gambling addiction & me

 

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Written by Pete Latham

June 8, 2019

Gambling Addiction & Me

So I know what  you might be thinking. This is going to be a pity party tale of woe that explains my demise into gambling addiction, right? Well I don’t really look for sympathy or pity, but you can’t beat a good party! By the way, I’m the guy that hangs out in the kitchen at parties hoping you wont notice as I eat all your Doritos. If I ever create another addiction based website, it will be focused on the plight of the Dorito addict!

If you’ve scrolled down just to see how long this tale goes on for, you may also be wondering what The Honey Monster and The Shining have to do with addiction. Allow me to explain…

 I need to go back to the very beginning, but don’t worry, I’m not going back as far as the dinosaurs. I have researched that period thoroughly though in any case and I concluded that absolutely nothing of any significance happened between the dinosaurs and 1973 when I was born. However, you should probably know that I’m not a historian so I may have missed something.

 

Equally, my research of 1973 suggests that this was an otherwise dull year. That was of course apart from one day in October when I was forced into this world just as I was enjoying an afternoon nap. I remember little about this experience apart from being more than a little irritated to have spent 9 months preparing for a tropical island somewhere only to be greeted by doctors wearing tank tops in the North of England. 

So, yes. I grew up in the North of England and for anyone reading this outside of England, no it’s NOT near London and I don’t know the Queen. In fact the area I grew up (and where I still live today) is pretty grim, and it rains a lot. Also, unlike London where everyone else in the country lives, there is no ceremony or parade every time I use the bathroom.

An actual representation of my home town

Set for Success?

Mum and dad had been married for a few years when I was born and I have sister a few years older. If anyone were to ask who got the worse deal between me and her over the years that followed, I would say that she would win hands down.

Mum was originally from Scotland, which again for the benefit of those in other parts of the world, it is not just a county in northern England. The truth is that nobody in England really gives a crap about anyone in Scotland unless they succeed in something at which point they’re referred to in the media as British as opposed to Scottish. Apparently there’s also quite a bit of documented history that happened at some point after the dinosaurs when the English annoyed the Scottish by killing a lot of them for no apparent reason. That must be one of the things I missed in my research. It’s little wonder then that given a saw big enough, most of Scotland would probably amputate itself from England and push itself off into the Arctic in a huff but I digress…

Mum and dad had settled close to his home town and unfortunately too far away from mum’s which made her totally isolated from her friends and family. Dad opened up what was to become a very successful business…

He had converted a disused garage into a shop and they bought a house in a well to do area meaning things should have been good. Meanwhile, I had reached the age of 2 and had worked out how to use my limbs. This meant I was finally able to look for crayons and paper to write my angry letters of complaint over the whole birth location mix-up before being scuppered by the fact I couldn’t yet read or write. I therefore decided to focus my energies on projects more suited to being a toddler such as swallowing the small parts of 1970’s toys.

honey monsterGet the Beers In!

Unfortunately though, with my attention otherwise diverted I was oblivious to the horror that was beginning to unfold around me. However, I was only 2 at the time and was way more concerned with not getting eaten alive by the Honey Monster from the Sugar Puffs breakfast cereal adverts. Was that just me? Surely there was a nation of toddlers already traumatised by this! Anyway, despite the events of my first 2 years it would be another 10 before I would first gamble.

 

So in-between fending off the Honey Monster, I naively took on my first ever job at the age of 3 becoming a runner for my dad. It was a mundane job that involved repeatedly bringing him cans of lager from the fridge and he had even trained me to make sure I only picked the coldest ones from the shelf. Being only 3 at the time, I didn’t quite realise that the frequency he would have me do this should have rang alarm bells re his obvious alcohol dependence. The significance had completely escaped mum too,  as dad was clearly turning into an alcoholic before her eyes which is a real shame because this would have been an ideal opportunity for her to take me and my sister and run back to Scotland relatively unscathed. There was a monster developing in our family and it certainly wasn’t the Honey Monster, who for me now aged 4 had become something of a super hero. Fast forward a couple of years and the success of my dad’s  business allowed him to take on a new  venture that would satisfy his one true love: Beer.
In a cataclysmic display of arrogance and stupidity, he sold the shop and bought into the pub trade and it’s at this point that I’m afraid to say things get a little dark…

The Shining

I was aged 9 at the time when I first became witness to the most horrific domestic violence that was to plague my life until well into my teens. We were living in a large pub/ hotel at the time and when I look back at some of this there were striking similarities to that scene in, ‘The Shining’ where Jack tries to break through the door with an axe. In my version there was no axe but it was still just as scary. It’ll be 21 years since my dad died and although they say you should never speak ill of the dead, I simply say good riddance.

