Part 4 The true story behind ‘Gambling Broke Us’

Barry’s addiction was so severe that he would gamble every last penny of his wages. It was the equivalent of crack cocaine addiction in its severity. Rent often didn’t get paid, electricity and council tax bills were owing. At times he had no money for food. His life was a mess, but all I saw was a genuinely lovely guy. I wanted him to get better. I never once bailed him out. I didn’t want to be the latest in a long line of girlfriends who’d bailed him out, feeding his addiction with handouts. Giving money to a gambler is like giving an alcoholic a bottle of whisky. It wasn’t the solution.

Sadly he continued to gamble despite making himself poorer and the situation was getting worse. It was very much an on-off relationship throughout this time with longer and longer gaps because he didn’t stop gambling. Unable to pay his rent and with debts mounting he panicked and asked me if he could come to stay when he was evicted in March. ‘Prove you can stop,’ I told him. ‘If you pay the next two amounts of rents you owe you can come and I’ll help you get over the addiction.’ I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but I’d promised. When he gambled again  I was secretly relieved. There was no way I could take on his problems. I didn’t have the emotional strength for it. He needed professional help.

I kept a distance after that, there was nothing more I could do. The date of his eviction came but we were still in contact despite my resolve to move on from him. I asked him several times that day, ‘what the hell are you going to do?’ He seemed so calm, his usual cheerful self but I was worried. ‘I haven’t made any decisions yet.’ Talk about laid back. He was horizontal.

I told a couple of friends about his eviction and they said, ‘leave him to it. Nothing more you can do. You don’t need his problems. You can do better than that. Plenty more men out there. He’s only got himself to blame.’ In the evening I asked him again where he was staying and he still didn’t know. He was borrowing a van from a friend and I guessed he was planning to sleep in the back of the van but I didn’t ask him. On a whim, without really thinking of the consequences I suggested he come to stay with me for the night so that he could work something out in the morning.

An hour later he arrived and opening my door I found myself staring at a living corpse. He’d lost so much weight. I hadn’t seen him in a couple of months. His face and neck were thin and hugging him it was clear the weight had dropped from his shoulders and waist.

The following day he announced that he wasn’t going into work. He wasn’t up to it. ‘I’m in no fit state to work today. And I need to find somewhere to live.’

I panicked. Childless for the week I’d set it aside to get on with some writing and was looking forward to peace and my space. He’d lose his job, sit around my house for weeks acting like a slob while I worked out a way to get rid of him.

‘If you’re staying here for a few days,’ I told him, ‘you need to work. And you won’t find a room unless you keep earning. Why don’t you try and get a transfer up this way, just till you’ve got enough money for a deposit and first month’s rent.’

He organised a transfer and I started taking him into work each day, horribly early, a 20-minute journey away.

‘And I’m going to lay down some ground rules. No gambling. I may have tolerated it while we were dating but I don’t want it going on under my roof. Sorry to be brutal but if you gamble, you’re out. And I want you to transfer all your wages to me next time you get paid, to stop you gambling. I’ll help you save. We can do this.’

I had to be brutal and uncompromising. There was no other way and I’d had enough of excuses why he couldn’t quit and at the end of the day it was up to him. If he wanted to enough then I figured he would. To begin with we aimed to get enough money put by for rent but as the weeks went by both of us knew, without really talking about it that we liked living together. He is easy to live with, calm, relaxing, always cheerful – the first time I’ve truly felt contented, which is bizarre given his circumstances. Once the target was reached there were other things he needed to save for before finally tackling the mountain of debts that was causing him so much aggravation and stress leading him into the betting shop to sort the mess, time and again. The cycle had to be broken and being away from the stress was helping him to stop.

It may not last between us, nothing is guaranteed in this life, particularly where relationships are concerned, but nothing lost is nothing gained. If we always walk away from tough relationships we’ll never experience what true love is. Two people working to overcome difficulties is better than one person sinking alone. At least if it doesn’t work there’s a book out there, ‘Gambling Broke Us’  a stark reminder of some of the struggles he faced and many indeed face up and down the country; a prompt to politicians that something needs to be done to tackle this growing epidemic.

Thank you for reading my 4 part blog about the inspiration behind my new book ‘Gambling Broke Us’ which I hope you’ll enjoy. It’s just £1.99 on kindle or free on Kindle Unlimited.

