A few years ago, I won big at the horse races. Really big.
It was thrilling and exciting and I came home on cloud nine. I’d won $13,000 – a 10% share of $130,000 from a syndicate I was part of.
But, I thought, I could maybe do better than that win. I could possibly make more than that, all on my own.
I signed up to a heap of Facebook pages - Harness Racing NZ, Boys Get Paid - You name it, I was on it. I’d wake up every morning and check my Facebook page to see what tips had been posted and then I’d spend my days at work excited about getting home to place my bets.
I’d sit at home on multiple devices - TV, cell phone, radio – and I would place multi-bets in the hopes of winning big. My young daughter would often tell me to turn my phone off. My wife would try to have a conversation. I was always too busy betting to acknowledge them.
I continued trying to chase the bigger win down. One night, I was only one win away from $30,000. I’d spent the money in my head before I won it. I didn’t win, but I was so close.
Before I knew it, the TAB and racing had completely consumed me, my life, everything I did. It was clogging my brain. I was throwing money away all over the place and it was just so easy. The TAB was right there on my phone, two or three taps away from the next bet.
I started to realise it was getting out of hand. It was my second job, but it wasn’t making any money. We were having financial difficulties and I wasn’t spending any proper time with my family. It wasn’t healthy. What if the big win never came? It was then I realised I had hit rock bottom.
I called the gambling helpline twice within a year, only to be told an appointment would be made for the following week. But I needed help, and I needed that help now. One day, or a week away would be too late and I just continued gambling.
Recently, it was my first wedding anniversary and my wife and I went away for the weekend. As soon as we got to the hotel, trackside was turned on. We went for a walk later and I had my head buried in my phone waiting for the next horse to race. My wife had had enough. I didn’t blame her. She asked me if anything was ever going to change and I knew it was time I needed to make that change.
I googled “Gambling Help” and that’s how I found the gambling counsellor at Nga Kete Matauranga Pounamu Charitable Trust.
An appointment was made for the following day, and I brought my wife along for support. To me, it was important to bring her along because it showed the fact I was being completely transparent. My wife has been incredibly supportive and patient with me throughout my addiction.
The counsellor was a neutral, trained professional. She was someone I felt I could open up to after 20 minutes into the appointment, and she immediately made me feel comfortable. She listened, and gave good advice and talked me through how I could be accountable to, firstly, my wife and then to my close family and friends.
I started telling a few friends, who shared the same interests as me in horse betting, that I was seeking help. That was another way of holding myself accountable to ensure I didn’t attempt to bet again.
The biggest move though was plucking up the courage to ban myself from all TABs nationwide. I ummed and ahhed for a few moments but it was such a simple process. I downloaded the form, signed it, and scanned it back. Once I hit the sent button it was such a huge relief.
I believe if you’re serious about wanting to stop gambling, it’s the only step to take.
It’s been nine weeks now since my last bet. My mind is clearer, I’m spending more time with my family and more time doing things outside and playing with the kids, and I’m finding new interests I never knew I had.
When I look back now, I just think what a waste. If I’ve got some spare cash now, I’d rather give it to my kids than the TAB.
It’s a mugs game.
We offer a free professional counselling service for both gamblers and others affected by gambling. For more information pop in and see us at 92 Spey Street, Invercargill, or free phone 0800 925 242.