I grew up in a very strict household, where gambling was totally frowned upon, which is perhaps why it seemed so exciting when I first started betting and visiting casinos. For me, gambling started out as something glamorous – dressing up for a day at the races or an evening at the casino – and being able to shrug off losses whilst lavishly celebrating successes was all a part of the game. It wasn’t even about the money, because it didn’t seem to matter if I won or lost, the real thrill was in taking part, in placing the bet, the anticipation of the race or the spin of the wheel. I laugh now when I look back at that person because I’m looking back over the wreckage of two failed relationships and three failed businesses.

When I think back I realise how quickly I became addicted, how quickly gambling came to be the crutch I leant on. Problems in relationships? Gambling took me away from those. Problems at work? Again, gambling was my way out. But, as I have now learnt, like any addiction it was progressive and soon, to get the same ‘buzz’, I was needing to gamble more, or more frequently. It got to the stage where I wasn’t even waiting to find out the result before thinking about or placing the next bet, chasing the next high.

Ultimately, I was forced into stopping and into treatment by my business partners who discovered how I had been using the business to shore up my addiction. At first I was angry, resentful and – as I now understand – completely in denial and the first two weeks in treatment were awful. All I could think about was how I was going to find an excuse to leave. All I thought about were ways to place a bet, although with access to the internet and my smartphone strictly controlled that was never going to happen.

So I was forced to listen to what my therapists were saying to me, although very soon I found myself wanting to listen. Because it was making sense at last. I was beginning to understand my addiction and, finally, to admit it. Facing up to it, owning the problem really was the turning point and, from that moment, my time in treatment seemed to fly.

Since leaving treatment I have been able to re-build relationships with my family and, crucially, with my partners to whom I owe so much. During treatment, they were able to visit me and take part in several Systemic Therapy sessions which helped restore their trust and confidence in me and the business is now flying high.
Gambling addiction: the grim reality - Phoenix Individual Retreat in Spain
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