Depression, gambling problem and unemployment
Firstly I apologise if this doesn't read well, I'm tired and writing this quite late but I'll try my best to keep it short and clear.
Okay, I guess this all started when I left school at 18 (I'm now 25). I completed my A-Levels @ sixth form and got poor grades. I could never decide on what I wanted to do career-wise (and still can't) but I made a last minute decision to go to University and study Sport Science (as they were the two subjects I had most interest in at school). I lived away during the week and travelled home at weekends as I had a part-time job at home. I got involved in betting on sports when I turned 18 and would place occasional low stakes bets on football etc. When I moved away to University, the regularity and cost of my gambling habits were gradually increasing (with more spare time during weekdays, passing the time) however I still viewed this as a bit of fun and felt I had full control over how much I was spending. In the spring/summer of my first year of University I went on a really good winning run sports betting and turned a small amount into around £4,000. This felt amazing for obvious reasons, I was sometimes winning in one day more than I was picking up per month from my part time job and I felt like my sports knowledge was good enough to make a steady profit. I was constantly studying form, stats etc and placing bets daily, but was on such a 'high' from how successful I'd been, I failed to notice that a potentially serious problem was developing. As the winnings increased, so did the amounts I was wagering. With the nature of gambling though, temporary highs can be quickly erased with devastating lows (which I was yet (but soon) to experience).
At this point I was in a 'bubble', oblivious to my actions and the consequences they would entail. At that moment in time, all that mattered was getting back to winning like I was before, thinking 'it's just a matter of time before my fortunes turn around'. I know what a lot of people will be saying or thinking at this point, 'if you knew this was becoming a problem why didn't you just stop and cut your losses'? The problem was at this point I was so deeply involved in this activity that I had completely lost the ability to think rationally about the extent of my actions and the consequences to go with it. Before I know it, the whole £4,000 has gone and some. (This was on going through University until the summer I left (after 3 years). I graduated with a 2:2 degree which I was pleased with because I had lost interest, passion and motivation for the course midway through the 2nd year but was determined to stick it out. However, I was dissapointed at the fact I knew I could have done so much better if I didn't have the distraction of gambling through my studies (I would often spend more time studying for my bets than n assignments).
I moved home for the summer after graduating and couldn't find full time work for months. I was struggling financially and was getting desperate to find something. Eventually, I end up getting a job at a local betting shop (I know, big mistake). I had interest in sport and betting and was desperate for work so I took it. I worked there for almost 3 years and the betting habits continued (I would sometimes lose a months wages within a week or two of getting paid. I eventually managed to temporarily 'burst the bubble' if you like one month when I was struggling to get by waiting for the next payday to come around and it was only at that point that I managed to really acknowledge and address the seriousness of this problem. I was beginning to hate my job at the betting shop and was looking for an escape route to another job.
I mean, talk about almost blindly stumbling into a ridiculous scenario. (The previous 4-5 years had almost become a complete blur and here I was, admitting to myself that I have a gambling problem yet going to work everyday surrounded by the exact environment that was causing the majority of my problems. I mean it's like an alcoholic trying to give up booze but sitting in a pub everyday (ridiculous). These circumstances led me to become increasingly depressed (something which I had never experienced before). I was working long (unsociable) hours, had lost contact with a lot of my friends who used to invite me to different parties/events etc but eventually stopped asking when 9 times out of 10 the answer was 'I can't, I'm working'.
I made another mistake at this point by not seeking professional advice. I had the (stupid) mentality of, 'I got myself into this mess by myself, I need to get out of it by myself'. I was too ashamed to talk to my parents or girlfriend about my problems because I just knew how dissapointed they would be in me and I already felt ashamed and embarrassed enough and that I had failed myself and my loved ones.
I managed to get out of my job and into something completely different which I thought would keep me occupied and take my mind off gambling altogether. However a couple of months down the line I was gambling again and I couldn't control it. I would avoid buying things that I needed to fund my gambling habits. I was scared by how helpless and 'out of control' I felt at the time and managed to snap out of this cycle long enough to ban myself from gambling websites. The problem was, every time a new betting company advertised a new website I would often relapse and get drawn back into old habits.
I am now in a position where I have just turned 25 and now I have no money (I'm in debt), no job or any sign of a career, and varying levels of depression (some days I'm okay, others I just want to shut myself off from the world and sit in my bedroom and not talk to anyone, even my girlfriend or parents). I will have been with my girlfriend for 10 years this summer (a long time when I've only just turned 25). She knows that I sometimes have a bet but has no idea whatsoever to the extent of the issue. We'be got to the point in our relationship where we're looking to find a place of our own but I'm nowhere near being in the financial position to afford a house deposit. I'm worried that my credit rating will be so bad (from all the money deposited on betting websites over the years) that I won't be able to get a mortgage and I am at a complete standstill job/career wise. I'm beginning to wonder if I will ever break out of this but I know I want to and need to. I don't want to lose my relationship over this and realise that things need to change now to avoid that being the case.
So much for keeping it short! I apologise, just felt I needed to explain everything to get the best advice from you all. If you have taken the time to read this (seemingly never-ending story) I am grateful, and would appreciate any suggestions and advice on how to turn my life around. It has been gradually spiralling out of control for the last 6 years and it's now or never for me to put things right and start a fresh!
You said: 'I made another mistake at this point by not seeking professional advice."
Did you ever get professional help with your addiction? Go to Gambler's Anonymous? I'd say that's the first place to begin "fresh" - otherwise, you are like a dry-drunk (not doing the action, but still having all the mind-behaviors that leads into the addiction.) This thrill/risk seeking behavior needs to be explored and your 'triggering' identified.
Next, you need to tell your GF EVERYTHING. She needs to know what she's getting into.
Yes, I contacted GamCare recently and explained my situation to them. As I have nearly always placed my bets online via mobile, they recommended downloading website blocking software which will prevent me from accessing any gambling related websites. The only software I have found so far you have to pay monthly for but they advised me that there are free programs out there that will be just as effective. They said they are unable to recommend any particular software programs so I am in the process of searching for one that is suitable (can't afford a pay monthly software package). They offered me the opportunity to set up a face-to-face meeting with a gamblers anonymous based consultant and that they would find the nearest one for me to travel to. At that point in time though I was at a real low and struggled to gather the courage to open up to someone about my problems over an internet 'live-chat' service let alone through a one-on-one face-to-face appointment. Over the years I have always bottled my problems and feelings up which I know hasn't helped so I'm also contacting GamCare again to arrange a local meeting with someone as I do think it will help. The most difficult part for me is discussing these issues with loved ones. I have been through a lot with my girlfriend of 10 years (I stood by her and supported her through difficult times when she decided to have a gastric band procedure even though me along with friends and family members believed it was unnecessary). I worry that she will be extremely dissapointed and angry with me for this and potentially leave me which would break me because she's one of my primary motivations to change. I wanted to try and seek professional help and get control of this issue without having to tell her but is that selfish of me to do so? I guess it is..
Ah - you have admitted that you have a problem, but not acknowledged that it is BIGGER than you and your life has become unmanageable. (First Step in any 12 step program) That's why face to face counsling, combined with some kind of support group helps so much more than being on the computer.
Your GF is going to find out, why not get her support NOW rather than be surprised/deceived later?