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15 year roller coaster ride

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    Last week we celebrated my sons 30th birthday. I saw it as a big milestone, my son’s arrival at adulthood. There were no clebrations on his 18th or his 21st, he was already under the spell of fruit machines.
    For those of you who don’t know me, this is brief summary of my sons life as he was growing up
    At 15 he first stole money from both his grandmother and me. He admitted to putting it in fruit machines. I went to the place he’d been playing, and made it quite clear that he was under age and shouldn’t be on them.
    At 18 I found a list of train times to the nearest city, pubs, and the fruit machines in each one. Warning bells clanged, but what could I do, he was 18.
    At 20 he joined the RAF, I thought he was running away from the family he hated, in hindsight he was more likely running from people he owed money to and the misery his life had become. From this time I’d rarely see him, except for on his birthday and Christmas, and even then he’d disappear before dinner was over.
    The next 5 years, unbeknown to me, he was living a life of misery. Losing all of his monthly wage to fruit machines, within days of getting paid. He has since said that the armed services are the best (or worst) place to be for a gambler. Your meals and housing are supplied so there are no real consequences of wasting all your money. Until you start borrowing of course, and stealing small amounts of money here and there.
    At 25 he stole a car and went AWOL. Running away again. It was over 6 months before he was arrested and served time in a military prison before being discharged. 
    At 26 I received a text. He’d stolen £600 from the friend he was lodging with. He didn’t say as much, but I knew from what he had said that he was contemplating suicide. I went off in search of him and found him walking away from the railway lines that he’d been contemplating throwing himself onto. He saw Doctor’s because I was concerned with his mental state but was still not admitting to gambling. Said he couldn’t understand what happened in his head to make him do the things he did, admitted to a drink problem but no, he only gambled when drunk. Doctors decided his only problem was that he was worried about the impending court case (for stealing the car).
    He was given a room in a hostel, while awaiting a council flat to become available. He was given a suspended sentence and a fine for the theft and he found work. The future was looking rosier.
    Then the **** really hit the fan, and as a family we went through the most terrifying 5 months.
    He defrauded the company he was working for and disappeared. Texts received by family members convinced us that he was mentally unstable and I filed a missing persons report.
    He broke into his fathers house, stealing his wife’s credit card and car. Enough was enough and with my agreement, his father called the police. Prison had been my biggest fear for him, now I wanted him locked up. I was terrified of what would come next if not. My son was not basically a bad person, and I knew he wouldn’t be able to live with himself.
    Again he took himself to railway lines, this time he called the person he had defrauded who went and collected him, then took him to the local police station. He was jailed for 8 months, of which he served 4. At last the penny dropped, he admitted to himself that he had a gambling problem. 
    On leaving prison he came to live with me, he had nothing and nowhere else to go. He never wanted to go back to homelessness and prison, and swore he would never gamble again. But it all started again. Gambling addiction was something he couldn’t beat alone.
    So what happened to make me so proud of my son on his 30th birthday?
    I found Gambling Therapy and learned tough love, and when faced with the option of homelessness again, my son asked me to tell him more about this ‘Gordon House’ I’d spoken of. I steered him to the website and left him to it. He applied, was accepted, and tried to wriggle out of it at the last minute. But when he realised I wouldn’t back down, that he would be homeless, he agreed to go. 
    It wasn’t all plain sailing, but 10 months later my son left Gordon House. Not the cheating, lying, hateful boy that had gone into the house, but a loving, open, honest man.
    It’s not been easy, and not been without hiccups but my son is happy, something he couldn’t remember being before. 
    On leaving rehab, he told me that he couldn’t remember much about his childhood. So, over the last year I’ve been busy ‘scrapbooking’. Making an album of memories, hoping that seeing his cheeky, smiling little face will show him that his childhood did hold many happy times. Should I include anything about gambling? It was such a large part of his life that it felt wrong not to. One page held a pocket to hold his leaving card from Gordon House.  When asked if he still had it, he replied that he still regularly looked at it, especially at vulnerable moments.
    I was really nervous on the morning of his 30th, as I went to see him, to give him his book and other presents. Would he see it as ‘girly’?  Would it offend him that gambling had been mentioned? But no, he told a friend that I’d made him this brilliant book, and that he’d wanted to bring it out to show everyone, but knew he’d probably lose it after a few beers.
    I’d asked if he wanted a party for his 30th, but he decided he’d rather go out for a family meal. We went out for an early meal at a local pub/restaurant, and later on his friends joined us before taking him off into town for the evening. 
    Looking back, I think this is probably the first time in about 16 years that he’s really celebrated his birthday.
    I wanted everyone here to hear his story. I want you to know that no matter how bad it gets, there is still hope. 
    I’d like to urge anyone thinking of taking the giant step into Gordon House to go for it. What’s 9 or 10 months out of your life if you can be happy for years afterwards.
    I want the families out there to understand that their cg is ill. That they are not bad, but that the illness makes them do bad things. Please don’t give up hope of getting your loved ones back, it is possible. At the same time don’t give up on your own lives. The happier and stronger you are, the better equipped you’ll be to support your loved ones when they’re ready to seek help in fighting their addiction. 
    Two things my son has said to me in recovery that I feel are important to all you families and friends:
    1)      You didn’t enable, that was so important
    2)      You can’t help someone if they don’t want to be helped
    Love to everyone here,
    Annie xx


    Hi Annie, if I were your son and I "found myself" again after this period of gambling, or when ever, I wouldnt forgive you for turning away I would thank you and give you a big cuddle. But as Velvet has said you are not turning away, quite the oppisite. You are helping him in the best possible way. I hope things turn around for him sooner rather than later.
    When you first posted this thread you said, " I want you to know that no matter how bad it gets, there is still hope". There is and always will be. Until your son comes back from where he is I am sure that you have the wisdom and courage not to let the gambling back into your life.
    Take care. Geordie.I dont gamble.

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