Mat Crompton has always had a passion for sport. He grew up playing soccer, not only for the execution of skill but the experience of being ‘lost in the moment’.
As a university student, he got involved in social poker games that turned into solo sports betting.
‘Put together with my knowledge of sport, I believed I could control things,’ says the sports fan. ‘My intelligence was giving me a tangible reward.
‘It crept up to hours a day gambling, but the more you intellectualise it the more you think you’re in control.’
And so the social withdrawal that can go hand in hand with gambling left him lacking the stimulation of new relationships in his late teenage years.
'I was gambling because I wanted to feel something – happy or sad, a win or a loss,' continues Mat. ‘It gave me connection without the fear of it going away.’
As Mat started chasing losses, he was spending more time in front of multiple screens, including his phone.
‘I have a personality type that really values control,’ he says. ‘There’s an inherent risk in gambling but also a desire for control of that risk.
'You do feel exhausted. The strain of your betting builds up within you. There's a deep sense of emptiness after you’ve lost a bet.’
Mat moved to London to take up a full-time job and more money led to him betting voraciously.
It was only a dawning awareness of how different the lives of his contemporaries were that pulled him up.
‘Gambling was like a grace period when there were no social pressures,’ he says. ‘But having responsibilities becomes the norm and my abnormality became overwhelming.’
The man who applied his intellect to gambling then used that intellect to quit.
Through self-reflection and reading about the nature of addiction, Mat redirected his desire for control into control over his addiction.
‘I needed to understand why I was gambling before I could change my behaviour,’ continues Mat. ‘When I understood why, emotionally and intellectually, it gave me the freedom to make a conscious choice to not gamble.
‘Overcoming gambling has given me so much in terms of learning who I am. Now I know I have the character to deal with life.
‘Every gambler should ask themselves why. And find connections before they’re gone.’