Wednesday 15th July 2020
Former serviceman, Justyn Rees Larcombe openly and honestly shares with the RAF FF about his parallel life he led gambling; the dangers and how much he lost in the process.
The dark time
It was November, so of course the days were short, but I remember those last weeks as a dark time in my life. I was living off a sack of mouldy potatoes, I couldn’t afford to heat my home which had five months’ rent owing. A home I had once shared with my wife Emma and two lovely young children. I was selling possessions to feed my habit, including the Sword of Honour I had been awarded for graduating top of my officer training at Sandhurst.
The events that led to that ‘dark time’ had begun three years before. Our eldest son, Matthew had been diagnosed with a form of cerebral palsy which affected his right side. He had a major epileptic fit aged 11 months and almost died in my arms, I kept him alive for 40 minutes, by breathing for him, while we waited for the ambulance. I didn’t handle it very well. I had served in the Army for 10 years and it brought back memories of trauma from my final tour of duty. I began to gamble online, keeping it all a secret from Emma. I confess it was a form of escape, an escape which became a very expensive one.
The dangers of gambling
I was able to hide it because we had separate bank accounts and I had a good job working in finance in the City. By the time she found out, we had sold our house and I had not only used up the deposit, but I was so heavily in debt, I wouldn’t get a mortgage. And I had lost my job. I had used my corporate card to run up gambling debts.
Although she initially stood by me, I was spiraling and she was right to leave. But having reached rock-bottom that November day, I decided enough was enough.
About to be evicted and made homeless, I made the decision to seek help.
Initially I sought advice about my debts. I went to a debt advice charity, they wrote to my creditors. I found work again and slowly the debt was repaid. I sought help by reaching out to others in the same situation, being honest and supporting each other. I got some counselling through Gamcare, a free treatment provider I contacted through the National Gambling Helpline. Each day that went by something got better. I began to see some light. Emma and the boys came back, work improved and I began to share my story to give others hope.
Now I run a charity that offers free support for anyone suffering from addiction, my book, Tails I Lose, has given help to many, including the families of those touched by the behavior of gamblers. I also travel round to different units in the forces, warning of the dangers and explaining the reality about gambling when it becomes a problem.
One thing I always make clear. If it is a problem for you or someone you know, talk about it. Don’t leave it until it’s too late. Talk to your partner, friends, family, medical staff, welfare, SAAFA, or call the gambling helpline. There is hope.
You can purchase Justyn’s books, Tails I Lose, or One Day at a Time from all good mainstream book stores. You can also contact the 24 hr National Gambling Helpline on Freephone: 0808 8020 133 or go online to begambleaware.org
This news story is included in the Winter edition of Envoy magazine – the free magazine for RAF personnel and your families too. You can sign up online to have your own copy sent to your home (quarterly).
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This story comes to you as part of the RAF FF’s themed month of July for all things relating to financial matters. As well as our online reference section on finances, you can keep yourself up to date with the information and advice – available by signing up to our (free) weekly eBulletin and/or quarterly Envoy magazine.