Published: 06:00, 17 January 2020
Former Welling and Ebbsfleet coach Dean Frost opened up on life after football in this week’s KM Football Podcast.
Frost walked away from the game after a short spell as Welling boss in April 2016 – and walked straight into a downward spiral of gambling addiction.
Speaking on this week’s KM Football Podcast, Frost explained: “I’ve been involved for 30 years. I started playing football at nine or 10 and as soon as I stopped playing football I went into coaching.
“I know I’m not a pro footballer but football was like a full-time job or hobby to me – I thought about it all the time.
“For the first six months I had a lot of time to think. When I was consumed with football (before), I’d always be looking at YouTube and footage of opposition we’d be playing.
“I used to drive (Jamie Day) mad with what do you think we should do in training or should he play?
“After 30 years I made a conscious decision to come out of football. I had too much time to think, I love the phrase analysing is paralysing. I had nothing to strive for at the end of a week. To this day I know my purpose is to go to work for my wife and my daughter.”
That time meant Frost had more free time – and he would spend his days in betting shops.
“I had problems with gambling for about 20 years,” he said. “I’m a compulsive gambler and I struggled during playing. When I was younger, I played at Bromley and I was gambling heavily.
“I battled it for about 20 years and what coincided with stop being involved in football is that my gambling increased.
“I got drawn to betting shops, to horses and dogs, not so much football as it took so long. My gambling took off and it accelerated.
“I know it’s massive in society now. I’ve never really shared it with anyone. I’m not here for a poor me (story).
"Lots of people have an idea about addiction, it’s not always a choice. I didn’t start out at 20 to know I was going to be a compulsive gambler.
“I would wake up in the morning and go to work in my cab. I may have gambled consecutively for 100 days and then wake in the morning and say ‘go to work, don’t go in the betting shop, just get your head down, work and graft, and then at five o’clock go home to your wife and daughter’.
“But at some stage in the day a little voice would say you don’t have to work for the next four hours. Rather than working, go and win it quicker. Go and have a tenner on an 8/1 shot or twenty quid on a 20/1 shot, win your money and go home.
“You sort of do know what you’re doing but it’s hard to explain. An element of gambling is that you’ve lost your money, and you can’t accept what’s gone so you keep going for your losses.
“Even if I won money, all that money is ammunition to keep going. I’ve never won money and stood outside the betting shop and took a breather (to think) this could pay a credit card debt off or pay for a family holiday. I’ve never done that, when I start gambling there’s no filter.
“It’s a surreal feeling to be a compulsive gambler. You know you’ve got the problem but you can’t stop it. In the end it was so painful.”
In Frost’s honest account of his own battles, he questions how the Football Association are promoting mental health on one hand while promoting a gambling company on the other.
He’s aware that widespread advertising by betting companies mean they are always there – but is keen to point out that anyone with an addition is not necessarily a ‘bad person’.
“If you go in London there’s a lot of homeless people and I’ve now discovered most of them people have got a story to tell,” he added.
“Once they found drink or heroin it covers the pain, quite often they’re covering the pain of their childhood. They’re not scumbags, they are just human beings who have had an experience.
“When I started, I didn’t set out to be an addict or compulsive gambler. Most of these people, all they want to do is be loved. They are masking pain and it could happen to anyone.
“My intention would be to have one bet but I’d go in and have a hundred bets. I was running backwards and forwards to the ATM like a lunatic.
“There was a homeless guy next to the ATM who would say ‘you’re worse than me’. The only thing that would stop me would be if I’d run my maximum for the day, the bank would only allow me to take out so much.”
Frost recalls the day it all came to a head – and has come out the other side, slowly rebuilding his life, and changing his life around.
Plus he’s got one top tip which makes him realise each day how fortunate he is.
“It wasn’t one of my biggest bets. I had a small amount of money left in my bank account, it was all I had left,” he added.
“I had maxed credit cards, two loans and thought I was going to conquer the world. I lost the money within minutes and I’d reached the end. I was getting rejected for loans and credit cards so I drove back home.
“My wife is very supportive and very aware but at the same time she made it quite clear she wasn’t happy.
“The support is massive and I probably under-value how important that support is. At the same time, I need her to be angry as well because if she isn’t then I’d probably go back.
“I haven’t had a bet for two and a half years. I still go to my meetings; I’ve still got a mentor but I mentor others now. You pass what you’ve learned on.
“It’s a not a secret but it’s a programme for life. I wish I had it when I was managing and coaching as I’d be more aware, its important people are aware of themselves.
“I started a recovery programme with a mentor and worked through that, and worked on my personal development and self-awareness.
“One of the best things I do now is that I write a gratitude list every morning, and it’s turned my life around. That one thing alone, and I recommend it to anyone, is the best thing I’ve ever done as I realise what I’ve got.
“You think ‘I’ve stopped gambling but I haven’t got anything’ when actually I’ve got loads. It’s the most powerful thing I do.
“I’m in a good place, I’ve got no desire to gamble. That obsession has lifted. The key to it now is helping others, any gambling addiction can be stopped but you’ve got to want it as well.”
The National Gambling Helpline, operated by GamCare offers confidential support, advice and free counselling to people concerned about their gambling, or the gambling of friends or family. Tel: 0808 8020 133
More by this authorMatthew Panting