I WRITE THIS as the Cheltenham races are on and while people chat about odds. But I am immediately transported back to a state of anxiety. I think of my ex boyfriend and get upset at the thoughts that he is most likely gambling on the races.
It brings me back to driving him to work this time last year, with ads on the radio encouraging betting. My stomach used to sink as the elephant in the room grew and grew, and I longed for a day where gambling addiction didn’t ruin a pleasant car journey.
I play out various scenarios in my head of how he is coping these days, each ending with a state of unknown. We no longer speak.
That’s the reality of ending a relationship with someone who has a gambling addiction. I spent three years of my life all consumed by him. Now I no longer know if he is dead or alive. It may seem drastic but the high rate of suicide in addiction is a reality I have to acknowledge.
Love’s price was too high
I met my boyfriend and fell in love, but loving him came with a price. I did not understand gambling addiction and I was naive in thinking that the addiction was present within the four walls of a bookies or a screen.
What I would soon come to realise is that gambling addiction comes with a wide range of behaviours and the act of placing the bet is only the beginning.
I felt like I loved two people. One of whom was kind, hilarious, intelligent, charming, gentle and caring. The other a compulsive liar, manipulative, disrespectful and emotionally unavailable.
There were days when I would be with the love of my life, we would laugh to the point of tears and plan our future, completely oblivious before hitting reality with a bang. He would go missing for days on end, having gambled money that was his, mine or stolen.
I would call his phone hundreds of times and drive around searching for him. Eventually, he would show up, engulfed in the shame and guilt that follows the original high of gambling.
Sometimes I would hug him in tears, begging him to get help. Other days I would be so angry that here we were yet again, money gone, lies told, relationship destroyed.
I began to isolate myself
I began to isolate myself as the only time I knew he was okay was when he was with me. My world quickly revolved around him, something that was not healthy for me. I didn’t tell anyone about his addiction for more than a year and to this day only a handful of people know.
When he stole from work I had no choice but to tell my parents as he continuously rang me in desperation to replace the money. Why am I being put in this position I asked, yet if I don’t help him he will be arrested. He knew that I would have this dilemma, and the manipulative gambling addict I referred to earlier used this to his advantage.
I eventually decided I needed support and began attending counselling. My whole life had become consumed by gambling addiction and I finally had a safe space where I could decide to end the relationship after years of failed interventions.
A safe space to make the most heartbreaking decision to leave someone I loved in the hope that it would be a trigger for recovery. I also had to acknowledge to myself that the relationship was not healthy.
I wanted him without the addiction
All I wanted was him without the addiction, however the sad reality is there is no choice in addiction. There were rare, beautiful moments when I felt like it was just us, and that I was the luckiest person in the world to have met someone so special. But addiction was always in the room.
It hasn’t been clear cut, he made every promise under the sun to get better before admitting defeat and telling me that I’m better off without him. I felt like a mouse when a cat has just caught it, letting it go and reeling it back in repeatedly. Just when I felt I was keeping my head above water I used to get reeled back in, believing with every bone in my body that we could have a life together, free from gambling.
To my ex-boyfriend and best friend, I want to give you a quote from John O’Donoghue, like my mum gave to me when our relationship crumbled: “And so may a slow wind work these words of love around you, an invisible cloak to mind your life.”
The author of this piece has requested to remain anonymous. Support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous are available if you need to talk to someone.
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