What follows is my encounter with gambling addiction and if you are dealing with gambling addiction I urge you to seek professional help who can give you solid advice. In the UK there is the National Gambling Helpline (0808 8020 133) as well as GamCare (http://www.gamcare.org.uk/) and in the USA there is the National Problem Gambling Helpline (1-800-522-4700) as well as their website https://www.ncpgambling.org/.
My name is Andy and I am a gambling addict. I say that not because I still gamble, I stopped playing the lottery in 2017 and haven’t put a coin in a slot machine in well over a decade, but because I know there is a side to my personality that easily gets addicted to things. I know that because I am also a former smoker who having not had a cigarette since 2014 now from previous failed attempts to quit that it would only take one cigarette to cause me to start again. As such, all it might take is placing one bit of lose change in a slot machine and I know that I could easily end up addicted again.
But this blog post isn’t about slapping myself on the back for quitting gambling, I thank God for that even though I wasn’t overly connected with my faith at the time. But this post is all about what I have learned about myself looking back at my gambling addiction and how it ended up becoming out of control; in the hope what I write may help someone else. And just to give you an idea of my gambling addiction, which was to slot machines, I would spend pretty much every hour that I wasn’t working or with my girlfriend, at the time, playing slot machines often till late in to the night and was broke.
Now it would be too easy to blame my childhood on my gambling addiction as when the fair came to town or as a family we went to the seaside for the day we would inevitably end up in the arcades on the penny slot machines. Although when ever I knew we were going to the seaside it would be the thought of the arcades which excited me rather than playing in the sand or playing crazy golf.
That childhood experience may have been a sign of what was to come but it isn’t the reason I ended up a gambling addict. But I can look back to my teenage years to get my first insight because at school there was a playground game where we flicked coins at a wall and who ever was closest would win all the coins in play. And the thing I have come to realise is it was the sense of winning which kept me playing rather than ending up with a pocket full of small change; trust me that change would end up being won by someone else the next time we played. Looking back to my teenage years I was never sporting, I never won a race or scored a winning goal and I was never a high achiever academically so that feeling of winning from playing that silly coin game is something I would never get from anything else.
That sense of not being an achiever alongside comparing myself to those who were, is a big reason as to why I ended up addicted to gambling during my 20s and 30s. I found myself in a relationship with someone who came from a family of achievers be it sporting excellence, academic excellence or business excellence and I was none of those things. But my gambling addiction was a lot more complicated than it was when I was a teen as not only did I need that sense of winning to boost my own self esteem but I was gambling to get rich in order to live the life my girlfriend and her family lived. And of course as many a gambler knows I ended up chasing my losses believing just one moment of luck will turn it all around when the truth is a moment of luck would mean I could have kept on gambling.
That combination ended up very detrimental and it is by the grace of God I am here to tell you my story as I know of those who were not able to deal with not only quitting gambling but also that sense of shame that being a gambling addict can give you, especially when debt is involved. But I also learned something else looking back to my gambling addiction and that is I am like a dog with a bone. As such I know that not only do I need to be careful of what I get myself involved in but I also know that even if my persistence is in doing something good I need to keep it in check and not let what ever I am doing start to dominate and control my life, finding balance as well as contentment in who I am has and still is pivotal to staying in control.