Tales from Devastated Crypto Investors

Posted by Ed 23 mths ago
‘They couldn’t even scream any more. They were just sobbing’: the amateur investors ruined by the crypto crash

Fuelled by hype and hysteria, the market in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies went from an obscure niche to a $3tn industry. Then the house of cards collapsed

In the gloom of an 18th-century drawing room at the private rehab clinic Castle Craig, near Peebles in the Scottish Borders, Roy, a 29-year-old victim of the global cryptocurrency crash, tells me his story. It is a dazzling summer’s day, but here the mood is sombre. Roy shifts uncomfortably in his chair as he begins.

It all started in February 2021, with a radio advert for Dogecoin, a cryptocurrency promoted by Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla. Intrigued, Roy started Googling, eventually using his credit card to make an initial investment of €2,500 (£2,200) in a range of cryptocurrencies. The value of Roy’s portfolio climbed to €8,000, then €100,000, then €525,000. Roy had entered the market during an adrenalised bull run, meaning an extended period of price growth. A combination of Covid stimulus packages, low interest rates and an unprecedented level of enthusiasm for cryptocurrency among furloughed workers meant the bull was careering out of sight.

Roy started spending all his time watching YouTube videos and speaking to other cryptocurrency enthusiasts in private groups on the messaging app Telegram. He had been treated for cocaine and alcohol addiction twice, but by 2021 he was sober and working as an addiction counsellor, although he was on sick leave as a result of panic attacks brought on by childhood trauma. He soon relapsed. By day, he checked his cryptocurrency wallets every 10 seconds; by night, he set alarms to go off on the hour.

He began fantasising about a life free of financial constraints, in which he would never have to work. “I thought I was on top of the world,” Roy says. “Nobody could tell me anything. Money would fix every single problem I faced from now on.”

Then the cryptocurrency market crashed. The price of bitcoin fell from £42,000 in May 2021 to £23,000 by the end of June. It rallied to an all-time high of £48,000 in November, before diving to £26,000 at the end of January. Since then, it has been in near-continuous freefall. At the time of writing, bitcoin is hovering at £17,000. “It felt like I had lost my life,” says Roy. “Because I had invested everything in crypto. I had built every dream I had on there. So, when it came crashing down, my whole life came crashing down.”

Desperate, Roy made a string of bad bets. The value of his portfolio dwindled to €20,000, then €3,000. “It got so out of control because I saw all my chances to live a better life fading away,” he says. “So I became really desperate and eventually just completely isolated. I didn’t want to see anybody, because I thought I was a failure.”

Most mornings, he would wake up shaking from alcohol withdrawal, order booze online and spend the day drinking and taking drugs. He developed stomach ulcers. “You can’t explain the pain,” he says. “I would drink and puke and drink and puke and drink and hope to keep it in, so the pain would go away. I felt like dying.”


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