Clive's story - I choose my family
Let me begin by introducing myself. I'm what you would call just an average person; married, kids, mortgage etc. From the outside you would probably not even notice me, let alone think that there are any major problems with me or my family. But to coin a phrase 'looks can be deceiving'.
My first forms of gambling were trips to the TAB with my father. Only 50c here and there, nothing that would be out of the ordinary for many a small child. This went on for a few years, but then a friendly BBQ on Caulfield Cup day changed that.
What would be considered a harmless sweep and a win of $38.00 quite possibly started something, as this was a huge amount of money for an 8 year old in 1976. I really don't remember too much between the ages of 8-11. At 11½ I was very violently sexually abused on a school camp. The actual act against me I could get over, but not the taunts and ridicule I copped from my supposed friends.
At age 12 I started drinking and smoking pot to escape my feelings. Year 10 and school ending couldn't come quick enough. An apprenticeship with my father and brother in the Club industry soon followed.
Welcome to the real world I was told; I embraced this new world with adults and all that went with it. I would work long hours which was fine and at the end of a long day we would retreat to the bar and pokie room for what could be construed as relaxation.
Beers would flow and money would be invested in gaming. Some big wins were had and some large losses also. This I believe was the awakening of the 'sleeping giant'. A weight so heavy to carry at the ripe of age of 15
Work was never a problem, up at 5am finish about 8.30pm and then off to drink and gamble. By the age of 17 I never had any money, had developed a rather unhealthy appetite for pot, alcohol and amphetamines. Gambling was the reason for no money as I used to deal drugs to cover my use. The extra cash from this was just a way to gamble more.
By the age of 20 I had somewhat turned into a fairly solitary person. Gambling was my friend and my escape from my own thoughts. There were many a time when huge wins occurred, but this only served as a mechanism for long play periods that induced a stupor. The real low for me was if I didn't have gambling money I learnt how to pawn my belongings and occasionally steal from my employers. There were times that I would get into fights just to get beaten up so I could come up with a lame excuse of why I didn't have cash to pay for bills etc. These excuses were usually aimed at the very people who cared for me - mum, brother, girlfriends.
I was 28 the year my son decided to join the world, a great feeling one would think; there's that word again "feeling", just another excuse to hide in the corner and not deal with it. Somewhere around this point I think I didn't quite know who or what I was. A family man with a loving wife and newborn son, or a carefree lost soul who just wanted to get off my face and gamble with no strings attached?
This went on for a few years. We added a beautiful daughter to the fold, but still I was lost. The torture I think I put my wife through in this time would probably be unbearable for most (major drug trafficking charges, threats from drug people because I had gambled large sums of their money, not turning up to important events for family because I would be somewhere drunk and gambling), not being able to pay bills because I had spent my pay.
But still she stayed.
In my early thirties it really hit the fan when I had a major back problem and had nine months off work. With rising debt and no income we had to go bankrupt. This was a good and bad thing. There was no money for food or bills but we managed to get through. Mind you there was minimal gambling during this period.
Things sort of muddled along for a while, I had given up drugs and on a solemn promise to my wife have stayed clean to this very day. A feat I am very proud of, but the real clanger was yet to come.
On a Friday morning at 7.30am I received a call at work from my mother. Dad had passed away at his nursing home (he had Alzheimer's, dementia and Parkinson's), if this wasn't enough my grandmother also passed not six hours later. Oh, oh emotional turmoil! The following Wednesday we buried them in the family plot. Fairly uneventful as I had turned into an emotionless brick. Friday came along and I had to put down my best mate, my kelpie Reg, faithful and loving for 13 years.
The following month my mother presented me with a cheque for $150,000 from my grandmother's estate. While my wife was looking at houses I was going on a 30 day $40,000 'destructo' mission all along without her really knowing what I was doing as I stupidly was the only signatory on the account! Anyway, we bought a house for a good price and managed to keep some money tucked away for renovations and such.
Four weeks to the day after buying our house I broke my neck, and spent six months on the sidelines. By the time I went back to work we had $14.00 in our accounts as there was absolutely no government help if you had a few pennies tucked away.
For the next two years I lived in a state of resentment for having to owe an institution for basically my working life (the bank). Gambling was off and on, I tried to get help but somehow always managed to convince myself that I was alright, only to do it all again. So I have now reached a point in my life where I have to make a decision; gamble or family.
I have chosen family. My wife stuck by me through good times and absolute crap. My children are beautiful, one musically and sport gifted, the other academically gifted. It's now been what seems like an eternity since I have gambled, about 5 weeks. And I would be lying if I said I didn't miss it. There is a much bigger picture. The canvas is there, almost finished with all the characters in place - my wife, kids, dogs, house, brother and family, mum, the only thing missing is the main character - me. In time and with every-body's help I will reclaim my spot on that canvas so that my picture will be complete.
Clive is a pseudonym as the writer wishes to remain anonymous. We would like to thank this client for giving his story so honestly, it takes great courage to step forward and speak about a gambling problem. Hopefully his story will resonate with many others and show there is a way to move forward from problem gambling.