As the player with the most caps for the England national team, goalkeeper Peter Shilton was one of the most successful and famous players in the world, but off the pitch Chilton was the victim of a lifelong gambling addiction – until his wife helped him break it off.
Steve Shelton describes, in her own words and words, life with a gambling addict and how she is determined to help others who live with loved ones and family members with the same problem.
Shortly after we met in 2012, I noticed his suspicious behavior. He stepped out of the room to use his phone, and he was suspiciously discreet.
I thought there was another woman, so if you live with a gambling addict, you will inevitably feel like there is a third party in your relationship.
On his phone I saw the same number over and over again, it was the phone number of a betting company.
“I felt there was a serious problem”
At first, when he came out of the room to use his phone to gamble, I thought that he was a gentleman and didn’t like to gamble in front of me, and that it was just a simple hobby.
And one night I woke up and he wasn’t in bed. He was sitting in front of his laptop and a betting form was visible on the screen.
It was midnight and he seemed to be thinking of betting on a horse race in Australia, and of course he could gamble on any race, all over the world, any time he wanted.
Then it became clear to me that this was not just a hobby, that there was a very serious problem, and I realized beyond any doubt that he had a gambling addiction.
I tried to talk to him. I’ve been working in the healthcare sector for a long time, and in that time I’ve seen so many addicts trying to get rid of their addiction, I knew I shouldn’t push him.
When he talked about his addiction he tended to get very motivated, he was in complete denial, he said it was just something he did as a bit of fun. His addiction was mainly betting on horse racing, he knew a lot about horse racing and he knew the managers and players who owned the horses, and it seemed like a way of life.
There is a widespread belief that gambling addicts are usually failures and obstacles; In fact, they are often so intelligent and professionally successful that it is hard to imagine that one is facing a gambler.
The gambler hides his addiction to a great extent. I found it hard to live with because I love Peter.
He has been a gambler all his adult life, since he was 15, that is for 45 years.
He proposed to me and proposed to take me to Barbados for a honeymoon, but I told him: You are a gambler, I cannot marry you, and I am very worried that this addiction will lead you to such has a way that is hard to stop. .
But I never gave him an ultimatum or deadline.
I have taken some measures, the first of which is that I have kept my money separate from his. This is a piece of advice I would like to say to all those who live with gambling lovers: keep your financial independence, and never lend to them does not apply
I noticed that when he got a bank statement, he would tear it up and burn it.
‘You broke my heart’
Then his bank statement came in the mail while he was away from home working in a relatively remote location. I wanted to see how much money he was spending on gambling, and I found pages and pages showing that a lot of his money was going to the gambling company BetFair, he gambled about 18,000 British pounds in one month.
I stood amazed and felt a terrible shock that shook my soul, and I said to myself: “Oh my God, he is so sick,” it broke my heart.
When he found out that I was becoming fully aware of it, he got angry with me, but I told him: You have a disease, it’s an addiction and you need help to get rid of it, and I’m here to help you.
Then I had a miscarriage, and after that incident he was so kind and nice to me that he never gambled, but watched over me and took care of me, and I thought, “Maybe he will stop gambling for me .”
Peter is gambling again but I think he has changed this time, we lost a child that we wanted very much and I think the loss made him worry that he would lose me too.
I felt that he was beginning to realize that he had a serious problem, and that there would be no wedding or honeymoon in Barbados.
Instead of shouting and babbling and losing my balance, I began to approach the problem gradually.
I was very scared for his mental health, it was obvious that he was deteriorating as he was addicted to gambling to the extreme.
Our relationship has always been sweet and fun, but he has fallen into a depressed and withdrawn state.
One of the same days he disappeared upstairs. I could hear him on the phone trying to get money for a job he did. I told him, “I’m going to the spare bedroom, I really need to clear my mind.”
In the morning he looked awful, he had never slept.
“A Deadly Feeling of Loneliness”
“I know I have a problem,” he told me, “I’m going to stop gambling, but I’m going to need you to be by my side and help me.”
We hugged and it was one of the best moments of my life.
I gave up my job to help him, and he went through a very difficult time.
Peter still can’t remember the first week he stopped gambling, when he couldn’t sleep because he had to start a new life.
I fought a daily battle trying to distract him from gambling, to keep him calm. He craved betting and gambling, and within three months he began to calm down. He began to enjoy golf, and we went on nice walks together on the beach.
We got through this together without anyone’s help, and I called the gambling company Betfair and asked them for help, but they never did anything, and they didn’t put any restrictions on his account.
All the while I was trying to deal with my feelings, and I had a feeling of deadly loneliness.
When his father died, I was afraid that it would cause him to deteriorate again, and I had to deal with my fears, obsessions and trust issues.
Five years after he stopped his addiction, we started hearing about children who took their lives because of gambling.
I told Peter he had to do something. His voice would be loud and striking. He was very empathetic and said, “This is what I have to do, I have to try to save lives.”
It took a lot of courage, we did an interview in January 2020 to raise awareness of the dangers of gambling and the next morning we received messages from addicts and from people in their lives who are addicted.
The messages were sad and emotional and crying, there were addicts who decided to get help, because of Peter, and it’s clear that what he’s doing is doing a lot to raise awareness.
But I realized that the family and loved ones of the addict don’t get any help and that is sad, the loved ones and the parents are victims just like addicts and should not be ignored, I was Peter’s antidote and the reason for his recovery .
I got a diploma to become a therapist and spoke to ARA, who had a few jobs.
I started working with the agency since last April, as an ambassador and advisor, working on their project called “Six to Ten”.
This project puts family and friends at the forefront of those who need help; Its name “six to ten” is derived from the number of people affected by one person’s gambling.
This is exactly what is needed – not only the financial side, but also the emotional side. There are angry people, parents who want to tell their children that they are addicted and you have to explain to them, it is not their fault, it is a disease and an addiction no different than drug addiction.
More support is needed for addicts in recovery to give them the best chance of moving on and not gambling again.
To anyone who is worried about their loved ones, I would say: If your intuition tells you that something is wrong, follow your intuition, if you doubt it, prove them right.
You have to be strong to get through it all, and be confident that there is support.
Looking back, Peter and I say to ourselves, “We’re amazing, are we really through all this?” This is an achievement for both of us.
Peter said he was never as happy as he is now, and when he recovered I felt the peace of mind he was in now, and the stability and calm in him, he looked ten years younger and enjoying life.
That was seven and a half years ago.
Ironically, he was one of the greatest goalkeepers in the world and I, the little girl from Essex, managed to save him.
Gambling company Betfair said it had changed its policy since Shelton’s recovery, and in similar circumstances it suspends a person’s account and files a lockout order if there are concerns a customer is out of control.
The story as reported by Laura Devlin