The fall and rise of a gambling addict | Justyn Rees Larcombe | TEDxRoyalTunbridgeWells

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on the 17th of August 2013 five million

people woke up and bought a copy of the

Daily Mail some of them may have opened

it up and on the inside seen a story

about how an ex-army major squandered

three-quarters of a million pounds

losing his home his job his family and

his children that person was me I want

to ask why I've asked myself that

question so many times was there a time

bomb inside me just ticking away was it

something that happened because of the

circumstances well I want to share my

story with you and I'll let you decide

three years after that day in August

sorry three years before that day in

August this photograph was taken and I'm

showing you that because I've got a

horrible smug smile on my face and just

behind me is Mount Vesuvius can you see

it there but across the bay of naples

you see in my head I had a Mount

Vesuvius that volcano that erupted in AD

79 destroying Pompeii the volcano in my

head was about to erupt and

catastrophically destroy my life and my

life was good I joined the army

I spent eight and a half years there I

went to Sandhurst and was awarded the

Queen sort of Honor for for graduating

top of my intake for two years I was the

youngest major in the British Army I I

did the all I was commando course so I

was para trained I did all the fun and

exciting things and maybe there's a bit

of a theme there but I was always

Restless and when someone said to me I

wouldn't be promoted for another six

years I left the army aged 30 and I went

off to seek my fortune in the city and I

left the army having led 460 men on a

high-pressure operational tour to being

the junior tee boy in a small insurance

brokerage in in hartfordshire

but I was ambitious

and I'd stay in the office sometimes for

hours after everyone else that left and

I'd get my study out and I'd sit with my

books and I'd I try and teach myself

what I knew nothing about and the

managing director came over sometimes at

nine o'clock when he was leaving and

he'd say what are you doing and I'd say

I want to get on I want to catch up two

years later I had been promoted to one

of the youngest managing directors of a

division of a global financial services

company working in the city of London I

had a six-figure salary oh he had nice

holidays I've married the girl of my

dreams we drove nice cars we we had our

own house together we had a lovely son

called Matthew and another one on the


but everything was not well on the

inside a few things began to happen

around about the time when I'd kind of

thought I'd got everything I could ever

want in life I had a six hour commute

we'd moved up to Derbyshire I travelled

three dowse down to London and three

hours back every day five days a week

but I thought I was okay because I was

making money and I felt that that was

important in life

but I've been passed over for a

promotion and I remember thinking how

angry I felt at that so I've reached a

plateau at work

something else happened our lovely son

Matthew he's the eldest one there 11

months old

I noticed he wasn't really using his

right hand at all and I said to my wife

Emma don't you think it's odd he doesn't

use his right hand she said oh no we got

left-handed people in our family he

could just be left handed and then I

heard a radio interview about someone

who'd noticed that their daughter aged

11 months didn't use her right hand

they'd taken her and got a diagnosis so

that's what we did was Matthew we took

him to see a consultant and within a few

minutes there kant's the consultant said

I believe your son has right-side


he's got stiffness all down his right

side and then his right arm and he's got

no dexterity in his hands we had a scan

and I walked into the consultant office

and saw a picture of my son's brain with

a great big scar on it I said what does

this mean

she said your son has a form of cerebral

palsy he had a stroke when he was born a

bleed into his brain and he'll always

have limited movement down his right

side and as we got up to leave she said

oh by the way I think maybe he's going

to be susceptible to epilepsy just one

week later I was at home as a hot day

Matthew was in my arms and he's his

right arm started to jerk I knew

immediately what was happening I just

didn't know what to do I need everything

wrong I should have just loosened off

his clothing and let him come out the

fitt took 40 minutes for the ambulance

to arrive and by then Matthew had turned

blue his lips were a dark shade of

purple I was breathing for my son giving

him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation

the gambling's came took Matthew away

and that was fine he was okay but I

wasn't I was completely not for six I

totally went into denial and I handle it

really badly

just one week later I was at home doing

something I'd done a thousand times

before I was watching a game of rugby

but this time for the first time I

noticed one of those adverts for a

five-pound Freebirds 18 percent of every

advert on TV is gambling-related now and

for the first time I saw it I got a fine

got my laptop and put the five pounds on

I needed for my free bet and I won and

I've asked myself so many times what

would have happened if I'd lost that

bear I'm pretty sure it had closed my

laptop down thought what a waste of time

but I didn't and you know what I didn't

tell my wife when she came home there

was something not quite right about it I

began to be engaged I began to watch

sport a bit more I began to read the

papers try and understand there and like

first I stuck to the things I knew just

small bets I even worked from home and

told my boss I'd just come into the

office one day a week and then boredom

hit me because I'd finished my work in

the morning and the rest of the day

would stretch out I began to withdraw as

a husband as I gambled more I began to

withdraw as a dad

and then one day I worked out I was

losing more often I was winning that

made me cross because I'm a bad loser

but I'm competitive I'm also very

optimistic I'm expecting to win so I

took a thousand pounds that wasn't

pounds I've never been anything like

that much money before and a placed on

the outcome of a tennis match thinking

if I won I'd win all my money back that

I'd lost and then it will be okay

I lost that bet the first thing I did is

phone my bank I got an overdraft for

another thousand pounds I lost those two

bets and now there was a hole in our

finances and I trusted me completely

with our money but rather than talk

about it tell her or change our habits

like leaders tighten our belts on the

budget I carried on living like we

always lived spending I didn't want

people to know about my habit I didn't

want a difficult conversation I felt

ashamed I felt guilty about what I was

doing and now to catch up this hole I

began to bet more and more frequently I

began to spend more time I began to

spend more money and I thought it was

her she thought it wasn't my job or the

fact we we lived in a town and she knew

how much I loved the countryside so when

someone offered us a good price for a

