I am sitting on the edge of a balcony with both feet dangling out into the darkness. Eyes fixated on the smartphone screen. Waiting for a text that will determine whether I will jump to the asphalt pavement six floors below or crawl back to bed next to the sleeping beauty. Restless. My stomach is churning. The artery on my right temple is throbbing furiously. None of the Yoga relaxation tactics I have tried are working.
The night has an eerie silence. The neighbor’s dog disturbs the stillness with an occasional bark. 1:04 AM. The stars have not come out tonight. Maybe the universe is in sync with the gloom in my heart. A cold breeze sweeps across the balcony, gently lifting the curtain. From where I sit, I watch her sleeping. Snoring softly. A slight smile plastered across her face, totally oblivious of the decision I am about to make. Beautiful dreams baby.
My phone buzzes. I enter the unlock pattern as I say yet another prayer. Is this how my life ends?
See, I am a great looking guy, with a nice job and an amazing girlfriend. I don’t leave the toilet seat up or scratch my balls in public. I love dogs and kids, put on a fresh pair of socks every morning and remember my lady’s birthday. From the surface, I am the perfect man.
But there’s a problem. I have an addiction. Stronger than heroin or coke. I have been able to hide it for so long but this feels like the end of the road. I may not survive tonight.
You understand, right? No? Alright, let me start from the beginning.
I was born in Nakuru 26 years ago to a single mother who is a policewoman. I have one sibling. A sister who is eight years younger than me. Growing up without a male figure in the house meant I only had my mother to learn from and look up to. Mom was overprotective of her children. By default I was a momma’s boy, pampered and sheltered from the harsh realities of the world.
I was not even allowed to play with other kids. I remember this one time she bought me a ball that I could only play within our compound. As a result, I never made any friends. To this day I find it difficult to form and nurture friendships.
The weight of my mother’s influence on me became evident when I joined high school. She had always taken care of all my needs. Suddenly, I had to take care of myself. Reckless became my second name. Every other week I would call home to report on lost items or ask for more pocket money. Nevertheless, I cleared high school and joined a university in the city.
This was my turning point. I now had the freedom to do whatever I wanted without looking over my shoulder. I tasted alcohol and marijuana for the very first time. Drinking cheap whiskey and smoking weed became my favorite pastime activities followed by playing table pool. I can’t count the number of times I skived classes to play pool. It is a miracle how I managed to graduate with fairly good grades and land a job immediately after campus.
Trouble began when a friend introduced me to sports betting. He convinced me that it was the best investment platform even giving me examples of people who had won millions after only betting with a hundred shillings.
He took me through the registration process. We analyzed a few football matches then placed a bet. Although I lost my first bet I was not discouraged. After all, my mother could still support herself so my only commitment was repaying HELB loan.
I began gambling with small amounts like Ksh100 or 200. Over time, I increased my betting amounts to 1,000 bob hoping that will boost my chances of winning. I lost more bets than I won, and decided to place bets on fewer games with more money. For example, if I place a 2k bet and win 3-4k, I find myself betting again with a higher amount. Currently, I place 1-3 games on a single bet slip.
I have active accounts on all major betting sites. If I constantly lose on one site for a week I move on to the next one.
The problem escalated when I won Ksh30,000 and I thought it was time to increase the stakes. Although this may seem like a smart idea, it wasn’t. I placed a Ksh5,000 bet on a single game only to lose it. This was my first major loss. I decided to stake a higher amount (10,000 bob) in order to win back the money only to lose this one as well.
Since it was a weekday, I chose to wait for the weekend when the games were plenty. On Saturday 19 November 2016, Everton, my favorite team, was playing at home. I was certain they would win so I took the remaining 15k topped it with 5k from my savings and placed a bet on a home win. Unfortunately, the match ended with a draw. I was devastated. Hell bent on recovering the lost money, my betting spiraled out of control.
Betting has affected every aspect of my life, especially my productivity. My job requires that I work most weekends which also happens to be when most of the big matches are played. I often lie to my boss that I’m either unwell or dealing with a family emergency so that I can have ample time to analyze the games and place a bet. Sometimes, I go to work late because I stayed up to 1 am for results on the games I placed bets on.
My love life hasn’t been spared either. I am constantly quarreling with my girlfriend as she thinks the reason I am always on my phone is because I’m flirting with other girls when in fact I am getting notifications of scores. The worst part is that I cannot tell her the truth. She swore to leave me if I didn’t stop betting. As far as she knows I stopped. Many times I take out my frustrations on her after losing a game. It pains me that she always thinks it is her fault we are having issues.
The only time I take a break from gambling is when I’m dead broke. Payday comes and I am back. I have lost countless friends for borrowing only to be unable to pay them back.
I have tried to seek psychological help online on different occasions. However, because online sessions don’t have a personal touch, I find them highly ineffective. There is only one way to stop this for good, which brings me back to the present moment.
I have spent the last two nights at my girlfriend’s place. She thinks it is because I want to spend quality time with her. The truth is I lost my rent money. I tried to recover the money by withdrawing all my savings and placing another bet. I lost. I went ahead and borrowed 25k from my mother earlier today, lying that I needed the money for a project, and again, placed another bet on a major game playing tonight.
I am sick and tired of lying to the people I love. I am tired of the pain I keep causing them. Believe me, I have tried my best to stop but I can’t. The urge is too strong. I must win tonight. If I lose then I am done.
If I die tonight, pass my love to my three precious women. Tell the world my story. Warn them not to go down this path. It is a dark, scary and bottomless pit
This is a true story. Justus* asked me to tell his story so that he can get the help he needs before it’s too late. He is suicidal and desperately in need of someone to help him get over his gambling addiction.
I am tired of reading in the news that yet another young person has taken their life after losing a bet. If you are a psychiatrist or know someone who specializes in treating gambling addiction kindly, reach out to me via firstname.lastname@example.org so I can connect you to this brave gentleman.
Written By Mark Maish