On Saturday 17th August 2013, more than five million people opened The Daily Mail. Inside was a double page article. Many were shocked to read how a man who had so much to lose could fall so far after becoming addicted to online gambling. The article was my story, that man who lost three quarters of a million pounds over three years, his job, his home, his wife and his children was me.
Nine months earlier, on the day I was about to be made homeless, I hit the bottom. I had mounting debts, only a part time job and just a black bin-liner of clothes, photos and junk to my name. Since that day I have followed a road to recovery that has, at times, felt like a rollercoaster ride in the dark; I couldn’t see where the next loop, turn or descent was coming from and I was holding on for dear life.
But every day I didn’t gamble things slowly got better. I went to see a Money Advice Charity run from my local Church. In January this year, I paid off my last debt. I addressed my low self esteem by taking up swimming. In August this year I will attempt one of the most challenging endurance swims in the world when I take on The English Channel. I will be raising money for an organisation that helps children with hemiplegia, my son’s condition.
When I went public about this poorly understood addiction, many people contacted me to ask for advice, either for their own problem or for that of a loved one or a friend. I realised I could use my story to reach others and set up a Twitter Account, @justynlarcombe, dedicated to help others find recovery. I am amazed, almost on a daily basis, how many people there are who suffer in silence, too scared to seek help for fear of being ridiculed.
In March this year I addressed a committee of Peers in the House of Lords who were debating an amendment of the Gambling Act that would see a compulsory requirement for online betting companies to offer their users a facility to self exclude in one go. Currently there are almost 2,500 online websites dedicated to betting. It would be impossible to self exclude from them all separately. The amendment made sense and was adopted by Government even before Peers had voted. Since then I have had several high level meetings with key ministers, not to advise them intellectually, just to tell my shocking story.
I am now regularly asked to contribute to media debates on the issue and I guess it’s hard to argue against someone who simply has a heart to help others avoid my own experience.
So much of my life has been restored, but what about my wife and children? Does my story have a happy ending? I’m still riding the rollercoaster, but if you really want to know the answer to that question, you’ll have to read the book….
You can purchase Tails I Lose on hive by clicking here