“I have been gambling on the pokies for the last 4 years, before then I have never touched the dam things! It started when I met a guy that had a bad gambling problem. We use to go to the pub after university and he would slap, before this my life was somewhat mundane, I never had many friends and my time was spent alone. I used to travel a lot to fill the loneliness but now I found that people go gambling alone too… It became a way to keep myself busy and it was somewhat like a “substitute” lifestyle.
When I was about 15 I would always dream about travelling overseas and started working two full time job, saving every cent I could. when I was 19 I had a bank account close to $50,000. When I started gambling I think it was around $35,000 and losing $1000 a night just didn’t seem like much. I never really had depression or the “hang over” because of the money. I had saved over the years was still there. It took about 6 months for me to lose everything. $35,000 in 6 bloody months! Even then, I would just turn to my girlfriend and ask her for money, she gave and gave until she realised this was getting out of control.
The depression and anxiety kicked in, the sleepless nights, and never ending stress was a daily routine. It took about 12 months in total for me to be in debt to my girlfriend, behind on bills and seeking easy money. I had several loans going, a $5000 credit card debt, thousands owed to my mum and GF, and ever so close to losing my job. Every 2nd week i would get paid $2000, I would finish work at 11pm and i would RUN to the local pub, literally RUN as fast as i can in the middle of the night, after a 12 hour shift and blow the whole dam lot. I would drink and gambling max bets until the early hours of the morning. If I’m winning, then at 5am when the local pubs close I would get a taxi to the casino. One time I stayed in the casino for nearly 24 hours straight, I lost about $4000 if I remember correctly. I would call my GF and tell her how much I hate myself, how screwed up life is…
It got to the point where I wouldn’t pay my rent, I went weeks with eating only pasta or bread.. I was getting sick and near breaking point. I had waited months for my tax return to come in, telling everyone that it will be the break I need, the money will pay all my debts off and ill be clean! The same day it went into my account, again I RAN to the bank, I was all sweating and out of breath, took all $5000 out in cash and went to the closest club. $10 hits and a few hours later I wanted to die. Numerous times I thought about killing myself, I have gone to the gap numerous times and wanted to jump so badly but never did. I decided to leave Sydney and moved to an Island for 6 months. 6 months and not one pokie in sight. The feeling of having no gambling anywhere was amazing. The bank filled up, the debts were cleared and I was free. Then I moved to a city in Queensland and the first night, I lost everything damn thing I had saved.
To this day I have lost my GF, my house, I have no property, no TV, no nothing, I never have money, never go out, have no new clothes for years, I have dropped out of 2 uni degrees and left some really good jobs. Yet I still gamble. I have no money and owe my mum $1700. I got it yesterday and today I lost it all, she doesn’t know yet but when she does, I’ll be back sleeping in the park and stealing the bread from outside the shop in the early mornings.
Gambling Help counsellor Julie replies: Matthew’s story is similar to many stories we hear. The person with the gambling problem is often their own toughest critic. The biggest step, for many, is reaching out for help. Some people tell themselves they have to do it alone. In reality, it takes courage to trust someone with your story. Like other Gambling Help counsellors, I have helped many people like Matthew turn their lives around. Things may seem hopeless to him now, but it’s amazing what changes the right kind the right of support and practical strategies can make to a life.”