Ipswich: Gambling addict lost thousands and reveals - ‘You feel such shame you don’t want to ask for help’

Gambling can destroy your life and the lives of those around you.

That’s the stark warning of Jane – not her real name – a lady whose life went out of control with addiction.

Jane, who has asked to remain anonymous, said: “You can tell a drinker, you can tell a druggie but you can’t tell gambler. It becomes a vicious cycle where you chase your losses and you can’t stop. You get to a point where you don’t even want to live.

“But for women I think it is different, we are meant to be responsible and in control. I lost thousands. I felt huge shame and guilt and it was terrifying.”

Jane’s life began to spiral out of control around four years ago.

She took voluntary redundancy from a well paid job as an administrator in the public sector and moved to Ipswich with her partner to start a new life.

The 50-year-old said: “I used the redundancy to pay off a few debts. We made a fresh start. We bought a house in Ipswich and we moved here. I thought I’d easily find a job but it didn’t work out that way.”

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Out of work and at home alone with few friends, Jane felt isolated and cut off.

She said: “In previous years I had had the occasional flutter and occasionally went to bingo but not regularly. It wasn’t a problem then.”

Tempted by TV advertising for an online bingo website, Jane logged on.

She said: “I spent a lot of time at home on my own, my partner was out at work and I didn’t know anyone.

“I had a big win and I won a lot of money – about �3,000. I was sure I could win some more so I kept doing it but it didn’t stop and then you start losing money.”

Easy to go online and with time on her hands, Jane used her credit cards to fund her gambling.

She said: “I had three credit cards and I started using them to gamble. It spiralled out of control and it didn’t feel like money any more.

“I wasn’t happy with myself and my life, I missed working and I missed my friends and I felt cut off from life. I got hooked. I felt ashamed I had allowed myself to get addicted but gambling was also an escape and it became a vicious circle.”

As she chased her losses Jane ran up more and more debts. In one day alone she lost �2,000.

She said: “My partner would go to work and I would go online, some days I would still be online when he came home from work. Then he’d go to bed and I would go online again. It went on like that for at least a year; it became a routine for me.

“It never occurred to me it was out of control, people around me didn’t know. You lose track of the money you have lost.”

But then the telephone started ringing, the credit card companies wanted to know how she would pay back the debts – by then around �10,000.

She said: “I began to realise it was a problem but I didn’t want to confront it because that meant going back to reality. I was scared how my partner would react. You feel such a sense of shame and guilt you don’t want to ask for help because that means confronting it. You know it’s your fault. You want a quick fix to your problems and you look for the next win but it isn’t the answer, you think it is though.”

In the end Jane couldn’t keep the secret any longer, the phone calls and letters arriving on the doormat brought her problem out into the open.

Her partner said he felt angry and betrayed.

Jane said: “I think he had a suspicion but no idea how far it had gone. I didn’t think he would understand, he had been careful with money all his life and paid his bills and saved money. I didn’t want to hurt him in that way but I did.”

Jane’s partner said the final realisation of the extent of the problem came as a huge shock and though he paid off some of her debts he was unable to pay them all.

Jane said: “I felt that what I had done was wrong and it wasn’t his problem it was mine. I felt I should leave but he wouldn’t let me go. It didn’t destroy our relationship but it could have done.”

It was then that Jane finally began to seek help first going to Gamblers Anonymous and then on to East Anglia-based addiction charity NORCAS.

She said: “NORCAS was very supportive and very helpful. I found out about my problem and learnt about some of the issues around problem gambling.”

As of today Jane hasn’t gambled for about seven months.

She said: “It is tempting all the time and I think if I were busier I wouldn’t miss it. I have tried to get work but it is quite difficult.

“I have started to pay back my debts but it is going to take years.”

If you are concerned about your gambling or someone else’s please call NORCAS on freephone 08082081701 or 01473 259382 or e-mail ipswich@norcas.org.uk

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