A former B.C. Lions player is coming forward with his story of gambling addiction and recovery in the hope he can help others going through a similar experience.

Angus Reid played as an offensive lineman in the CFL for 13 years before retiring in 2014 and says his addiction began as a routine of going to the casino once in awhile with teammates, just for fun. But in 2007, at the midway point of his career, the trips to the casino started to happen more frequently.

"But what happened on the other side of my life was my personal life was really having some issues, and my marriage was falling apart," he said.

"So what started off as a social activity with buddies became an outlet for me to start going on my own and hiding from issues and problems."

The football player and mentor believes his competitive personality and life fuelled his gambling addiction.

"A lot of competitive athletes …. tend to have key personality traits —  hyper competitive, stubborn, and they have this crazy belief that they can always will things to win. They can make things happen."

Reid is speaking about his addiction story at a Surrey Board of Trade lunch on Thursday.

'I wouldn't sleep, wouldn't do anything'

Gambling

Angus Reid says he went to casinos to hide from problems in other parts of his life. (The Associated Press)

Reid says his addiction to gambling grew to such extremes that he would go to the casino after practice ended at 1:30 p.m. and stay there until 7:00 a.m. when the next day's practice started.

"I wouldn't sleep, wouldn't do anything," he said.

In hindsight his behaviour seemed irrational, but Reid says there's no reasoning with someone who's "in an addictive time frame" like he was.

"Nothing makes sense except finding a way to get out of this problem by staying in the problem longer," he said.

"But then you don't know how to get out at all. You don't want to deal with reality. You don't want to look at the numbers. You don't want to be honest with your friends and family."

'There was nowhere to go except home'

Reid says he realized something had to change when he hit rock bottom.

"My marriage was done, and I had no money left, and all I had was massive debt. There was nowhere to go except home."

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Angus Reid appeared in three Grey Cup Games, winning twice with the Lions in 2006 and 2011, before retiring in 2014. ( Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

His road to recovery began with telling his parents about his addiction — something he had kept hidden since it began in 2007.

"They were on board, and I got through the shame and embarrassment of telling them the truth," he said.

Then, he barred himself from entering casinos by signing up for the BCLC voluntary self-exclusion program.  

Ultimately, it was his reputation and status as a public figure that helped him recover.

"I knew I wouldn't be able to handle the embarrassment of being thrown out of the casino in front of these people."

Reid says time away from the casino's bright lights gave him a chance to begin rebuilding his life.

"I was able to regain focus, clarity and re-prioritize my life, which wasn't easy. [it] didn't happen overnight," he said.

"But, eight years later, I consider myself a success story, if you will."

'You just have to ask'

Reid says the hardest step of recovery is realizing the gravity of the situation, and that no one can recover alone.

"If you were able to deal with it on your own, you would have already dealt with it — and you can't."

He says there are many resources available to people who struggle with gambling addiction. Some resources are even available in casinos.  

"It is there. It's all around you. You just have to ask."


To listen to the full audio, click the link labelled: BC Lions' Angus Reid opens up about his gambling addiction and recovery.