The Anniversary I Never Thought I’d Reach

Do kids gamble?

Ok, they might not be visiting casinos, well they wouldn’t be allowed through the doors obviously! But an innocent introduction to gambling and betting can lead to issues in later life.

That’s how it happened to me.

My relationship with gambling began at a very young age, simply by playing the 2p slot machines whilst on holiday. On a rainy seaside holiday, a noisy, glittering arcade felt like Vegas to a small boy! 

Fast forward a little, and by the time there were ten candles to blow out on my birthday cake, I’d started to gamble on football. 

Again, it would have felt like innocent fun, with me, my dad and my brother picking a team each week, and if they won, Dad would share the money out between us.

Saturdays were sacred! Each week, me and dad would go and watch my brother play football, and after the game we’d all go into the clubhouse, with me sneaking off to enjoy the food that was always laid out for the players… growing boys are always hungry! 

The tv would be on, with everyone eagerly waiting for that unmistakable theme tune… time for the football scores! 

Everyone would gather round, betting slips at the ready, hoping that their team had done the business and their bet would come good.

I loved being part of that crowd, enjoying the anticipation.

Remembering what teams I’d picked, I’d be glued to the screen, praying for a win. 

I’d then do the rounds of the clubhouse with a blackout card, pestering everyone to have a go, and trust me, I didn’t give up! 

(In case you’re wondering, a blackout card was a piece of card with 40 professional football clubs on it. People paid a nominal fee, normally £1 to put their name next to a club. Once all 40 club names were sold, the winner would be revealed, and the cash became theirs. You’d often see these cards being used at charity events, with the takings split between the winner and the charity. Think of it as a charity scratchcard.) 



At the age of eighteen I was gambling just for fun, doing the same as I’d watched my brother do… the weekly routine of bets, football, and blackout cards.

But my  twentieth birthday found me in £2k of debt, which thankfully my parents bailed me out of.

Throughout my twenties i was abusing myself with alcohol, drugs, and gambling, and although I came off drugs around the age of twenty-three. 

But whilst the drug-taking had stopped, my gambling and alcohol intake had worsened. 

If I lost a bet I would drink more, and the more I drank the more I bet. This was my daily routine for the next four years… a cycle I couldn’t escape from.

I was in a whole world of trouble, my mental health took a battering, I wanted all the pain and hurt I was causing myself and others to go away. 

I attempted suicide and planned to run away to give my family some peace. 

They didn’t deserve any of it. 

It was my mother-in-law who came to my rescue, she was brave enough to confront me, telling me I was on a path to self-destruction, and this awesome lady accompanied me to my first Gamblers Anonymous meeting on Thursday 18th August 2022. 


And in just over a year, I haven’t placed a bet or touched a drop of alcohol. 

I’m a work-in-progress, but the changes have already been significant. 

I’m becoming a better dad, husband, friend, and family member. 

I have self-respect. I want to help others.

And this feels an appropriate time to say “thank you”. 

Thank you to everyone who has given me love, support, advice, and encouragement over the past twelve months. 

Without it I’d have lost everything. Without it I’d probably be dead. 

I owe my life to the people who’ve stuck by me, and the support of Gamblers Anonymous.

My name is Sam, and I haven’t had a bet since 14th August 2022.


Sam Irwin

recovering gambling addict
[email protected]