A bit of curiosity, a £1 coin, just one spin… that’s all it takes. For 28-year-old Stacey Goodwin from Chesterfield, Derbyshire, this was just the beginning of her 8-year struggle with a gambling addiction that fundamentally changed her life and drained her of nearly £1 million (C$1.7m) over the years.
During the pandemic, Stacey chose to go public with her story, sharing her troubling journey on TikTok to help spread awareness of gambling addiction, especially among women. She spared no details of her own experiences: the escapism she sought, the loneliness she felt, and the natural escalation that comes with needing to fuel a gambling-related high.
8 years as an addict
It all started for her when Stacey was 18 years old and working part-time in a betting shop to earn a bit of pocket money for nights out on the town with her friends. Day after day, watching strangers lose money to the machines, Stacey promised herself that she would never play, not wanting to fall into the same trap as her customers.
One day, however, boredom got the better of her and she put £1 into the machine and gave it a spin. She ended up immediately winning £36, right then and there. This was all it took to flip the switch in her brain that triggered an 8-year-long toxic relationship with gambling, constantly seeking the same high she got from the first win.
As time went on, she didn’t always have time to go into betting shops to play slots so she turned to online gambling to fill the need. More convenient, anonymous, and far removed from public judgement, this is where her addiction spiraled out of control. It got to the point where her wages wouldn’t even last an hour after she received them — she’d lose it all while playing in the middle of the night.
The turning point
Stacey’s moment of truth came when she lost £50k in six days and subsequently tried to commit suicide. Still haunted by this traumatic experience, Stacey recalls this critical period when she realized that she needed professional help to get her out of the vicious cycle of anxiety, depression, and financial ruin.
Upon discovering the gambling addiction charity Gordon Moody, Stacey Goodwin participated in a 4-day retreat with other women in her situation, an experience that helped her begin to turn her life around. This event reminded Stacey that she was not, in fact, alone, and that other women were struggling with the same issues that had plagued her for years.
In a recent interview, Stacey expressed that “[t]here were other women who’d been through the same, which was massive because I thought I was the only woman in the world who’d fallen into this trap.”
The gender split of this retreat was so important for her, giving her a safe place to confide in people she trusted, who knew what she was going through, rather than sitting in a room full of old men at a Gamblers Anonymous meeting — an experience that had scared her away from getting help 6 years earlier.
Play responsibly & know your limits
Gambling can be a fun, entertaining, and harmless pastime for many, as long as it’s carried out responsibly. For many others, however, especially during periods of acute stress, gambling can become an all-consuming activity that takes over every aspect of your life.
Instead of learning the hard way like Stacey, you can be proactive by learning about what causes gambling addiction and what free tools and resources are at your disposal to help keep your casino gambling under control.
Taking some simple steps before you get in too deep can encourage good habits in those who enjoy gambling, such as:
- Setting a spending and time limit in advance of playing
- Taking breaks from playing
- Not playing when you’re depressed or intoxicated
- Only betting as much as you’re comfortable losing
- Balancing gambling with your life and other hobbies
Online gambling in Covid times
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a staggering increase in online gambling over the last year and a half. With millions stuck at home in front of their screens, rampant unemployment (and under-employment), and isolation taking its toll on the mental health of countless people, many have turned to online gambling as a form of entertainment and even as a way to make money during hard times.
Lockdown-induced financial stress, solitude, and vulnerability have combined to create the perfect storm for online gambling abuse to thrive — leading to internet searches for ‘online gambling’ reaching an all-time high in the UK alone. It’s not always obvious when someone is struggling with a gambling addiction (or addiction of any kind) but Stacey’s story can be a helpful (if cautionary) tale that hopefully, will inspire others who need it to get help too.