And if you are affected by gambling you may find these links helpful:


Part 2 of Joanna’s candid blog about the true story behind ‘Gambling Broke Us.’

The day after our first date I suggested to him that it would be a nice idea to write about our first date. He enjoys creative writing too and liked the idea.

‘Neither of us know if this will go anywhere but what if we each write our version of the day.’ My favourite novel, ‘Us’ by David Nicholls is written is from the woman’s viewpoint, then the man’s viewpoint in interchangeable chapters on each event that happens and my first two novels are written in this way.

When you date somebody it’s hard to remember how you felt on that first date; what captured you about that person, all of the intangible things that make you attracted to them and the hazy fog of relationships when things turn sour. We soon forget how we felt in those early days. Weeks later we exchanged our pieces of writing and I used them in writing ‘Gambling Broke Us.’ Comparing our accounts I was surprised to learn that both of us felt a strong spark when we were sitting in the pub in The Meads and that elusive chemistry you can’t define.

We met on the pier in Hastings on our second date and as soon as I saw him my heart fluttered. He took my arm and we strolled along the pier, recently renovated after a fire. When I was a teenager my parents took us to Hastings most weekends. My dad took black and white photos of buildings and people in the Old Town. He became a very successful amateur photographer winning competitions across the country and giving speeches on his work. my mum was an artist and painted in oils, beach scenes with old boats and the black smoking sheds, iconic to Hastings. To can see some of her paintings on my funeral celebrant website at   

Hastings holds a special fondness for me and hasn’t changed much in years. Looking out to sea from the pier with Barry we shared our memories of the town.

We both love live music and he suggested meeting in Hastings to see a local Brit-pop band who write all their own music, Alibi, at The Palace. Hastings has a vibrant music scene and this was to be the first of several dates to hear live gigs. We both loved Alibi and sat on a grubby settee at the back of the grungily dressed crowd snogging our faces off.

Shortly after the second date I logged into my Facebook account and saw that Barry had been through my photos, liking posts going back years. I was flattered that he was taking an interest in my life, wanting to get to know me, but part of me thought, well blow you, two of us can play that game. So I scrolled through endless photos of football matches and screenshots of inspirational quotes. There were no holiday snaps, no days. He was either a very private person or he led a dull life. Bored with so much about football, about to give up and return to the newsfeed, something caught my eye. I stopped in my tracks and froze, heart thudding in my chest.

Go to part 3:

Link to my new book ‘Gambling Broke Us’:

If you are affected by gambling you may find the following links helpful:


Part 3 of true story behind new book ‘Gambling Broke Us’

I waited until the end of our third date to ask him about the post I’d seen on Facebook. The third date, in Lewes was going so well I didn’t want to spoil it. We had a few drinks and a meal I paid for with Tesco vouchers, again sensing he had money problems and by now guessing that he was unemployed. I wanted to make things easier for him.

Sipping our last drink, at The White Hart I finally plucked up the courage. This wasn’t something I could ignore, I had to know the truth.

‘I saw something on your Facebook. Do you have a problem I should know about?’

‘Yes, I’m a compulsive gambler,’ came his upfront reply without the briefest of pauses, as if glad to get it out of the way.

I didn’t want this to be our last date and wanted to hear that he was dealing with his addiction and that it was behind him.

‘You should probably walk away,’ he said, matter of factly.

‘Why didn’t you tell me before? Were you even going to tell me? How long did you think you could keep that to yourself?’ I felt so let down, conned even.

‘We were getting on so well, it never seemed to be the right time, but I was going to.’

‘How serious is it?’

‘I haven’t gambled since August,’ he lied.

I should have walked away at that point but he led me to believe that he was controlling it and I had strong feelings for him and wanted to help him. The more he talked an idea hatched in my mind for a next novel. I didn’t know anything about gambling addiction and was intrigued to find out more. A niggling worry entered my mind. I knew that I would never be able to trust him. What if he stole money from my bag? Or worse, stole my details and applied for a credit card? But as time went on and I learned more about gambling addiction I realised that you can’t label all gamblers as thieves. Each person is an individual with their own unique story and their own morals. There’s a lot of fear and scaremongering surrounding gambling addiction – most gamblers are perfectly safe around other peoples’ money.

