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"I used to have to call down to my mother's house when she wasn't in and rob food" - Battling gambling addiction

The Rutland Centre launched its Recovery Month today to raise awareness of addiction and recovery.

Niall McNamee at the launch of recovery month today.
Niall McNamee at the launch of recovery month today.
Image: Conor McCabe Photography Ltd

NIALL MCNAMEE HAD to hit rock bottom before he could face dealing with his addiction.

The Offaly inter-county footballer was in debt with banks, friends and family before he admitted that he had a gambling problem.

Niall (30) said that from the age of about 20 to 25, gambling consumed much of his life.

“It was more or less consuming every thought that was going through my mind,” he told earlier today.

“I would have had a bit of respite here and there… but generally at the back of mind everything was all focussed on gambling.”

I didn’t know why I was doing it. I couldn’t make the connection.

Niall was able to hide the extent of his addiction from his friends and family for years. But as the debts mounted up, he found it was impossible to manage.

“I’d moved into a house own my own that I couldn’t really afford, just to try and let people think that things were going well,” said Niall.

 I’d no money left, there was no heating in the house. I used to have to call down to my mother’s house when she wasn’t in and rob food.

Niall said this was a cry out for help. As the debts mounted and the addiction worsened, he found that he couldn’t handle life the way it was anymore.

“I remember I woke up this one morning and I had this anxiety or dread in my stomach… It’s very difficult to describe the feeling,” said Niall.

“I thought only way I can get rid of this feeling is by going gambling – but I had no money –  or drinking, but I had no money.

So the third thing that came to my head is – so I’ll jump out the top window of my house, then it would go away.

Niall eventually approached his father, and entered the Rutland Centre for the treatment for addiction in November 2011.

The Rutland Centre

Niall was speaking at the launch of the Rutland Centre’s “recovery month” – which takes place throughout the month of September.

The Rutland Centre is a registered charity based in Knocklyon in south Dublin. It was established in 1978 and provides independent addiction treatment for people.

The recovery month will consist of mostly free events to raise awareness and provide information on addiction and recovery for those dealing with addiction issues, their families and the general public.

The Rutland Centre also provided some headline figures from its upcoming outcomes report, which provides an analysis of the trends experienced by the centre in treating over 2,000 people over the past 10 years.

Some key findings include:

  • 84% of people who presented last year did so for alcohol addiction.
  • This rose 93% for women (in 2006 this figure was 74%)
  • The most common age bracket being treated is 30-49-year-olds
  • There has been a big rise in the number 18-24-year-olds presenting at the centre (from from 0% in 2010 to 11% in 2015)
  • There has also been a rise in the number of people presenting for sex and love addiction (from less than 0.5% in 2009 to 6% in 2015)
  • 40% of clients had an addiction to either legal or illegal drugs in 2015 (up from 18% in 2005)

Commenting on the headline figures this morning, Erika Ruigrok, clinical operations manager at the Rutland, said that the rise in young people presenting at the centre had to do with younger people drinking more often and earlier.

“Young people are binging  and we’re seeing an increase in the younger age group coming into us with pretty entrenched addictions,” said Ruigrok.

We’re seeing young women with full-blown liver conditions from the drinking in their early-20s.

Ruigrok said that in the past, people mostly ran into problems later in life as there addiction progressed, but that the number of people in their late-teens and 20s was increasing all the time.

“Now we’re seeing people in treatment telling us they started drinking in their pre-teens,” she said.

People are drinking more and they’re drinking younger in Ireland.

In terms of gambling and sex addiction, Ruigrok said that the increasing popularity of the internet had been a “game changer”.

“What young people are seeing on the internet is going to shape their interpersonal relationships,” she said.

With sex addiction, Ruigrok said that she anticipates it will get worse in the future.

“I would anticipate that it will become a bigger issue than it is now,” she said.

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She said many addictions start from the same point, and can all be quite similar.

“The function isn’t all that different [with different addictions],” she said.

People generally engage in addictive behaviors because initially they are effective at changing a negative mood state into a positive mood state… or because they allow us to escape or relieve difficulty moods.

Maebh Leahy, chief executive of the Rutland Centre, said that the centre focusses on complete abstention and that “managing consumption is not a feasible option”.

RecoveryMonth-17 Maebh Leahy at the launch today. Source: Conor McCabe

“We believe it is not possible for people with an alcohol addiction to have the one drink or for those with a gambling problem to place the odd bet,” she said.

Our treatment programmes are based around abstinence based recovery rather than harm reduction.


For Niall McNamee, after he received therapy in the Rutland, he felt he was able to figure out and address the underlying reasons behind his compulsive gambling.

“Recovery is very difficult as well, as it brings up a lot of things from the past,” he said.

“A lot of work has to go into recovery and that’s why some people will relapse,” he said

Actually facing into the feelings… is more difficult than the substance so some people will choose the substance.

Niall hasn’t gambled now in over five years, and he credits the Rutland with having a huge impact on his recovery.

But he is aware that everyday he needs to work with himself to ensure he doesn’t relapse.

“I still have bad days, where I don’t feel the best at all,” he said.

It’s ongoing thing. If I don’t keep doing what I learned in the Rutland, eventually I will go back gambling.

For more information on recovery month and the Rutland Centre visit or contact the Rutland Centre at or 01 494 6358. 

Read: Funding is needed ‘before it’s too late’ – there’s a surge in gambling addiction in Irish men (and women)

Read: Significant increase in numbers seeking treatment for sex addiction

About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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