Comment: Don’t gamble with your enjoyment of Christmas

editorial image

WE all have our own understanding around the meaning of Christmas and I am not going to bore anyone with mine.

I would, however, like to ask this question to the reader who has a problem with their gambling or the family of such a person.

Like most people at Christmas time, this time of year brings back happy memories of family togetherness; laughter, eating and drinking more than was good for me and a hope that this Christmas will be just as memorable.

There was a period of time spread over too many years where Christmas was none of those things to me.

My obsession over gambling brought on an insidious change in my priorities, it very gradually poisoned my mind into seeing Christmas as nothing more than time off to spend gambling. Once the obsession took over me, I never had enough money to be satisfied with.

To buy gifts for my family and friends would take money away which might be needed in the betting shop.

This meant that to enjoy Christmas, I would need to win the money through gambling and the stress which that imposed would make me more erratic and then desperate.

The direct result was a resentment of Christmas and a warped self-imposed perception that the festive season was over commercialised and too expensive.

You could say I turned into a scrooge type figure.

Being an obsessive gambler also carries an obsession over money, my experience has shown that when gambling becomes obsessive, a once generous and kind hearted person can very quickly become mean spirited and deeply selfish.

My journey through obsessive gambling isn’t at all unique; there are many thousands in this country who are following the same path. If you’re of the opinion that Christmas now gets in the way of your gambling and puts more pressure on you to win. If your more concerned with the horse racing calendar that conveniently trebles the amount of race meetings than having fun with loved ones and if the thought of Christmas day fills you with dread at the lack of gambling opportunities, then you may have a problem with obsessive gambling.

As I did, you may also find that you simply can not put money aside to take away the financial burden that can come with Christmas, then follow the same pattern each year of last minute shopping that can ruin your families festivities.

This year I will be spending Christmas with my sister and looking forward to the the company above all else. The dinner will be great and exchanging gifts will be a real buzz, but to me it is the laughter and the happy smiling faces that will make this Christmas special.

If you can see your life following the same path, it is not too late to change.

If you identify with this and would like to seek help, you can find information and help-lines on the internet, by entering sources of help for compulsive gamblers/other related addictions and compulsions; you will be directed to supportive

sites such as Gamblers Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous.

You can also call me, if you think I can help. on 07799041865. If I am not available at the time, please text gambling problems and I will get back to you as possible.

All conversations will be strictly confidential.

> Stephen Gardiner is a recovering compulsive gambler with four years abstinence from gambling.

Stephen became addicted when he was about 21 years old and very quickly became perceived as a hopeless case.

He entered a rehab clinic aged 43 and exited a changed man. As a result of the help he received he now has a diploma in counselling and the experience and skills to help others recover.

He blogs for the Citizen as The Reformed Gambler.