It wasn’t easy dating a gambler though, I’ll admit that, as you will find out in ‘Gambling Broke Us.’  But at the back of my mind just live for the moment, enjoy his company, but move on one day when you get fed up with it. I accepted that I’d be footing the bill when we went out, but that was fine, I didn’t mind, we just wouldn’t spend very much and would avoid expensive dates. At the end of the day I was never going to live with this guy. How could I? I wouldn’t be able to trust him and what sort of start would that be? He’d sink me if I let him.

Thank you for reading!

Go to Part 4 of blog:

Link to ‘Gambling Broke Us’

If you are affected by gambling you may find the following links helpful:




Author of new book ‘Gambling Broke Us’ makes a surprising confession

When I met a guy online, arranging to meet on Eastbourne seafront one sunny Saturday a couple of years ago, little did I know that he would be the inspiration for my next novel. He was a web designer, at least that’s what it said on his profile. But in the coming weeks ahead the persona of successful businessman and entrepreneur was shattered, as I began to find out, little by little about the shadier side to his life and as the weeks went by I knew that the destructive side to his life had to be told. It was a story of great interest.

Reading my Kindle on a bench overlooking the sea his shadow stepped in front of me blocking the sun. They say that you make up your mind about someone in the first few minutes of meeting and that was certainly the case with Barry. He was slim, good looking with a warm, friendly smile and instantly likeable. As we strolled towards the cafe the conversation felt relaxed and unlike so many men I’ve met, he wasn’t bombarding me with his own life, wasn’t an arrogant bragging type, but instead asked lots of questions and seemed genuinely interested in my life. Later on, I realised why this was. He was trying to deflect from his own life. He didn’t want to scare me off. The thread between us, in those early days, was as fragile as a spider’s web.

Slipping into easy chat we walked along the seafront towards the next cafe where we had a cheese toastie. The seafront was a riot of bloated seagulls screeching around our table, children on scooters whizzing past, everybody sunning themselves before autumn set in. I often wonder, if the weather had been terrible that day would we have met at all?

The hours flew by. We talked about anything and everything. Passing a stand along the shopping parade a salesman stepped out in front of Barry. I don’t know what he was selling but Barry waved him away with a laugh, ‘sorry mate, I’ve got zero credit rating.’ I thought he was joking to get rid of the salesman so I asked what he meant and found out that he’d been made bankrupt several years ago. I won’t go into why he was made bankrupt, those details will remain private, but I remember feeling very shocked and this was my first alarm bell of the day. Being made bankrupt suggested to me a level of recklessness, poor planning, someone who can’t handle their accounts or make proper business decisions. I’ve always been careful with money, I’m risk averse and being with someone like this long term wouldn’t be for me. In fact, I found the idea scary. If they could sink themselves, they’d sink me with them. But the sun and the sea and the salient conversation kissed my concerns away. I asked him lots of questions about what had happened and why he’d been made bankrupt and piecing things together it made some sense to me. The events in his life at that time were desperately sad and gave me some understanding of why it had happened.

From that point on I had the impression that he was struggling for money, or still recovering from the bankruptcy so I offered to pay for lunch. When he didn’t protest I knew my suspicions were correct. He didn’t tell me that he was broke, he didn’t need to, I just knew that he was. But I was warming to him and that wasn’t going to put me off.

It was past eleven when we left the cosy pub nestled in the Meads village and began the walk down the hill towards my car. My hand slipped into his and I knew we’d meet again. In my head, I was planning to cancel a weekend away with a friend the following weekend. It’s important to keep the momentum going when you first meet someone and clear your diary. We stopped to look at the full moon making a milky pathway across the inky sea through the evergreens. This part of Eastbourne is so beautiful and it was a perfect evening. It was a romantic moment but we didn’t kiss. Weeks later we both said we’d wanted to but kissing wasn’t for first dates.

Our first date is in ‘Gambling Broke Us.’ It was the best first date I’ve ever had.

Thank you for reading part 1 of this 4 part blog about Barry and me, the inspiration for the book. You can read the novel FREE on Kindle Unlimited or it’s £1.99 on Amazon and also in paperback on Amazon.

This is a 4 part blog. Here is the link to part 2:


Link to ‘Gambling Broke Us’:

If you are affected by gambling you may find the following links helpful: