How does one become a compulsive gambler ? I don't know but here's my story.
My first memories of betting are as a kid in our village playing pitch and toss. This was a regular enough event in the village, usually a Saturday or Sunday morning where people bet on the resultant toss of 2 coins, the "tosser" traditionally backed 2 heads and threw the coins and he didn't toss until he had someone to oppose the bet. The mechanics are irrelevant but what I now realise is that when I did get involved there was only one of two outcomes for me, win it all or lose it all. I never considered leaving the "toss school" until I was broke or everyone there were broke. My losses would be very small as I was young and 1 or 2 pounds would be my bankroll. The financial aspect to this is largely irrelevant but the mindset I had was already developed at 15 or 16 years old. The dream of "breaking the school" was my only aim and I could not figure out the others who could win a couple of quid and leave or conversely, lose a couple or quid and leave.
I went through school pretty uneventfully with good results and finished secondary education with a myriad of options regarding further education, and was lucky enough to have a family home that was able to support me in further education, despite it being in the middle of a recession (mid 80's). At the time I didn't realise this ,so off I went, oblivious to my fortune and I can now see that this is where my real obsession began. I spent a lot of time in a snooker club that had poker machines. When others were in college, I was in a dingy club watching a blue screen and listening to the non stop beep, beep, beep of these machines. When I did actually attend college I spent most of my time in a poker school that had formed in the college canteen, again the results were binary, I lost everything, or I won everything. When I say I lost everything, I mean my rent, my food money, my bus money and often hitched the 60 miles home in the rain having not eaten for 2 or 3 days. I regularly invented scenarios that required my parents to send on more cash to keep me funded but saw nothing wrong with it. Manipulation and lies were second nature to me, all to fund my gambling.
I bombed out of college in third year having failed my exams, somehow I managed to get to this stage without attending lectures or tutorials by virtue of having a good short term memory and the ability to distil the important information from reams of irrelevance, I also have an aptitude for numbers and hence science based subjects were never really a problem for me. It still hadn't dawned on me that the reason I failed was purely and utterly because of gambling, If I had dedicated the huge amounts of time to study that I did to gambling I have no doubt I would have graduated.
Did I regret this ? No, is the simple answer, I can see now that I was already a compulsive gambler, liar and thief. It's hard to explain but when a gambler reaches this stage he simply doesn't care about the lies, the larceny, the people we deceive and those we hurt the most. We only care about one thing, money for gambling. This troubles me now, as crazy at it seems I had no tolerance for these traits in others, people were either good or bad. No middle ground, no mitigating circumstances, not tolerance for others, but this did not apply to me, I simply did not realise that the things I hated most in others were what I had become.
My girlfriend and I had a child at this stage and I entered the world of full time employment. My father had a major role in securing me my first job and I was not grateful as this was my entitlement. That's the thing with gamblers, we are entitled to everything. I'm entitled to your money, his money her money and everyone's money. My girlfriend worked and we intended to marry and set up savings accounts to save for our first house, just like everyone else fortunate enough to be in full time employment. I made sure I managed the funds, I made the lodgements, I made the secret withdrawals to give the money to Paddy Powers. I stole from us, I stole from our future. Again, I had no guilt, it was my money, I could do what I wanted with it. One can ask now as to why my girlfriend did not notice and there's a simple answer. She loved me, hence she trusted me and it never occurred to her that the love of her life was a lying thief. Normal people have trust, they don't suspect that the one they love is not like them. Gamblers are not normal, we control, we manage all events to suit our needs, the needs of our addiction.
We got married, but we could not afford a traditional marriage so we went to exotic climes with a couple of members of my family. I progressed in jobs, earning more but no richer. We built a house, we got a mortgage, we appeared to have the life of a normal couple. All during this time I was gambling, I had loans that my wife knew nothing about, I had credit cards she knew nothing about, I had a life she knew nothing about. I juggled a bank loan, multiple credit cards, credit union loans just to hide my addiction. How is this possible ? I had a good job as I never had issues progressing by virtue of being a hard worker and demonstrated competence. How did I have so many loans ? How did I get credit ? This was simple, I lied, I am an accomplished liar. I also have a hyphenated surname , so if my name is "Compulsive-Gambler", I got loans and credit cards out in the name of "Compulsive" and "Gambler" and "Compulsive Gambler". I got loans out to pay loans, I got credit cards to transfer balances onto, in one case I had 4 cards from the same company, making 4 transfers a month to pay each other. We extended our mortgage term by multiples of what it was originally, I convinced my wife this was necessary, why did she accept ? It's simple, she loved me and accepted what I said.
