Heartbroken man who spent thousands gambling online after his mum died turns his life around through rehab and starts a platform to help fellow addicts

·8-min read

A heartbroken former salesman who turned to cocaine binges and spent hundreds of  thousands of pounds gambling online after his mum tragically died from cancer has turned his life around after rehab by co-founding a platform to support fellow addicts.

Shattered by grief but unable to process his emotions after his beloved mum, Victoria Williams, 48, died in April 2018, Ed Williams, 22, sought distraction in work, alcohol, cocaine and partying – until March 2020, when lockdown hit and his cocaine binges led to gambling.

While still thriving in sales by day, every night, Ed, who lives in North Yorkshire, would gamble until 3am, while high on cocaine, eventually spending thousands of pounds a time on casino slot games.

Only when his family stepped in to send Ed to rehab in July 2021 and to help with his debts, did he come to terms with the grief, depression and PTSD he was suffering.

Ed Williams, 22, is the co-founder of the recovery platform, Recoverlution (Collect/PA Real Life)
Ed Williams, 22, is the co-founder of the recovery platform, Recoverlution (Collect/PA Real Life)

And he met his now business partner, Daniel Fincham, 39, who was also in rehab and invited him to help launch a new platform to support addicts.

Now, proudly leading their new platform, Recoverlution, Ed, said: “By January 2021, I was broken as a person.

“I couldn’t have gone on much longer or it would have killed me.

“I always knew I was capable of making something big and I am sure that everything happened for a reason and I have no doubt Recoverlution will make a huge difference.”

Ed Williams, 22, with his mum, Victoria Williams, on holiday in 2016 (Collect/PA Real Life)
Ed Williams, 22, with his mum, Victoria Williams, on holiday in 2016 (Collect/PA Real Life)

He added: “I have been so lucky to have the support from my family, emotionally and financially, but I know not everyone has that and that is why we need access to this sort of help.”

The roots of Ed’s addiction began after the loss of his mum, who had been a financial advisor, when he was just 17.

“Mum was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, when I was nine years old, which she got over by around 2011,” he said.

“We were over the moon when she was given the all clear – but a few years later, in 2015, it returned as secondary breast cancer and spread to her liver and bones.”

Despite chemotherapy and treatment, in early 2018, Ed’s family were given the unbearable news that Victoria’s cancer was terminal – and she had just weeks to live.

Ed was told this by his by his grandmother and he said: “Nothing prepares you for those words.

“I just remember looking at my uncle, who is normally very tough, and he just burst out crying, and it set me off.”

In the following weeks, Ed dropped out of sixth form to spend every moment with his mum and his brother, Miles, now 25, at home, until she tragically passed on April 20, 2018.

Ed Williams as a child with his mum, Victoria Williams, who died from cancer in 2018 (Collect/PA Real Life)
Ed Williams as a child with his mum, Victoria Williams, who died from cancer in 2018 (Collect/PA Real Life)

“She was unbelievable and so positive, right until the end,” he said.

“She would still get up every day at 7am to make the most of the day and she lasted way longer than they said, because that’s how determined she was.

“I had never lost anyone before. So to not only lose someone, but the most important person in your life, was devastating.”

Ed was very close to his mum and he said: “I’ll never be able to express the gratitude I had for her, she was unbelievable.

“She was so strong and motivated and she was absolutely the backbone of the family and always kept everyone in check.”

Ed Williams, 22, with his Uncle Eddie, brother Miles and grandfather, Dewi Jones (Collect/PA Real Life)
Ed Williams, 22, with his Uncle Eddie, brother Miles and grandfather, Dewi Jones (Collect/PA Real Life)

He added: “When we had her funeral, there were 100s of people crowded around the graveyard to pay their respects.”

The impact of her death on Ed was immense. Feeling “absolutely broken”, he tried desperately to cope through working and partying frantically.

At the time a salesman, selling watches and static holiday homes, he said: “I was addicted to buying and selling, and I was really good at it.

“I felt like I had to prove something and create a sense of security for me and Miles and get out of where I was as quickly as I possibly could.”

Ed’s mum, Victoria Williams, passed away from cancer in 2018 (Collect/PA Real Life)
Ed’s mum, Victoria Williams, passed away from cancer in 2018 (Collect/PA Real Life)

He added: “I started going out more too and would take a line of coke here or there but it just became more and more.”

