Justyn Rees Larcombe had a family, a home, a wonderful family and a prestigious City career, and then lost it all due to an all-consuming gambling addiction. In ‘Tails I Lose’ he tells the story of his addiction and loss, and of his recovery and new-found hope.
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Justyn Rees Larcombe
This must have been a hard book to write – how did you feel about placing your darkest moments in print?
It wasn’t easy at all. I found myself returning to a very dark place, a place I had left far behind. When I could hardly see my computer screen through my tears, I called the editor and asked her if this was normal. She told me unless I went back and re-lived the moment, the book would feel too clinical, too removed. I had to take the reader back with me. She told me sometimes writing was like sitting down at a desk, opening up a vein and typing. That helped a lot.
How would you describe the rationalisation that must go on to justify compulsive gambling?
Like any addiction, the addict looses all rational thought; any logic goes out of the window. The things I did and the things I hear others have been capable of are quite breath taking. The compulsive gambler has a quite sensational ability to delude themselves, to override any sensible decision and that’s why there are people in prison, broken families and, tragically, people who have taken their own lives. It is the consequences of these self destructive decisions that make this form of addiction so dangerous. Many argue it is an illness.
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What is the solution for society – legislation, education or something else?
In the UK gambling is seen as a recreational activity and the huge proliferation in advertising (much of which aimed at the young) means there is a danger we might be normalising an activity for the next generation Gambling is an activity that most people responsibly participate in (74% of all adults in the UK have gambled in the last 12 months), but for some it has quite horrific consequences.
So we need to focus on some simple protection measures for the compulsive gambler (450,000 people is one conservative estimate)aimed at helping to prevent, and where necessary treat, compulsive gambling behaviour. Such as:
- Compulsory education in schools (drug and alcohol addiction is compulsory, but not gambling)
- Advertising should only be shown after 9pm (16 to 24 year olds are the fasted growing age group calling the helplines)
- Independently funded research into the issue (currently the gambling industry have too much control over the research as there has been little independently funded research)
- More adequate treatment for the issue which would also raise awareness of this little understood addiction.
Do you think that compulsive gambling is as much of a problem in the church as for the rest of society?
There has been some research into drug and alcohol addiction and other forms of addiction (such as the use of pornography) amongst our congregations and the results show similarities to other parts of society. I found that quite surprising. On that basis, I would expect there to be problems in the church in relation to gambling. It touches all parts of society, young and old, male and female, rich and poor. I have run a Christ based addiction recovery course at my church and the hardest thing I found for those in our churches is actually talking about the problem openly for the first time. But the most wonderful thing for Christians is that through Christ, we can be set free from the chains of addiction this world would like to bind us with.
What can churches do to help with this problem?
Without any hesitation I would say to be open and non-judgemental. To accept that there are probably people suffering from secret habits in our congregations and to make it somehow easier for people to talk about the issues. The Recovery Course is a wonderful course that was devised by Holy Trinity Brompton and follows the same format as the Alpha course. Course material (including DVD testimony and talks) is available from HTB at no cost. Maybe a group of churches could get together and run one, not just for Christians, but as a really effective outreach to our communities.
Do you think it is ethical for churches to use the proceeds of gambling such as lottery money?
I can only speak for myself here. Personally, I am not against gambling. I know that I will never be able to gamble again, but I have seen the destruction that it can cause at first hand and have even lost a good friend who took his own life because of it. I believe that the leadership of each church should consider carefully and wisely the sources of all their funding. One thing I am sure of, that the tide is turning in our society in relation to gambling. There is a growing problem that is beginning to be recognised and I think the lid will be lifted at some stage. When that happens, the proceeds of gambling might be viewed in a slightly different light.
How would you describe the life you now live?
I have nothing like the income I once had when I worked in the city, but my life is so much richer. I have discovered that money is not important, people and relationships are. I have a regular walk with God and my faith is everything to me. It is my rock and my foundation. I feel so very happy to have been given another chance to be a proper father and a husband. I intend to live one day at a time in all its fullness. Having spent so long taking, I now love nothing better than giving. Giving my time and my energy to others and my trust is in Christ – not the spin of a roulette wheel!
What do you hope people take away from your book?
I hope people who read it will gain a better understanding of the subject of gambling addiction and addiction in general. That it can effect us all if we let down our guard. But, ultimately I want people to know there is hope, healing and restoration through Christ.
Buy ‘Tails I Lose’ for just £7.99 (RRP £8.99)