Thomas's story - Carrying an enormous secret around

I went out for dinner one night with my partner at the time and after we finished eating they said well let's go play some pokies. Won, came out in front, and thought this was easy.

A couple of weeks later I walked past a pokie venue and thought 'oh yeah I'll just pop in, it's just a bit of fun.' And I lost. I only meant to spend $20 or $30. I lost that and thought 'no I'll put another $20 in, I'll win it back.' And that's pretty much it.

Once I got started I found I just couldn't stop. I very quickly stopped enjoying it.

As the money that I had lost went up, my need to get that back increased with it. And I guess for me the greater those losses got, the less able I was to tell anyone.

Did I want to tell people what was going on? Absolutely I did. But I was so scared of actually admitting to what I was doing.

I know countless times I spent money that I had ear-marked to go out to dinner, or even just to buy lunch. For months my breakfast and my lunch was biscuits from the tea room and coffee, because I could get it for free.

The thing that actually pushed me over the line to seek help was my partner at the time questioned me about money that wasn't where it should be. I stopped, and within a month I was gambling again, I relapsed.

At no point was I able to stop voluntarily, I had to have my hand forced every time. I had lost everything at that point, and it was a real sense of 'you've hit rock bottom' and there's nowhere else you can go now.

The impacts on myself from gambling? The biggest one was stress. I was carrying this enormous secret around. The way I saw myself changed significantly over a period of time. I became very good at lying – extremely good at lying, and that scared me. The breaking of the trust, especially when you relapse and you relapse again, I am sure your family members start saying 'well can I trust you again?'

There's a statistic floating around of between seven and 10 people are impacted for every problem gambler. And I have no doubt that's true.

I've been off the pokies for 11 years now, and for the first 10 years I was sleep walking.

I guess the next step for me from that point on was accepting that I wasn't a bad person, that I wasn't some monstrous person who had done all these terrible things. I can move on from that point.

I was looking around for something to do, that could possibly make a difference. And I started writing about it. I started getting involved in social media, and it's really grown from there, it's snowballed.

My website, which is cyenne, it's essentially a blog. I write about the industry, I write about gambling. And to be honest I'm honoured that someone would come to me and say 'look I have a problem'. It's something I was never able to do. 'I have a problem, I've found your site, can you help?'.

If someone is gambling at the moment, my advice would be that there is support. There are a lot of people who won't judge, and there are so many services now that can help. There is a way out; your life doesn't stop when you stop playing pokies. That's just the start of getting it back.

Original Source: The Department of Social Services (DSS)