How have I been since November of 2021, when sadly, my husband took his own life in a gambling-related suicide? To be honest, I thought I'd already reached my lowest point. It was at this point I realised I hadn't. It was such an awful time for the children, me, my family, and my friends. It felt like I was living in a dream, a nightmare, a film. It has taken me months, if not longer, to come to terms with what happened, and when I say come to terms, it doesn't mean I still understand it. It doesn't mean I'm over it. It means I know a little more and understand why we lost him.
I was working in a dementia care home on the evening my husband died. I was driving home when I received a call from my son to say his father was shouting and banging on the door. I remember the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, how scared I felt, and how much panic. I called the police and knew I'd get help but never realised his intentions or plans that night. I would have done anything to save him. I would have done anything to stop what happened, and the guilt I felt for months afterwards was awful. I now understand there was nothing more I could have done. He was at a point and a place where he had lost all control of reality. I'm so sorry that he didn't accept the help offered over the previous months.
Again I had to seek help and counselling for myself and my children. At that point, I was working very hard in my 12-hour shift job with the care home and also part-time for Gambling Harm UK. I was fortunate to have the community around me, like-minded people who understood a bit more about gambling harm. Who helped me through my very darkest days. I think working kept me busy and my mind active. It was at night though I didn't sleep. I would lay awake just thinking about what I could have done to change the outcome. What could I do now to help my children? Where was my life going to go? Due to COVID, we had to wait a long time for the coroners inquiry. Hence, it was nearly the year's anniversary of my ex-husband's death. I relived the night again in court, which was a challenging and emotional experience.
A year after his death, I began working full-time with Gambling Harm UK. Getting involved with awareness workshops, talking to others in the gambling harm community, and being brave enough to share my story with others. Collaborating with charities like Gambling with Lives has been great, taking us to Parliament to talk to MPs. Trying to make them listen and understand that the regulations' white paper needs to be published. I've even been on the radio now and had a few interviews, and although I get nervous, I'm proud I can bring awareness and talk about gambling harm and how it's affected my life.
As I talk about my life and experiences, I hope to help remove the stigma of gambling harm by being honest and open about my emotions. I don't want anybody else to go through what I have been through. I don't want anybody else to feel the sadness, hurt and stress I have felt over the years. I hope by opening up. I can normalise discussing gambling harm and being an affected other, like the normalisation of gambling adverts on television, radio and in sports. We need to ensure that the Government, authorities, and gambling industry start to listen and, most importantly, assist charities to help reduce gambling harm to a much lower level than it is today.
I think my mental health is the main thing or the most challenging thing about the last 15 months. How I've managed to keep going some days, I don't know. I've struggled so much that it has been hard to carry on. I am fortunate to have talked to professionals who immensely helped. I feel privileged and grateful to have worked with and known some fantastic colleagues who have helped me. It has been an uphill battle, a daily one, fighting myself, fighting my thoughts, and trying to adjust to what being an affected other means to me today and in the long term. As I've said before, I know things will get better. I see them getting better. What doesn't change is what happened. Always in my mind and heart, but I've got to learn to live with that. Use my positivity and work to ensure that my life and my children's lives move forward in a healthy, happy, positive way.
In the next and final part of my story, I will share some more about how working for Gambling Harm UK has enabled me to start to re-build my life and give me some proud moments in what has often being challenging days. I will also share some of things I am doing on my journey to re-build my life.
If you or anyone else you know is suffering from gambling harm, then please consider accessing the services that are available. Over recent years services have started to improve and more are available today to help those like me, the affected other.
GamFam is a support service I use myself. They offer support through GRA5P – The GamFam Recovery and Support Programme. GRA5P is a structured 5-stage self-help peer support programme, which was designed to support those affected by someone else’s gambling. More recently and out of increasing demand they have also now developed a programme to support those in recovery too. I wish I could have accessed their service when I first needed help back all those years ago. You can find more details about all what they do at www.gamfam.org.uk