One mother revealed how her terrible gambling addiction led to bankruptcy and self-destruction in order to warn others of the dangers of addiction.
Lisa Walker, 48, from Essex, is a peer aid support worker and was first introduced to gambling when her father and grandfather were playing cards together, but at the time she didn’t bet more than 50p.
Even as a child, she remembers the hurry she was in when she won as little as £ 1. When she turned 18 and it was legal for her to enter casinos, Lisa’s habit escalated dramatically.
A big win in February 2001 marked the start of a nightmare that would last two decades.
Lisa Walker from Essex, then 29 years old, won a jackpot of £ 127,000 at Rendezvous Casino in 2001, which she now describes as the worst day of her life
Lisa Walker on her wedding day with husband Garry in Vegas. She said she spent the wedding night playing slots until 6 a.m. instead of partying with friends and family
Lisa was 29 years old at the time and won a jackpot of £ 127,000 at Rendezvous Casino, calling it “the worst day of my life”.
“My heart was beating in my chest and all I could think about was that in a few minutes every single person in this casino would know that I had won that jackpot,” she recalled.
‘As the dealer slowly revealed the players’ cards, he came to mine and slowly revealed the royal flush.’
“In an instant the alarm went off, people were screaming, the casino manager ran up to me and told me to check the cameras right away, and random strangers ran up to me to congratulate me.”
Lisa was fascinated by the atmosphere in the casinos, overwhelmed by the tables and the bright lights and the elegantly dressed people. Pictured: Lisa Walker on her wedding day with Garry
“What should have been the best day of my life about 20 years ago led to a journey of despair, hopelessness and a terrible, terrible gambling addiction.”
Lisa was fascinated by the atmosphere in the casinos, overwhelmed by the tables and the bright lights, the smartly dressed people and thanks to the clever design of these rooms that she couldn’t tell what time it was.
Her newfound winnings allowed her to gamble much more often, usually four to five times a week.
She said, ‘I’ve gotten reckless with money.’
“On nights when I would normally only take £ 50 to a casino, I would take £ 100, 200 or 500.”
A bet slip from her gambling in Las Vegas at the time of her wedding, Lisa has lost between £ 400,000 and £ 500,000 over the years.
“That brought more hours of play, which in my opinion are on the order of eight to ten hours a day.”
‘Whether that was in the casinos, on the dog tracks, in betting shops, anywhere.’
“I really loved it. I loved the excitement it used to give me, but of course the devastating depths came with them. ‘
“That is what it means to be a compulsive player who really is unable to quit.”
“Even if I had won a million pounds that night, it wouldn’t have mattered because every single pound would have returned to gambling one way or another.”
Lisa estimates that she has lost up to half a million pounds in the past two decades.
She said, “Over the years, given my wins and losses, I would say that I have lost over £ 400,000 to £ 500,000.
“This would be both losing the big win and gambling away the money I got from rescheduling my house, not just once but three times to keep the money to play and spend every single penny I had . ” Gambling. ‘
The dangerous habit eventually resulted in Lisa having such high debts that she was forced to file for bankruptcy and sell her house to pay it off.
She had previously sold her house, but the sale did not cover her debt and still left her account in the red.
She said, “It’s extremely difficult right now to think about it and think about all the things I could have had, be it my own little house, debt free or mortgage free by the age of 30.
Lisa Walker on her wedding day with Garry, later that night Lisa realized that she urgently needed help
“But I didn’t and instead chose this life of self-destruction. It was really hell, hell on earth. ‘
Gambling also affected the employee’s health as she struggled to sleep most nights and lay awake wondering where to get more money to play with.
Their relationships also suffered.
Lisa said, “It also led to the breakdown of a marriage and ultimately resulted in my children and I having to move to a hostel for a period of time.”
It wasn’t until her wedding night in 2018 with her third (and current) husband Garry that Lisa realized she needed help urgently.
Lisa Walker with her children Georgia and Danny and husband Garry at the wedding reception after her return to England
She said, “We had decided to celebrate our wedding in Las Vegas, and although 15 of my closest family friends flew by to enjoy the wedding with me and my husband, I spent the whole night playing the slot machines until 6am play – not for a moment to enjoy their company or to enjoy the party. ‘
“When we got back from Las Vegas, I finally made a conscious effort to seek help from a close friend of someone I knew from Gamblers Anonymous.”
Lisa is one of 50,000 women who have now signed up for self-exclusion from all online gambling sites through GAMSTOP, a free tool for people in the UK.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the proportion of women who self-isolate through the service has increased; in March 26% of all GAMSTOP applicants were women, in September it was 31%.
SELF-HELP TIPS FOR TROUBLESHOOTING PLAYERS
An estimated 2 million adults in the UK have an unhealthy relationship with gambling. Here are some tips if it becomes a problem
- Pay important bills such as B. Your mortgage on the payday before you gamble
- Spend more time with family and friends who are not playing
- Deal with your debt instead of ignoring it – visit the National Debtline for tips
- Think of gambling as a way to make money – see it as entertainment instead
- Forget your worries about your gambling – talk to someone
- Take credit cards with you when you go gambling
According to Gamcare, the number of women reporting gambling problems is increasing twice as often as that of men, but only 1% of women experiencing gambling-related harm turn to the National Gambling Helpline.
Lisa shares her story to raise awareness of the life-changing effects of gambling addiction and not to consider it such a taboo.
She said, “Nobody ever presented me with my money problems during my addiction.
“The problem with gambling is an addiction that is very easy to hide, unlike alcohol or drugs.”
“Obviously both of these have signs to look out for.”
Lisa has been in recovery for three and a half years, advising others who are suffering from similar problems.
She is also in the process of starting a women-only group for addicted gamers that she plans to start in the coming months.
Lisa added, “I’ve found that women don’t feel like they can talk about their addiction as it is often viewed as a male problem.”
“I’ve spoken to a lot of women who felt they couldn’t go to support meetings.
“I hope things change and if we can increase the visibility of women who are recovering in the media it could make a huge difference.”
“For people starting out, I’m just saying, be very, very careful. It’s a slippery slope. ‘
“You can control it and you can put it to bed. But it’s damn hard work. ‘
“So if you are having trouble, don’t fight alone and hold out your hand.”
Psychotherapist Liz Karter spoke about how the pandemic has led people to turn to gambling: “The pandemic creates a perfect storm of triggers for addictive gambling in women: the feeling of being trapped, anxious, and depressed, and off Being overwhelmed by families or loneliness.
“As mental health problems increase, so will gambling addiction.”
“I treat young women who are frantic with fear and stress and for whom gambling began as self-medication, but the end results are always a devastating cost to their mental health and finances.”