Drowning in a sea of flashing lights and spinning wheels

This is the sad reality of the man or woman for whom the ‘spills and thrills’ of gambling has ceased to provide fun, caught up in the spell of a vicious addiction that is relentless in its siren-like call for attention. Mere bait, the mind of the player becomes fixated, unable to withdraw, lured in time and time again, losing ultimately unavoidable. He or she will beg, borrow or steal in their desperation to play, to quell the insatiable desire that knows no reason, to feed the appetite whose greed is beyond compare. There is no respite until the bottomless pit erupts, all semblance of control banished away, little vestige left of the person who, once upon a time began to play.

Do you know just how popular gambling is in the UK? Would you be surprised to know that according to the latest figures from The British Gambling Prevalence Survey in 2010, that 73% of the adult population in the UK gamble?

That includes anyone aged 16 and over and is about 3 in every 4 people. You may be thinking, ah, but that’s the influence of the National Lottery surely? But even excluding those who only buy National Lottery tickets, its still over half, 56%! And what do they do?  They buy scratchcards, bet on the horses, on the dogs, buy other lottery tickets, play on slot machines, play poker with their friends, bet on sporting events, spend an evening in a casino, gamble online, etc… It’s a popular pastime that people describe as being ‘fun and exciting, with the chance of making money. And for the majority, gambling is just this, a fun and exciting form of entertainment with the added bonus of a potential win. Maybe you enjoy a little flutter on the horses yourself or a round or two of black jack?

Sadly 0.6% of our population are hooked into gambling with little control. They think about it all the time and when they lose, which inevitably they will given the laws of probability and chance, they become convinced that things will be different… tomorrow. They chase their losses wildly becoming ever resourceful in funding their addictive habit, sometimes turning to crime. Family and friends might wonder what has happened to a person as they witness a change of personality, with mood swings and irritability. Lying and avoiding the truth can become second nature as an ever increasing mountain of debt looms heavily. And there is little chance of escape with many trying but failing to cut back or stop, driven forwards into a vortex of despair, the only hell of a place where they can now bring their reality of frustration, depression, anxiety, guilt and a deepening sense of helplessness.

Like any addiction, when an individual finds a personal motivation to stop, then they become open to the support and  help of others as well as themselves. With a desire to understand what fuels the habit whether its an addiction to gambling, drinking, smoking, drug-taking, eating, shopping, self-harming, sex, stealing, etc… there is often a part of the self that has become disconnected for some reason – maybe confused, hurt, scared, numb, sad or without hope.

Unfortunately, addiction can be only ‘too effective’ in helping us to mask difficult feelings and emotions we would rather not face. It can provide a useful armour with which to hide behind and it might take an enormous amount of courage to take a first step forward, out of this lonely abyss away from what might have become a dark and secret yet only friend…