Chris Wood: 'Gambling took up almost every hour' - Hampshire paceman

James Vince and Chris Wood
Chris Wood (right) with skipper James Vince after Hampshire beat Kent in the 2018 One-Day Cup final

For Chris Wood, there will always be the wonder of 'what might have been'.

On the surface, there is little to be disappointed about because the 29-year-old has a successful career with his home county of Hampshire, with four limited-overs winners' medals in his collection.

He's still a valued member of the side - but having struggled with a gambling addition for 11 years, the regrets run deep.

"I sit here today so grateful that I'm still in professional sport after what I've been through," he told BBC South Today.

"It must show I'm a half-decent cricketer to be able to come through addiction and do my job but it holds me back in my mind about how good I could have been.

"Maybe I could have achieved more in the game if I hadn't had the addiction."

In a gambling fog

It took Wood many years to truly come to terms with his problem, after becoming secretive and as he puts it, "dishonest, trying to hide what I was, lying that I wasn't gambling".

It was not until he began recovery sessions with the Sporting Chance charity that the Basingstoke-born pace bowler was forced to acknowledge just how much it had been affecting his life, as well as his sport.

"The darkest times were definitely 2012-2014," Wood said. "I played in a T20 game at the Ageas Bowl, not really remembering it but being involved, there were so many people watching.

"I'd been stood on the boundary but everything going around me was a blur. I was going off the field at the end and all I wanted to do was check my bet.

"I can't remember who it was against, the significance of the game, whether I bowled well or badly, that time was when it was at its real worst. Whatever feeling I had at that time - good, bad or indifferent - I needed to gamble to sedate it."

Thousands spent through his career

Chris Wood
Chris Wood has taken 236 wickets in white-ball cricket - 131 in T20 and 105 in 50-over games

Wood was still in his late teens when he was thrust into the limelight as part of Hampshire's Twenty20 Cup winning side in 2010.

Before that he had first picked up the bug for betting, and success on the pitch brought with it the opportunity to gamble more.

Initially it was small amounts with his mates in bookies, "£20 here and there," Wood recalls - but those sums grew.

"It's sort of a rough workout, because I don't exactly know, but going on when I started gambling, how much I earned, take away rent and car payments every month and I came up with a rough figure of around £200,000 including prize money," he said.

"It's a significant amount of money but it's not about the money, it's about me as a person and changing.

"Some people lose millions, thousands. It's just how you are in your own head. It's irrelevant, it's just an outcome of what you are acting out on in your piece of mind."

Consumed by the urge to punt

Wood's trophy triumphs
2010: Hants beat Somerset, T20 final2012: Hants beat Warks, CB 40 final
2012: Hants beat Yorks, T20 final2018: Hants beat Kent, One-Day Cup

The life of a professional sportsman is full of travel, training and the adrenaline rush of performing before crowds.

But there is also downtime for the essential 'rest and recuperation', which can be lonely place for those struggling with inner demons.

"Gambling took up almost every hour of my day, (and) I'd be up all night at times," the former England-Under 19 player continued.

"I've no doubt that some of my injuries over the years have been down to the gambling. Sleepless nights, not looking after myself, just wanting to use all of my disposal income to gamble. It took over everything.

"I'd even be dreaming about it, it consumed my life."

Looking forward with clarity

Tony Adams
Former England footballer Tony Adams set up Sporting Chance after his own problems with alcoholism

Having enrolled at Sporting Chance, the charity set up by former England and Arsenal football captain Tony Adams, Wood has gone public with his story to try to encourage others to seek help.

He appeared on a podcast with Adams, 53, who had issues with drinking during his playing career, to publicise the Professional Cricketers' Association's partnership with the organisation.

"I've had to suffer and be in my own head for such a long time now and I've managed to get to a stage where I'm comfortable with who I am and what I'm going to be for the rest of my life," said Wood.

"There are so many people out there who are potentially struggling with this issue, I thought I was the only one with this problem, for a long time. Even though I knew there were addicts out there, I internalised it so much that I genuinely thought I was the only one.

"I can only imagine that other gambling addicts out there, whether it's sport or everyday life, are doing exactly the same thing and can't find the hope or strength to reach out and start a way to a better life.

"I wanted to give my story as an inspiration, there is hope, for so long in my head I was going to be an addict to sedate my feelings for the rest of my life.

"To know there's a way through Sporting Chance to live a more manageable life, I feel it's the right time to give people that story."

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