Tracey O'Shaughnessy's story of gambling is traumatic; it is one of hitting rock bottom, losing everything and starting again.

And yet Tracey is not a gambler. She is one of millions of people in the UK known in recovery circles as an "affected other" - someone close to a person with addiction whose life is also severely impacted by the disease.

Her long term partner is a problem gambler and his illness has seen the family lose their home, the couple lose their jobs, their life savings and brought both of them to the brink of suicide.

At one point Tracey even sat down and wrote letters of goodbye to her children.

But she has remarkably battled through every challenge she has faced and now uses her experience as a peer support worker to help other women.

She said: "With gambling addiction you're left with a long legacy. It's not just about paying off debts, it's about repairing relationships with friends and family.

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"When I went to my first group support session I said, 'I don't know if we will be together at the end of this but I know I'm going to get him through it.'

"We've built a life together albeit that it's fractured at times but he's not just a gambler, there's more to him than that.

"And when he's not gambling he's an amazing person, he's funny, he's kind.

"And in his words, not mine, this monster takes over and it consumed him. I can't just judge him on that percentage of him."

Tracey lost both her sister and her father to addiction. When she was 19 her father died of alcoholism and, at that point, her sister turned to heroin to cope with the loss and died of an overdose at the age of 52.

Her partner began gambling at 16 and, while Tracey recognised the signs of substance abuse, she said gambling was very different because there were no physical signs.

She said: "I couldn't tell when he was gambling. He could be next to me on the couch losing £10 or £30,000."

It wasn't until the family was being evicted that Tracey realised how dire the situation had become; her partner had emptied her bank account and taken out credit cards in her name, pay day loans, borrowed money and finally stolen money.

They lived with homelessness, food and fuel poverty and Tracey's car was repossessed.

She said: "For 15 years I didn't tell a single person, not a living soul.

"I was full of embarrassment and shame. He would tell people that I had an issue, I was the problem.

"I found myself making up stories to try to protect him and pay the money back.

"I had to tell family and friends and I felt judged by everybody and I was judged by everybody."

Her partner told Tracey he was getting help but would go to Gamblers Anonymous and sit outside and gamble.

At the same time as her sister died, he was arrested having been caught stealing from his employer.

Instead of being a support to Tracey, he stole her bank card and emptied her account so she could no longer pay for her sister's funeral.

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She said: "I had no social life, no friends. My mental health was so fragile.

"I sat down and made a plan. I wrote letters to my children to apologise for letting them down but I didn't go through with it."

Tracey becomes upset here as she tells her story.

Later, she says: "The reason I got upset was I realised that I minimised my story, again, it's just something that I do, I'm in that habit of feeling that this is just too much for people and they don't really want to hear it.

"And unfortunately in this community of gambling recovery that it's all about the gambler and people really need to come away from that attitude that if they fix the gambler then everything else is fixed because it really isn't."

Tracey's partner applied for a new job and his new employer asked her to go in to speak to them and give assurances that his gambling was under control.

The company paid his salary into Tracey's bank account as an attempt at being helpful but it became another burden for her to deal with.

She said: "When you are living with a gambler and they want money they will keep on and on and on until you give it."

Tracey went to her own employer for help, telling them about the situation at home, and she quickly found herself being managed out of the business.

While hunting for another new job she said her mantra became: "I've got to keep going, this is all on me."

She added: "My partner really resented me, he really hated me, but I couldn't leave because where was I going? Who was I telling?"

A visit to the GP resulted in nothing but a prescription for antidepressants and her GP telling Tracey she didn't know much about gambling or how else to help.

Her partner was then arrested again, this time for stealing from his new employer.

Police arrived at 3am to search the house but, with a heavy irony, "Did not find any evidence of gambling because there was no accumulation of wealth."

Tracey added: "My partner came home and told me he needed to die, there was no other way out.

"I couldn't lose another person to addiction so I went on Facebook, Instagram, anywhere online trying to look for help.

"I felt as a woman I wasn't being understood. I was expected to support him and just let it all go, all the focus was on how I could support him."

A court case ended in a suspended sentence, the relief from which made Tracey really how exhausted she was.

Eventually Tracey found a support group that "helped me find me again" but she wanted a safe space to share with other women, rather than mixed groups with parents and children of gamblers.

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She said: "Women go through a different experience. We are meant to hold all the broken pieces together, to absorb the shame and the guilt."

Tracey's partner relapsed in January this year and Tracey had to call the police for help as he was threatening to take his own life.

She now used her role as a peer support facilitator for the charity GamFam to ensure other women have the help she did not have.

She added: "I don't have all the answers, I don't have a magic wand. But I can listen, I can hold the space, and I can say, 'What is it that you need and how can I help you?'

Without support of GamFam I wouldn't have got through it.

"The issue of domestic abuse within the gambling harm community is still a little bit brushed under the carpet and that's what I want to bring out."

Tracey is campaigning for better training for the legal profession as a gambling aware solicitor was a huge help to her during her partner's trial.

She also takes huge strength from the women she supports.

Tracey added: "Yes, I am an affected other but there is so much more to me than that and more to them.

"Shame dies when stories are told in safe places."