I started gambling when I was about 12. It started as a hobby, but began to consume my life. I'd often lose more than I could afford and I was always thinking about betting when I wasn't betting.
Gambling infiltrated my social life. I had no time for friends and when they brought this up I was defensive and justified my behaviour, harming some relationships. Even when I did pull myself away from gambling, all I could think about was betting.
It is increasingly difficult in an age where all I have to do is pick up my smart phone and have a bet. I found myself devoting more time to it. I'd look forward to finishing work so I could go home to gamble. I'd bet on my phone while driving home and sometimes take my phone to the bathroom and bet.
When I lost, I'd get into a horrible mood and be impatient to recover my losses. I'd continue gambling into the night to try and win. I found myself lying to everybody about my wins and losses. Then I lost the lot. That was when I stopped gambling. I'd known for a long time it was bad for my wellbeing but when I was no longer making money, I could no longer convince myself it was worth it.
Once I stopped, I was lost. I began seeing a counsellor. It really helped get me through my darkest nights. The most important thing for me in stopping was talking about it to people I trusted. My mood has also been much more stable and I'm less anxious.
"The most important thing for me in stopping was talking about it to people I trusted."
The two things that I would say to other people potentially struggling, is try and be as honest with yourself as you can, and speak to somebody.
Although I knew on the day I stopped gambling that it was all behind me, I still have urges. They're less frequent than in the months after I stopped. The difference now is that my journey has given me the strength, resolve and resources to allow them to be there, yet not act on them.