An Arrested Habbit - John's Story
An interview with John
Counsellor: "Hello John. Well first of all I believe I owe you my congratulations. As I understand it, it's been a while since you've had your last bet and you haven't needed to see me for some time."
John: "Yeah. I had one bet last year and…yeah that was about 12 months ago now."
Counsellor "So how's things going?"
John "It's been brilliant! I'm saving lots of money, my family life is excellent. It's great! I don't look for form guides anymore. My mum, brother, my son, they can all notice the changes in me."
Counsellor "It must seem like another life you were living before. Can you remember what it was like when you first came to see me?"
John "Well I know at that stage I was in big trouble with the gambling. I was in trouble with the law, up on fraud charges. I was down to my last dollar, and I was very down in the dumps."
Counsellor "And that's what brought you here?"
John "Yeah, well it was just before going to court. I blew $100,000 of fraud money, and I was looking at a gaol sentence of around 12 months or more. But all that stress wasn't the only reason why I came to see you, the main reason was to get rid of this habit. It was taking over my life. I was hurting my family, the people I love most, and it was destroying me! I just wanted to stop and knew I had to have some help."
Counsellor "So now that you've faced the courts, how have things turned out?"
John "Well, I consider myself one of the luckiest blokes alive. I got 15 months home detention - and I'm now 7 months into it."
Counsellor "So home detention, how is it?"
John "It's pretty tough, not being able to leave the home, having the bracelet on, you're traced as soon as the step out. But I'm still very lucky and I'm trying to make the most of it. I'm studying , I've got my son so I get to have time with my little boy. So I'm very lucky, if I was in gaol I wouldn't be able to do that. So sure, there are things that I don't like about it, but when I think of where I could be I'm happy."
Counsellor "And your studying now and looking at your future - that's great! Where do you think you would be if you hadn't asked for help?"
John "I'd be in gaol for sure. I would've lost everything. See, I wasn't going to work but I was always thinking of how I could get money to gamble, be it legally or not - and illegally I did! So if I continued I would have lost the lot. My mum, my brother, the people who are my biggest support, I would have lost them. If anything like this was to happen again, which it won't, they would be gone from my life and I hate to think what that would mean. They were my support at court and with getting counselling, even when I was not at the stage of accepting I had a problem, they could see it and they still stuck by me. They were…I just don't know how I could get through this if they weren't there. And I would lose them; lose all that, if I'd kept going."
Counsellor "So you giving up the punt means something to those around you, as well as yourself."
John "Definitely! I gave up for myself, 'cause I could see what it was doing to me. But then I looked at my family as well and I could see what it was doing to them. Gee…you know, I'd even take money from my mum, out of her purse. So they could see I was getting into trouble and it was pulling the family to pieces. So I did it mainly for myself but if you look into your families eyes, and you see it, what it's doing to them, yeah, I did it for them too."
Counsellor "You're family obviously mean a great deal to you. I couldn't imagine how terrible it would be in gaol and only seeing them on weekly visits. What about your son, how would it be to have him visit you in prison?"
John "No, it wouldn't happen. I wouldn't let him see me in a place like that. And that's the hard part, I would miss him growing up for 12 or 15 months of his life. It scares the shit out of me to think that my boy could have missed out on his dad when he's so…No, I don't even want to think about it. I'm just so lucky it never happened."
Counsellor "Well maybe it's a good time to change the subject then. So tell me what things have happened for you since you've completed counselling."
John "Well thing are great! I've actually been allowed to start a job that I can do at home while serving my detention. My bosses know about my sentence and they've been great, I'm studying by correspondence, my family are excellent. My son stays with me five nights a week, so he's there with me and mum. So really things couldn't be better… And I'm not gambling!"
Counsellor "Brilliant! You must wonder if it's the same life, the same you?"
John "When I think of when I got arrested and I saw my mum's face when she bailed me out of gaol. Its worlds away. I spent three days in gaol, and in there I knew I needed help. That was the end of the line and that's when something had to be done. Seeing my mum's face, that was it! When your family mean the world to you and you realize what you've done, you say, "That's it, get help, you needed it."
Counsellor "It sounds like sitting in gaol, you came to some realisation of what you were doing and what it had all amounted to. How it affected you and everyone else."
John "Definitely! I'd hit rock bottom, that was it. I couldn't go any further… like I said, fraud. And I didn't feel right as a person, so in gaol I realised."
Counsellor "But surely there where other times when you knew you were in trouble?"
John "Oh yeah! Countless, but it was in there when I really cut through the bullshit. I really saw, felt the reality of this crap I'd been doing. The cold hard fact of what I'd allowed myself to become and it hurt."
Counsellor "I guess every body has their limit and this was yours. For some people it can be difficult to ask for help. Hadn't you asked for help early, before gaol?"
John "I went to a few places and I had different experiences in counselling and sitting in groups but nothing really worked for me."
Counsellor "So what was different this time that helped to make it work?"
John "Well now that I think about it, it was that I was more willing than I was in the past. This time I was willing to look at whatever issues may have influenced my gambling. Like, things started to go bad for me around eight years ago when my father died, and my grandmother died as well."
Counsellor "That's right, we didn't just look at gambling, did we?"
John "No, for me there was some emotional stuff around my fathers' death that I really hadn't dealt with. It was like whenever I'd gotten into trouble it was somehow linked to those emotional times."
Counsellor "Yes that's right. And although that's not always the case, I do remember that working with you at that deeper level was very valuable and beneficial."
John "Yeah, I addressed stuff around my fathers' death which I didn't really get over. So we spent a lot of time on that subject and other stuff that was not just the gambling. All the personal things in my life that would make me want to go out and gamble."
