It is almost impossible to imagine what it is like in life to reach the point when you actually want to die. Life is the most precious gift and yet something had driven me to want to throw it away and it seemed like the only and by far the best option.  My rock bottom was standing at the end of a train platform about to end my life and – until that point – you don’t think you can get out of it, but at the same time, that’s when sense prevailed and I realised, actually, I need help.

Sport has been a huge part of my life, for good and bad. I was 15 when I got picked up by the Northants academy and then I signed my first full time contract at the age of 18 and that was a really proud moment. I realised pretty quickly you had to make some pretty big sacrifices and also how tough it was to get to the top. However, things didn’t materialise with Northants and I was released which was a tough pill to swallow. I went to work in the city for a while followed by teaching. Throughout I was developing an addiction.

Some of my happiest memories come from Saturday afternoons with friends, beers and a quid on an ultra-ambitious accumulator.
That £1 would years later become £1,000 and those miniature biros would become endless deposits into one of the multitude of apps I used on my ever-reliable smartphone. The scrumpled up slips would become complete destruction of my bank statements.

My goodness I had fun but the reality of burning the candle at both ends to an extraordinary level, hopping from one London night spot to another and walking into every betting shop that I encountered was not conducive to the start of my life in employment. A job where I was set free in the Big Smoke, where the bright lights were not just the monumental architecture but the garish glow of Coral and William Hill that seduced me in every time I came within breathing distance.

When I was playing professional sport, you get that intensity, it’s very competitive, you get that instant response, instant reaction from how you’re doing, whether you’re succeeding, failing and gambling kind of filled that void.

I was starting to become aware of how much I was doing it and the impact it was having on my financial status and well-being but although I wanted to stop I just simply could not bring myself to.

Not just that but I now had opened numerous different accounts online and was able to access my vice in seconds. The grip was getting stronger and I was being carried against an irrepressible current. I was a teacher– a role model to many of the young minds I was working with. But behaving like I was, what sort of example was that?

There were so many wins, so many big wins, but they became irrelevant and the only thing that was guaranteed was that money would be senselessly reinvested in seconds and there was nothing I could do despite my best intentions.

I didn’t sleep throughout the night for years, either kept awake wondering if a bet was going to come in, playing games online late at night or lying awake wondering how I had got myself into this mess and how I was going to get out of it. Who could I ask to lend me money now? What can I bet on tomorrow? What other lie can I manufacture and who else can I drag into this only thinking of myself and my desire to feed this uncontrollable habit?

Addiction blurs everything. I had lost my awareness, my perspective and most significantly all respect for the person I was and the people around me.

It is difficult to comprehend how your life becomes so twisted that the things that should matter don’t and the things that shouldn’t do. The worst thing is that, if I am brutally honest, nothing mattered.

This is one thing that people don’t realise about compulsive gambling. The result or outcome doesn’t actually matter, it is the chase and the fight against the machine that matters; whether it was a winner or a loser it started to lose significance and actually all became immersed in one.
All that mattered was the process
 
Why didn’t I just reach out and tell someone? Why didn’t I stop denying the issue and face my fears?

The answer is I don’t know. Maybe it was the fear of being judged, maybe I was so proud and it would be displaying my weakness and vulnerability or maybe because I felt intolerable shame and had let so many people down or maybe just maybe I was suffering from a serious addiction and I had become completely powerless over gambling.

Make sense of this, if you can, as this almost summarises the psyche of a compulsive gambler and their relationship with money, how could I have had such a fundamental issue with paying £40 for a Chinese takeaway on the grounds that I justifiably couldn’t afford it and yet be more than happy and not even give a second thought to depositing 100x that amount into my Boylesports account.

I reached a point where I was £150,000 in debt and had bet £50,000 to try and recover it. I said that if I lost I would kill myself. Of course, the horse didn’t win. Minutes before ending my life, on a railway track near Slough, I finally reached out for help. I had to come clean and I knew I desperately needed help but who am I going to turn to – what am I going to do? I actually turned to my brother, I sent him a message and told him exactly what the situation was and I said I really need help but was then very quick to tell him not to tell anybody.
 
I soon after caught up with a close friend who is an ex-pro cricketer and he had spoken to somebody else and they said ‘has Patrick contacted to the PCA or spoken to the Professional Cricketers’ Trust’? and I thought I would give it a go but thought what are they going to be able to do because as far as I’m concerned I am a nobody when it comes to cricket.
 
The Professional Cricketers’ Trust were incredible to me – not just in terms of their emotional support but also with the financial side of things and advice. The Trust became my support network away from my family, I am indebted to them enormously, and the Trust along with the treatment centre I went to have saved my life.
 
One of the things I am doing now and as part of my rehab is speaking out about my experiences. I want to help other people come out and get the help they need. I am helping the Trust by going into counties and particularly the academies. The accessibility and exposure to gambling is huge.
 
Alongside this, I am now working for a company called EPIC Risk Management. EPIC is established as the leading independent gambling harm-minimisation consultancy in the UK and Ireland, specialising in the identification and prevention of problematic gambling in high risk sectors.
 
Gambling had a huge impact on my life financially and I will be battling that for as long as I am alive so if I can make a difference to one person then it will all be worthwhile, it’s just a small way of giving back and saying thank you.

Patrick Foster