Addiction: The depths and the recovery with professional boxer Charlie Duffield

Addiction: The depths and the recovery with professional boxer Charlie Duffield

In my twenties, I suffered from a gambling addiction that plagued my life until my early thirties. Dealing with this addiction daily, I have become intrigued by how others deal with their addiction to gambling and how it has affected their lives. Facing my addiction through talking to others has helped me significantly. I recently had an intimate chat with Charlie Duffield, a professional boxer and ex gambling addict. Here is his story.

The 33-year-old Canning Town-born professional boxer, Charlie Duffield, battles addiction daily and refuses to give in. I decided to approach Charlie Duffield about an interview after seeing a post on his Twitter account from July 16, 2019, about his struggles.

Charlie — 16/6/2019 —British Vintage Boxing

What is addiction and the problems of gambling:

According to the NHS website, addiction is defined as “not having control over doing, taking or using something to the point where it could be harmful to you”.

Gambling is becoming an enormous problem in society. According to a BBC report, as many as 1% of the population has a problem with gambling. The same BBC report stated that, in the year to March 2019, UK gamblers lost £14.4 billion. This is an alarming statistic that shows many lives are being affected.

Photo by DEAR on Unsplash

Gambling is seen by many as a form of escapism — an avoidance mechanism to distract someone from an uncomfortable situation. I found from personal experience that addiction grabs hold of you, and as you will read in this interview, it can damage your life and those around you.

About Charlie’s addiction

“I have battled this addiction for a long time. On occasions, I did not know who or where to turn to for help. It was so stressful”. Charlie continued: “I would lie to cover up the mess I was making. It took a toll on my mental health. I was lying to all the people that loved me”.

Charlie — 29/3/2021 — @CharlDuffield1

The way he talked about lying to cover his gambling is a familiar story to most addicts. When I asked Charlie the reason behind his lies, he replied without hesitation: “I felt ashamed. I did not know how to begin to explain the hole I was in.”

How talking about his addiction helped Charlie

Many addicts struggle to open up about their addiction, and I wanted to ask Charlie how opening up had helped him.

“Yes, I felt like as soon as I spoke out for the first time, I could finally breathe”. Charlie added: “I began to feel relief. I was always scared about speaking up, but when I did, it was so therapeutic.”

The power of opening-up

“One day I had enough, I broke down to my wife Carly and my little brother Frankie. I had to tell them. I couldn’t lie to my wife anymore.” Charlie continued: “Carly was becoming suspicious. We would be saving money, and I would be spending it. We were trying to save for our wedding, and I was losing so much on roulette machines.”

He added emotionally: “When I told Carly and Frankie, I just broke down. It was horrible having to tell them how bad my addiction was. But looking back, it was the first step for me. Without my family and friends, I genuinely do not know where I would be. They have given me the support I needed and an incentive to change and be a better man.” Charlie continued: “I am so lucky to have a devoted wife, a loving family, and some very loyal friends. Before I opened up, I had a constant feeling that I was alone.”

Cognitive therapy — Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

According to the NHS website, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is proven to have a positive impact on all addictions, not only gambling. Talking to your GP about options could be the first step for many people. There are other places to turn to: Gamcare is the leading non-profit provider of support for any affected by problematic gambling — and run face-to-face therapy sessions across the country. More on this at the end of this blog, where I share sources that can help you or anyone struggling with addiction.

Gambling addiction frequently spawns from a life-changing event: a relationship break-up, the death of a loved one or traumatic childhood events. There may be other reasons, such as ambition for more money or unaddressed psychological issues. Finding the reason behind the start of the addiction is key to recovery.

Dealing with loss

A major life event impacted Charlie’s mental health severely and sent him further down the path of gambling. Charlie went through the heartbreak of losing his brother Dean to suicide. “I watched him go from the life and soul of the party to the very pits of despair.” He added: “I wanted to save him, but I couldn’t. I didn’t know how bad things were.”

While dealing with the devastating loss of his brother, Charlie’s gambling addiction was fast becoming a bigger problem than ever. Charlie was grieving for his brother and used gambling as a form of escapism.

Before beginning to deal with his gambling addiction, Charlie confessed to considering committing suicide. Hearing Charlie talk about taking his own life stopped me in my tracks.

The importance of having a healthy outlet

Many people suffering from mental health issues and dealing with addictions often talk about a void in their life.

Charlie seemed to realise boxing could be his outlet and the importance of Mark Tibbs, his trainer, in his continued recovery is evident in his words.

Charlie and Mark Tibbs — 8/May/2021

“Boxing has been and continues to be the therapy I need. I wish I had the strong team in my early twenties that I have around me now. I needed Mark Tibbs back then. He would have kept me in check.” Charlie added: “I am so lucky to have boxing and Mark in my life, keeping me focused on my career and personal life. I still have my bad days. But when I am in the Peacock Gym — I am a lot more positive.”

Charlie and Jimmy Tibbs — 28/May/2021

Helping others

Charlie is now an official ambassador for CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), a mental health organisation leading a movement against suicide. I asked him what being an ambassador for CALM means to him? He drifted away for a moment of clarity and said poignantly: “It’s an honour.”

Charlie spreads positivity through his Twitter account, @CharlDuffield1. After struggling in silence for so long, he now encourages people to open up and talk.

Charlie loves boxing — and uses the sport as a healthy outlet. He is living proof that finding your outlet can help you deal with your addiction, one day at a time.

If you are struggling and in need of support, below are a few incredibly helpful organisations that provide both resources and direct help:

  • Shout Crisis Text Line — you can text Shout to 85258 if you are experiencing a personal crisis, are unable to cope and need support.

  • Talk to Samaritans — they offer 24-hour emotional support in full confidence. You can call them for free on 116 123

  • CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) offers a chat and hotlines service from 5 pm till midnight

  • Papyrus (Suicide Prevention Charity) offers similar service for adolescents and young adults under the age of 35

  • Talk to your GP

If you are in need of support for problematic gambling, below are some helpful organisations that can provide support and resources:

  • Gamcare is the leading provider of information and support for anyone harmed by gambling. They can be contacted 24 hours a day, every day of the year by calling them free on 0808 8020 133.

  • Gamblers Anonymous is a group of men and women who have joined together to do something about their own gambling problem and to help other gamblers. You can find out more by emailing them at info@gamblersanonymous.org.uk. You can also call their National information line on 0330 094 0322