I have spoken at length about my experience with Gambler’s Anonymous meetings, see full blog here. As mentioned in the previous blog post the meetings pretty much consisted of every person speaking in turn about their views and thoughts on gambling overall as well as sharing some of their own personal stories. There are three stories in particular that stood out to me during the few meetings that I went to. I want to share these stories with you and highlight the lengths that some people would go to in order to feed as well as protect their gambling addiction. I have no way of confirming if these stories are true or not but they were all told in the meeting to a group of fellow gamblers with a tone of sadness and regret, as a result, I am confident that the stories I am about to tell you are true. The stories will be kept completely anonymous with no names or places that would give away the identity of the person in questions would be mentioned.
All three stories are pretty shocking in their own right, however, I will start with a story that shocked me the least. This is on the low level of the “Shock Factor Scale”. Let’s hear his story:
“I used to gamble all of my wages as soon as they came in. I would gamble week’s wages in a space of few days. Luckily, I used to get paid weekly so money was always there to be spent. I bet on all kinds of sports, especially football. These days there is a football match on every single day. Always some kind of a cup game on. I always thought that my knowledge of football was superior to your average sports fan, so I always thought I was one step ahead of the game. I won some, I lost some, but for weeks I was pretty much breaking even. I didn’t think there was any harm in it. It was just a bit of fun. Then I got too cocky. I started betting big. Suddenly most of my bets began to be losers. I was losing money fast. The more I lost, the more I put on the next bet to win it all back. I was soon gambling away my weekly wages in the space of few hours, never mind days. I then started borrowing money from friends and family. I tried to be coy and only ask for small amounts. I was soon borrowing money from friends to pay back my family and borrowing money from family to pay back my friends. My biggest fear was that my family or friends would find out about my addiction. I needed to protect this secret at all cost. I had to keep it quiet. Feeding my addiction was beginning to get tougher and tougher. I soon resorted to stealing money from my little sister piggy bank and my grand-mothers purse. I was out of control. I started off stealing small amounts so not to draw any suspicion. However, I again got too confident for my own good and started stealing big value notes from my grand-mother’s purse. One day, I got caught by my mother while I was taking some money out of my grand-mothers purse as she was sleeping next door. At that moment, all hell broke loose. There was war. It was all revealed there and then. I hanged my head in shame and not soon after my parents kicked me out of the house and told me to sort my life out. This is why I am here. I need to change my ways. That was the kick up the ass that I needed. I was reluctant to come here at first, but what other option do I have. I need help ”
This was the first personal gambling story I heard. I always thought my story was unique and that I was weak and vulnerable. However, hearing that story, made me realise that my addiction was at a lower level to others. Yes I share same traits but not at the same scale. I was sympathetic to his situation as I knew better than most the shit gambling addiction makes you do. It completely re-wires your brain and makes you do dumb shit. At times looking back on my own gambling addiction experience it didn’t feel I was in control of my actions whatsoever. It was as if someone else was controlling me. I, like him, was doing things I would never do in normal circumstances. That story gave me confidence that I can stop my gambling rot and bounce back.
Now let’s take it up a notch on the “shock-factor level”. Here is another story to sink your teeth into:
“I have been gambling for few years now. However, only in the past year and a bit has it gotten very serious. I moved in with my girlfriend a year or two ago. She didn’t know of my addiction at the time. Nobody did. For months of us moving in together, I struggled to pay my fair share of the rent and bills due to my gambling addiction. I lied through my teeth to my girlfriend regarding where my money was going. I was losing control slowly but surely. I was spending more time at the bookies than I was at home with my girlfriend. I was running out of money very fast. My addiction was catching up with me. I needed a way out. I couldn’t admit to my addiction, that would be sign of weakness. One day, I came up with, what I thought at the time, was a genius plan. I decided to pretend to my parents that my girlfriend was pregnant. When they heard the news, my parents were delighted. They were very supportive and without asking for it they gave me some money towards baby stuff, such as a crib, nappies etc. to buy in preparation for the birth. For months I had to hide the lie about pregnancy from my parents. I rarely had my girlfriend at the house or on the phone to my parents. I didn’t want to raise any suspicion on her part or my parents part Every time conversation about babies came up I would change the subject as fast as possible. I was doing very well for months. I was living the dream. I was getting money from work AND I was getting money from my parents on weekly basis, as I always had an excuse to give them regarding the things I needed to buy to prepare for the baby. When I wasn’t lying through my teeth to all my loved ones I was spending time with my other “loved” one – the bookies. However, after months of lying and deception, it all blew up in my face when one day my Aunt came over to my parent’s house. I was there with my girlfriend during our rare visit to my parent’s house drinking tea. Suddenly, the aunt blurts out
“So, how is the pregnancy going. You all must be so excited”.
My girlfriend turned to me in shock, I looked back at her with the same expression on my face and then spent the next hour explaining myself – my lies, my addiction and my shame. It was the worse moment of my life. I lied to everyone close to me. It was lies on top of lies. Needless to say, I was in the dog house for weeks to come and I am still paying off all the money that was given to me by my parents. My girlfriend now has full control of my finances and I can’t even get a cup of coffee without coming to her for some change. I feel ashamed. I was supposed to be the man of the house, I was supposed to look after her, but, instead I was pissing away money in the bookies. This is why I am here now.”
This story too me a back a bit. It stopped me right in my tracks. I couldn’t believe the level of deception this guy went to. He was lying through his teeth to all his loved one and those who are the closest to him. Having the audacity to fool your parents by promising them grand kids was just insanity. It was again a wake up call to me. I began to understand more and more how gambling addiction can scramble your brain. I felt though that I can still save myself. I wasn’t too far gone. There was still a hope. That story gave me hope.
