November 19th is International Men’s Day across the world and this year’s theme is helping men and boys. This made us think of our founder, Reverend Gordon Moody MBE and how his actions back in 1958 went on to not only form Gordon Moody as it stands today but also opened up support and treatment for people addicted to gambling across the UK as a whole.
Gordon Moody the man
Gordon had been a Methodist clergyman for a number of decades – with ministries in Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Cheshire and Devon, as well as serving as an RAF chaplain in England and Singapore – when a friend suggested he apply for the role of the Secretary of the Council of Churches’ Council on Gambling. Despite being initially sceptical – particularly because of his own lack of knowledge about gambling – he accepted the job in 1958 and stayed in post for 20 years.
That started a lifelong journey of learning that saw his campaigning greatly influence government and gambling acts passed in Parliament.
Gordon Moody said on his appointment in 1958:
“This made me the one and only person in the land who was paid, full-time, to keep an eye on gambling.”
Although it was expected that his church background might make him anti-gambling on moral grounds, this in fact was not true. He felt that arguing about the rights and wrongs of gambling was the wrong ethical issue. The far more urgent issue to him was the destruction caused by a problem gambler to him or herself and to their families. It was not enough for the Methodist Church to simply say ‘do not gamble’ because there were real people who were suffering because of the addiction.
His primary conclusion about gambling was that it was not a vice, nor was it a crime or a reflection of some psychological disorder. Rather, people gambled because they enjoyed it. The inescapable fact was that for a lot of people ‘it was fun’. However, he did not minimise the risk and damage that problem gambling could bring.
This led him initially to start helping gamblers in trouble in 1964, through his founding a British branch of the US organisation Gamblers Anonymous.
In May 1964, at a public meeting through the Churches Council on Gambling he had organised, he met a couple of Americans, Henry and Vivian, who were temporarily working in this country. Henry was a member Gamblers Anonymous and his wife of the supporting group Gam-Anon. In Gordon’s own words it was this vivid encounter which prompted him to work with them to start the very first group in England later that same year.
By the second half of the 1960s, Gordon Moody began to organise a number of conferences that attracted doctors, psychiatrists, probation officers, magistrates, social workers and psychologists, with titles such as Compulsive Gambling and Delinquency. These took place around the country and played a significant role in raising the profile of problem gambling as well as highlighting the lack of treatment facilities.
This in turn led him to conclude that a specialist facility for problem gamblers who were alone and homeless, was needed.
Gordon, in his true fashion, sought advice and help as well as involving understanding friends to create such a safe place, and this was realised in 1971 when Gordon House in South-East London was opened.
In order to secure the necessary funds to run the project, he had to compromise by restricting admissions to those caught up in the criminal justice system.
While working within Gamblers Anonymous, Gordon Moody had realised that many individuals, despite attending weekly meetings, were struggling with their addiction in between meetings largely due to the fact that they had nowhere to live or had very little support from others. Without a safe place to focus on their recovery it was very difficult to resist the urge to gamble and to start work on overcoming the addiction which was blighting their lives. In the years immediately following the opening of Gordon House, experience of working in a residential setting with a client group developed into the unique therapeutic residential programme which is offered today.
His pioneering work was recognised in 1969 when he was awarded an MBE. Being the modest person he was, Gordon only used this honour when he felt it was useful to further his efforts to establish treatment facilities for problem gamblers and research into aspects of gambling.
Today, nearly 30 years after the Reverend Gordon Moody’s death, it is remarkable how many recovering service users say that Gordon Moody “saved their life”.
They of course are referring to the organisation and its current staff and services, but without the open-mindedness, dedication and tenacity of the man who started it and whom the organisation is named after, then their unique to recovery would not have been possible.