Susie Jones gives her personal account on the financial and emotional pressures of living with somebody with a gambling addiction, how lockdown has accentuated many of the behavioural triggers, and the steps people can put in place to combat the behaviour
There is a familiar formula that most stories about gambling addiction follow when you read them in the national media. So often the focus is on how much money a person lost, how much debt they are now in, and how many years it could take to pay it off. But this overlooks the most damaging impact of gambling addiction, which is the emotional toll it takes.
It’s something that I have experienced first-hand. My fiancé’s last bet was two years ago, but gambling addiction and the anxieties that it brings up are something that I think about every day, and I probably always will. Despite that, our story is one of recovery and redemption, rather than one of despair.
When we met, I was naïve about gambling, so when he told me on our second date that he had previously had problems, I appreciated his honesty, but not the ramifications of that revelation. Our relationship was on and off for many months, and while I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time, with hindsight his addiction was clearly a factor.
Eventually, we settled into a relationship, and by February 2018, he asked to move in with me. I was ecstatic. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary financially, we had always kept our money separate and knew how much each other earned. After agreeing on a budget, we decided to keep the bills in my name with my partner transferring me his half.
When the first payday came and went, his money didn’t appear in my account. Despite the anxiety I felt, I didn’t want to pester him, and gambling hadn’t even entered my mind. A week passed and when I reminded him about the bills I was met with promises or excuses.
On the morning of March 9th 2018 I received a notification that our online food order had been cancelled because of lack of available funds. After ringing, he told me he was at the bank sorting it out.
He didn’t come home that night.
I was becoming worried and called his mum, who had admitted that she had discovered that he was gambling again and told him that if he wasn’t honest with me, then she would be. He rang from a payphone the next morning as he had sold his phone in desperation after losing all of his money. When his dad brought him home, he couldn’t look at me, kept saying sorry, and that he was too scared to face me and admit the truth.
It transpired that he was so nervous about admitting his predicament to me that he had spent an entire night walking around in the rain.
The days that followed were like seeing a jigsaw come together. Everything made sense: why we hadn’t gone on that holiday, where that money went, why we had kept splitting up. Danny had struggled to commit to me as he was petrified that he wouldn’t be able to hide his addiction, and he had only agreed to move in with me because his parents were becoming suspicious of his behaviour.
It was so tough on his mental health, but also mine. I felt shame, guilt and like somebody who had been living a lie. My impulse was to question everything about our relationship and myself. I was scared and that reaction was natural, but I also realised that I had to be there for him. I love him, and the thing he needed more than anything was not my scolding, it was my help, and I was willing to try anything.
He opted to return to Gamblers Anonymous meetings and then handed over all of his bank cards to me for safekeeping. We signed him up to GAMSTOP, which self-excludes somebody from all online gambling operators. That gave us crucial peace of mind to pursue his recovery.
We then spent time going through credit reports for the loans he had taken out and agreed repayment plans with each. I did feel out of my depth, and when your partner is an addict, that isn’t a conversation you can just bring up with your friends, who can find it tough to understand.
The more research I did online, I found a lot of negativity around addiction, but it didn’t tally with how I felt about my fiancé. With the right support and attitude, I knew that he could stop, we just had to work together and remain positive.
It did take a strain on my own mental health as I was compartmentalising my own grief and stress to try to be strong. I came to realise that I too needed support, and to take time to myself. He helped me through that and I will be forever grateful for it.
Life is much happier for us both now. We have stayed together, extended our family, got engaged, and booked our wedding. We are in a much better financial position and have savings, and his debts will be fully paid off by Spring 2021. Lives can change for the better. It’s taken work from both of us, but we take each day as it comes and work with what we have.
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals