Tails I Lose

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'I had one black bin liner of possessions and £70,000 of debt'

'I knew something was different before I opened my eyes. I sat up and slowly allowed myself to come round. It was September 2012 and for nearly three years I'd woken without noticing the sound of birdsong. My first thoughts each morning were usually the sinking realisation of the mess I had made of my life. I'd promised myself I would never gamble again and then, after the briefest moment of sanity, I'd start thinking of how I could get some money to place my first bet of the day.I'd been oblivious to everything except my own selfish ambition.

Today the house was unusually quiet. It was enough to distract my addiction voice. Where was the usual sound of children's TV programmes? As I walked downstairs, there was no sound of my two young boys banging the table with their spoons or calling for more scrambled egg. There was no reassuring sight of my wife Emma making packed lunches or brewing coffee. They had gone.

A spiralling addiction 
Emma was right to leave. I was self-destructing and, like a whirlpool, I was sucking in everything around me. The day she'd found my bank statement had been awful. Her beautiful smile had gone, but she stood by me. She even stood by me the day I lost my job. You can't expect to continue as a Director of a Financial Services Company when you run up debts of £27,000 on your corporate expenses card.

But Emma couldn't watch as I began to sell our possessions to fund my gambling. I sold my wedding ring, a unique gold band inscribed with a message of love from the Old Testament book Song of Solomon. I sold my city suits for the same price as tea towels. The buyer didn't even check what was in the plastic bag, he just weighed it and gave me a few pounds. I would put the money on a ten leg multiplier bet. Impossible odds, but I convinced myself I would win everything back and make things right again.

Hitting rock bottom
Over the next few weeks, on my own in a house I couldn't afford to heat, with five months rent owing and living off a sack of mouldy potatoes, I began to consider what it would be like for the boys if I wasn't around. And then I had a visitor: my Mum, Christian writer and speaker Jennifer Rees Larcombe. I was in Derbyshire, for for Mum to drive up from Kent unannounced was quite a surprise. I considered hiding at first, but she had come so far. 'Tomorrow you're going to be evicted. You have a choice: walk the streets or come back and stay with me', she said.

Facing reality
It sounds like a simple choice, but this had been my home. Leaving meant facing up to reality. I had an hour to collect the last of my belongings: a few pictures and some clothing. I looked at the empty mantelpiece where once the Sword of Honour had taken pride of place, a gift from the Queen for passing out of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst at the top of my intake. It should have been a priceless object to be passed down through the generations, but I'd sold it to fuel my habit. I went into the boys rooms, their beds still unmade from the morning they left. I cried a lot. I was broken. It was just what I needed. Pride had prevented me from seeking help for too long.

That night, back in the room I had grown up in, I got down on my knees and prayed a simple prayer. I asked for forgiveness. I asked to be fixed; I invited Christ back into my life. I had enjoyed a close walk with The Lord, but as I had become more successful in the world of finance, my relationship with God had taken second place and as my gambling habit took over, I had no time for Him at all. Now I had one black bin liner of possessions and £70,000 of debt. But somewhere deep inside me, I felt a sense of peace.We downloaded browser protection onto our computers and I began my journey of recovery. And every day I didn't bet, things got a little better. My self-esteem was still low, I knew I was forgiven, but I found it hard to forgive myself. I started swimming each day and set myself the challenge of training for a solo attempt at swimming the Channel.
I started attending Gamblers Anonymous meetings and was surprised to discover I wasn't the only one to lose everything. But I couldn't understand why they kept talking about a 'higher power' or a God of my own understanding'. I wanted to shout out the truth: 'It's God!

Signs of hope
I rediscovered the joy of God's Word and made time each morning and evening to pray and listen to Him. As the weeks passed some amazing things happened. I was offered a work contract that would allow me to pay off my debt much faster. I saw the boys as often as I could, sometimes driving the eight hour round trip in a day. Time with them was precious and Emma could see I had changed, but trust is so hard to win back and I accepted that my marriage was probably over. I just didn't give up hope.When the last penny had been paid I trained as a debt adviser and now volunteer each month to help people who are experiencing financial hardship.

Freeing others
In August 2013 the Daily Mail ran a double page article about me losing everything. I wanted people to understand the dangers, although it was hard sharing my faults so publicly. I needn't have worried, I was overwhelmed by the positive response from people who were suffering. That article led to may appearances on national television and radio and ultimately, to my autobiography.,In January 2014 I ran The Recovery Course at Tonbridge Baptist Church and 40 people suffering from addictions of all kinds attended. It's a 14-session programme which, like the Anonymous Fellowships, follows the 12 steps, but puts Christ firmly at the heart of recovery, dealing with the inner pain, not just the symptoms. We have now run three courses and seen incredible healing and restoration in people's lives.

Restored relationships
In September 2014 I swam to France, raising money for charity. But best of all, after almost two years apart, Emma and the boys moved back home. Six years after I placed my first 'free'  £5 bet, we are reunited as a family and The Lord has restored my life. But not just back to where it was, better than that. I now have my priorities in the right order. Relationships and family come before money. I have peace, joy and happiness. Every day I wake up I listen to the birdsong and I don't ever waste the opportunity to tell everyone I can that in Christ there is hope, restoration and perfect freedom. On Christmas Eve the doorbell rang and there was a FedEx parcel for me. It was an odd shape. My Sword of Honour had been found by a military collector who contacted one of the newspapers that had run my story. A number of people from my church covered the cost of buying it back. What a gift!