- By Rachel Stonehouse
“I bear in mind simply getting scratch tickets, successful, dropping, opening an increasing number of accounts on-line – and earlier than I knew it, I used to be a playing addict,” says 28-year-old Rebecca, whose playing started when she struggled with the put up workplace. – postpartum melancholy.
After the scratch playing cards, Rebecca began betting on horses, though she knew nothing about racing. “I used to be searching for this dopamine hit — that aspect of my mind was going: gamble, gamble, gamble,” she says.
Final summer time, Rebecca spent 5 weeks on the UK’s first women-only playing centre, the place addicts who’ve hit all-time low are given an opportunity to show their lives round.
The BBC was given unique entry to the middle – a modest terraced home in Birmingham.
Rebecca says it was upsetting to be away from her kids for therefore lengthy, however since leaving the clinic she has not performed and is feeling constructive concerning the future. She says relapse is “not an possibility”.
Letter of Desperation
Like Rebecca, playing utterly took over 34-year-old Caroline’s life. She as soon as spent 30,000 on-line in three months.
She would hold taking part in in her bed room till the early hours of the morning.
“You haven’t any idea of time. You isolate your self,” she says. “It was the bottom level in my life as a result of I destroyed every little thing round me.”
Earlier than she acquired therapy on the clinic final October, issues received so unhealthy that she thought-about ending her life. It is clearly nonetheless painful to speak about, however she desires to share her story within the hope it will probably assist others.
“I felt the one approach was to not be right here,” says Caroline. “Life can be simpler for everybody. It could be cheaper for everybody.”
She chokes up when she tells me that final Might she sat in her automobile and wrote a final letter to her dad and mom – till she had a change.
“It wasn’t value taking that route as a result of I knew I might get higher if assist was there – I hold that letter as a reminder to myself now.”
A secure room
The therapy middle is situated in central Birmingham. Whenever you stroll within the door to the townhouse, you might be instantly greeted with a poster stuffed with messages of help, written by girls who’ve been via this system themselves.
One message reads merely: “This place saved my life.”
Paintings and messages of positivity embellish each floor – even inside kitchen cupboards.
The place feels homely, with comforting particulars. Every resident is welcomed with a letter written by the girl who final lived of their room.
The clinic is run by the Gordon Moody charity and that is the primary time they’ve allowed the media in since opening in the direction of the tip of 2021.
In that point, the variety of girls searching for therapy on the clinic has greater than doubled, from 77 within the first 12 months to 210 by the tip of March this 12 months.
Girls can discuss with the middle themselves, or it may be carried out by a well being skilled or one other gaming group.
The centre’s director, Harp Edwards, says the ladies handled listed here are at a “peak stage” of want as a result of they might hurt themselves or really feel suicidal.
“They really feel prefer it’s the final straw for them, so stepping into therapy is sort of like their final possibility,” she says.
In the course of the keep, the ladies have restricted entry to telephones, cash and any on-line companies, so they can’t play. However the middle additionally limits the ladies’s publicity to their every day lives, “so all of the stress of the skin world is sort of gone,” says Edwards.
The housing program is designed round girls’s wants.
“I believe the significance of getting an all-female therapy is that it permits a girl to be in a secure area and in addition concentrate on points which can be just for girls,” Edwards says.
Info and help
The keep for ladies is shorter – solely 5 weeks towards 14 weeks for males – as a result of they typically have kids to take care of. And Edwards says there are different variations too, for instance, girls will focus extra on what private experiences could have led to their playing and the way it impacts their relationships.
“Males have a tendency to speak about playing first earlier than we take a look at trauma, whereas girls go straight in with the affect that playing could have had on them,” she says.
The intensive five-week program contains every day remedy and psychoeducational periods, in addition to inventive workshops the place the ladies are inspired to precise their emotions.
Elissa, 36, admits she wasn’t concerned within the workshops when she first arrived, saying she was too “stiff” – now she jokes she’s “not stiff, simply garbage” on the craft.
She says she began taking part in slot machines in arcades when she was simply 9 years previous.
She managed to maintain it a secret from her family and friends for years, however issues actually escalated when she began taking part in on-line in any respect hours of the day – together with at work.
“In between each job, I’d play. If I used to be on obligation at work, I’d play,” says Elissa.
“I’d come residence from work and play earlier than the children or me the spouse got here residence. I began taking my cellphone into the lavatory after I was within the bathe, stuff like that.”
Since leaving the centre, Elissa has moved to a different a part of the nation and is now coaching to run playing restoration teams herself.
An estimated 22 million folks play each month within the UK. The variety of girls receiving playing help has greater than doubled in 5 years, with 1,134 girls receiving therapy in 2015-16 and a pair of,423 in 2020-21, in line with figures from the charity GambleAware.
Elissa, Caroline and Rebecca all really feel there’s a want for extra regulation within the playing sector, in addition to extra therapy applications like this – that are largely paid for by the playing business. However Rebecca questions the motive behind this funding.
“Are they doing it as a result of they’ve normal issues about their prospects spending 1000’s and 1000’s of kilos on their web site?” she asks. “Or have they got to place it in place as a result of it is the legislation?”
The Betting and Gaming Council – which represents the business within the UK – informed the BBC in an announcement: “We’re inspired by the newest figures from the unbiased regulator, the Playing Fee, which present that downside playing charges amongst UK girls are 0.1% – down from 0.2% the earlier 12 months.”
They added that the business will donate 110 million. subsequent 12 months to deal with dangerous playing and that promoting and sponsorship should adhere to strict tips.
The home in Birmingham is a brief base for the clinic, which is transferring to a extra everlasting and bigger website in Wolverhampton later this 12 months. Then it will likely be capable of accommodate three extra girls on every program – presently it will probably solely take 5 at a time.
They will even have restoration beds for individuals who want to remain longer on the finish of their therapy.
This implies they are going to have the ability to assist extra girls like Rebecca, Elissa and Caroline, who credit score the clinic with altering their lives for the higher.
“Thanks for every little thing,” Elissa tells the employees. “You have got taught me to like myself.”