The first time I set foot in a bookmaker at 19, I became a gambling addict – spending millions of pounds. Then, in my darkest hour, my brother saved me and I vowed to help others recover

When I followed a group of similarly hungover friends into Coral on a chilly Saturday morning in October 2006, I had never set foot inside a bookmaker before. I was 19, and weeks into my first year at university. The extent of my knowledge of gambling was a gentle family flutter on the Grand National each year.

My mates knew rather better what they were doing, striding towards the corner to collect a form for their “accumulator”, and a blue plastic pen. I watched a middle-aged man feeding £20 notes into a fixed odds betting terminal. After 10 minutes, he hit the machine in rage and, with a cigarette lit before he was out the door, stormed towards the nearest ATM. I watched this debacle unfold in bemusement and, as I settled into his bucket chair, thought how foolish he must be.

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