A former gambling addict who attempted suicide after being kicked out of college and fired from his job has told how he changed his life.
Talented footballer Paul Pettigrew, 25, spent three years under the influence of drug addiction, which led to him waking up in the middle of the night soaked in sweat and losing weight as his sanity deteriorated. collapsed.
He signed with Greenock Morton football club as a teenager, but was released weeks before his 18th birthday and first set foot in a Glasgow casino when he could – and walked away with 1,000 £.
The game filled the void that football had left, along with the eagerness to win, and a streak of luck got Paul hooked.
In less than three months he was playing every day – but a year later, at 19, he was £ 30,000 in debt and attempted suicide at 20 as addiction clouded his relationship.
Paul said: “I had just stopped playing football so there was a huge void in my life, and he was filled with the game right away.
“I went to the casino for the first time with a friend of mine. I walked in with £ 100 and left with £ 1000.
“In the first two months I had a winning streak.
“Every bet or every time I went to the casino I won. It hooked me right away, it made me believe it was an easy way to make money.
“It was very exciting.
“At first it was just once a week, but within a few weeks it turned into two, three, four… and three months later, it was every day – at the bookies and online.
“It’s hard to say how much was spent because sometimes I was making money, and you can’t track the money spent in stores, but it was absolute fortunes.
“The highest debt I had was £ 30,000 when I was 19.”
Paul, from Port Glasgow, Inverclyde, continued to play until the age of 22 and worked for a month to get a salary to play, but then did not return to his job.
He has also been kicked out of college three times and said he couldn’t have gotten through without his “incredible” support network.
Paul said: “I was spending all my money and I couldn’t do it financially.
“It was hard just sitting there and knowing that I had four years left before I could find a good job to pay off all the debts I had. My head was absolutely worked.
“Gambling has completely ruined my sanity, completely and completely ruined it.
“For comparison, when I was in school I was very confident, really happy, I had a great group of friends and I loved the direction my life was going.
“A year after I left, I was completely and utterly miserable. I ended up having no confidence in myself.
“There were some of my boyfriend’s birthday parties that I didn’t go to.
“I didn’t like going to the stores. In my mind, everyone was looking at me and thinking ‘he’s addicted to gambling’ when not many people knew it.
“I was absolutely at the bottom. When people asked me if there had been a big moment, there wasn’t a single big bet that I lost.
“It was just the state of my life at one point – I had been kicked out of college, I had been fired from I don’t know how many jobs, my relationships were falling apart.
“I didn’t go to the gym, I didn’t play soccer, I was looking around and I thought, ‘I just live to play, and I hate it.’
“I would wake up every day hating the game so much, but I knew I was going to do it anyway.
“It’s a scary way to live your life.
“I was never diagnosed but I was definitely depressed. I was the epitome of what depression is.
“I spent five or six nights in the hospital, I tried to kill myself when I was 20.
“I just couldn’t stop playing, and I had accepted that it was too strong, and I couldn’t stop.
“I accepted that I couldn’t live the next 50 years leading this type of life. I didn’t want to live if gambling was going to be my life, so I just thought, ‘I can’t do this anymore.
“The problem with gambling addiction is that it’s invisible, there’s no physical sign, so you can hide it for a long time.”
It has been a few years since Paul last bet.
Paul said: “Trying to quit is the hardest thing I have ever done, it was horribly difficult.
“I had nightmares, I sweated when I slept, I lost weight because I wasn’t eating properly.
“It was really horrible, but you have to get out of it.
“I went to the doctors and told them I was completely miserable and got help with my mood, and got support from my family and friends.
“My family was worried every time I walked out the door at some point.
“I remember my mom dropped me off at college one day and we sat in the car for 20 minutes because I think she thought I wasn’t going to come back through the door.
“She didn’t let me out of the car until I promised her I was fine. I can’t imagine the worry she had until I walked through the door.
“It got to the point that I couldn’t hide the game anymore and it was a long, long process to get out of debt.
“I had to find a job and nibble on it.
“There were debts that needed to be paid off immediately and I got a loan for them from family or friends, and I was paying them back.
“They were the reason I ended up there, 100%.
“I have amazing family and friends and they have really supported me and given me a lot of chances, which sometimes I probably didn’t deserve.
“If they had given up on me, which they would have been allowed to do at times, then there would have been no reason for me to improve. I owe them a lot.
In September 2020, Paul launched the community benefit company Gamtalk UK which educates young people about the dangers of problem gambling, and which has become his full-time occupation.
He has even spoken to prisoners at HMP Barlinnie and works with clubs such as Arsenal, Celtic and Rangers to help young people become aware of the risks.
Paul said: “I hope to work with as many football clubs as possible, across the country, as many schools as possible.
“The overall objective is quite simple, it is to work with as many young people as possible.
“Over the next five or 10 years I can look back and say that I have spoken directly to hundreds of thousands of young people and I hope they have avoided the misery that I have had.
“Gamtalk was actually something that really helped me when I tried to quit playing, the whole project of it.
“When I was struggling I would say ‘I’ve been to lots of different football clubs and all through school and we’ve been told about alcohol, drugs and tobacco, but we haven’t been told. never talked about gambling, we have to talk about it ”.
“I had big ambitions for this when I started, but being where I am in a year from now makes me really proud, although there is still a long way to go.
“I am so much happier now, as well as humbled.
“I understand how difficult life is now, I don’t judge people.
“It definitely changed me as a person for the better.”
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