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Q: During lockdown, I started betting on football results to break the boredom. I was lucky at first, earning £300-700 a month, and enjoyed the buzz.
I started to see it as extra income and figured the more I put into it the more I made so I started betting £1000 here and £3000 there until I spent on average £5,000 per month.
Of course, the winning streak didn’t last and that’s when I started to dip into my overdraft and then into our family savings, convinced that a big win was imminent and I could quit. .
In just over a year I spent £30,000 which was supposed to pay for an extension to our house. I’ve always looked after the family finances so my wife has no idea. I don’t know how I’m going to tell him there’s no more money.
She recently demanded to know why I am always up until the early hours and I told her that I had a porn problem because that sounded more acceptable than the truth. I know it hurt her, but I fear the truth will destroy us. What should I do?
Addictions counselor and author Mark Dempster, based on Harley Street in London, says:
First, give yourself credit for admitting you have a problem – breaking down denial and being honest with yourself is an important step in recovering from addiction.
Second, you need to seek help, and quickly.
I know because I’ve been there. I hit rock bottom with a gambling addiction when I was 28 and all my money went down.
I felt increasingly disempowered and at the mercy of my addiction, to the point where I was filled with shame.
Today I tell my clients that addiction is like having a twin that resides within. At the peak of any addiction, the twin is more powerful than you, so you need help fighting your own self-destruction.
You have to be honest with your wife. This means disclosing every detail without watering down, including how much money you’ve spent, how much debt you have, and how long you’ve had a problem.
Addiction is a disease, not a moral defect, and if it supports and loves you, I hope you can overcome it together.
None of this is easy, and it will take tremendous confidence to begin to dismantle the consequences of your behavior caused by addiction – in this case, debts and lying about the porn problem. You can only begin to repair that trust with complete honesty, including a sincere apology.
Start with solutions. Be honest, tell him this is what I’ve been doing, for how long and to what extent, and most importantly what you plan to do next – for you I would recommend finding a therapist first addicted to gambling and frequenting Gamblers Anonymous – before asking for his support.
Be aware of the emotions your wife will experience when you reveal yourself. Even deflecting her suspicions by blaming porn could have triggered low self-esteem and unrealistic comparisons, not to mention the inevitable panic and anger she’ll feel over losing the money, which is why a transparent total is now essential.
Once you’ve spoken to her, give her the time and respect to accept your confession and acknowledge the impact it will have on her. You might say, “I understand that you might want to leave and I take responsibility if you do because of my condition, but I would like us to get through this together.” »
Therapy, Gamblers Anonymous, and empowering your wife (for example, giving her full control of family finances, monitoring transactions, and effectively giving you pocket money) is a good plan.
To tackle this type of debt, you need to talk to a debt management professional, but most importantly, your wife needs to stay in charge of the purse strings, at least for the first six months (or however long). duration of your debt management plan). This will help give him physical control over an emotionally out of control situation, which will help him regain his confidence.
Then it’s time to work on overcoming your addiction. Gambling, like any addiction, is a symptom of an underlying emotional disturbance – often childhood trauma or emotional neglect – so it’s time to dig deep and start looking at the root of the problem.
There is no doubt that the lockdowns have had an impact, with few external stimuli to distract addicts and keep them in healthy routines. We live in an era where one in two evening advertisements is for gambling, children are being tricked into gambling through “fun” games and there are now 140,000 children aged 11 to 16 who have or are at risk of having a gambling addiction, according to a report by the gambling commission. But the speed at which your game has soared suggests to me that you will need the support of professionals and loved ones to avoid relapses in the future.
When looking for an addiction therapist, look for someone who specializes in gambling addiction. Ideally, someone who has experienced the illness themselves.
It’s different from an addiction to, say, drugs and alcohol, because it can be hidden more easily and the world has normalized betting and wrongly sold us a “get-rich-quick” dream. , so it is often considered less harmful than other addictions. . But I have clients who have lost hundreds of thousands of pounds and have nothing left. It’s a huge driver of mental health issues in men and keeping any addictions in the shadows only adds to its power.
Ultimately, taking full responsibility and getting professional support will help restore trust between you and your wife, and it will grow stronger over time. That’s the best goal to aim for – the most important thing is that you need to start now.
MD Addiction Counseling
The Continuous Path: A Guide to Stopping Addictive Behaviors and Achieving Ambition
by Mark Dempster