house we took it I put the equity of the

sale of our house 170,000 pounds into my

own account six weeks later we were in a

rented property where I lived I was in

the office I used and I could see him

are coming up the lane she had a

springer step she was really happy about

something she got to the window and

called up she said just it I found it I

found the perfect house come on come

with me and we saw a beautiful house

that just come onto the market that

would have been perfect

a place where Emma thought she could

have got me back the place where her

children would be safe because by now

that loss had been born as well and then

I remembered I desperately look for a

way out there was a little pond in the

corner and I said - Emma we can't live

here Matthew might fall in and drown

that lovely smile on her face you see

I'd squandered the equity from our

p'tee that's nowhere could afford the

deposit in fact there's no way I'd have

been given a mortgage because by now to

cover up the gap I desperately tried to

borrow you see I thought that I got

myself into this mess I'm the one that

needs to get myself out of it and I

thought that I'd just keep gambling and

that'll be the way through it my own

stupid pride stopped me from getting any

help and because I kept it a secret and

the problem with gambling addiction is

you can keep it a secret there's no

visible signs and part from my mood

swings things just got worse it came to

a head when one day I lost my job

because I used my corporate card on my

gambling account I should have gone home

and told em or everything but I didn't I

told her I'd left that job and gone to

another one you know the lies that I

told my wife were one of the most

hurtful things because that trust we had

was so fragile it was so precious and

she found out because we had friends to

stay and they showed her a bank

statement and said you know what your

husband's doing even my lovely son

Matthew one day he just wanted me to

take him to the swings he said dad

please take me to the swings and the day

that he walked by the way was the

happiest day of our lives and now he

just wanted to spend some time with his

dad we were down at my in-laws house it

was raining so Emma said to me okay take

him but go home first and pick up his

coat so I drove back home I put my hand

on his coat Matthew was asleep in the

front seat strapped in and I remembered

know I put a bet on I thought I just go

and check and I went upstairs and I'd

lost that bet so I went to the most

horrible place you end up when you're a

gambling addict I went to the online

casino I thought I'll just have one

quick spin win that money back that I

should have had in my account and then I

can go and have a good time with my son

two and a half hours later I dented out

my bank account again and went

downstairs and Matthew acquired himself

to sleep and the cheer the tears that

he'd cried were dried on his cheeks what

kind of a dad does that only one who by

now is in real problems when Emma found

out I self excluded myself but there's

two and a half thousand online gambling

sites you could log into and I got an

email from another one a few weeks later

to say a 50 pound Free Bet is yours if

you sign up with us

I thought free bets okay that's not

really gambling and I was right back

into the way I was before this time Emma

could see my morning I woke up in the

house was quiet she left and she'd taken

the children with her and you know what

she was right to leave because I was

self-destructing and rather than go

after her and plead with her to come

back and tell her it would be okay I

just got angry

I sold my wedding band with a lovely

verse on the inside that only we knew

I sold the brightening watch she gave me

one year for an anniversary and then I

took the Queen sort of honor the most

precious thing I owned and I sold it

when I'd spent the 200 pounds in cash

that I'd sold it formed by the way I

cried when I left that shop the next

morning I woke up and I came to my

senses I phoned up the shop and said

I've made a terrible mistake I need to

get my sword back they said we've just

sold it there's no record of who we sold

it to they were dark times there were

times and I think I would have taken one

of two paths either my own life or

committed a serious crime instead my mum

came on my brother they knocked on the

door they'd driven all the way up from

here from Kent I grew up down here

they said you're about to be evicted you

can walk the streets or you can come

back to Kent and try and find some

recovery so I walk around the house with

a plastic bin liner I put my last

possessions together some clothes and

pictures I said goodbye to my boys they

weren't there but the rooms where they

their beds were still unmade from the

day they'd left I was completely broken

totally humiliated

but I needed to be and with my pride

broken things got better that night I

went back to the room I'd left 43 years

old and I'd left that room when I was 18

about to go out to the world and make my

fortune and now I had 43050 73,000

pounds worth of debt and a black bin

liner of stuff so I got down on my knees

and I prayed I just said God I'm sorry

heal me if you can that day was a day in

November 2012

it's the last day I've ever gambled I

don't take that lightly every single day

I take one day at a time and I protect

what I do it was difficult at first

because I had no self-esteem I was a

really just broken person I began to

swim and I swam across the channel two

years ago to raise money for my son's

charity Hemme help the boys came back in

fact it was an amazing year 2014 my

family came back I wrote a book a

best-seller on Amazon on on gambling

addiction I started a charity called

recovery - because I wanted to help

other people and now this charity offers

recovery courses 15 session courses

completely for free and then since

November last year 27 new courses have

sprung up up and down the country I've

got a great job now - apart from writing

textbooks which actually helped me to

pay all my debt back and when I paid my

last penny of debt back I volunteered

for the debt charity that helped me get

out of debt and I see people every month

now that means a lot to me that I can

help I can give something back but three

years I was so selfish I live for me and

that's all I did I pushed everyone away

and even the people I loved and I did

love them I pushed them away I'd love to

say that we were a family again

even now but that trust I talked about

that we're so fragile it was lost we got

divorced this year but I emma is one of

my best friends and spending time with

my boys now is what matters to me even

that sort of honor came back

after three years of being away someone

found it online life is better now life

is better with my priorities in the

right order life is better when I don't

gamble I had to take that newspaper and

sit down with my twelve-year-old son my

eldest son when he was 12 on the day it

came out I get I got him to read the

article and then I said to him

everything that I'd done he looked me in

the eyes and he said dad you've mucked

up don't do it again I don't intend to

thank you very much