A former teacher whose gambling addiction almost led to suicide says he now has a “new lease of life” giving talks to schoolchildren across the country.
At the start of each month, history and Latin teacher Patrick Foster, 31, would blow his entire wage packet “on a handful of horse races and a football match,” and would often be forced to take out loans and borrow money from friends and acquaintances to get through the rest of the month.
“Trying to maintain my gambling on a teacher’s salary of about £30,000 a year was next to impossible, but I was at a boarding school, so I had a bit more disposable income. “You initially get a thrill from gambling but as the addiction develops, you become numb to winning and losing and just want to be in the game.”
Foster’s appetite for gambling started when he worked as a trader in the City. He went into teaching partly as a way of escaping that lifestyle but found the extra time on his hands during the school holidays made the habit worse. He was sacked by his prep school after seven years owing to the effect that gambling was having on his work life.
After racking up debts of around £150,000, he tried to win it back with one final bet – with a stake of £50,000 on a single horse – and vowed that if it lost he would kill himself. Of course, it lost. And Foster was minutes from death on a railway track, near Slough, waiting for the train to come – until he reached out to his brother in a text message. As a former professional cricketer (who was released by Northamptonshire County Cricket Club while still at university), Foster’s treatment for his addiction at Harley Street was paid for by the Professional Cricketers’ Association.
He says: “My story is an unusual one but it certainly won’t be the last. I would say there are a lot of teachers who gamble, particularly in the independent sector where people are involved with sport or have backgrounds where they have access to a bit more money.” Even if he’s no longer a teacher, with his talks in schools around the country for problem gambling consultancy Epic Risk Management, Foster says he can still make a difference to children’s lives.