My Mindset As A Gambling Addict
On World Mental Health Day 2020, I wanted to share Becky's quote with you.
But I also wanted to share how my mental health suffered during my gambling addiction, and how deluded my mindset had become.
Call me old fashioned, or damn right ignorant, but for a long time during my gambling addiction I ignored the fact my mental health had completely deteriorated.
Gambling addiction does weird things to you.
Without knowing the full science, deep down I knew that the dopamine levels in my brain were completely shattered. I was no longer getting a high when I won a bet, but more of an adrenaline rush when I had a near miss on the roulette table.
Holy shit, 34. Thirty-fucking-four, right next door to 17! That was so fucking close!
See, I loved the casino roulette tables. It was a hive of activity.
‘Place your bets!’ the croupier would announce, people scattering their chips around the table, squeezing through others, and stretching across the table in weird positions. (Think of snooker players playing an awkward shot with their leg humping the table).
‘No more bets!’ the croupier would declare, waving their hand across the table like a magician.
Ha, look at that silly prick who’s not been able to place his bet, at least I’ve covered my numbers. Fucking amateur.
This was my self-chatter. What a horrible and cynical bastard I’d become.
See, as much as you’d like to think people betting round a casino table would be sexy women (like the ones in James Bond movies), in reality it was a bunch of blokes, all looking miserable and glazed over, not saying a word to each other. We were all transfixed on the electronic board that shows the previous numbers, planning our next move of attack.
Then there was the amount of chips placed on the table. Talk about social pressure.
Fuck, he’s just laid on a bucket load around the top end of the table, maybe I should as well - he looks like he knows what he’s doing.
How deluded we all were. Roulette is complete random luck. But that didn’t stop me from believing I had a system to win.
Remember that time 17 came in three times in a row? Don’t you dare walk away from the table now. It’s bound to come in. It hasn’t come in for ages. Plus, there’s been a few numbers next door. Just be patient mate. THIS is the bet.
Hours would flash by.
The only time I’d dare take a break is when I was desperate for a pee, or so wired that I’d chain smoke a cigarette.
The amount of losing bets was incredible. I became numb to the losses.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?
It was like I was self-harming. I felt like a loser. I felt like a complete, utter twat. Yet, I couldn’t help but bet. I was completely hooked. The opportunity for the next win was always there.
As much as I loved the social aspect of casinos, bizarrely I hardly ever said a word, only than my spiritual words to the croupier.
‘Hey mate, can I get a couple of ponies and some fives’ I’d say as I laid down my £100 cash on the immaculate and luscious table carpet and exchange them for betting chips.
Hopefully the change of dealer will bring me luck.
Then there were the times I’d convince myself that by keeping my card in the car would help me limit my spending.
Right, only £100 today.
Oh man. The amount of times I’d find myself – sometimes within 10 minutes – heading straight back out to the car park to grab my debit card. Luckily there was only a £300 withdrawal limit at the cash machines.
Fuck it, it’s only £300. You only live once! What’s the harm in spending money anyway? It’s only cash. I’ve got my Hotshots money coming in this week, which is another few hundred quid. I’ll be alright.
This was my mindset.
This was an average day at the casino for me. Luckily, I’m now in recovery and my last bet at a casino was in December 2017, when I self-excluded using the National Gambling Helpline, a phone line and live chat open every day of the year, 24 hours a day. They will be able to listen to what's going on for you, and can talk you through all of the options available to you for support in your local area, online or over the phone. Their freephone number is 0808 8020 133 and the live chat is available on the GamCare website.
I didn’t used to think I’d suffer from poor mental health. How wrong I was. I’ve experienced vicious panic attacks, stress, anxiety, depression, terrible sleep, lack of routine, suicidal thoughts, an obsession with conspiracy theories, and an addiction to drugs. Needless to say, gambling was at the centre of it all.
If you’re in need of some excellent advice and tips, I’d strongly advise you to listen to Becky on The Invisible Addiction podcast, in which she shares her knowledge and insight as a trained and registered mental health nurse in the UK. She's super lovely.