This week I would like to talk to you and perhaps explain as well as I can of what goes on in a typical gamblers head at the peak of the addiction. I can only base this from my own experience. Experiences and mental mindset varies from person to person, the severity of the gambling addiction and a number of other factors. However, I think it would be fair to say that there are a lot of similarities between gamblers mental state across a wide spectrum of gambling addiction. So let me talk you through what my mental state was like at the peak of my addiction. Spoiler alert: Not good!
Let’s get one thing out of the way, no matter what addiction you may have, whether it is drugs, alcohol or gambling, it heavily impacts you mentally (as well as physically). The severity such impact varies of course from person to person as there are a lot of factors at play. However, there is one common stand out attribute across different kinds of addiction – reward. With alcohol a reward may be escape from reality and a chance to forget your problems for a period of time. This can be a huge reward for a lot of people as we live stressful daily lives with our hectic schedules, work, overtime, kids etc. We crave that escape and alcohol offers this escape to a lot of people. When it comes to drugs the reward is that it makes you feel good. It is also a form of an escape from reality too among other things. With gambling the reward is money. You get rich quick and easy and that’s a major reward for people, especially for people that don’t have a lot of money and are always dreaming of better times. Gambling is therefore their avenue to better times. I am sure you can pick up on a common theme running through all of these addictions? Escape! We all crave to escape from daily live struggle.
With every addiction there are pros and cons. The major pro of course is that “escape”. Escape from reality, escape from your close ones, escape from yourself. We all crave that and all of us have different ways of doing so. Some join a sport team, some get lost in music, some play music, some go for walks, some watch movies, tv shows and of course some turn to drink, drugs and gambling etc. My point is there are a lot of ways one can escape from reality. We all need it and we all have our ways of getting it. When we escape from the stressful harsh reality of life it makes us feel good, refreshed and mentally stable and then we snap out of it and we ready to tackle the world again. That’s is all well and good in an ideal world, but we don’t live in an ideal world. For a lot of people short escape from reality is enough to recharge the batteries and snap back to normal routine of life but, we are human after all and some people are mentally weaker than others and let the feeling of escape take over their normal lives. This is why there is so much alcohol, drugs and gambling abuse happening all over the world on a daily basis.
I was mentally weak from day one. I didn’t know it at the time of my first bet, but I was. I didn’t know it but within matter of months this mental weakness would prove to be my downfall. I soon realised that I couldn’t place a bet, win/lose, walk away and move on. Oh no. I wanted to be different. I wanted it all. I wanted the easy way out. Therefore, I placed a bet again and again and was craving the good times. Easy money. Financial security. Bragging rights. Ego boost. I was looking for that escape and guess what? I got it. However, it came with a huge price. I am not talking about money, something bigger than that. It cost me my mental strength. My mental strength was constantly being attacked by ads on TV about the latest odds, price boosts, money back if you lose the bet, special offers etc. I was slowly escaping from my family, my friends and of course my purpose in life. Yes that’s right. The addiction plays sick games with you. You become to believe that the addiction is the norm. Why? Here’s why, you see, with gambling there is a constant ability to win. That’s just the nature of the concept. Your next bet could be the one. You always believe that. Bet bigger, win bigger. Win next two bets and you break even. You got a promotional free bet, you cant lose. You can always bet again. All these thoughts are whirling in your head. You jump from market to market betting on corners, cards, first goal scorer, win first half, player to be sent off, penalty to be awarded etc. You move to betting on different sport, GAA, tennis, snooker, Formula 1 etc. Anything and everything. There is no end to how many ways you can bet and no end on how much you can lose. You see when you are addicted to drugs/ alcohol it affects you physically. You feel hungover, ill, tired, drained etc. You physically feel that pain and as a result you question your addictive habits as you want the pain to go away. That can sometimes act as a catalyst for someone to quit their addiction. However, with gambling there is no such physical pain. There is mental pain alright but that is quickly overshadowed by your ego. There is nothing that presents a huge physical barrier that makes you question your choices. All that is in your way is your limited bank account. However, after losing so many bets I was afraid to look at my bank account so that was that, the only barrier I had to shake me out of my slump and I ignored it. Perhaps if I kept a close eye on my bank account I might have snapped out of it. But I didn’t. In my head if I didn’t look at it, then there was no problem. I just kept lodging and betting. Losing and losing. Win some. Lose a lot. However, I didn’t care. I was blinded and foolish. On days where there was no soccer on I would gamble my money on basketball, cricket, handball, tennis etc. I didn’t care what the market was, what the odds were, if I knew the rules of the sport or not it was simply a matter of routine. I terrible, terrible routine. I soon began to question what’s real and what’s not. What my purpose was for getting up in the morning. Is me going to college studying for my engineering degree really what my purpose was in life? Am I in college because I want to be there or because I was told to be there? I began slowly to transition from going to college on a regular basis to spending time in my underwear looking at stats and latest match odd just to get that quick fix. I hardly slept. Always thinking about the next bet. There is always something to bet on. There was always a chance that next one is the one. It was my drug, my nightmare, my love and my agony. Engineering didn’t matter anymore. Fun times with friends didn’t matter anymore. Family time didn’t matter anymore. Love/passion for sport didn’t matter anymore. Putting that quick bet and biting my nails for that buzz, oh that mattered. Oh that really mattered. Insanity, right? I was not myself. I was a shadow of myself. I was hard to please, short tempered, bored easily and constantly angry. I was my own worse nightmare and at the same time my own best friend. It made me question all my actions and at the same time I found answers for every question. There was a constant battle in my head. However, there were no winners. There were only losers. Well, “a” loser. ME!
