I’ve met gamblers before. I’ve sat with them, eaten with them, worked with them. They always amuse me. One because most of them are people of middle or low class so they know what being broke is. Two because of their strong faith in the whole thing. Faith could be a strong word in this case but I lack the precise words to describe what they do.

I’ve seen several of them skip lunch or gulp down water to quench themselves and hopefully stop their stomachs from rumbling. I have seen them deny themselves a proper meal and budget their lunch for anything less than fifty shillings so that they can bet. They would do it everyday, endlessly, with so much anticipation. They would become so engrossed with it that they wouldn’t hear what you are saying especially when someone is telling them how the betting is ruining them.

I would watch and just for a moment, a small tiny moment, envy their faith. How they would dedicate their entire lives to this one thing with the hope that just one day, one brilliant day, one perfect day, they would win more than they ever dream. They would sacrifice their meals and walk to save the fare and cut down any expense that could save them just one more coin for betting. I often picture it like a beggar going to this mansion to request for food. They would arrive at the gate and the dogs would bark so loud chasing them away. They would go back and this time the guard would ask them to leave. Yet, this persistent beggar would use all his means and ways to go back to the mansion and beg. Before they know it, the house owners are slamming doors at him but guess what, this poor man is very insistent on getting anything from this mansion even if it is the left-over food. All this time though, he forgets that he is using up all his energy and remaining coins to go beg instead of using what he has in a better investment. Well, the food beggar is still better than the gambler though. I always wondered how much better their lives would be if they that kind of faith in something else, maybe in their own potential, in God, or their own hard work.

One ex gambler told me his story of how he started betting since he was in form two. Being a football fanatic and wanting an easy way to earn money, he decided that betting would be the best way to channel his passion and focus to. There weren’t many betting sites then but his friend helped him register to one of the sites. Slowly he started betting every other weekend when they would sneak out from the dormitories to go watch football outside. When he got a hang of things, he graduated to betting every day on champions league in mid week and EPL on weekends.

At times he’d lose hope when he lost the bets but later the loses just pushed him further into making multiple bets in a day especially on weekends when many games were being played. He started using up almost all his pocket money on it and seeing that he was losing only by slim margins, he’s be under pressure to get back his money. At that time the bets were 100 Kshs each so he was losing quite an amount for a student, thus, he would put more bets the next day with the hope his money will be regained.

He went on that like that and when he was in form three, he would be too broke that he would call his dad every Monday to ask for money. His father was convinced that his son was smoking bhang, or why else would he need money all the time? Being a notorious boy himself, it was hard to believe otherwise. Spending all his money on this, his pocket money used to be over by the first week of school.

Soon enough he started sneaking with the phone to class so that he could bet during the day. This led him to being suspended from school several times for phone possession and finally in the third term of form three he was expelled.

Sometimes he would earn some money from the betting but he would still use the money on more betting and taking out his friends when they sneaked from school.

When he joined campus, he went on with the same habit and ended up using his fees for one entire year without the knowledge of his father who in his mind knows he has cleared his son’s fees. Campus gave him more freedom and of course more money. The second year he spent an entire semester’ fee on the betting. His idea was he’s invest on the betting and then earn enough for the fees and more for himself. Before he knew it, he had used up thirty thousand out of the forty seven he had for fees. He was now under more pressure to get back the money and he did not know any other way to earn money except by betting.

Soon he was losing friends because he was always on the betting sites, sometimes for a whole day. He wouldn’t want to spend time with people and conversations were bothering him because his mind was always absorbed with the betting. He was avoiding going home lest they ask him about campus and his studying. There was a time he spent his hostel rent on the betting and opted to be sleeping at the entertainment area in the campus. He missed exams due to unpaid fees. Prayers became non-existent to him. Every thing he ever wanted to buy, his mind would automatically go back to betting, like, ‘Let me bet then the profit is what i’ll use to buy the shirt’, ‘Let me bet then if I win I can buy the boots.’ He even sold his phone, bought a cheaper phone just so he could bet. That is how serious it was. Maybe faith isn’t the word after all; addiction it is.

After losing all the fees for the second year, he applied for an academic leave and went somewhere else to stay while his parents believed their son is in campus studying.

He was in his third year; his friends were ahead of him, he was sleeping on the benches and he was ashamed of himself he couldn’t face his dad. At this moment he was just alone.

It wasn’t until last year when campus was being closed and he had to leave the campus when it finally dawned on him. Staying away from home, he went to a friend’s place to stay in the mean while. His friend told him how broke and wasted he seemed and how he really looked like a bhang smoker. His friend would sometimes buy him food because he knew he has nothing. Time came his friend also got tired and started avoiding him. When he’d request for money he’d tell him to go and get it from his father. He didn’t want to go home yet because he was ashamed but his friend too was already bothered with his betting habit.

This got him to keenly look at himself; how rough he looked and he decided it is high time to stop the habit. He would stop for a while but when he’d get money he’d still go back to betting. It was a hard addiction to let go so he had to put more effort to not go down that lane again. He would avoid watching the games in public, he stopped putting money on Mpesa, and would avoid receiving money in big amounts at once.

Last December he lost twenty two thousand in less than a week and that became his last blow. He didn’t play again since then. Its been 8 clean months and that’s huge progress for him. Alhamdulilah.

I would say this is a brave man for coming out openly to share his story so the rest of us can learn from his. For being able to learn from his own mistakes and to let go of his strong addiction. He is among the lucky ones because as he says, many know how damaging it is yet still opt for it. Not everyone gets that chance to start all over again and make lemonade from the lemons they had.

High time we started having these conversations amongst ourselves and with our friends and younger brothers and sisters. May God guide and protect us all from being the enemies to our own souls. Ameen.