“So you still playing poker then”? asked the first guy of his workmate. ” Yeah, I won £800 the other night” his workmate proudly replied. “Well, that;s not bad if you can get it !” said his mate, with an undisguised tone of admiration in his voice. And who can blame him? It sounds oh so easy, does it not? A few hours gambling and there is as much as many of us might hope to earn in weeks.
There lies the danger; gamblers in action rarely tell stories of how much they had to lose in order to win.
I heard that conversation, between two builders, in the street in which I live, only yesterday. If I did not do what I do for a living I might have been impressed too and in fact I did catch a tiny part of me thinking, “that is indeed not bad if you can get it”… I have spent too much time however listening to talk of the suffering reflecting the other side of the story; just how bad it can be when you don’t get it, but you want it so bad you keep chasing it at all costs financially, emotionally and mentally.
I recently worked with someone who relapsed in the most painful way after months of hard won recovery from a fifteen year gambling problem and despite all his experience and all that he knew about gambling addiction – how it twists the thinking to erase the sickening total of how much has been lost to get that big win- he was seduced by such a story of a gambling mate winning £3,500.
Caught in a week when he felt overworked, underpaid and overwhelmed by bills, he was tempted by the big win and the buzz that would go with it, lifting him out of his low point.
Sadly, he experienced just how high was the price of taking his friend’s story at surface level. When you are an addicted gambler, it is always a no win situation. Win and you want to gamble more, get more of the feeling you crave. Lose and you chase your losses until there is nothing left in the bank, credit cards or of friends patience to loan you money. Then the depression sets in along with pain and self blame. It was painful to watch and to hear his suffering as he mentally and emotionally punished himself for ever letting himself believe that the win of someone he knew to be an addicted gambler himself had not itself come at such a high personal price.
Very happily, the guy I wrote of is now back on the recovery track and I am convinced that he will come through. He is convinced that to stay on track he has to avoid spending time with gambling buddies in order to avoid being seduced by gambling stories. And to remember that even if for many maybe a big gambling win truly is “not bad if you can get it”, for the addicted gambler the end of the story will always be a bad one.