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'It saves lives': Support group for compulsive gamblers to open in Upminster

PUBLISHED: 07:00 07 August 2018

A new Gamblers Anonymous group is set to meet for the first time in Upminster later this month. Pic: Daniel Hambury/PA Archives

A new Gamblers Anonymous group is set to meet for the first time in Upminster later this month. Pic: Daniel Hambury/PA Archives

PA Archive/Press Association Images

An ex-gambler is starting a daytime support group for compulsive risk-takers.

Barry – who asked for his full name not to be published – the organiser of the new Upminster branch of Gamblers Anonymous went to his first session 44 years ago.

“It’s two hours a week. It saves lives. That’s why I’m so passionate about it. It saved my life,” Barry said.

He added that by going to meetings he came to realise he could get from life what he thought betting would offer.

“When you’re gambling you imagine you’re going to have the world, a house, a car. But it’s when you stop that you can have those things because there’s money in your pocket,” Barry said.

Compulsive gamblers can feel they have a mountain to climb often having alienated work, friends and family by stealing money to fund the habit. It can have a serious impact on physical and mental health.

“It’s an illness,” Barry said. “It’s something you can’t stop, an addiction. You can’t just get a pill from a doctor. That’s why we need places like Gamblers Anonymous.”

And placing a bet is easy with betting shops lining High Streets across east London, according to Barry.

“They draw the poor man in. They draw the working man in. Once you’re hooked on the machines that can be it. If anyone has a compulsive nature it’s very easy to fall off the wagon. It’s the hardest thing to stop,” he said.

Barry has witnessed GA help thousands of gamblers from bank managers to policemen to teenaged children.

The organisation hosts groups in Gidea Park, Brentwood, Romford and Basildon.

A typical support session involves members aged 16 plus talking sharing experiences. The first free Upminster meeting offering support for people working in the night-time economy is on August 20 from 12 noon to 2pm at the Church of Saint Laurence in Corbets Tey Road.

“Once you walk through the door help is there with tea, a biscuit and smile. People won’t be interrogated.

“If you want to stop, then come. Your life will change,” Barry said.

For more visit the Gamblers Anonymous website or drop into a session.

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