A RECOVERING gambling addict spoke of how he would remain in bed for the day with the curtains drawn after betting away vast amounts of cash before it was time for breakfast.
Tom (not his real name) wished to keep his identity secret in a bid to protect his family and friends.
He is speaking out to highlight the need for support hubs for people like him in crisis and unable to access help in the Cork area. Tom said he hasn’t placed a bet in 16 months. However, he confessed to finding the guilt of how he funded his old habit overwhelming on occasion.
“I stole from my family and friends,” he told The Echo.
“I became sneaky in feeding the habit and made up lies about how I had lost my bank card on a night out or another excuse that would allow me to borrow more money.”
Tom’s story comes as new services for problem gamblers are being rolled out in Cork.
In recent weeks, a National Problem Gambling Support Service was launched courtesy of the Gambling Awareness Trust. The service is a collaboration between Gambling Awareness Trust and the Family Resource Centre National Forum (FRCNF), which will see 20 Family Resource Centres (FRCs) across Ireland provide professional and confidential counselling services to those experiencing harmful gambling and their families.
Help is now available at Carrigtwohill Family Resource Centre in east Cork for those suffering from gambling addictions.
Tom described the pain that gambling caused him on a personal level.
“Before I asked for help I lost a six-figure sum in four hours,” he said.
“It was like an out-of-body experience. I told my family by driving up to the house and asking them for a lift to the treatment centre where I would be staying for a number of months. I had felt suicidal.
“However, I knew that if there was a heaven I didn’t want to be looking down from it on my family suffering because of what I had done.”
He explained what a typical day might look like for him.
“If I lost money online before getting up in the morning I would just stay in bed for the day. There were days when the only time I left the bed was to close the curtains to make the room darker. I wanted it to the match the darkness I felt inside myself.
“I drove to bookies in towns far away because of the shame of what I was doing. It was all down to shame."
Tom spoke of the adrenaline he felt while watching a race.
“The elation I felt when I won a sum of money was surreal. When I watched a horse in a race, I could feel my heart coming out through my chest because I had so much money on him.
“I’d spent all my money on bets but wouldn’t be able to pay for a cup of tea. I couldn’t sleep at night because I was so excited about placing the next bet.”
It wasn’t long before Tom’s addiction spiralled out of control.
“Eventually, I stopped going out. I didn’t want anyone to know. It got to the stage where I was missing major events such as weddings and significant birthdays. I always had a different excuse to for whoever I was dealing with at the time.
“One of the lies I told was that I wasn’t able to drink because I was training. The reality was I had gambled away all my wages. I started missing work as well as training and matches.
“For a long time I didn’t want to stop because I thought I was unbelievable at it. I’d lose everything to the point where I was in tears and suicidal. I’d make a promise to myself that I would never gamble again but when you are gambling the way I was you have this built-in forgetter.
“The pain was forgotten about when I started gambling again and it became part of my daily routine. I found any reason I could to justify what I was doing.”
Tom is now working hard to be able to repay his friends and family financially.
“There was panic about being able to repay the money straight away, but I’ve been able to pay them back little by little. I couldn’t believe how understanding everyone was. They didn’t hold grudges. They were just happy to see that I was getting better.”
- For help with problem gambling visit https://gamblingcare.ie/ or contact a local Family Resource Centre website for more information.