See. Recovery

Recovery is more powerful than addiction.

Recovery is more powerful than addiction.

Recovery is more powerful than addiction.

That’s what I say when I lift my weights, on the out-breath, at the point when it is most difficult to be strong.

It’s true.

I’ve done it once. I’ll do it again.

I was doing so well off a bet. I thought I was done with all the chaos and carnage in my head, the obsession, the way it took over everything. I thought I had it under control. But no. It’s a magnet. It pulled me in again. I relapsed. Brutal.

I had a bit of money because I’d managed to hang onto my job and I wasn’t chucking my wages into the casinos or the machines. I was spending some on the kids and some on my partner and I still had enough. No debt. A quiet head. Life was good.

So I started going to the football every week. They were a decent team. I used to play a bit myself but the knees can’t take it now. This team were good and strong. They won most of the time.

So, I’m enjoying the football. I’m enjoying my Saturdays. I’m walking to the ground past the bookies and I’m not going in and I’m proud of my strength. The knees might be gone but my head is tip-top.

Hang on: before I go into what happened, I want to say something about what we’re bombarded with. Me. You. Our kids. Our friends’ kids. Our mums. Adverts: encouraging us to bet. Commercial breaks on the telly begin and end with some smiling faced lad putting a bet on, easy-peasy, from his phone, or a well-known actor warning you to bet responsibly after telling you how simple it is to win. At the grounds, there’s the advertisements on the boards, on the strips on the players’ chests. It’s all around us.

However. I resisted. I was there for the football, and, as I said, they were good, this team. Not bad at all. Middle tier. Great support. Great atmosphere. I loved it.

And then I bumped into an old pal of mine. A mad gambler. That’s what they used to call me. It sounds harmless, a bit of a joke, but it hides the brutality of what it was actually like.

We sat together. We shared stories. We talked about the form of each player, noted injuries, enthused about teenagers making their debuts, and noticed, generally, that our team won more often than not. If you were a betting man, you might stick a bet on.

Perhaps it was the atmosphere around me: the adverts on the hoardings, the betting company names on the strips, the images popping up online. Whatever, I told myself I’d come to no harm.

I said to the mad gambler, ‘Shall we put a bet on?’ He said, ‘How much?’ and that’s how I relapsed. It was fun at first. As I said, my team won more often than not. And when I collected my winnings it was all online and went straight into my bank. Thank you very much.

But soon, I wanted bigger bets. I stopped caring how my team won the game. I stopped noticing the footwork and passing and skillful one-twos between the winger and centre forward. I just cared about the win.

I knew I was bad when we were winning 2:1 and we got a penalty. The other side were coming back into the game. Their possession was better, their chances at equalising, maybe even winning, seemed better. So the penalty was a big moment. And our player missed. Straight over the crossbar. Nowhere near the goal. All around me people roared in frustration and disappointment and I just sat there thinking, It doesn’t matter, we’re still winning. I knew then, my love of football had gone. It was worse when we actually lost. Those feelings of dejection, deflation and despondency came back. I recognised them right away and I knew what I needed to do to get rid of them. I had to win the money back.

I returned to a different kind of bet. Online or in a bookies, it didn’t matter. And it started: this one, that one, until it all kicked off again and I was playing two machines at a time and shoving the machine with my hip trying to nudge a digital roulette ball into a different digital number.

I ran out of money. I ran out of headspace. I borrowed more. Lied more. Argued with the missus more. Felt monstrous. Ashamed. Hated everyone and everything including myself, apart from the times when I was putting bets on that hadn’t yet lost. My wife recognised what was happening, found out we were in arrears with the house payments and the holiday money was gone. She left.

‘I gave you one last chance,’ she said. ‘I warned you.’

She cried. I was numb. I let her go. I’m feeling the grief of it now.

So, that’s the relapse.

And now the recovery.

I have to recover. There’s no alternative. So off I go to the gym each day. Low impact for the knees. Heavy weights for strength. I visit my mum. She needs to see me well. I talk to someone who’s been there before; he’s been harmed by gambling too. I have no wife. I have big debts. I see my kids on weekends. I’m getting used to the idea that gambling won’t solve a single problem. A problem might disappear for a second or two, or an hour or two, but it’ll still be there when I put my phone down or walk out of the bookies.

Someone told me that recovery is more powerful than addiction and I like the idea of that. I know it to be true because I’ve recovered once before. So that’s where I am.

In the gym.

On the weights.

Doing my reps.

Recovery is more powerful than addiction.

Breathe out. Breathe in.

Recovery is more powerful than addiction.

Recovery is more powerful than addiction.




See. Recovery.

I recognise myself.

I like myself.