It's been the hardest 10 years of my life and I would not wish this life on anyone. It is not glamorous like they show you on adverts etc. There are no yachts or fast cars. The reality is very different. I gambled online so could lose money so quickly. I have lost many thousands of dollars and have many thousands in debt. I will be paying off my gambling debt for the next 7 years.
I suffered a near breakdown because of stress and am now on anti-depressants for mental health problems. I cut everyone out of my life in order to gamble. Gambling was priority for me. I stopped doing things that made me happy and I developed social phobia making it even harder to mix in with society. I started feeling angry and irritable unless I was gambling. I isolated myself and let gambling take me over completely. Betting was always in my head. I was always thinking about what I would do next, fantasizing over winning and seeing those figures in my account...the chips stacked up on the table.
It got out of hand so slowly that I didn't really see it coming.
It started out small and sensible back in 2007. Just a few dollars on cards, roulette and horses for fun with the family. Things started to change in 2011. I started gambling alone and in secret. I lied about how much I had spent and lost. I was betting bigger each time and finding it easier to risk huge amounts of money. I felt like I was out of control and not thinking properly, but I couldn't stop.
I couldn't tell anyone about it and had to suffer alone while pretending all the time that everything was okay. It was a terrible burden that eventually took its toll on my health. I was hurting very badly inside, but on the outside I had to carry on being a good mum. I was being happy, being attentive and trying not to blow my cover. I would gamble when everyone else was asleep, I would be desperate to win back what I had lost earlier in the day. I could not handle losing, even a small amount and would think about it all day up to the point of lying in bed and waiting to sneak downstairs to bet. Sometimes, I would get caught but would just say I couldn't sleep and came down to watch some telly etc. I found it easy to tell lies and that is just not like me at all.
My addiction took me on a horrible journey until I finally had enough of failing at self-exclusion and opening multiple accounts. I tried hard to stop myself from betting but always found a way to place bets. As soon as I would self-exclude, I would feel relief and joy followed quickly by resentment. I felt trapped because I couldn’t bet anymore. So, I would look for new places to gamble online.
Now, with new measures in place, I have not gambled for a year and a half.
Gambling solved none of my problems. It made me feel weak and now I have to deal with all the new problems I created. And I still have all the old problems as well.
I have agonising debt and a family to feed who now know all about my horrible secret and the trials I faced alone. They support me and forgive me for what I did. But forgiving myself has been the hardest part.
I began thinking really horrible negative thoughts because giving up gambling hadn't solved my debt. We still could not pay the bills and I was to blame. I began self-harming because I found it very hard without gambling and I had no release or way to lift the pressure I was under. I finally broke and went to my GP when I told her all about it.
I now have the support and care I need, and the lies are gone. It's all in the open and that means I don't have to chase all my losses any more. The money is gone and that's that. No more hiding bills and no more worry about being found out. I can finally let my shoulders down and get back to being human again. Not a slave to a machine.
Having gone 18 months without gambling, I feel okay and am able to see the huge mess that I made. I have dreadful remorse and disgust for behaving so selfishly but I know that I was not in control of myself. I do not excuse my behaviour, but I accept that I was in the grip of addiction. I thought I could handle it, but I couldn't.
I didn't want to accept all that I had done so I kept gambling. I was trying to win it all back, so I could finally make it all stop. But that never happened. I made it worse and couldn't see any way out except to gamble some more. I bet more than I ever thought possible. It was so easy to risk money that was just numbers on a screen. It didn’t feel like real money. The pressure was immense. It was all or nothing and I threw everything at gambling and came away with nothing but pain and debt.
Now I have drawn a line and walked away from it. I face up to my mistakes and have to live with them however painful and I am severely depressed because of what I have caused to my family and myself. I can at least now think about a future without worrying what the day will bring for me, will I win...will I lose? Will I ruin Christmas? How will I mess this up today?? I have some control now but will have this disease for the rest of my life so will have to continue seeking help and assistance from those around me and from professionals. It won't just go away. I have to keep going as gambling will wait for me to be weak and then strike again. I have to stay focused and in control of this disease.
My advice to anyone who has stumbled across my story is that ‘the money is gone’. Face up to your mistakes. Don't keep digging yourself in deeper like I did. Draw a line, turn your back on gambling and walk away and most importantly, learn to forgive yourself. Because if you don't, your guilt will keep you making the same mistakes over and over again until you have nothing left, not even family. Gambling ruins more than just bank accounts.