Harry (42), an account manager from Northampton, started gambling when he was 18 but his addiction took hold when he hit his 30s.
“I started out on pub fruit machines but then I moved on to the gambling machines in the Bookmakers,” said Harry.
“One day I lost £300 and I drove home feeling upset and robbed. By that time I was concerned about the impact this was having on our finances. What a waste of time and money; couldn’t I find something better to spend my money on rather than waste it gambling? I felt resentful towards myself; I felt sick when I checked my bank and credit card balances. But I always felt I had to go back and chase that win.”
Harry, who is married with two children, kept the amount of money he owed from his wife. “She was aware that I played the machines in pubs as I couldn’t go in without playing on them but she didn’t know about the Bookmakers.
“She didn’t realise the seriousness of the problem as I looked after all the finances. She just knew we could afford what was needed – but not that it was paid for by ‘borrowed’ money.
“Day to day life was awful. I was distant with my wife and children. I was worried not knowing who was going to knock on the door, what the post would bring, who would phone. I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t concentrate at work.”
When Harry’s debts reached £53,000, and he couldn’t afford the minimum repayments, he had to explain to his family what was going on. He’d tried to deal with his debts by asking for help from his family, increasing the size of his mortgage and taking out a long-term loan, but he knew he had to seek professional help and during an online search he found PayPlan.
“When I first contacted them I felt reassured. They listened to me and wanted to help rather than just lecture me. They made me feel my problems were solvable.”
Before contacting PayPlan Harry was paying his creditors over £1100 a month. Now he has his own Debt Management Plan into which he pays £452 a month.
“I am living again. I’m much calmer and not so bad-tempered any more. Yes, we have to be careful with money but we are doing more as a family.
“I go out on my own a lot less and I look forward to waking up in the morning. I’m actually living a life, not just going through the motions and it’s made me take stock of what’s really important.
“What’s best of all is that I’ve stopped gambling. I did it myself but when I let my family know what was going on, I called GamCare*. I hadn’t played a machine for 18 months so their advice was very much ‘keep up the good work but it’s easy to slip so if you feel the urge, call us’.
“I thought as I‘d stopped gambling I could solve my debt problems myself but I was in too much of a mess and needed professional help. I had two hurdles to overcome – ‘stop gambling (actioned)’ and ‘sort out my finances’. I needed PayPlan to help with the latter.”
*Gamcare is the leading national provider of information, advice, support and free counselling for the prevention and treatment of problem gambling