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Manolo Anaya He crosses the door of the Malaga Association of Rehabilitation Gamblers (Amalajer) every afternoon with a smile. He crossed it for the first time as a user. He arrived crestfallen and obligated, after an ultimatum from his wife. Everything would end forever if in less than a week he did not go to the association that she herself sought for him to get him out of the well. She reluctantly agreed. Eight years later, Amalajer has brought him back to life and now he walks through his front door, as well as happy and proud, as a volunteer to guide those who are going through the same illness as him: gambling.

He is a taxi driver by profession and is 64 years old. About fifteen years ago he began to get hooked on the gaming machines that were in the bar. Specifically slots. He couldn’t leave home without coins, but what made his addiction worse was his work: he spent a lot of time alone, at night, in Malaga and with a lot of loose money. “I didn’t used to frequent lounges. I used to play in bars, which sometimes, oddly enough, would slow me down, because I wouldn’t play if I saw someone I knew in the bar”reports.

Manolo is clear about it, one does not become a player overnight. The game ends up taking over you until it turns you into “a manipulator and a compulsive liar”but he is proud of having managed to overcome the disease.

He remembers, somewhat emotionally, how his first therapy was. “They told me that I couldn’t drink or use drugs, something that reassured me, since I have never drunk or used drugs. In my years, I have never gotten drunk. The problem came when they told me that I couldn’t carry money with me. That’s where the world fell. I wondered where I had gotten myself, I didn’t understand it,” he recalls. It is the most difficult step in the process, the first step. Each treatment is a world, but on average it takes three years to recover from gambling addiction. Two of treatment and one follow-up.

He had a hard time accepting that asking for help was okay. “He was brave to sell gold, but a coward to ask for help”, wield. And that at home I had an extreme situation. Communication with his wife was nil. In fact, a lump in her throat tightens when she tells a harsh anecdote with her: “I was in the laundry room at home smoking a cigarette and my wife told me, through tears, that she couldn’t take it anymore. I told him that if he couldn’t take it anymore, he should throw himself out the window and that way we would make life less complicated for both of us, because it was making it bitter for me. At that moment that’s what I felt, I think if I had tried I wouldn’t have tried to save her. I think about it in the distance and I think about how it is possible that gambling blinds you in that way, making you reach those limits.”

Manolo acknowledges that when talking about compulsive gambling, the focus is rarely on the family member. “I have come out of this disease 50% thanks to my wife”, says. He believes that she has been fundamental to her recovery, being firm when she had to be, getting involved in her therapies so that he would not manage to manipulate her. “I don’t give him gifts or thank him. She says that the best gift I give her every day is to be kind, friendly and responsible.“.

He insists at various moments in the conversation that “gambling brings out the worst in everyone.” She talks with a smile about some cases that have gone ahead thanks to the therapies that have been done alongside her. “I didn’t know the word empathy when I was a player. I didn’t know it until I got to Amalajer”counts sincerely.

Amalajer changes the lives of hundreds of people from Malaga year after year. In 2022, specifically, they attended to 400 people from Malaga. Manolo, in fact, defines the association as the place where he feels free and where no one judges or criticizes him since he arrived. “Blessed the moment I came. Today I come here because I feel like it,” she says. He acknowledges that at 64 years old, thanks to the association, he has found a routine that fills him up. He works in the taxi from four in the morning until noon. After resting, eating and washing up, he goes “happy and content” to Amalajer. “I have not thanked the association as such, it is true, but I think there is no better way to do it than by coming to collaborate. It gives me great satisfaction to see how the kids are moving forward“, express.

Those kids you’re talking about are getting younger and younger. The average profile is less than 45 years old. “It is increasingly easier to access sports betting, bingo or roulette online. They don’t even have to leave their room. And they bring more and more debts. I always say that it is best not to be paid from the family, it is the worst thing that can be done“, he advises. Thus, he explains that in the first days of treatment one should never be too harsh with the patient, who still has to convince himself that “he is not a vicious person but rather a patient. Of course, he points out that he must gradually gain firmness so that he does not falter, always convincing him that there is a way out “.

Manolo blames this “epidemic”, in large part, on “the politicians”, due to the increasing presence of betting houses in the most humble neighborhoods. There are about eighty bookmakers in Malaga. Most of them are concentrated in the Carretera de Cádiz district, where he points out that some rooms are just meters from each other. “If action is not taken on the matter, it is important to prevent the game from when they are little, at home and at school”points out.

On International Responsible Gaming Day, sIf you are reading this interview and you are a victim of compulsive gambling or have someone around you who may be suffering from it, in Amalajer you will always have a place. Manolo went to ask for help and thanks to this, he now recognizes that he has a normal life: he is doing well financially, family, health and work. “I feel fulfilled as a person and I am proud of it”ditch. You can contact Amalajer by calling 952 641 296.


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