Gambling is an addiction
Gambling is an addiction. It sparks the same receptors in the mind as alcohol, drugs and sex. What is addiction anyway? At base level it’s an excessive dopamine rush to the brain that puts you on a high. And you get addicted to that feeling. Be it jumping through a fiery hoop at 10,000 feet or pitching your sob story to the nurses in hospital for your next Methadone hit. It’s all the same at the end of the day. We’re all addicts, whether you think we are or aren’t.
It all started when I was about ten years old. We were in a bar, waiting to go into the restaurant area. We weren’t allowed to go there until our seats were ready. That’s the way it was. And I was a child. The rules were less strict then. Local pubs allowed families they knew to have their child wait in the bar area whilst the tables were being set. We knew all the staff so it wasn’t a problem. Truth be told one of the bar staff was my Mums best friend. So everything was fine. I remember Gran going up to the Gambling machine. The fruit machine. The one with the flashy lights and the enticing music. I remember being slowly reeled in by the pleasantly glowing colours and the lovely music. My Gran didn’t mind. It was company for her when she was fuelling her desire to win. In no way did she think that one small act of letting me watch her would set me down the path of addiction. It did. As a 36-year-old man today I look back and wonder if I didn’t play those machines with Gran would it ever have had an appeal to me?
Our town was a seaside resort of sorts. The locals would have more likened it to a fetid drug den than a holiday village, but we had our fair share of people from America, and Australia and Japan. The golf courses were our town’s attraction, and the lovely white, sandy beaches. Quite a high point in the 80s. So this meant that we had our fair share of Penny arcades and amusement centres with more gambling machines than you can shake a stick at. This was bad news for me growing up and great news for the owners of these addiction dens as I like to call them now. Legalised addiction dens are what they were. Fine for the holiday makers who come in and shove their £2 in to have some fun, but for the locals it was a bit more hardcore than that.
I can remember it all started innocently. As a new high school goer, I started to make a broader group of friends. Not just the ones that came from the same area. I broadened my horizons down to the beachfront. And yes, this is where these addiction dens were. It all started off innocently too. On the way back from the beach we would shove twenty pence or so into the slots and hope for the best. It never resulted in anything, though, not really. But it was about solidifying my bond with them, calling me back every so often to ask more and more from me.
As an older lad, it came to a point where I was saving my dinner money from school to use these blasted things. That’s a big deal for a fifteen-year-old. We’re hungry all the time. And to go hungry to play blasted gambling machines is seriously stupid. Lucky I was always fed when I came home from School. My parents never had a clue why I was always so famished as an older teen, perhaps just part of growing up they thought. Yet, after a shower and a quick change I’d be off down risking my money with these things.
It all came to a head when I spent £60 of someone elses money. That was the last straw for me. I remember feeling so sick that I nearly gave up gambling on the spot. It wasn’t my money. And £60 in 1994 was a damn lot of money, especially for a teen. Teenagers just didn’twalk around with that kind of money.
I was always trying to reach that last win. The big one. I always shoved it back in again, though. Put it this way. There was one time I walked in with a £1 and ended up winning £50. Back then that was just short of a whole weeks wages for some people, and you know what? By the end of the day I had gambled it all away. Not even enough to buy myself a celebratory beer. In my mind I could win again. But that’s why Jackpots exist. To make sure you keep coming back!
I gave up in the end. It wasn’t until I moved down to England that I managed to quit it. Not an amusement arcade for 30 miles. When there’s no ability to do it, then there’s no ‘want’ to do it. In the end I came trumps. There were fruit machines in the pubs, but I had no inclination to play them. Not when there was beer around!!
..that is until last year.
Last year I started to dabble in the bitcoin markets. I read about them for six months previously. I read about the rise and fall of bitcoin, and the mining markets and what was profitable and what wasn’t. I didn’t even see it coming to be honest. It got hold of me before it was too late. I had worked up a system. Invest at the start and sell when it peaks. I got pretty good at it too. There was one time I invested $500 and made $1000 within one day. Cashed out. Lovely. I didn’t see it as gambling. I really didn’t.
The biggest win was perhaps one coin sale that I grabbed $2,000 worth of stock and cashed out with at least $5,000 in my pocket. Obviously you can see a problem arising now, right? I couldn’t. All I could see is that I was winning and that I was awesome, and that nobody could stop me. It was all done over the internet too. Instant trading, easy.
It seriously stung the time that I lost $1,500 practically overnight. In one bat. That’s when I realised. That’s when I thought, shit. I’m gambling again and I didn’t realise it. I’m starting to get hooked on the highs of winning. Jackpot time. In the end everyone loses though. Luckily I quit before I lost any more. Luckily we managed to save some dignity with what I had won, and that I left on the winning side rather than the losing side. But I was gambling again. I’m prone to this shit I swear.
And that’s why I need to be super vigilant. Gambling is an addiction. It’s a destroyer of lives. Don’t destroy yours.