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’ https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gambling-Broke-Us-moving-family-ebook/dp/B07NDY1M4R/ 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: