You may have already read my previous article on how I struggled with debt, but I thought it was time to redress some of the issues I had during that time.
I hope that this article helps you if you’ve found yourself in a similar situation.
It can be a very tough place and although you are not alone, the majority of us suffer in silence, not wanting to put the worries onto anyone else.
The Gambling kiss of death
During my time gambling, I found that I was using it as a method of making money.
Unfortunately, as the majority of people with a gambling addiction will tell you, the first bet is the hardest but generally, a winner.
Winning that first bet was the worst thing that ever happened to me. £3 down to win over £200, easy money right?
The thing is that, subconsciously, that stuck into my head.
If I was ever in the pub and a little short on funds, I’d find myself playing the fruit machines.
I did pretty well. A quick £50 win made a quiet night in to a mad one, great at the time but you can start to see the issue here.
I got it into my head that if I was short all I had to do was have a gamble and I’d make some more money.
Gambling. NOT a source of income
Fast-forwarding a few years, this mindset of gambling to make money had really taken hold.
I’d progressed to online poker and online casinos by this point and again, I had had a few very nice wins.
As with anything, winning a couple of hundred pounds just wasn’t enough anymore, it didn’t give me that rush that you look for (initially anyway). Hence the poker and online slots.
I found myself gambling £30 -£50 a time online. Not too bad, I can afford to lose that you might say.
The problem is that it is now so easy to make deposits online.
If you are not concentrating on how much you are spending and depositing, £30 a few times can quite easily turn into hundreds.
This was me. Gambling £30, loosing, depositing, loosing and the cycle went on and on.
I had a few occasions where that £30 turned in to over £5000 in winnings, which was great, obviously.
The issue arose when, again, it became a way of earning money just on a much larger scale than previously.
This is where the debt came into my life.
Gambling = Debt = Gambling
I had found myself in a reasonable job. Didn’t pay a fortune but it paid enough to cover the bills and give me some form of social life. It just wasn’t enough (or so I thought in my head).
This was pushing gambling to a whole new level.
So I gambled, and what did I do when I Lost? Did I sit back and take the hit? NO, I found money and gambled more.
Since my old fruit machine days, this had always seemed to sort out the issue.
I could gamble, make a nice bit of money and pay off everything that I owed. Worked a couple of times, which only made it worse.
Ultimately, and after a while of doing this successfully, I found myself with loans, credit cards and not enough money to pay everything back each month.
This should have been the red flag I needed to stop with the gambling and address the issue.
Rather than facing the problem and speaking to my loved ones. Pride, shame, distress, disgust, self-loathing, call it whatever you will, but it hit me hard.
I ran to the payday lenders. I know, this was a stupid idea, but at the time, it made sense.
You see. I was still in that mindset that if I just borrowed £500 I could get on the casino, make a few thousand and at least pay off some of what I owed.
You already know what happened, don’t you????
I lost. Again and again, until my entire life felt like it was in tatters.
Facing the Issue
One of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life is to sit down with my fiancee and talk through everything.
This was tough on me, I have to be honest. But seeing how it almost shattered her was the worst thing in the world.
I had never even contemplated how it was all affecting her. During my time gambling, I always had it in my head that I was in control and I could stop whenever I wanted.
Now, writing this I have obviously moved on. I’m sure you can tell by the phrasing that I’m using that I now know that wasn’t the case.
The point is that it almost tore our relationship apart. To be fair to her, I wouldn’t have blamed her if she had left me there and then, but she didn’t.
It took a lot, and a bit of time, but eventually we sat down again and went through what ‘we’ could do, together.
I honestly believe that if it were not for her, I would probably still be in that position now, just getting further and further into debt.
My previous article covers how I moved forward and what I did, but in the interest of making this as complete as I can, here is a quick outline.
SPEAK TO SOMEONE
I know that sounds obvious but if you’re not actually in this position yourself, it may be hard for you to understand just how tough this is.
I would seriously recommend GamCare (If you’re based in the UK). If not, have a quick google search for gambling charities or help with problem gambling, there will be plenty of them in your area.
After a few phone calls with them, we decided I would join online group therapy sessions. Talking about my issues with a group of people who were in the same position as me really helped, much like Gamblers anonymous I suppose.
They also provided me with material to work through during the week, all designed to help me understand ‘why’ I did it and give me ways of moving forward.
For me, this was finding alternatives. I decided to start playing golf lol.
I also added software onto the computer, my laptop, and my phone to stop me accessing gambling sites. If you haven’t done this and are struggling with gambling online, I strongly recommend it, it really helped me that’s for sure.
If you’re interested, check out this article from GamCare on Blocking Software.
Dealing with the Debt
Getting some counseling and installing the software helped me stop gambling. It wasn’t easy, but I got there.
However, then I had a mountain of debt to deal with.
I couldn’t just do nothing. I had put myself in a position where my monthly bills and the amount my debts were costing me every month was more than I earned. Something had to be done.
I spent many nights just not knowing what to do. My creditors were not particularly helpful, they all wanted the biggest chunk of my wages, not helping either my financial position or my mindset.
Eventually, I rang Stepchange, a UK based debt relief charity.
I had no idea what to expect, I really just rang for some advice but I have to say, they were great.
It took some time and I had to answer some tough questions. One of which was ‘how much do you owe’.
Sounds silly I’m sure but I’d been so worried previously that I’d not actually sat down and listed everything, adding up the total. To be perfectly honest as I can be now, I was scared.
I did it, gave them all the information along with my earnings and household bills and wow, they took care of everything.
They contacted all of my creditors, put forward repayment plans and arranged the whole thing. All I did was paid them a monthly amount, all of which was then separated and paid to my creditors.
The weight lifted off my shoulders, the feeling was frankly amazing.
From that day on. I had no contact with my creditors, I just dealt with Stepchange.
No more creditors chasing me up for payments, a reduced amount of interest AND a plan with a completion date.
It was a long road, please don’t get me wrong, but it was worth it.
So this has really been an overview of how my problems arose and how I managed to get free, eventually.
If you’ve found yourself, or know someone in a similar position then please share this with them.
If this does resonate with you then don’t forget to take a look into Gambling Blocking Software.
If you want a chat, have any questions or just need some advice then please leave a comment below.
Of course, and understandably, if you would rather not leave a public comment then please feel free to email me at the email address below.
I’m no debt expert. I’m not an expert in gambling addiction or any other types of addiction but I have been through it.
Sometimes, all you need is someone to talk to and if this post can help just one person get free, then I’m happy with that.
Best of luck to you all and remember, there are people out there who are happy to talk, help and advice. Please use them.