Did I love her ? In my mind I loved my wife and child but in reality I did nothing to show it. I stole from our future, I only loved my mistress and she is insatiable, she takes all you have and gives nothing back.
In case this post is me trying to portray myself as the victim I do not mean it to be. I am not seeking absolution, this is the way things were. This existence continued for years to the point where we are still married but with another little girl and my wife's world has changed utterly.The last few years of my gambling almost killed me and here's why. I stopped getting credit so I had to begin to pay my credit with real money. When I looked at my income versus my commitments they could not be maintained and I concentrated my gambling to achieve the unachievable. I was on Betfair, initially straight betting,but then trading, predicting the price movements and trying to profit as a result.
For the past 3 or 4 years my life had become unmanageable, and here's how I existed. I came home from work and did not eat, I went to the laptop and turned on the races. I entered "my" room at 5:00 pm and gambled. My wife is a kind, loving person, but I did not interact and our relationship was purely one way, she gave, I took. My kids now had a Dad they didn't know. I was a shell. My mind was full of only the following, money, debts, betting, fear.
I spent every waking hour thinking of money, thinking of how to get more, I couldn't sleep and didn't go to bed until 4 or 5 in the morning and when I got up at 6:30 the first thing I did was check the account balance. I stood in the shower before work most mornings and cried. I did not cry from self pity, nobody made me do this, I did it, but I did not know how to make it stop. I looked at my wife and all I did was hate, I hated myself because of the love she had for me that I did not deserve. I looked at my kids and hated myself for what I was dong to their lives, their future. I looked in the mirror and then I really hated.
I decided I would end it, I picked a spot in a wall that I would crash into and die, I have a good job so my wife and kids would be cared for financially, and I knew they would have been better off without me. At this stage it was not the bills, it was not the money, it was that I knew what I had become, a worthless person.
This is where the gambler kicked back in and I found an out. I begged my brother for money and even manipulated that situation to get him to keep it secret by emotionally blackmailing him. I began attending Gamblers Anonymous for a couple of months and felt better.
I didn't commit to GA so I used the money my brother had given me to clear debts to gamble again, and I lost it all. Last may I went back to him again for money, he refused money but did not refuse to help. He told my sister because he feared form my mental state, she arranged for me to break this to my wife , they saved my life. I have no doubt that I would be dead now if it hadn't been for this intervention. My wife would be a widow, my kids would be fatherless, and they would not know why.
I broke down, I told my wife of my sins, of the lies, the theft, the person I had become. Her response to being told that 20 years of her life had been a lie was "We'll get through this". I still cannot understand this unconditional love for another, would I have been so forgiving ? I unburdened my sins and a weight lifted from me, I had actually told the truth for the first time in as long as I can remember.
So what happens next ? I obviously have a huge financial burden that I cannot manage so I went to MABS and they acted as intermediaries between me and my creditors. I will pay them but it will take 8 or 9 years.
I went back to GA and still go, I'm going in 45 minutes to today's meeting. I am learning that I'm not alone in my issues. I'm a gambler but I'm not gambling today and have not gambled for 6 months. My life is unrecognisable, I spend time with my wife and kids, not with betfair. I'm learning how to love, both others and myself. I don't obsess about money, about debts. I don't spend all day every day in a shroud of fear, loathing and angst. I don't want to die.
I am not a good person and have done horrible things to those that love me the most. All is not rosy, my default personality is not nice after 25 years of lies and deceit. I am learning to change, I am trying to mature.
I still obsess about whether gambling is an addiction or if this is just a convenient get out of jail card, and perhaps I'll never know.
I do know that if I attend GA meetings I will not bet, I can atone and become what I hope I can be, someone who can laugh and cry, love and hate, and create rather than destroy. I don't know why these meetings work and I don't care.
I do know if I stop going I will gamble, I will lie and steal, I will hate and I will decay, and then I will die.
My name is Paddy and I'm a compulsive gambler, I have not had a bet today or since my last post, and I'm still here.
Gamblers anonymous website