According to National Council on Problem Gambling the average gambler may have personal debts up to $90,000. I owe to banks €50 000, but their high interest rates and charges are likely to make the situation worse.
Taking loans online is extremely easy, at least in Finland. If you provided the bank with a pay slip, it takes ca.10 minutes to get one. I was still working as a head chef full time, so at least I had my pay slips. In two years of active gambling, I took seven bank loans. The interest rates were high, but that was the only quick solution I could think of to pay my credit card and bills. Instead of stopping once the bills were paid, I would spend remaining money on gambling. It was a vicious circle and I got hooked. I could’t and didn’t know how to stop.
The tension I felt every day was horrible. I was constantly thinking and calculating which loan to repay first. Since I was panicking so much and wanted to get my money back, I started making bets in every possible sport I could think of, even some tennis and rugby games I never watched before. I was making bets for all the leagues from Australia, Japan, Brazil… You name it, I was betting all of them. I even placed a bet for Eurovision song contest.
Worst of all, I completely lost the value for money. A bit over a year into betting, it took me one week to spend the loan of €4000, but later I was spending €3000 a day. I was constantly jumping from one betting site to another, checking who will give me better odds. On the rare occasions, when I didn’t have anything to bet on, I felt empty and bored.
The greater the embarrassment and guilt because of betting were, the stronger defense mechanisms I developed. What an amazing liar I became. In a split second I could come up with a lie. My fiancé started noticing my mood changes and depression. She asked me countless times why I am getting angry so easily and why I am checking my phone constantly. I gave her lousy excuses that she didn’t believe in. She actually taught it was my way of escaping the disappointment we both felt because we couldn’t get pregnant for a few years.
The last summer, my fiancé went to visit her family without me, for two weeks. I thought I would feel free, because she wasn’t at home and I would have more time to gamble. Instead, I felt trapped and became so depressed, that I couldn’t get out of bed. I had no idea how to return the debt. Those two weeks were the loneliest in my life.
At some point I remember calling her admitting I couldn’t get out of bed, without disclosing the real reason. I never had a courage to tell her the truth, because of the great fear of being judged and dumped. I was sure I’m strong enough to get through this by myself.
She was so worried that she convinced me to see a psychologist. I agreed, because the doctor was provided for free through the health insurance from my work. The doctor was an older man that asked me if I was still betting. I told him I stopped. The same evening I lost €700. I never visited him again, but the positive outcome of that meeting was the explanation I got about Finnish financial support systems that I will talk more about in one of the next posts.
Not just that I became a liar, but I started hiding everything around our house that could make my fiancé suspicious. For example, I was rushing home every day, so that she wouldn’t see our mail and all the bills I was getting from seven different banks.
Finally, I spent all the loans, while bills were piling up. I couldn’t pay my share of the rent and I had no idea what to do. I tried to take more loans countless times, but all the banks rejected me, since I didn’t repay previous loans. I started asking at work if I could get my salary in advance, thinking that I can double it with the next bet. If I had some real estate, I would have sold it.
The first time I couldn’t pay the rent, my fiancé realized something went terribly wrong. She started asking me questions and wanted to see my bank statement. I managed to come up with lies that calmed her down. I even showed her fake bank account statement. She believed me and it made me feel so much worse, because she didn’t deserve any of this. I didn’t want to lose her by telling her the truth, and I was worried our days together are numbered. That month, she payed our common bills.
Even at times when I didn’t have money to pay the bills, I couldn’t stop thinking about gambling. When I would get a salary, I would spend it online, hoping that the next win is around the corner. I was still sure I can beat the system and win all my money back.
The next month was the same – I couldn’t pay my share of the rent. However, this time my fiancé was absolutely sure I was hiding something, so she started pressuring me to reveal the truth. Finally, she pushed me so much and I told her everything.
In the next post you can read about how my fiancé reacted and how nothing was as I anticipated.
3 ways to getout of gambling debt.
I’m writing this from my own experience. I’m not a doctor or financial advisor. All the advices I will write are the ones I wish I got before it was too late.
Don’t use credit cards!
I truly hope that many countries will follow UK’s example. As of 14th of April 2020, they put a ban on credit card usage for online gambling.
Tell someone about your problem!
What we have is a serious illness that is impacting not only our lives in ever possible way, but also lives of our loved ones. The sooner you tell them, the sooner everyone will be able to move forward and make the best decisions for themselves.
Seek financial assistance!
I contacted free debt counseling service providers to discuss my situation. With their help, I learned about the best solutions to move forward.
Don’t be hard on yourself! It’s not about what we lost, it’s all about the next right move. We can do this and we can all beat this addiction that is ruining our lives!
Advice for families and friends
If you are suspicious and think your loved one has financial problems, he or she most likely has. If you notice change in the behavior, don’t assume what the reasons are, but ask questions instead. Ask until you know the truth.
If you find out that your loved one is a compulsive gambler, it will probably completely change the perception of your past, present and future. All the plans you had might vanish. You will loose trust. However, please always remember one thing:
He or she is a gambler, but s/he is still the same person you love dearly, with all the same fears, hopes and qualities. You got to know another side that you didn’t know existed and that side will need your help. S/he is equally lost and scared as you are.
Gambling addiction is a curable disease that only with a help of professionals can be overcome. It is not your responsibility to cure them, but the most important thing you can do is to guide your dear person and help her or him to see the advantages of the therapy and psychologists.
Take just one step at a time and don’t forget to take very good care of yourself.