THE husband of a woman who grew up in Ashbourne has published a book on how his life was devastated by a gambling addiction – in the hope of helping others.
Justyn Larcombe said writing Tails I Lose was his way of showing the “darker, dirtier side” of the industry, compared to the “glamour” which often surrounds it in advertising.
The 45-year-old explains in his story how, one day, he decided on a whim to place a £5 sports bet online – and how it led to a three-year downward spiral which would result in the loss of his job, home and hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Justyn said he also came close to divorce with his wife, Emma, 40, but – after starting on the road to recovery – she decided to stick by him after “seeing a change in him”.
The couple, who now live in Kent with their two sons, Matthew, seven, and Oscar, four, said they are now trying to rebuild their lives – with Justyn attending Gamblers Anonymous meetings weekly.
He has also addressed a committee of peers in the House of Lords about the need for “one-stop self-exclusion” – where gamblers can bar themselves from betting websites with one click of a button.
Emma, whose parents owned Callow Hall, did at one point split from Justyn during his problems but said it was her children which motivated her to stand by him.
She said: “They missed him terribly, particularly Matty.
“So I wanted to do my best by my children. But I also know Justyn is trying is best. I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t see a change in him.
“People ask me how I can be sure he is not gambling but I am – partly because I can check the bank account but mostly because he is present. When he was gambling, he was mentally and emotionally absent.”
She added: “He’s a different man from the one I married and a better man, because he has fallen so badly.”
In his book, Justyn – who married Emma in May 2007 – explains how he kept his gambling a secret but, at the height of his addiction, he would place up to a thousand bets over a 16-hour period.
He also stumbled into the “murky world” of online loans and, at the same time, he discovered online casinos.
Eventually, he explains Emma found out the truth about his addiction and confronted him, while his family arranged for him to see debt advisers and attend Gamblers Anonymous.
Justyn said he would not accept at first he had a gambling problem. He said: “Online betting rarely feels like spending money – the remoteness of the currency makes the bet seem harmless.
“Gambling was my medication, anaesthetic for the horrible reality of the life I had created.
“So, I wanted people to know that there is a downside to gambling – that, although many people gambled responsibly, there were some whose lives were destroyed.
“There is so much advertising and glamour surrounding the industry, I just wanted people to know the darker, dirtier side.”
Tails I Lose is available to buy on website Amazon priced at £5.98 on the Kindle and at £6.29 in paperback.
'READ MY HUSBAND'S TALE WITH SENSITIVITY':
Emma Larcombe, who grew up in the town, shares her thoughts and feelings on her husband Justyn’s book – Tails I Lose – which explores his own personal experience of how gambling can change your life.
I AM very lucky to have grown up in Ashbourne – a place with a strong sense of community and great rural values.
I am also very lucky to have been part of a large, hard-working and loving family which instilled confidence and security to my upbringing.
That same family and community nourished and supported me and my two young boys when my world imploded at the hands of my husband, a gambling addict.
Justyn’s story is now one of recovery and hope.
He is one of a few who rebuild their lives after addiction, rather than falling onto the streets, into prison or, worse still, suicide.
Part of his rehabilitation is launching into a very public crusade to prevent others from falling into the same pit of destruction and despair.
This includes trying to change the policies enforced on the betting industry at Government level; helping to make businesses more aware, particularly in the trading industries; sharing his story and running addiction recovery workshops to provide structure, support and hope to those in desperation.
Justyn is also attempting to swim the Channel in August, a long-held desire and dream, but also a physical focus to aid his all-round rehabilitation and not least to raise money for Hemihelp – an organisation supporting research and practical assistance for children suffering from a similar condition to our son.
All of this is fantastic but glosses over the pain and destruction and the complex breakdown of friendships, relationships and families as direct result of addiction.
An addict is a selfish person whose compulsion to fund their addiction wipes away any awareness or empathy of the world around them.
There is no rationality. The deception which surrounds an addiction is destructive and long-lasting. Far beyond the slow recovery of the addict themselves, there are longer-lasting scars and misunderstandings for those who were closest to them.
This is where I ask you, the reader, to bring some sensitivity to the reading of this story and all the publicity surrounding it.
Publicity is not something we are all comfortable with.
This story for me is not about the sensationalisation of financials or the tittle-tattle of material objects and stolen possessions which fund an addiction.
This is about families and friends deceived and hurt in a private world made public at a very personal time of rebuilding and resettlement.
Recovery from addiction is a long and complex road, a journey of hope and strength – but also often sadness and loss.
We all have to move forward – regret and disappointment are not helpful attributes in starting over.
We move from the present forward and take stock of what we have remaining. I ask for you to be sensitive to all those affected by this story, directly or indirectly.
One last note – I was fortunate to have a fantastic education, both at primary and secondary level.
Part of my senior school’s strength was to provide life skills, putting on workshops and speakers to educate about addictions and other threats to a happy and fulfilled existence.
We heard from parents of drug addicts, families torn apart by religious sects, even from Susie Lamplugh’s mother about the importance of personal safety and possibility of stalking and so on.
We were made aware of the potential life-breakers. No one is invincible but through knowledge comes understanding and a strong belief in life choices.
Internet gambling is a fairly modern phenomenon but, coupled with easy access to money lending, it is an enormous worry.
An internet gambler does not even have to step outside the front door of their home to squander thousands and thousands of pounds.
Educate, educate, educate. Warn of the destruction addiction can cause to those you love.
Of course, at the point where we are an addict, it is no longer about educated choices but compulsion – but we all start somewhere with a single choice.
I suspect there is a gene which means some of us are more inclined towards compulsive behaviour and addiction than others.
Be aware of this vulnerability in yourself or those around you and try to harness that energy into sport or work or hobbies which challenge and stimulate, rather than wasting it in the destruction of addiction.
Finally I ask once again for your sensitivity with regard to fantastic friends and family that are in anyway a part of this story. Thank you.