers Anonymous call 028 9024 9185 or visit belfastga.co.uk