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Steve's story


Learning from the mistakes of gambling harm

I had lots of happy-go-lucky times with my mates, having beers at the golf club where there was a TAB. I remember my friend put on a $2 bet that was 109-1 and he threw all the money in the air when he won. They were good fun times, going back about 15 years ago, when I was in my 20s.

That friend has always been amazingly disciplined at setting limits, but I’d go to the casino and lose 50 per cent of my income. I’d wonder what I was doing by spending more than I could afford, but I also told myself that it wasn’t impacting my life in any major way and I could stop if I wanted to.

I’d go to the casino and lose 50 per cent of my income.

The best barrier for me was that physically going to the TAB or casino was an effort.

The rise of phone apps

I got my first teaching job in 2007 and I didn’t really have an issue with gambling for about 10 years, until I started using apps on my phone. I joined a Facebook subscription group that would give you tips but I couldn’t just stick to those tips; I’d gamble outside them too.

I love NBA [North America’s National Basketball Association] and was watching it daily. Putting a bet on kept it interesting. It was all about the green numbers on the app. The real danger was how easy it was to hide my betting. It didn’t arouse any suspicion and betting anonymously covered up my guilt and shame. I was also using alcohol and recreational drugs to deal with my feelings.

The real danger was how easy it was to hide my betting.

I maxed out credit cards but I thought I was good at covering my tracks. I became a cunning liar – someone who wasn’t me – but I honestly believed I’d be able to make the money back. I used to tell myself, ‘You got yourself into this mess and now you have to get yourself out’.

Then there came a debt I couldn’t service and I had to tell my wife. I saw a gambling counsellor but I became complacent pretty quickly. I was only doing it because my wife wanted me to and that never works; the drive has to come from the person.

Not ready to come clean

I did see one counsellor regularly but there were a few relapses in that time. I worked towards telling my family about my gambling, but I’d been betting the day we visited, so I wasn’t really coming clean or owning up.

My brother and sister were a lot more supportive than I thought they’d be. My father, though, he was shocked and angry, but most of all he was disappointed. That’s worse than anger and it’s been one of the hardest things for me to take on board.

I was brought up with all the privileges available but it doesn’t matter who you are. I have to be on guard every day.

The best measures for me have been to have no access to credit cards, and I have Gamban on my phone. My wife is in control of our money and I’m ok with that. I’ve created the situation, so you have to reap what you sew.

Working on urges and triggers

There’s no silver bullet. You don’t initially believe that you’re an addict for life. I’ve worked with a psychologist and on my own on my urges and triggers. I don’t watch the NBA. I don’t drive past a TAB. If I feel an urge, I give someone a call or go for a run.

I had a relapse last year, but I didn’t let it get me down or take me off track. You have to pick yourself up and try again. The day you stop trying is the day you lose. If nothing changes, nothing changes.

Keep telling yourself to keep doing the right thing.

Relapses make you more self-aware for next time, so you can focus on heading off any ‘next times’.

I have a growth mindset where I’m determined to learn from my mistakes. Keep telling yourself to keep doing the right thing.

I work really hard at living a good life with my wife, where we have open communication. Sport is in there as a positive. I play golf and tennis and I’ve run a marathon. I’ve pulled on the footy boots for 20 years and I’m a passionate Geelong supporter.

I’m also a high school sports coordinator for Years 7 to 9. I’ve heard Year 12 boys talking about sports betting and said, ‘Be careful with what you’re doing’.