Now, I have saved the most shocking story until last. This story blew my mind when I heard it. It almost single-handily pushed me away from gambling. Let’s dive in:
“I have been working in a warehouse in one of the packaging company for about 10 years. I knew the owner well prior to getting a job and working there was very easy. Myself and the owner got on very well. I was given more and more responsibilities in the warehouse the more friendly I got with the owner. Soon I was pretty much running the place. I was in charge of balancing the books, making sure all of the stock is accounted for going in and out of the warehouse. I was heavily involved in gambling for awhile at the time and my addiction was getting bigger and bigger. I was living beyond my means. I was trying to squeeze some over-time hours out of the job, to give me extra cash to live a little easier. However, the additional money only went so far. I was living with my girlfriend at the time and she didn’t know anything about my addiction, neither did the boss. One day I decided to try out something. I manipulated the books to show that there was less money in the till than there actually was. Without anyone knowing, I simply logged the till as having €50 less in it than there was. I decided to only steal €50 as I always knew I could put it down to human error if I was caught and all would be forgiven. To my surprise the books were never properly checked the next day and I got away with it. I now had €50 extra to gamble with. As weeks went on I started getting more and more brave. I kept manipulating the books and taking more and more money out of the till. I soon realised that the boss had full faith in me with the job. I would never get caught. (Now I don’t know how he manipulated the books in order to steal cash from the company, but he didn’t go into too much detail regarding this part of the story, but I am sure you get the picture). I reckon I was doing this for a period of 3-4 months and during these months I must have taken out upto €10,000 collectively out of the business. That is a lot of money to go missing. Yet, I was never caught. Nobody was checking up on me. The company was making thousands on a daily basis. At this stage I was a master of manipulation. I was earning money by stealing money. Sounds kind of funny but that was the truth.
One weekend, I was driving down the road and I got a phone call from the boss. Suddenly, I felt ill. For some reason I just knew that I have been found out and he was ringing me to give me a bollocking of a life time. He used to never ring me on weekends. I was paranoid. Every day since I first stole money from the till I have been paranoid. The paranoia was increasing the deeper I got myself into this gambling mess. I didn’t answer the phone. I was driving on a motorway at the time. I simply opened the passenger’s window and flung the phone out on the road. I then drove straight to the airport and flew to the UK. I had distant relatives over there. I knew I could find a job there and stay with them for a while. In the end I spent 3 years in UK before coming back home. For 3 years I didn’t contact the boss or any of my work colleagues. I told my parents not to reveal my location to anyone. I was living a criminal life. After 3 years, living a lie became exhausting and I began to get home sick. I flew home and decided to keep a low profile. One day, by chance, I bumped into the old boss on the street. After awkward friendly exchanges we decided to go for a drink. Within few hours I explained everything to him. I spared no details. He was surprisingly understanding. He seemed to get my situation. He was more pissed off that I didn’t come clean at the time. He said he would have helped me. He was more disappointing in me than angry with me – you know that old saying that mothers use. Well, true to his word he is helping me now, as he is the one that is always talking to me to come to these meetings. I am back working for him but my pay check is going to my girlfriend now instead of my bank account and needless to say I am off the book keeping duties. Not sure how much help these meeting are doing but at least its one hour less that I am gambling”
That was the story that left me speechless. I couldn’t believe it. This guy went to ridiculous lengths to hide, feed and protect his gambling addiction. This was a story that was playing in my mind for weeks after I heard it. I still remember vividly him telling it. He was slouched on the seat relaxed telling it as if it was nothing. Crazy. Gambling addiction changes us – our personality and our actions. This story gave me determination.
These three stories just show that addiction could grab a hold of anyone. I am pretty sure there is at least one person in your life that is a gambling addict or soon to be a gambling addict. This addiction is like a silent disease, slowly spreading across the world. It needs to be stopped. I think our (Yes I said “our” by supporting this blog you are supporting the fight against gambling addiction – we are all in this together) biggest barrier to solving Gambling Addiction, is the stigma of it all. People are afraid to talk. I am currently planning starting up a podcast purely on this topic. I want to share my thoughts, meet new people and help them share their thoughts. Meet their partners, parents, friends etc. and give them spotlight to share their thoughts. I want this topic to be attacked from all angles. We need to start talking about this and the talk needs to happen NOW. If any of you are affected in any way by gambling addiction (big or small) and you wish for your story to be heard so it can help others please feel free to reach out to me and I can include your story (anonymously of course) in the upcoming blogs. I think we all have a unique story to tell and all of our stories can help eachother. No names, locations etc. will be mentioned. Privacy is key.
So there you have it. The top three crazy stories that were told during those Gambler’s Anonymous meetings. There were few more small stories that were told, but these three stood out for me. It helped me focus on my own gambling addiction to ensure I don’t lose run of myself like those three guys did. Just as a matter of interest what do you as a reader think were top three common features between the three stories you just read. You be surprised but, all gambling addiction takes similar path. It doesn’t matter how long you are gambling for or how much money you are spending in the bookies – all gamblers have many things in common. Give me your three that you might have spotted.
Thank you all for reading the blog as always. This blog seemed to have picked up a great audience and I am grateful for every like, comment and feedback, even if you just want to say “hi”. Please introduce anyone to this blog that you feel would benefit from the lessons discussed here. This will only going to get bigger and bigger. I am not going away anytime soon and please show support through comments if you are with me on this journey to fight gambling addiction one step at the time.
Thanks again everyone and talk to you on the next one. Just want to leave you with a little joke (funny but accurate):