Declan had a gambling addiction for 10 years and is now working as a teaching assistant and carer as well as doing some outreach work with the charity ‘Gambling With Lives’, raising awareness amongst youth groups and sports clubs about gambling-related harm.
How did you start gambling?
I started gambling when I was 16 years old and quickly got hooked. In the beginning, it was fun, but it gradually became worse with time, and I became well-known in the bookies in Belfast as I spent a lot of my time and money there.
What kinds of gambling did you do?
I started in the bookies but at 19, I turned to online gambling which was more destructive and took up even more time and money. I had also started working so had more money which only fed my addiction and drove me to gamble more.
When did you realise that your gambling had become a problem?
Eventually, gambling ruled my whole life. I would wake up every morning wondering when I would be able to bet and how I would get the money. I would look forward to payday every month so that I could bet more and if I didn’t have the money before then I would take out payday loans and would always find a way to get some money to gamble. On many occasions, I would get paid one evening and by the next morning, I wouldn’t even have the money to get to work as I had already stayed up all night and gambled my whole paycheck away. I lost such a huge amount of money in a short amount of time and gambled every day for over 10 years straight. When I was 26, I lost £8000 in an hour after being disgusted at myself for spending £300 on clothes. In a number of days, I had lost all my savings of £31,000, my mental health was in ruins, and I was having serious suicidal thoughts. At this point, I knew I had hit rock bottom.
Where did you go for support?
I tried many avenues to quit gambling including Gamblers Anonymous and counselling. I confided in my friends and family and one of my friends told me about GAMSTOP. I found registering with GAMSTOP and the cold turkey approach to work best for me, it was the best thing I have ever done. I was also lucky to have lots of support from my family and friends during this time which definitely made it easier.
What would you say to someone struggling with gambling?
I’d say that if you can, talking to friends and family can be a great step towards recovery. Registering with GAMSTOP was key to my recovery. I’d encourage anyone in a similar situation as I was to give it a try.
Registering with GAMSTOP was key to my recovery, I’d encourage anyone in a similar situation as I was to give it a try
How are you doing now?
I’m doing much better now and haven’t gambled for almost 4 years. I now work as a teaching assistant and carer and do some outreach work for Gambling with Lives visiting local sports clubs, schools, and youth groups to raise awareness about gambling-related harm. I do still have dark days even 4 years later, but I know that my life is so much better without gambling, and this thought keeps me going every day.
Over 400,000 people have used GAMSTOP to take back control of their gambling. You can read about the experiences of real people who have found self-exclusion helpful here.