Stacey Goodwin speaks to ITV News Central Reporter Lucy Kapasi about how her gambling habits escalated and how she has overcome them
For eight years Stacey from Chesterfield in Derbyshire spent every moment she could on her phone gambling online - alone and in secret.
She felt alone and wanted help. She'd search for hours to find a female celebrity or any woman who had spoken publicly about their gambling addiction.
Now in recovery, Stacey makes daily TikTok videos on her phone, reaching out to other women in the depths of gambling addiction - offering the help she wished she'd received earlier.
Miss Goodwin looked back at how it all began when she was a teenager.
She said: "One day me and my friend decided to put a pound bet on and we won and that's where it all started.
"I promised myself I wouldn't use a note but then I did and then I was spending days going from bookie to bookie, and then I found online gambling, no one was watching me. I could do it anytime I wanted.
"The limits on what I could put on there were much lesser than in the actual shops. And so from there it just escalated.
"I actually felt quite embarrassed in the bookmakers going up using my card because it would mean that I would have to see somebody at the counter.
"But online, I was able to immediately transfer hundreds and hundreds within seconds, and so I was able to put on much more than I ever would be able to win in the actual shop.
"I lived with my mum and then I got a little place of my own, which I was incredibly proud of and I loved but because of my gambling I lost it."
Stacey Goodwin lost a £50K jackpot win within a few days
Stacey said the effect her addiction had on all her relationships was devastating.
"I would constantly lie to people. I actively looked to manipulate them for money because I was so desperate to gamble and try and get out of the situation that I was in.
And so all of my relationships became broken. And that's what added, I think, to me feeling so alone in my addiction.
"Over the years, I would get a buzz for a long time from just playing but when the debts started to come in, there was a point when I kind of thought, I'm not enjoying this anymore.
"Then towards the end of my addiction, I didn't play for a buzz at all. I didn't get any kind of enjoyment. It was simply that I couldn't feel normal until I'd done it. It was like something was screaming at me saying, I need to gamble.
"I think I convinced myself throughout that winning a jackpot would make it better. I just needed a jackpot and then all my debt would be gone. But then I did win it and I lost that within a few days of winning it. That was 50 grand.
"At that point, I realised this actually has nothing to do with money whatsoever. It's not going to make me better. It's not going to fix everything. And that was kind of the one of the worst and best moments because it made me realise that I needed to get help.
"There were times throughout my addiction, and after I lost, I did make a couple of attempts to end my life because I didn't want to be trapped in it anymore.
When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or click here to find your nearest branch.
"I missed out on so much. I think being a teenager and then in my early twenties it was a time I should have been understanding who I was and having fun.
"I should have been out at midnight partying with my friends while instead I was sat on a toilet gambling.
"I missed out on watching my nieces grow. I was worried about how I was going to pay if we went out for a coffee so I couldn't be present. And then the simple things like actually having a good diet and being healthy and joining in a gym or join in the cinema."
Her mum Sue Lancashire told ITV Central it was horrific to watch her daughter's decline.
"She went from a lovely kind happy girl to a nervous wreck that lied. I was petrified I was going to lose her.
"I'd go to bed at night and constantly think the police were going to knock on the door and tell me that she'd ended her life."
'I thought I was going to lose her', Stacey's mum says she was 'petrified' over her daughter's gambling
Stacey felt so ashamed that she managed to keep her addiction hidden from her best friend Leighann Moss for four years even thought they lived together.
Ms Moss said: "I don't really like to talk about it because it isn't nice but there were a lot of lies, excuses, manipulation that happened that it's really hard to forgive. But I have because I knew the person she was before this took hold of her."
Stacey said one of the reasons she feels compelled to help so many other women now is the lack of support she had.
"I used to search and search for a female celebrity that had been through it and couldn't find one anywhere. I was just left feeling even more like this doesn't happen to women and I felt so lonely.
"I tried a Gamblers Anonymous group who do brilliant work but I was a 22-year-old woman in a room full of men and I was so scared I didn't go back."
According to the charity GambleAware:
The number of women seeking treatment has doubled in the past five years.
One million women are at risk but two in five are unwilling to ask for help due to stigma and embarrassment.
Gambling online is many women's preference with the rate of growth almost tripling during the pandemic.
Women are more likely than men to say their gambling has caused them mental health issues like anxiety.
Liz Karter who has been working in the field as a therapist for 20 years says many women initially take up gambling as an escape.
"One woman who had a relapse was wearing a sports watch at the time and it registered that she was in a deep sleep while gambling. But part of the appeal is the losing of oneself and switching off from your thoughts makes it so easy to lose track of how much money and time is spent."
It was the Dudley-based charity Gordon Moody where Stacey finally got the help she needed on a short retreat for women.
Now the organisation is about to open its first women only residential centre in Wolverhampton.
Rob Mabbet from Gordon Moody said the organisation had made the decision based on demand.
'The whole world stopped because I realised I wasn't alone'
"It's based on need, this is very much an area where we see the need for women needing gambling support. I also think there's a wider conversation we need to have about women's wellbeing, 75% of those women that approach us for treatment have a mental health diagnosis and over half have experienced suicidal tendencies and tried to act on those."
Stacey says the relief she felt on the retreat was immense.
"When I got there I heard other women speaking about gambling and the whole world stopped for a minute because I realised I wasn't alone.'
Stacey is now in recovery but it's an ongoing process. She still gives her phone to someone to look after on payday.
"It is everywhere I look, I go into a shop and I am bothered by the scratchcards because they are a huge tower and they're at the front of the shop and they're colourful. And if there's two people in front of me, I can't help to this day but stare and imagine which one I would buy.
"I have to be so aware of that because it's very easy to go into autopilot and buy some. At a football match I have to be aware of all the adverts.
"I have to remember my triggers. If I had if I had any excessive emotional feeling that would trigger me to gamble. So not only feeling incredibly low, but also if I have a really good day, I have to be careful."
Her work to help others started with a one minute video she put out to let girls and women affected that they were not alone.
That's escalated into a support network she runs on TikTok along with private spaces for women to meet up and talk.
"It's become a huge support not only for me but for other people. I just put what I needed so badly. Somebody to watch and talk about it honestly and and tell them that you're not on your own.
"Every morning I wake up and get messages from women at different stages saying 'thank you'.
"They'll say: 'I'm going into treatment. Thank you so much'.
"And then of course, the absolute ultimate is if they successfully abstain. And I can't express how happy it makes me because somebody to talk to is what I needed so badly.
While Stacey can once again laugh with family and friends her recovery is ongoing. She's got back into drawing, one of the many things she stopped during her addiction.
Stacey has more than 80,000 followers on TikTok where her handle is the Girl Gambler. She receives around 40 messages a day from women and girls seeking help.
She says she'll continue to share her story to help women know they're not alone and it is possible to stop.
The government says its review of gambling laws is the most comprehensive in 15 years - they'll set out the vision in the coming months.
Meanwhile, the Betting and Gaming Council says they've pledged an increase of a hundred million pounds for research and treatment and added that according to new figures by the Gambling Commission, the rate of problem gambling is falling.
Help and advice on problem gambling and how to block gambling software on your devices
GamCare - offers free information, support and counselling for problem gamblers in the UK. It runs the 24/7 free National Gambling Helpline (0808 8020 133) and al offers face-to-face counselling.
GambleAware - provides information to help people make informed decisions about their gambling.
Epic Restart Foundation - offers activities to equip those recovering from gambling harm with useful and constructive tools.