Nobody knew I had a gambling problem because I didn’t show any physical damage. I could easily hide my then “damaged” mental health well around others so that was not an issue. I was jolly, I was happy, I was making jokes during those rare times that I did drag myself to college. However, the biggest joke was what was going on in my head. Inside my head I was constantly battling demons, however,I could hide it well and as a result it became even more intriguing to keep betting. I firmly believed that I am only few bets away from hitting it big. You know, the law of averages and all that. Crazy thinking! In my head I was the smart one, I thought I would soon be rich and this college and engineering stuff can go and suck it. I was going to live the high live. However, in reality (which I was far far away from) I was heavily losing money, pushed my friends and family away, started failing my exams and struggled mentally as each day rolled into another. Once there was any glimmer of hope of me learning my lesson and snapping out of it I would be filled with dread of telling anybody out of fear of being judged. I panicked. I was restless. I didn’t want to admit to myself I had a problem. I kept telling myself I can walk away. All these experts in the radio and tv talking about gambling addictions haven’t a clue. I knew better. I was the man. My ego was slowly swallowing me up and I let it. I knew I would be too embarrassed to tell anybody. I couldn’t do that. I would be judged, looked down upon, laughed at etc. To protect me and my big ego I decided against speaking out or telling anyone. I went back into my shell and kept betting. When I was behind a computer/phone screen that is displaying the latest odds, I was in my comfort zone. I knew my way around a betting site, better than I knew my way around my estate. I would slouch on the couch for hours, days, weeks. I was hooked. I was mentally weak and I was mentally drained. But was the alternative? In my eyes at the time there was no alternative. So I kept betting.
It is a very bleak time when somebody is wrapped in any addiction. However, gambling addiction for me was my biggest test mentally. I failed again and again. I tried again and again until I had no choice but succeed. My brain would start fighting with itself. I started fooling myself. I would do anything to keep that betting buzz alive. No food? I can live with that. No new clothes? I can live with that. No more bets? Oh no. My betting habit was now part of me. It became my mental state and I couldn’t throw that away oh no! I had blinkers on. I only saw “easy money” in the distance instead of the things around me. However, I was too stubborn, too proud and as a result too foolish to face my demons and quit the nasty habit. The more I win the more I bet. The more I lose, the more I bet to win back my losses. I bet when I am happy. I bet when I am sad. After awhile it was no longer about money. Money meant nothing to me. I would easily put a € 100 bet on without a hesitation. In reality, that €100 could feed me for a month in college. In my gambling world, my bubble, it could feed my ego for couple of hours of excitement and that to me was worth every penny.
I hope you get some idea of how a gambling addiction or any addiction can swallow you whole and not let go. Gamblers fear of being judged. They don’t want their ego hurt. They want out but in this modern society, “out” means facing reality. Reality of laughter, judgement and ridicule. This is why gamblers prefer to live in their own little bubble. This is the world they know, this is the world they feel comfortable in and this is the world that is slowly but surely mentally breaking them down. However, a lot of times we don’t realise that we are all human and we all make mistakes. We first need to look at ourselves before we start judging others. I personally would have a lot more respect for a man/woman who stands up and admits his/her mistakes in life, put measures in place to fix them and move forward, than someone who hides behind their stubborn nature (like I did) until they hit rock bottom.
I will write more about how I came out of my gambling addiction (it was not a pretty picture) in the coming weeks. I just hope this blog gave you a flavor of gamblers mindset as well as their mental state and I hope you have found new appreciation for the addiction and change your views on gamblers. It is a tough place to be. I only touched on some points of the mental challenge that gambling brings. People with gambling addiction need to be approached with caution, but, more on that next week. Hope you all enjoyed this blog and I would as always welcome any comments, feedback, ideas or more via comments section. Please spread the word on this horrible addiction and if you think anyone might find some comfort in these blogs please feel free to let them know. We will make people aware and hopefully cure this horrible addiction one blog at the time. You can always follow me on Twitter @McevoyVadim where I plan to be a lot more active as these weeks go on and I will keep writing and hopefully keep helping those that are affected by gambling addiction.
Thanks very much for reading and I will talk to you on the next one.