Rob Daniel's story
‘I will not gamble today’ every day
By Rob Daniel
Literally the day I turned 18 a friend said, ‘Let’s go to the pokies’. I had typical beginner’s luck with $20 turning into $800 and I wanted to chase that feeling. My mind quickly started obsessing about the lights and sounds of the machines. I felt compelled. Two things were true at the same time: I didn’t think it was a problem and I knew that it was wrong.
I’d participate in the responsible form of gambling with friends and put just $20 into the pokies. But I wanted to scratch that itch and I’d go back without them and play multiple machines at once.
By 19, I was earning a good wage and applying for credit was easy. My pay would land at 2am every Wednesday and it would all be gambled by that evening
A position of trust
By 22, I was in a position of trust with my employer but I broke that trust due to my gambling. I worked hard but multiple sick days coupled with me going missing with no explanation ultimately led to six months of unemployment.
That’s where things really began spiralling. I was living off credit and out of my parents’ pockets, horse racing by day and pokies by night. It was full-time. Mobile gambling was becoming more advanced, creating more opportunities to gamble. I’m pretty analytical and I couldn’t believe the results were random. I tried to crack it but there was no way.
‘I was working 12-hour days and the rest of the time I was gambling.’
I’d been taught the hard work ethic from a young age and quickly found another job in a call centre. By the end of the first week I’d broken records then got promotion after promotion. The more sales I made, the more I was paid, the larger the bets, the higher my credit limits. I was working 12-hour days and the rest of the time I was gambling.
As for the venue-based part of my gambling, not one of my mates was involved. They’d say, ‘I’m bored. Let’s go’.
On Success Street?
On the surface, among family, friends, anyone really, I was cruising down Success Street. Yet, underneath, lived a sad, stressed and depressed gambling addict.
By 24, I had debt collectors chasing me for about $90,000 via email and phone, including calling me at work. I had a partner and I’d always come up with excuses about why I had no money. I did ‘fess up and there were chances; messed up; chances; messed up.
A standout event was when my partner had full control of my finances. She had to travel interstate for a week and gave me $400. Her exact words were, ‘Please show me that I can start trusting you again’.
‘By 24, I had debt collectors chasing me for about $90,000.’
I went straight to a venue. A few hours in, I was close to $10,000 up. I reached day three, up $33,000, and called in sick to work. By noon on day four, I walked off the floor without a cent. I couldn’t pay to get my car out of the carpark.
The precedent this set in my mind led to further destructive behaviour. I lost a sense of the value of money. I could win and feel nothing at all. I was gambling to shut up my mind. The moment I entered a venue, I was free from reality until the last dollar was gone.
Rocked deep in my core
The 4th of July 2014 was my final day gambling. My partner was entertaining and handed me her purse to buy drinks. Fast forward six hours and I’ve maxed everything. There were 30-plus missed calls on my phone. I was driving, freaking out, and truly thought I ran someone over.
It rocked me deep in my core. ‘I need to go to rehab for help. I have to stop NOW.’ And from that day to this, I haven’t so much as looked at a raffle ticket or a deck of cards.
‘I let go of my ego and what I knew and worked on replacing it, hour by hour, day by day.’
I entered a 28-day in-patient rehabilitation facility. I gave others permission to tell me what to do. I shut up. I listened. I participated. I answered any questions and followed every instruction. I let go of my ego and what I knew and worked on replacing it, hour by hour, day by day.
That intensive work went on for 18 months. When the Melbourne Cup came around, I donated $1000 to the Smith Family. I went to weekly Gamblers Anonymous meetings. I attended meetings when I was overseas for work. I went to a meeting on a cruise when I was the only person in attendance.
‘Change begins the moment you ask for help.’
Today, seven years on, I wake up and tell myself, ‘I will not gamble today,’ and now that sane voice lives in my mind.
All the pain and the downtimes have led to a huge database of knowledge. I’m back to being a Carlton supporter through and through and not cheering against them like an idiot because of a bet.
As frightening as it may seem, as many lies as it may expose, support is available. Change begins the moment you ask for help. I’d encourage anyone to take that winning step.