When The House has the Edge:
3 Addiction Insights from a Footballing Great
Read Time : 4 minutes
It was in an unassuming hotel on the edge of Antrim town, at a Mental Health Seminar, organised by The BREMAR Group, that I was privileged to experience one of the greatest live keynote speeches I have ever attended.
In a speech filled with wisdom forged through his personal turbulent personal battle with a life of gambling addiction, these insights, from footballing great Oisín McConville, shone bright.
Perception vs Reality
To the outside world and to his teammates Oisín had it all - landing at training in his flash car, high-fiving players and staff before games, putting his collar up before entering the park to dominate at club and county level, regularly in front of 82000 fans at Croke Park, not to mention the houses and pubs he was buying.
Little did people know that these behaviours were a facade to masquerade his insecurities, stemming from, in his eyes, an unjust admission to a grammar school because he could ‘play a bit of ball’, and a gambling addiction. The Sunday Game didn’t see him at his lowest point sat in an empty flat watching a fuzzing television screen through to the early hours before heading up to a bare mattress lay on the floor as his business fell apart.
His message was simple, in a world where ‘perception is king’ communities must dig deeper, sign-post services and most importantly name the very social problems they are trying to tackle, be that alcohol, gambling, drugs or mental health in order to empower its members to recognise their signs and to seek help.
Communities must also not assume that invisible is synonymous with not happening. In a world where few under 18s have set foot in a bookmakers, many of them are regularly using online gambling platforms, often unbeknownst to their parents.
The Three Consequences of Addiction
Addiction has three consequences:
Ironically the most spoken about consequence for those recovering from addiction but the easiest to remedy - once the addiction is controlled, the money is usually there to make a full financial recovery.
Every moment for an addict is spent obsessing about the addiction. For the gambler this is looking at form guides, betting strategies, constantly running permutations and plotting where the next bet will come from.
The addiction consumes all of their time to the point where they withdraw from activities they usually enjoy and the company of those outside of their addiction.
3. The Depths of Addiction
The addict will do whatever is necessary to feed the addiction. Lying, borrowing and stealing are all too common symptoms and the shame surrounding the addiction and actions as result of the addiction make it extremely difficult for addicts to seek help.
Addiction Becomes Compulsion
Akin to the person who regularly checks his phone and favourite apps on an airplane despite there being no signal - addiction becomes compulsion.
For the last five years of his gambling addiction, Oisín didn’t enjoy gambling and actively wanted to stop but was acting compulsively until he received the professional help he needed to quit for good.
Oisín’s keynote highlighted that the house is stacked against us as big companies employ psychologists to create ‘addiction for profit’. Whether it is drugs, alcohol, gambling, gaming, television or social media, we as a community must address these topics openly and name the problems before supporting those who are struggling or already in crisis.
For those in the grips of addiction, you must not lose hope. As Neil Gaiman so eloquently reminds us:
‘Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten’.
If you personally, or as an institution, have been affected by the addictions outlined in this article, please contact the relevant body or BREMAR Training, Consultancy and Counselling.