‘I just tell myself I’m not going to gamble today’

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After almost a decade in the grips of a gambling addiction, Mike is currently bet free.

The 27-year-old has pawned jewellery, turned to pay day lenders and risked his car while in the depths of the compulsion, which almost cost him his relationship with his fiancée.

But, after discovering Preston’s Gamblers Anonymous (GA) group, Mike has not had a bet for three years.

While he says he will always be a compulsive gambler, he lives by the GA saying “just for today” – which is tattooed on his arm.

He says: “There’s nothing to say I won’t do it again, but at this moment in time I have no intention of gambling again.

“You can say you’ll do anything just for today.

“I just tell myself I’m not going to gamble today.”

Mike, who lives in Southport and works as a signal technician on the railway in Preston, began playing on slot machines in the seaside town as a child, spending the money he made on his paper round in the arcades.

When he turned 18, he converted to casinos, using gambling to escape problems.

He also gambled online and in bookmakers, and admits he used credit cards, pawned jewellery and borrowed cash from pay-day lenders to fund the habit.

Mike trained as an apprentice for his current job, but admits he “couldn’t be bothered”, as his mind was permanently on gambling.

He remembers: “I never had my head at work because I was always thinking where my next bet was going to come from, what I was going to do with the money if I won, playing poker tournaments until 6am in the casino and going to work the next day.

“Online, I was playing at any opportunity I had.”

Mike was living with his parents at the time, and admits 95 per cent of his wages were gambled.

He says: “When I was in my final year of the apprenticeship, I was on probably £1,100 or £1,200 a month and that was all going on that. My mum bailed me out of one credit card and I ran that up again.”

He says his family couldn’t understand the addiction, and admits there was “no logical explanation”.

He even pawned a gold necklace his grandfather had bought him before he died.

He says: “I remember desperately needing the money to go and gamble.

“I thought I was going to go and take the money, win X amount, pawn it and still have the money.

“I lost it, and I just didn’t see any way around it.”

The desperation led Mike to take an overdose, although he says: “I didn’t have any intention of wanting to die, I think it was just a cry for help.”

Mike also borrowed money against the log book of his car in desperation, and gambled £400 of a £1,000 loan taken out to pay for a holiday to Mallorca with his partner.

Following another loss in the casino, Mike’sgirlfriend, now fiancée ,split up with him for a short time, but then vowed to help him and support him at GA.

He went to his first Preston meeting in May 2013, and hasn’t had a bet since.

He remembers: “Everything just started to make sense.

“Since then, we’ve got engaged, we’ve bought a house, I’ve got a sports car.

“Going to GA was the second greatest thing I ever did – the first was meeting my fiancée, because that’s the reason I did it.”

Mike has competed in the Iron Man challenge this year, plays sport and is planning a wedding, and says: “I don’t know how I managed to fit in all that time gambling. I must have had a very poor existence.

“I remember the feeling of lying in bed at 3.30am, waiting for a horse in Dubai to come in to find out if I was going to be paying for my mobile phone on a credit card or if I would be able to afford to pay for it on a debit card.

“Gambling was eight or nine years of my life - the only thing I ever did was gamble.

“So to instantly stop that and say you’re never going to do it again is really scary.

“But just to say you’re not going to do it today, I can deal with that.

“I’m not just a gambler. I’m Mike.”

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{http://www.lep.co.uk/news/gambling-has-cost-me-partners-jobs-and-my-home-1-8074774|‘Gambling has cost me partners, jobs and my home’