“It was getting to the point where it was destroying my life. I remember crying in my room, feeling so alone, feeling helpless. I had some really dark thoughts, but talking about it was the best thing I ever did.”
For 22-year-old horseracing fan Adam Wood, gambling simply started off as a bit of fun. Winning at his first meeting in 2018 was, as he puts it, “the best feeling ever”, but little did he know it would be the beginning of a serious problem.
From the occasional £5 bet to gambling his entire wages away every month and seeking bail-outs from payday lenders, Adam says the alarming increase in stakes happened in just a few days.
Here Adam tells his personal story, describing how his problems escalated, what he did to address the issue, and urges others who are struggling to seek help.
‘Wow, this is easy’
“My first ever meeting was at Doncaster at the 2018 St Leger when Kew Gardens won. It was an unreal day, the atmosphere was incredible.
“I was able to pick out a couple of winners and I remember the feeling I got when Kew Gardens passed the line in front. I think I had £5 on it at like 3/1 and it was the best feeling ever because I knew I’d studied this race and I’d tried to work out the form. It had paid off and that was really the start of it.
“I kept up the stakes – sort of low stakes – no more than £5 really. Things probably started to change three or four months down the line when Cheltenham 2019 came around. I actually had a really good Cheltenham, on the Wednesday I had a really nice treble that landed, but looking back it was probably the worst thing that happened to me.
“I remember feeling this sort of pressure that I’d been able to have a really good couple of days, and this was all from being able to gain an understanding of the sport and follow it. I remember thinking ‘wow, this is easy’.”
‘It quickly spiralled out of control’
“I’d love to say there was a certain day where I remember deteriorating, where I remember going wrong, but I can’t. I just remember it was very quick, it was very sudden. It wasn’t something that happened over the course of a couple of weeks, it was a couple of days where the stakes really started to alarmingly get worse.
“It got to the point where I got paid on the 28th of every month and by the 30th I was bankrupt. I had no money left. I had no money for travel. I had no money for food. I then turned to payday lenders and when that happened I saw this as my way out and thought this was a way back. I thought I was getting this money and I was going to be able to suddenly pay for travel, pay for food, that I wouldn’t have had to tell anyone about this.
“I’d get £200-£300 from a certain payday lender and it would be lost within minutes. I knew what I was doing was not normal behaviour and this was really spiralling out of control really quickly.
“There was a time before the end where I probably had about 12 or 13 outstanding loans. It was getting to the point where it was destroying my life and was ruining me every day. That horrible feeling of just lying to people, lying to my loved ones, lying to friends. I remember crying in my room, feeling so alone, feeling helpless. I had some really dark thoughts.”
‘Talking about it was the best thing I ever did’
“Just after Cheltenham finished, I tried to gee myself up and just go down and talk to my mum and dad. I just went downstairs and told them everything. I was brutally honest, I didn’t sugar-coat anything. I was so scared because I had got myself into a really bad situation.
“When I did open up all I can remember is feeling so upset, there were a lot of tears shed and that was nice in a way because that was just a huge weight off my shoulders. Talking about it was the best thing I ever did. It was from that day forward that I was able to have a real strong mindset and just get everything sorted out.”
‘There is so much help out there’
“If you’re in a place like I was where you feel alone, you feel helpless and you’ve got no one to turn to, even if you feel like you have got someone to turn to and you feel too embarrassed to talk to them, please don’t. This is something that is a lot more common than you would think.
“This is not necessarily normal behaviour, but this is also something that is not your fault and no matter how bad your situation is, you can turn it around. There is so much help out there.
“The professional outlets that I found really beneficial – GAMSTOP was brilliant and the team at GamCare are incredible. I spoke to a couple of people on live chat. I spoke to a couple of people over the phone.
“If you are struggling please talk to someone. You’d be surprised just how common an issue this is and how many people there are out there to be of assistance.”
Q&A: What is Safer Gambling Week?
Safer Gambling Week is an industry-led campaign taking place from November 19-25 to encourage more conversations about the importance of safe betting.
The whole of the UK and Irish gambling industry, including bookmakers, amusement arcades, bingo clubs, casinos and online, has come together to support the week, which includes the promotion of workshops and training sessions.
As part of Safer Gambling Week, Sky Sports News’ chief reporter Bryan Swanson answers some key questions as the gambling industry promotes more conversations in sport…