Gambling, like alcohol, is a legal vice; for most people, it doesn’t cause a problem. However, for some, gambling can become a destructive addiction that destroys their lives. That’s the experience that Max had.
For the last 8 years of my life I have suffered with a serious gambling addiction. It started when I was just 19 and at university. I was so excited to be going to university and for me it was the start of a new chapter in my life, the start of an exciting future – to study sport and exercise science and become a teacher.
Not long after starting uni, I made the fatal decision to go to a casino one night with friends. At that time, it was just a social thing and I couldn’t have predicted what would happen next. I can still picture that first time in the casino, flashing lights, pound signs everywhere and the feeling of excitement at the thought of winning some money. Sadly, I did win and without knowing it, I’d started to fall into a dark and dangerous trap. It seemed such as easy way to make money and, as a student, some easy money felt too good to be true – that’s just what it was.
Skip forward several months and I’d joined multiple sports betting sites, betting on multiple sports every day, throwing away my student loan, lying to my parents and eventually dropping out of university. Luckily my family supported me and I was given a second chance by the university to complete my degree. I was confident that I’d put the gambling behind me.
During the summer holidays I started speaking to a girl online; she actually lived just down the road from the university and was due to be starting there after the summer holidays. She was the most beautiful girl I’d ever set eyes on. I remember staring at her profile photos and thinking that she couldn’t possibly be real; that someone like me wouldn’t get to be with someone like her. When I eventually met her, it was love at first sight; the first and last time I’d ever felt like that. I started imagining a future with her, kids the lot.
But it wasn’t long before I was gambling again even though I was the happiest guy ever with this amazing girl. Instead of spending time with her I’d be spending more and more time in the toilet on my phone gambling. I started to become more and more miserable around her, always wanting to drink after the stress of a big loss, cheating on her, telling constant lies – all because of my gambling.
My behaviour eventually ruined her. I turned her into some sort of psycho with no trust whatsoever, to the point where even my parents hated her but, this was only because of who I’d made her, she was unrecognisable from the girl I first met and fell for.
Aged 21 I’d broken up with my girlfriend and left university again but somehow managed to get myself a job as a teaching assistant. I was really excited that I’d been given this opportunity and kept telling myself how lucky I was that I could give up the gambling before I’d got in too deep. Less than a year later I started focusing on the gambling again, if I lost I got depressed and just wanted to stay in bed rather than go to work – no employer was going to put up with that so I was sacked. I was still lying to my parents about my work and I even used money from my grans will to gamble. I’ll never forget coming home one day with my mum screaming at me to stop gambling, all the time crying her eyes out.
You’d have thought that would be enough to make me stop wouldn’t you but I just kept being given one chance after another. I managed to find myself a job as a supervisor in a souvenir shop, it wasn’t the best job but I was relatively happy, the money was OK and I got on well with all my work colleagues. I’d also got back in touch with some of my old school friends who I’d lost contact with. So life was relatively good at this point. But:
I was still gambling and it was getting worse.
I’d get paid in cash every Saturday and straight away I’d pay my wages into the bank on my lunch break, deposit it to my sports betting account and then I’d be in the stock room hiding behind cardboard boxes following the events that I’d just bet on. Most of the time I would have lost all my wages before my shift was even over. I used to go from being happy and excited to suddenly feeling sick . I would punch the boxes in the stockroom to get my anger out – it was that or cry.
So, what happened next. Well today, I’m writing my story from a prison cell!!! I’ve received an 8-month sentence for fraud.
I’d been given so many second chances and I blew them all but I knew after I’d been arrested and charged that I wasn’t going to be able to get out of this one. I couldn’t bear the thought that I was going to go to prison, and every night I’d go to bed crying my eyes out and writing in my head my last letter to my family. I googled ways to commit suicide multiple times but the thing that stopped me was the hurt I was going to cause my family. I knew I couldn’t do it, couldn’t be that selfish.
But, back to my cell. I’m about to start yet another job (a prison job this time) – another opportunity to turn my life around.
I’ve been in prison about a month now and I’m the happiest, most confident and positive person in the world. I’ve been helped by an amazing book that I took out of the prison library to do with overcoming a gambling addiction, as well as a course that I’ve been doing since being here.
I’m writing this today because for the first time I believe I am no longer addicted. Of course, it will be harder on the outside but I believe that thanks to prison I’ll be able to beat it. Prison is the best thing that’s happened to me. It saved my life and my family and I can’t wait to prove all of this to anyone who doubts me.
I’m looking forward to the future. I’m dreaming and believing again. I believe I will have a dream job – maybe as some kind of support worker. I believe I will find that ONE amazing woman with whom I can have children. I’ve got a wonderful family and I know that not everybody is as lucky as I am, so I hope that my story will help others before it’s too late. I was told by the police officer that arrested me that my gambling addiction was one of the worst she’d seen so if I can beat this then I promise you, anybody can.
By Max (name changed to protect identity)
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