Hampshire’s Chris Wood: Professional sport “relatively blasé” about players’ addiction problems
- Chris Wood opens up about his gambling addiction on Priory Healthcare podcast
- Earlier in his career, he says alcohol and gambling were seen as a part of the lifestyle of professional cricket
- Wood was able to hide his addiction for seven years
- Younger players are demonstrating healthier attitudes towards alcohol and gambling
Hampshire seam bowler Chris Wood has spoken about how he developed a serious gambling problem early in his career, which dogged him for ten years. Taking full responsibility for what happened, he talks about how the addiction developed, and the toll it took on him and his family. He made the comments while talking about his struggle with addiction on a podcast with former professional cricketer Luke Sutton.
He describes how, when he was first starting out in the game, he fell into a lifestyle which was conducive to the development of an addiction. “It was very much you win, you drink, people gamble, and you celebrate your success,” he said. The camaraderie of being part of the team also meant “you almost felt frowned upon if you didn’t get involved”.
Wood makes the point that this might be different in other professional sports; “A footballer wouldn’t necessarily win then go and have ten pints when they’re playing two days later. That’s very much a cricket mentality.”
Wood describes the worst point in his gambling addiction as coming when he was seriously injured and bedridden for most of the 2016 season. “I had depression, anxiety, and insomnia, and I was gambling all through the night” he said. He was struggling to cope with the idea that he might not be able to play cricket again, and gambling provided his emotional crutch. He says that he sometimes alludes to it “as my best friend, because it was always there for me in the tough times”.
He continued to gamble “more indifferently” after that year, until he placed his final bet on 3rd December 2018. On the podcast he describes walking into a betting shop with the same “buzz” as he always got from gambling, placing a bet, but feeling “completely drained” as soon as he left the shop. He went home and lay on his bed, “uncontrollably crying”, and that was when he decided he needed to get help, for the sake of both himself and his family.
There are signs of hope for the future. Wood says “I’ve seen a change at Hampshire in the last decade”, particularly among the younger players. He thinks “everyone’s got to pull together” to tackle the problem.
On the podcast, Wood makes the point that professional sportspeople are particularly vulnerable to developing a gambling addiction because the problem is easier to hide than alcohol or substance abuse. If a sportsperson has a problem with alcohol, “over a period of time it becomes very evident” he says, referring to the weight gain and drop in performance associated with heavy drinking. Gambling is different; “I did it for ten years, and seven or eight of them were hidden.”
Priory’s ‘Sporting Highs and Lows’ podcast explores the links between addiction, mental health and sport. It features guests from across the world of sport, sharing their experiences of mental health and addiction challenges and outlining the role professional sport plays to drive this.
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About Priory Group
The Priory Group is the leading provider of behavioural care in the UK, caring for around 30,000 people a year for conditions including depression, anxiety, drugs and alcohol addiction, eating disorders and self-harming. The Group is organised into four divisions – healthcare, education and children’s services, adult care and the Middle East.