A warning from Craig Walding about the dangers of gambling addiction

Senior Reporter

The pandemic took a little bit of something from everyone. Some lost the will to do things they love, others lost their jobs, and many picked up habits that left them in a rut.

Craig Walding, a 36-year-old man from Wales, managed to go a bit deeper than most. He gambled away £40,000, got into heavy debt, and online betting addiction took a severe toll on his mental health. 

A warning from Craig Walding about the dangers of gambling addiction
Craig Walding. Photo: walesonline.co.uk / Rob Browne

Craig occasionally gambled even before the pandemic wrecked everyone’s routine, but it was only during the lockdown that this risky form of entertainment took over, prompting him to put it all on the line. Infrequent sports betting turned into a monster that was quite hard to defeat amidst a financial crisis and crippling debt. As already mentioned, Walding lost £40,000, but at one point, he failed to use the brakes and managed to drop £20,000 in one single night.

Walding works for the National Health Service - public health service in the UK. So he was leading a healthy lifestyle full of goals and aspirations. However, living alone and sinking into a vortex during the lockdown wasn’t as easy as expected, and online gambling filled the empty spaces and did what any gambling addiction does - sent him into a horrifying spiral. Craig shared that he was considering killing himself, as the overwhelming amount of dept and loss became too heavy of a burden to carry.

Thankfully Craig did something that most are too ashamed to do - reach out for help. By the time he did so, he had taken out massive loans and saw no light in his future. He worsened his situation by taking said loans from companies that charged insane interest rates and, and he simply couldn’t see a way out as the debt began to suffocate him.

Aside from admitting he had a gambling addiction, he went the extra mile and decided to use his testimony to reach individuals going through the same issues.

“...I was either going to end things or I had to reach out for help. I decided to do the latter, thank God,” Craig mentions when telling his story.

Here are some of the statements Walding shared with the news reporter:

Things got really, really bad,” recalled Craig. “I live on my own, and all my coping mechanisms - going to the gym, seeing friends, having plans - were taken away and I was constantly on screens instead.

There were lots of adverts everywhere, especially on social media, and companies were sending out promotional emails when lockdown started.

I remember one company was offering a free £5 bet because of the pandemic - at the time I obviously thought that was great, but looking back now I can’t believe how awful that is.

I had never really struggled with my mental health before, but then I felt unstable and everything got completely out of control.

Not everyone has the humility to share such details with their family and friends, let alone the rest of the world. However, taking this step certainly saved his life.

Craig is now getting help with his gambling addiction and is working to slowly repay his debt. However, he isn’t doing this alone. As shameful as it may have been exposing this internal wound, it also prompted people to start fundraisers to help Walding get back on his feet financially. He received the support he probably never expected to have.

And now, the guts of the story...

There are a few things to draw from this read. Craig’s story is a valuable example of many important principles. First, isolation can lead to terrible things that many of us wouldn’t imagine doing. Having a healthy social life is the backbone of humans’ mental health, and if taken away - it creates an idle mind. And as they say… “an idle mind is the devil’s playground.” It’s essential to find healthy activities to engage in when things like this nonsense of a pandemic take place.

Secondly, reaching out for help is in no way shameful or demeaning. There are always people who are willing to help with struggles such as this one. Perhaps it won’t always be friends and family, but the overwhelming amount of treatment centers and programs leave no excuse for suffering alone.

As weird as this may sound, wearing your garbage is the best way to change the world and influence the lives of other individuals. Meaning that concealing flaws and shortcomings may help you maintain a good reputation, but being honest about weaknesses is what will set massive transformations into motion. You can’t change the world if the messiest thing you’ve ever dug through was your sock drawer. Those who have gone through addictions have the advantage of knowing what the struggle is like, and others who fell into the same trap will be able to relate. In other words - pain recognizes pain.

Lastly, gambling isn’t just risky in terms of losing money. Not everyone who enjoys occasional betting will go to extreme lengths, just like not everyone who eats at McDonald’s is going to become obese. But when it gets bad, a gambling addiction can result in a shakedown that’s hard to recover from. All creation in moderation is the best motto to live by in this regard.

But if you’ve crossed the line and you feel like gambling games are now playing you - do yourself a favor and seek out professional help.

Many people don’t like to admit this, but failure to ask for help is deeply rooted in pride. Don’t give yourself any excuses as to why you should struggle alone - not one of them will be sufficient when you are left with nothing if your addiction wins. Your reputation is as worthless as all other materialistic things in life compared to the health of your heart, body, mind, and spirit. Ask for help, and turn your story into a weapon to help fight for others walking in your shoes.

Perhaps you are a responsible gambler. Still, do not underestimate the power of addiction that could consume you if you don’t set boundaries for yourself. Dependency is a gradual process, and no one is completely prone to it. But that’s something you will never have to worry about if you’re strict with yourself. Never fully trust your own desires - human beings are a fickle creation. Watch how much you spend, set a limit, and don’t let excitement cloud your judgment when you win. Craig Walding’s story doesn’t have to repeat.

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