November 13th 2011, 2 years ago on this day I placed my last bet. I have no idea what horse I backed or where it ran but what I do know is that it lost. It had got to a stage that I was no longer able to leave a bookies unless all of my money was gone or the nice lady behind the counter was turning off the TV because they were closing. If I was "lucky" enough to have left with some money in my pocket it didn't matter, I knew I would be back the next day to give it all back. That night, the following morning, my entire day in work, my head would be consumed with thoughts of doubling, trebling, quadrupling my winnings from the day before. Whatever debts or troubles I had would be wiped out if I could just have that one big win to get me back on track. And I had done it before. There were times when I would have turned the smallest amount of money into a huge sum in the space of a couple of hours. That was the problem for me, no matter how much I had lost I still had the belief that I could win it all back. But things were different now, I owed a lot of money and the desperation within me made me make very bad decisions. I convinced myself that Gambling, the thing that got me into this mess, was going to get me out of it.
In August of 2011 I sold my car for half what it was worth. my plan was to use the money to go Gambling and clear off all my debts. I lost it within a week. I was living in a 4 bed house on my own paying 600 euros per month and I couldn't even afford a loaf of bread. But that didn't matter, I wanted to put on a show for my family and friends that I was doing well in life when the truth of the matter was I hated myself. I hated the person Gambling had made me. I would drive to my mothers house when she wasn't there, let myself in and take food and bring it back to my house to cook it myself and my mind was telling me that this was normal behaviour. Many mornings I woke up in that house and was terrified to face the world so the easiest option for me was to jump out the top window. Thank God I never did but that seemed to be the only way to stop the torture that was going on in my head.
I was carrying a lot of guilt and shame around inside me. On the outside I would put on a face for people around me and pretend everything was OK but inside I was falling apart. I had a lot of things going for me and to be 26 and have no direction on where my life was going was hard to live with. I considered myself to be a failure. I became so unreliable in a lot of areas of my life, let it be work, relationships or football. At the time I convinced myself that I was doing fine but looking back now I was fooling myself. But all the while in the midst of all the madness that was going on in my life I was still able to find time to go to the bookies. It had taken away so much of my life but in a strange way it was the place where I felt I was safe. No matter what was going on in my life this was the place where I could hide away from the world hoping that all my problems would disappear. They never did.
As the debts got bigger so too did the lies. I would have to duck and dive from people and banks, borrow money from this person to give to another while saving some of it for the bookies. For 5 years I gambled the majority of my weeks wages. It was just a mad, insane way to live life. But I didn't know how to stop. I remember in winter 2009 going to see my father and breaking down in tears telling him how I couldn't stop gambling and that there must be something wrong with me. He was thrilled. He knew something was up but didn't know exactly what and that admittance from me would bring an end to it. And it did for a couple of months but I never spoke to anyone in a similar situation and never went to a meeting to speak about it so it was inevitable that I was going to go back gambling and I didn't disappoint.
It is such a horrible place to be when you can't see any way out. Gambling is such a secretive thing in many ways and is so accessible nowadays as well which makes it harder for addicts like myself to get away from it. For a brief spell in 2007 I gambled on line and can remember winning €8,000 in three days. This was the easiest thing in the world to do, I wasn't even handling money so it had no value to me, I was just keying numbers into a computer, simple. I lost that €8,000 in one day. The buzz and the ease at which I could win money simply took over my thoughts and as a result it was impossible for me to live a normal life with a normal way of thinking. Bear in mind this was 2007 so I still had 4 more years before the walls came in around me and I had to accept defeat.
The hardest thing for me to do was to admit to someone the trouble I was after getting myself into, financially but more important morally. I had done a lot of things I wasn't proud of and this was eroding away my soul and my spirit. I knew I was a good person but somewhere along the way I lost sight of the important things in life like my family and friends. When I eventually told my father what was going on and explained the trouble I was in it was like the biggest weight imaginable was lifted off me. For the first time in a long time I was being open and honest with someone and it felt great. His reaction was one of concern and relief which was a great comfort to me. I didn't want to tell anyone or ask for help because a part of me was afraid of a negative reaction but all everyone wanted to do was help. I feel now that a great sign of strength from someone is to speak up and ask for help when they are feeling down because everyone feels a bit shit every now and again but that's OK as long as you talk about it.
I went to my first gamblers anonymous meeting the day after telling my father on the 14th of November 2011 and have made a lot of friends there. These people understand the pain and torture that I went through because they have been there themselves. I get great identification from them. Before I thought I was the only person on the planet with this problem but I know now I'm not alone and by talking and sharing our feelings we can all stay free from a bet. I picked up a lot of great advise along the way and things such as not watching racing, reading newspapers or associating with people who gamble have helped me greatly. Obviously it's impossible to avoid it altogether but I do the best I can, if the racing results come on the radio I just switch the station. It might sound ridiculous but it keeps me safe and as long as I don't gamble I can be happy and live a normal life because for years I was in hell and I don't ever want to go back there.
It is two years since I have had a bet and for that I am very proud and grateful. I will thank God tonight for keeping me safe today and will ask him to do the same tomorrow. I will go into into this a lot more in later blogs but as a start I hope this helps. I know one person it has definitely helped, me.