Counsellor "Was that a surprise to look at such a wide range of issues?"
John "It was a bit but back then I thought I could just give it up, and the only reason I was doing it was for fun. But I came to realize that the days I needed to gamble were around times when I was thinking about my dad or my marriage, and I come to realize that all these things are linked to my gambling. You think, "Oh, this is why I did $1000 that day and this is why I did $1000 that day". You start to put the pieces together."
Counsellor "Lots of people gamble for different reasons and not everybody knows why. But for you it seems that this was important and it helped to put things into some perspective."
John "Yeah well, I could pin point a few days when I was going out to gamble and how I was feeling on that day. But when you're in it, it's like "Well it's Monday, where are the races on today"? And I'd just get out there and do it."
Counsellor "But somehow you stopped all that and, although you got some help, ultimately it was you who did the work, and it was you who stopped. You must have learnt some things about yourself you never realized before."
John "I learnt that I've got a lot of strength…to be able to overcome what I did, I was dedicated. I learnt that you've got to get over things, to get on with your life, like what I said, with my dads' death. And I learnt that inside I'm a good person and even though I've had hick-ups along the way, with help I pulled through. So basically I learnt along the way we are all going to have hick-ups but if you put in the effort, you'll come up roses."
Counsellor "You now know that you really are a decent person, that you do have strengths. And if you deal with problems as they arise, really dealing with them, emotional and practically, that helps you to get on with your life and be that person you want to be. - So now that you are being that person, what's happening for you?"
John "I've got a lot more confidence in myself now, my attitude toward myself. I can now look at myself and what's happening in my life and feel good. To be able to pick up the paper now and read the sports or the news and not even think about the form guide, there is nothing negative that has come from me giving up gambling - it's all positive!" Amy.
Counsellor "Yeah but was it always this rosy, surely there must have been times of doubt?"
John "Well, the first was a bit nerve racking. But when I new I had a problem, then I was here to fix things for myself. I thought "I could go to gaol, but even if I do I still want to get rid of this problem". And that's the thing; I don't think it would have worked if I was coming to counselling to just satisfy the courts or my family. Maybe that, and some counselling that didn't do much for me, is why things were hard in the beginning. But again, if you stick to it, I think you can find some one right to help you."
Counsellor "That's a good point. Not all people are suited to the same kind of counselling and there are many counsellors out there, plus there is no counselling method that can help anyone who doesn't want to accept it. So if someone is in trouble it's up to them to first admit it, then find the right help. But I'm wondering now if there was anything that we did together that didn't help?"
John "No, not at all! We looked at a time line of where I was and where I wanted be. It was work, but it all worked out perfectly. It hit the spot. I opened up and spoke of things that I haven't even told my mother or anyone. So I thought it was great - it got things out of my system. I'm the type of person who bottles everything up and that's why my gambling got out of control. So it got everything out into the open and it was excellent to finally get rid of it, get it all off my chest."
Counsellor "And now all that is off your chest, now you've gotten rid of it, what's in the future for you?"
John "Well I'm still doing home detention, so the next eight months will be hard. I'll get through that, then I'm going on a holiday with my son. We've never been away before, I could never afford it, but now I'm getting some money together we're off for two weeks just before Christmas. Then I'll start next year in the job I have and hopefully things will continue to improve the way it has been. So the big test will be when I'm off home detention but life will be just me and my son - instead of going to the pub for hours I'll be going to the park with my son. I'll be doing the normal things, like coming home from work and cooking dinner, instead of stressing about where I'm going to get some money to buy food after every Saturday. I won't have any of those problems any more. So although it may sound funny, I think all this is the best thing that has ever happened to me. That's not just my opinion either, a lot of my family say so as well. It's calmed me down a lot; I'm saving some money now."
Counsellor "You really have come out of this with some positive things. Your attitude of yourself, your family, some real inner strength and wisdom, and now motivation and even some money. I wonder, with the wealth of experience and wisdom you've gained, what advice would you give to someone who maybe thinking they might have a problem but aren't sure what to do?"
John "Even if you've got a little bit of doubt that there is a problem or not, go and see someone. Because there's trained professionals who can help identify if there is a problem, and they can help you out if there is. So I'd say, "Take the next step and get on the phone, talk to your family, see if they think you've got a problem and just express what you're thinking to people. Don't keep it inside, because the longer you keep it inside the worse things will get."
Counsellor "But what about someone who's a little scared of getting help, or they may think it's for mad people?"
John "Yeah, I was one of them! But when it all boils down, your life will always be the same unless you do something to address the problem. Sure you can keep carrying on, but when is enough enough? It all depends on whether the fear of asking for help is worse than the pain you're putting yourself through. For me sitting in a gaol cell was enough, but it didn't have to be that way. When I really did what was necessary to address the problem I wish I had of done it years go, it's like "What was I so scared of anyway?" It may seem scary but the biggest hurdle is admitting there's a problem, being man enough to go in there."
Counsellor "The biggest hurdle is admitting the problem?"
John "Yeah! The first step is the most important step. If you can just talk to someone about it, then talk to a counsellor. Say "This is what I'm doing, this is what I've done", they will be able to sit through it with you. They're there to help."
Counsellor "Well thanks John for giving us your insight for this interview. I only hope what you have shared can be of help someone who maybe wondering what they can do. Is there anything else you'd like to say that may help someone who has realized they have a gambling problem before we leave?"
John "If you want to end up in gaol continue with what you're doing. But if you want to have a better life, get the help you can. As soon as you do that your life will change, you'll be able to walk into a pub or a club and be able to just sit and talk to your friends, not worry about the next race or the poker machines. You'll be free, you'll have your life back again."