Christmas is a time of year when families traditionally get together for fun and festive cheer.
And the Bradford family in Sheffield are no different – except it’s just over a year since dad-of-three David got out of jail for stealing tens of thousands of pounds from his employer to fund a secret gambling addiction.
David, aged 59, had kept his family, including wife Denise, aged 63, in the dark about his secret habit, which had spanned some 30 years.
But Denise, along with twin sons Alex and Ryan, 19, and their older brother Adam, 23, have tried to accept David back into the family as they embark together on the daunting task of stabilising their dire financial situation, securing the family home which is at risk of being repossessed and – most importantly of all – rebuilding their damaged trust and love.
“The relationship with my family still has the demons of my past – they were the most affected by my actions but also the most supportive,” says David, as he prepares to spend Christmas at home with the family.
“You wouldn’t expect those hurt most would do the most to help you but that is one big plus for me - that they are here. I have a second chance.”
David descended into a toxic cycle of gambling over a period of three decades.
He took out 21 credit cards and loans to gamble online – and secretly remortgaged his family’s home in Waterthorpe.
The businessman was taken on as a financial controller by a company in North Wales and was to be paid monthly – but he sometimes paid himself two or three times in a month.
Between January 2011 and October 2012, he stole £53,690.
In court he pleaded guilty to fraud and dishonestly obtaining money, and received a two year jail sentence. He spent eight months in prison before being released on licence a few weeks before Christmas last year.
David says: “In prison, although it was an isolated and unfriendly place to be, it gave me one thing – which was a rescue from the things that had got me there. But it was definitely a punishment in every other way.
“The first face I was saw when I left prison Adam’s. He came to meet me and it was then that I started picking up real life emotions again.”
Adam, a well-known young entrepreneur in Sheffield, said he felt his family had become the ‘shame of Sheffield’ and he has done a lot of work with his dad since to raise awareness of gambling addiction as a health condition.
Adam says: “It was a big black smoke around my dad and that was caused by how extreme it all was, how the news had picked it up and we’d never had to deal with that before.
“We were the shame of Sheffield - that’s what we turned into at the time.
“We have had to put a lot of work in to try and change that and use this story as an example or education that if we don’t do something, gambling addiction is going to be just like alcohol addiction or drug addiction.”
Adam got David involved with his own awareness campaign, #gambleresponsibly, where they have tried to take on the gambling industry in an effort to prevent others falling into the same destructive spiral as David.
David, who has undergone counselling and attended support groups, says: “Adam and I have been able to make some significant differences, campaigning for a more responsible industry, liaising with Downing Street and the NHS. Those are things I feel proud about.”
This Christmas, the Bradfords will be enjoying all their usual festive traditions including a turkey dinner, board games around the table and spending time with loved ones.
But as they look towards 2016, they know they still have a big battle ahead.
Adam says: “This is going to be a process that takes years and years.
“This is just year one, and year one has been all about trying to understand what’s happened. We are in this really tricky situation with the mortgage company and we are having to find money out of thin air. It’s been a rocky road.”
Adam says next year will also be a last chance for David to find a job and take a lead on sorting out their ongoing problems to prevent the family from falling apart for good.
Adam said: “2016 is going to be crunch time. In January, if he doesn’t get a proper job we need to consider what we are going to do.
“At the moment we’re paying for a whole family on one person’s wage – and it certainly isn’t a £71,000 wage like he had.
“We have helped him to ride the storm but now it’s time for him to take charge.”
David adds: “There are a few things I hope for in the New Year.
“I would like to continue our campaigning and making a difference in the gambling industry.
“I would like to secure a future for my family as a normal dad and husband, which means resolving some issues with keeping the house.
“I would like to be in meaningful employment.
“But more than anything else, I would like to see my family happy.”
n For more information about the Bradfords’ work to raise awareness of gambling addiction, visit www.adam-bradford.co.uk
GAMBLING ADDICTION - THE FACTS
n Gambling addiction, also known as compulsive gambling, is a type of impulse-control disorder. Gambling addicts cannot control the impulse to gamble, even when they know it is hurting themselves or their loved ones.
n Compulsive gamblers cannot stop thinking about gambling and it is all they want to do. They will gamble when they’re up or down, rich or poor, happy or sad – even if they know the odds are against them.
n Gambling addiction is known as the ‘hidden illness’ because there are no obvious physical signs or symptoms like there are in drug or alcohol addiction. Compulsive gamblers will go to great lengths to hide their gambling.
n You may have a gambling problem if you feel the need to be secretive about your gambling, have trouble controlling it, gamble even when you can’t afford it, or if friends and family are worried.
n A loved one may have a gambling problem if they are becoming increasingly defensive about their gambling, suddenly become secretive about their money and finances, or are increasingly desperate for money to fund gambling.
n There may be as many as 450,000 problem gamblers in Great Britain. Seek help at www.gamcare.org.uk, or visit www.gamanon.org.uk if you are affected by a loved one’s gambling problem.