But when the Covid lockdown hit in March 2020, Ed’s addiction dramatically escalated.

“I was stuck at home and I can’t tell you why, but I just started gambling,” he said.

“The minute I would have a line of cocaine, all I wanted to do was gamble.”

Ed Williams, 22, with his brother, Miles Williams, 25, on holiday in 2018 after their mum passed away (Collect/PA Real Life)
Ed Williams, 22, with his brother, Miles Williams, 25, on holiday in 2018 after their mum passed away (Collect/PA Real Life)

He added: “It started off as just a bit of coke of the weekend here or there but by the end of lockdown, it was every day.

“I would work until  4pm and be gambling till 3am, sleep for maybe two hours and be back up for work at 7am.”

And the amount he was gambling quickly escalated too.

“It started off as £30 one night and then £200 and then it would be £500s,” he said.

“The problem with gambling is you never go down, you only go up.”

Eventually by January 2021 he was spending up to thousands a night, though Ed continued to hide his addiction from his family and friends.

“I absolutely despise lying but I became the biggest liar ever,” he said.

“I would ask my brother or other members of the family if I could borrow some money, and I would pay them back, but they’d have to chase me for it.”

Ed Williams, 22, with his brother, Miles Williams, 25 (Collect/PA Real Life)
Ed Williams, 22, with his brother, Miles Williams, 25 (Collect/PA Real Life)

By the end of June 2021, Ed was at his worst, stuck in a self-destructive cycle.

But thankfully his aunt, Debbie, alongside the rest of his family, saw through the cracks and intervened to help.

“I was twitchy, I couldn’t stand still, my eyes were yellow, I had put on weight,” Ed said.

“I was running away from it all completely – I thought life would be easier if I wasn’t there.”

Ed Williams, 22, with his mum, Victoria Williams, on his 17th Birthday (Collect/PA Real Life)
Ed Williams, 22, with his mum, Victoria Williams, on his 17th Birthday (Collect/PA Real Life)

He added: “The family started to realise there was something very not right and it was my mum’s sister who bust me and eventually, more and more of the truth came out.

“She signed me up for five weeks of rehab, starting on on July 29, 2021.

“The six weeks before it began, she made me be clean from everything, so I could get the most out of it – no phone, no laptop, no drugs, no gambling.”

The rehab at the addiction rehabilitation centre, The Priory in Hale, couldn’t come soon enough.

Ed said: “Just a few weeks before I went to my Aunt’s, I spent 25 grand gambling. I was broken.”

With the love and financial support from Ed’s family, they helped him with his debts, while Ed began the slow and painful process of recovery and coming to terms with his depression, anxiety and PTSD.

“During recovery, I had a sort of epiphany,” he said. “I am not religious but during rehab, you are told to connect to your inner self, and I started to pray every night.

“I don’t know who I am praying to, but I wish that the people around me will be okay and that things will go well, and it works.”

Ed Williams, 22, with his mum, Victoria Williams (Collect/PA Real Life)
Ed Williams, 22, with his mum, Victoria Williams (Collect/PA Real Life)

As well as changing his entire routine, now enjoying the gym, reading and keeping a healthy work-life balance, Ed found a new passion, through his unlikely friendship forged in rehabilitation.

“I met Dan in rehab, who struggled with alcohol addiction, and we just immediately bonded,” he said.

“We would take the p*** out of each other but the reason we are better is because we both completely changed our lives and we keep each other going.

“He pushes me on and I push him on and we talk every day – not about work, but how each other are doing and that is so important.”

Ed Williams, 22, and Daniel Fincham, 39, set up a recovery platform to help addicts, called Recoverlution (Recoverlution/PA Real Life)
Ed Williams, 22, and Daniel Fincham, 39, set up a recovery platform to help addicts, called Recoverlution (Recoverlution/PA Real Life)

Crucially, Dan invited Ed to join his venture creating a platform that would connect recovering addicts so they can support one another, and help them on their recovery with knowledge and wellness.

“The whole platform is dedicated to the world of recovery,” he said. “It connects you with like-minded people and that is key to support, as the others provide coping strategies and practical advice.”

Ed feels addiction is not understood widely enough.

“It is so often only seen to affect those from difficult backgrounds but addiction doesn’t discriminate,” he said.

“This is my way of giving back. I mucked up, but now I am trying to solve that and help others along the way.”

You can find out more from Recoverlution here: https://www.recoverlution.com/

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