Meanwhile, back in 1983 mum was well and truly trapped in a violent marriage. She was doing her best for my sister and I, all without support and self-confidence to run for the hills. So it’s fair to say that she was going through hell at this point. For me though, the damage had just started and this was only going to get worse. My teenage sister started to rebel and, her path quickly became one of drugs and drink- something that would define her life for many years to come.

To make matters worse and to build the pressure even more, dad was declared bankrupt after the pub business collapsed. An alcoholic running a pub into the ground? How did nobody ever see that coming?

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The Power of Thought

So with all that going on back in 1983, it was a bit of a downer that I was about to encounter a very different problem of my own. By the mid 80’s I was 12 years old, had just started secondary school and all the domestic violence continued around me. In a baffling turn of events, my dad decided to divorce mum without actually ever leaving. So not only did they live together through this divorce but he actually stayed afterwards which speaks volumes of the controlling influence he had over us. Meanwhile, my sister had really started to go off the rails and it was a little disconcerting when something very troubling began to dawn on me for the first time. 

It was a problem that for a child that age in 1985 was massive and it was one that would trigger my gambling story with the power of a single thought…

“I think I might be gay”

Having first had that thought, I had heard some agony uncle on a TV programme talk about children who thought that they might be gay. He said that it was probably just a phase (remember it’s 1985) and lots of children go through that. It was a massive relief to hear that and I therefore convinced myself that’s exactly what it was. Being gay in 1985 wasn’t exactly cool. In fact the only thing you heard about gays back then was how they were responsible for the AIDS   epdemic. If I would have come out as gay at that point, I would have been lynched at school and my homophobic drunk of a father wouldn’t have exactly taken it well. 

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The Power of Mental Health

I didn’t realise the destruction that was about to unfold but I started to find comfort playing slot machines. I remember going to fair grounds and playing them, and my dad still did the odd bit of work in pubs where I would play them. I would make a bee line for them in any arcade that happened to be nearby and was completely taken in by everything about them. What I wouldn’t realise though for another 30 years is that the thrill of gambling in that way was providing an escape from gay me. Much more than that though, it was concealing the horrors that had also just started to take place in my head. And if the self-hatred of potentially being gay got me started on slot machines then it was these horrors that would cement slot playing into my very being.

An Addiction is Born

I didn’t know it then but I had just developed a mental health condition that I would be too terrified to seek help for – for another 30 years. Gambling was an escape from the gay/messed up me, and it satisfied my self-loathing by keeping it quiet enough for me to function.

The slot machine addiction had me firmly in its grip. During the years that followed into early adulthood, I would play mainly in pubs. I couldn’t begin to put a number on the amount of times I lost my wages and I spent the vast majority of my youth completely broke due to this. Meanwhile, I didn’t really go out with my friends as often as I should have done due to lack of money. However, this wasn’t that much of a big deal to me as I was too scared that everyone would find out about what was going on in my head. Not only was I concealing a gambling addiction but to me I was also concealing something much worse.

Back then being gay really was still a big deal. The issue for me though was that because it was such a big deal in my head when it was perhaps justified, it was kind of difficult to shake when society became more tolerant. My state of mind made it impossible to come out, and as for my other undiagnosed mental health issue, well it had destroyed any remaining shred of self-confidence giving me no chance.

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Regardless though, gambling was keeping a lid on all of that but it’s fair to say that my addiction and my issues were dominating my life and would do so for a number of years to come.

From the mid 90’s onwards, I worked in a couple of low paid jobs and completely missed the boat when all my friends were buying their first properties pre-property boom. I couldn’t have afforded one even if I hadn’t have been gambling at the time and by the time I did secure a decent job, property prices had rocketed. As a single man, I didn’t stand a chance of getting on the property ladder.

On The Up?

It was 2004 when I secured the job that I still do today and for once things were starting to go right for me. I was still very much in the grip of a gambling addiction but this was only ever confined to playing slots. Any other form of gambling didn’t matter to me and I could take it or leave it. This was a curiosity that only resolved itself last year when I figured out more about my addiction. However, back in 2004 slots were enough to change my life in a very big way. In fact, it was The Year That Changed Everything…

Read more on The UK’s Problem With Gambling Addiction,  why you can never win, and how you’ve been lied to via gambling advertising.

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