10 years ago, Steve started suffering from gambling addiction. He steadily lost control of his life and stole money from his company. But by confessing and asking for help, he managed to face his responsibilities and recover from his addiction. Today he uses his experience to support the new NHS gambling service in the North East, so that high-risk problem gamblers like he was can get the help they need.
I was in my local pub watching a football game one evening and my life changed.
I placed my first ever in play bet and £140 was won in a blink of any eye. It was exciting, exhilarating and easy! I had never felt that feeling before.
Within a short period of time my stakes were increasing. Before long I was starting to spend too much and used my savings to pay bills. When my savings had gone I used credit to deposit funds into my account.
This continued until I was in a big hole with nowhere to turn to and I felt unable to tell anybody about it. I just needed to gamble as everything was ok whilst I was gambling. But it really wasn’t.
The addiction preyed on my poorest character traits making it so easy not to deal with anything and instead go off and forget about any problems and just continue to gamble.
I was in a financial mess, but worse than that it was my lack of understanding of what I was doing and the mental strain it put me under that was so hard to deal with and comprehend. It felt like I was the only person in the world with this problem.
In 2012 I substituted my personal bank details in place of my works account and committed my first act of fraud. Around eight months later I did it again. As the addiction took hold the frequency of each act increased.
By this time I was spending thousands of pounds gambling and sometimes upwards of 500 transactions per day. I worked out I’d stolen over £192,000. At this point I confessed what I’d done to my family, friends, colleagues and the police.
I remember once I’d said the words “I have a huge gambling problem” everything in my life got better. An incredible weight had been lifted off my shoulders just by uttering those words and letting people know I needed some help.
I initially got help from Gamblers Anonymous and still attend their meetings. They have been fantastic for me. I also spoke to a specialist mental health worker in addiction. He cleared my mind pretty quickly by asking me to separate the things I could control in my life versus those I literally had no control over.
I was sentenced to 27 months in prison. It was not a shock as I fully expected a custodial sentence and could have received up to five years.
If I’d been able to use an NHS gambling clinic it would have made a big difference to me. I am so pleased they are now up and running and that more will be coming. If they can stop even one person from going through what I have been through then that is a success in my eyes.
It’s been just over a year since my release from prison. Today I am happy to support the NHS Northern Gambling Service’s new clinic in Sunderland. It shows how far I have come in my recovery.