This month we are bringing you the final chapter of Lee’s story. Lee* is a young Australian who knows all too well the hidden and often insidious impacts of gambling addiction. Lee wanted to share their experiences in their own words, to help educate and bring hope to others who might be suffering.
Part one of Lee’s story is available here.
“My plan was to remain disciplined and studious in practising blackjack and save up a bankroll to travel to Las Vegas. This was especially essential as the widespread employment of continuous shuffling machines in Australia makes the games unbeatable.
They say an alcoholic cannot become a wine taster, but a wine taster can become an alcoholic. My love for the thrill of gambling overtook my drive to be a ‘successful’ gambler.
I started going to the casino regularly, for long hours on lonely nights. Sometimes I felt like I was on autopilot. I soon lost all my savings. I would only leave the table once I’d lost all my money, unless I was fortunate enough to feel tired after playing for hours!
I preferred to gamble alone. Other people did not tolerate the long hours I wanted to gamble. They would sometimes try to convince me to leave the table earlier than I liked, often when I was chasing my losses.
I began selling all the possessions I thought I could live without. Then I started selling possessions that I would rather have kept. I was also borrowing money to gamble again.
I remember once going to the casino nine times in the week leading up to New Year’s Day. I was determined to stop gambling as a new year’s resolution. I was going to make these last few days count. Unfortunately, I found myself at the tables again a few days into the new year.
I kept a large sack of rice at home so I wouldn’t go without food when I lost all my money at the casino. I would often eat nothing but rice. I avoided buying more food so I could put more money towards my gambling habit.
I was too proud, stubborn and naive to reach out to support services. In fact, I didn’t even know they existed! I accepted this lifestyle – at least, I did nothing to make it stop.
I told myself that money was not about happiness. I believed that my ability to deal with some big losses proved that I was above money. I was in denial about the desperate and damaging things I did to fund my gambling habit.
When I won at the casino, I would always put my winnings towards drugs, alcohol and sex workers. Then I would gamble the rest at the casino within a few days. I never put any of my winnings towards paying a loan, a bill, or any other debts. My financial situation was desperate, but I couldn’t bring myself to be responsible with any money I won!
I fell in love with my own image as a successful gambler. I believed I had secret knowledge and gifts. I was in deep denial about the evidence around me that I had a gambling problem.
I felt tall and untouchable each time I entered the casino with money to gamble. When I sat at the blackjack table, all the challenges of my life disappeared. I was completely addicted to the excitement of gambling – even though it was stopping me from coming to terms with my life, decisions and identity.
Then came rock bottom. One night, after losing one blackjack tournament, I then lost all the money I had on my person three times over in the same night. I left the casino to borrow money and sell things before returning to the casino to gamble again. I was arrested before making it to the casino for the fourth time. It was a crushing experience.
Over the days that followed I realised that my life was a wreck. I was in an unmanageable amount of debt. I was physically and mentally unwell from all the long hours and sacrifices I was making to maintain my gambling habit. All my relationships were toxic and dysfunctional.
I knew then that I was done.
I needed help to turn my life around, because I couldn’t stop on my own. I was surprised at how many services were available to help me. I discovered so many opportunities when I made the effort to seek them out.
I engaged in counselling, group therapy and peer support groups to help me leave gambling behind. Most importantly, I connected with other people who were struggling with compulsive gambling. I realised I wasn’t alone.
I won’t say it was easy, but reaching out to support services was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. My life today is so different, in a positive way. My gambling took away the opportunities for a happy life that would have otherwise been present.
Today I enjoy every moment of my life, feeling gratitude and contentment like I never did when I was gambling.”
If there is anything in this article that has struck a chord with you – or you recognise the warning signs in a friend or family member – you can speak to a support person and access various support services by calling 1800 858 858. This free, confidential and non-judgemental service is available 24/7.
∗ All case studies are de-identified to ensure the confidentiality and privacy of our clients