Offaly footballer Niall McNamee has opened up about his recovery from a ‘torturous’ gambling addiction.
In late 2011, burdened by debts of close to €80,000, the Rhode native admitted to a problem, having spent over €200,000 fuelling his addiction.
Having placed his last bet two years ago yesterday, the Faithful captain revealed in a personal online blog how his descent into mental hell had led him to contemplate suicide.
“I was living in a four bed house on my own paying €600 per month and I couldn’t even afford a loaf of bread. Many mornings I woke up in that house and was terrified to face the world so the easiest option for me was to jump out the top window. Thank God I never did, but that seemed to be the only way to stop the torture that was going on in my head.
“November 13, 2011, two years ago on this day I placed my last bet. I have no idea what horse I backed or where it ran but what I do know is that it lost. It had got to a stage that I was no longer able to leave a bookies unless all of my money was gone or the nice lady behind the counter was turning off the TV because they were closing.
“If I was ‘lucky’ enough to have left with some money in my pocket it didn’t matter, I knew I would be back the next day to give it all back.
“Whatever debts or troubles I had would be wiped out if I could just have that one big win to get me back on track. And I had done it before. There were times when I would have turned the smallest amount of money into a huge sum in the space of a couple of hours. That was the problem, no matter how much I had lost I still had the belief that I could win it all back.
“But things were different now. I owed a lot and the desperation within me made me make very bad decisions. I convinced myself gambling, the thing that got me into this mess, was going to get me out of it.”
A simple €50 punt every Saturday during his student days in UCD snowballed into five years of throwing away almost his entire weekly wage in the bookies.
“In August of 2011 I sold my car for half what it was worth. My plan was to use the money to go gambling and clear off all my debts. I lost it within a week. I wanted to put on a show for my family and friends that I was doing well in life when the truth of the matter was I hated myself. I hated the person gambling had made me.
“I would drive to my mothers house when she wasn’t there, let myself in and take food and bring it back to my house to cook it myself and my mind was telling me that this was normal behaviour.
“As the debts got bigger so too did the lies. I would have to duck and dive from people and banks, borrow money from this person to give to another, while saving some of it for the bookies.”
On Wednesday, November 23, 2011, having reached breaking point, McNamee admitted himself to the Rutland Clinic for five weeks’ treatment, attending his first gamblers anonymous meeting the following month.
The intercounty star encouraged all those suffering from a similar affliction not to be ashamed in seeking help.
“The hardest thing for me to do was to admit to someone the trouble I was after getting myself into, financially but more important morally. I had done a lot of things I wasn’t proud of and this was eroding away my soul and my spirit. When I eventually told my father what was going on and explained the trouble I was in it was like the biggest weight imaginable was lifted off me.
“Obviously it’s impossible to avoid it altogether but I do the best I can, if the racing results come on the radio I just switch the station.
“It might sound ridiculous but it keeps me safe and as long as I don’t gamble I can be happy and live a normal life because for years I was in hell and I don’t ever want to go back there. It is two years since I have had a bet and for that I am very proud and grateful. I will thank God tonight for keeping me safe today and will ask him to do the same tomorrow.”
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