Mental Health

'I Stole To Fund My Gambling Addiction': Former Soldier Tells His Story

An Afghanistan veteran has opened up about his devastating gambling struggle, as new research uncovers the hold of the addiction over many former personnel.

Drew Crainie gambled away the money saved for a family trip to Disneyland and stole to fund his habit during his time in the Army.

The former soldier spoke to Forces News as figures revealed that veterans are shown to be 10 times more likely to have problems associated with gambling when compared to those outside of the forces community.

The study by Forces in Mind Trust and Swansea University found that veterans' gambling was more likely to be motivated by stress avoidance, and that routine screening for such issues should follow service.  

Looking back on 12 years lost to gambling, Mr Crainie said he was originally hooked on arcade machines after joining the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders as a teenager.

His gambling then escalated by playing poker and betting on online racing.

"I was taking out payday loans, I was borrowing money off people that I served with," he said.

"One time I phoned my wife Laura, my girlfriend at the time, and I had lied that the Army hadn't paid my wages into my account.

"She transferred £1,100 into my account and I think it lasted a couple of days and before I know you were going the month with no wages."

Drew Crainie in uniform  (Picture: Drew Crainie).
Afghanistan veteran Drew Crainie has admitted to stealing to help fund his gambling addiction while serving in the Army (Picture: Drew Crainie).

The father of two went to extreme lengths to fund his habit.

Involved with the stores during his time in the Army, he now admits he stole to help pay his debts.

He said he would "maybe go into people's rooms and take money and stuff".

Even after leaving the forces, Drew was struggling to deal with the grip gambling had on him and his life.

"I remember going out to work at night. I was working on the railway at the time," he explained.

"I was going out on track at night and gambling on virtual races with the Disneyland money and thinking it was OK.

"It just warped my mind so bad that the welfare of my family never ever crossed my mind.

"It wasn't until I'd lost the money, I thought what am I going to do here?"

It has now been more than three years since Mr Crainie placed a bet.

And support from Gamblers Anonymous has meant the veteran and his family have been able to take that trip to Disneyland they had planned.

Drew Crainie and family at Disneyland (Picture: Drew Crainie).
After a long struggle with his addiction, Drew Crainie eventually managed to visit Disneyland with his family (Picture: Drew Crainie).

"You just need to speak about how you feel and tell someone about the problems you've got," he said.

"Not to think there's never a way out because there is."

Mr Crainie is now using his experience to help others going through the same issues by highlighting the dangers of gambling addiction on his social media feed.

"It's quite sad to see people who are suffering because I know through my own experience what they've been through," he told Forces News.

"There was never a lot of awareness when I served about gambling. There's just got to be something that's got to change.

"If there's no awareness then these people who are suffering aren't going to know where to go to get help."

If you or someone you know has been affected by the issues covered in this article click here for links to charities that can provide you with expert help, advice and support.

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