Interview with Tony Marini, Castle Craig’s Specialist Gambling Therapist who Treats Cryptocurrency Addiction
Castle Craig is the first addiction treatment clinic to offer treatment for people who are addicted to the trading of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
Tony Marini was a compulsive gambler and cocaine addict before getting into recovery and training as a therapist. He is now a therapist at Castle Craig Hospital, offering help to people who have become addicted to cryptocurrency trading.
Q: What is cryptocurrency addiction?
Addiction to the trading of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin comes about because people can get compulsive about watching the prices go up and down. Since the internet has brought share prices to everyone, via their smartphones, people can view prices 24/7 and it can be exciting.
“It’s like a horse race that never stops.”
It’s like a horse race that never stops. Most horse races only last a few minutes and so there is a limited time when you can place your bets. But cryptocurrency prices are changing constantly and you can place a bet in the middle of the night, in your bedroom, about which way the price will go.
Q: Why do some people get addicted to cryptocurrency trading?
I see cryptocurrency trading as a way for people to escape from themselves, into another world, because they don’t like the world they’re in — whether that be the thinking in their head or the emotions in their body.
Addiction is escaping from our own emotions because we find it difficult to cope with the feelings we have.
If we don’t deal with these hard-to-deal-with feelings we’re going to keep escaping, or keep abusing ourselves with drugs.
Q: How does someone know if they are addicted?
If someone feels the need to compulsively check the prices of their cryptocurrency investment — all the time — they may have an addiction
When these things become a problem we need to do something about them.
Q: Is it like a gambling addiction?
Yes. Cryptocurrency addicts place bets on which way a price will fluctuate, like a gambler will place a bet on a roulette wheel. Some people do this for a living (the cryptocurrency trading house or the casino) and those professionals are not usually addicted. But when you do it at home, secretly, the temptations of winning huge sums of money can be too much for some people.
Q: How can you spot a cryptocurrency (or gambling) addict
It can be possible to spot an alcoholic or drug addict but you can’t spot a gambling or crypto addict.
Q: Why is gambling the most dangerous addiction?
I know three people who have killed themselves because of their gambling addiction.
Studies show that more gamblers kill themselves than any other type of addiction. Gamblers need large amounts of money and they can strip families and businesses of everything they’ve got.
I would deal with the problem now before it gets too late. I see people put things off and suddenly they’re in a huge hole and they can’t see any way out of the mess they’ve made with their finances, family or business. Often the only way they see out is suicide. Why take that chance?
Q: Why do addicts get addicted to lots of different things?
We’re very good at swapping one thing for another thing. That’s cross addiction. When I stopped taking cocaine my gambling addiction went up, but when I stopped gambling my cocaine use went up. What we see with cross addiction is this escape into anything. I would also work 80 to 100 hours a week so I could escape from reality.
Q: What kind of people get into gambling addictions like cryptocurrency trading?
Gambling has traditionally been seen as a problem for older men. According to statistics, 20 years ago only 8% of women gambled but new research shows that the rate has increased to 50%.
I see younger and younger people becoming addicted to gambling. This is because they have access to their smartphones 24/7, they use their credit cards and they don’t feel they are using real money. I know so many people who have racked up thousands and thousands of pounds of debt.
Q: Do you cure cryptocurrency addiction?
When someone leaves rehab and says ‘I’m cured’ we usually see them back here. This illness that we have I cannot see ever being cured, but I can put it in remission. If someone leaves rehab and doesn’t continue to work the 12 step programme, they will likely relapse.
I will always be an addict. I see this as an illness. I have a disease and if I had any other type of disease I would treat it.
“There is a wonderful world out there for us to explore.”
The only treatment I know for addiction is the 12 step programme, so I have to keep working this programme to I keep my addiction in remission. I know that my addiction is always there.
My experience tells me that when a coke addict picks up a line of coke they will not be able to stop. If a compulsive cryptocurrency user places one bet this, in our brain, for some reason, tells us that we have to continue.
This is not a quick fix. This is something we have to continue for the rest of our lives. There is a wonderful world out there for us to explore.
Q: How do people benefit from treatment at Castle Craig?
I believe it gives us belief in ourselves.
I know so many people that have gone through this programme and have made a success out of their lives. People who have lost businesses, that have built up a new business; people that have lost families and built up new families.
It’s amazing what this programme can give us. But we are the ones who have to put the work into it.
Q: What happens after addiction treatment at Castle Craig?
We recommend that everyone joins their local twelve step fellowship after leaving Castle Craig.
When we join AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), NA (Narcotics Anonymous), CA (Cocaine Anonymous) or GA (Gamblers Anonymous) we join a programme of fellow people that are like-minded. They help us to stay on this path of recovery.
There are four things we need to do after being in rehab, if we are to continue in recovery:
1) Attend the [12 step] fellowship meetings, and get involved with them
2) Get a sponsor (another fellowship member with more experience)
3) Work the programme, and get a routine in our lives;
4) Stay honest with ourselves and with others
If we get 100% in all these four things I can’t see it going wrong.
Q: What is your own story of addiction?
I went to school to gamble and to sell things that I had stolen. When I left school I had no qualifications and was fixated on making money. I started in the restaurant trade and did well, but it was never enough for me as I was a compulsive gambler and cocaine addict.
Whatever I did was never enough; I always had to prove something else. I felt inadequate and that other people were much more intelligent than me. I was a workaholic and ended up losing my wife and two children.
For me it was the grandiosity of being in front of that card game in a casino, people giving me free drinks and feeding me. I felt like I was someone. The buzz when you’re about to turn that card – is this the time I’m going to win big? For me it wasn’t the win but the lead up to it: I’ve got the money, I’m going to get dressed, look smart and walk through that door and feel the rush of adrenaline. Sitting at the table, getting the first deal. Is this the one?
“When I was in my active addiction I was just existing.”
Coming into rehab you have to have the belief that you can change. You’re not coming into rehab so you can stay here forever. This is about getting the tools, the knowledge, the experience of being able to go out and live a life.
Then I volunteered in prisons and went into a rehab, and started on this journey in recovery.
“If I can do this anybody can. And it is there for everyone“
I went to college and did a counselling course. You’ve got to remember I hadn’t finished school and the anxiety and fear inside of me, about going to college, was huge. I felt that other people were much more intelligent than me.
This programme has given me the strength to continue and I went to university and that’s why I’m a therapist today — because i believe my experience can help other people
If I can do this anybody can.
It made me able to be comfortable with the person I am. And it is there for everyone.