My name is Jake. I’m a former gambler and Peer Connection volunteer.
I started to like horse racing when I was 12. For me, gambling started out as a Saturday afternoon hobby, betting on the races at home with my dad and brother. But what started out as a harmless hobby, over time, began to consume my life.
When I was 17 I started going to the races frequently and would often lose more than I could afford. While at university, my part-time jobs always revolved around gambling.
After my commerce degree, I landed my dream role as a racing and sports trader at a well-known online betting company. It was now my job to live and breathe gambling and racing. I found myself devoting more and more of my spare time to it. I’d look forward to finishing work so I could go home to gamble. I’d often bet on my phone while driving home. Despite a no-gambling policy at work, I’d sometimes take my phone to the bathroom and bet.
Gambling also infiltrated my social life. I no longer had time for friends and would often gamble on Friday and Saturday nights instead of socialising. When some of my friends brought this up I was defensive and justified my behaviour, harming some relationships forever. Even when I managed to pull myself away from gambling, I was barely present because all I could think about was betting.
The biggest problem for me was that I became very good at gambling and started making a lot of money. But I knew my life was out of balance. I quit my job and things got worse. I became a ‘professional punter’ and during the first three months made roughly $30,000. I thought this financial success would simply continue indefinitely.
Even when I managed to pull myself away from gambling, I was barely present because all I could think about was betting.
On any given day I made or lost up to $8,000. When I lost, I’d get into a horrible mood and be very impatient to recover my losses the next day. I’d often continue gambling into the night to try and win. I also found myself lying to everybody about my wins and losses, thinking nobody understood my situation: that I actually had a gambling system that could generate money. In the fourth month, I lost the entire $30,000.
That was when I stopped gambling. I’d known for a long time it was bad for my wellbeing, but ignored this because of the money I made early on. When I was no longer making money, I could no longer convince myself it was worth it.
Once I stopped, I found myself in real trouble. Horse racing and gambling had been my passion and given me purpose and meaning. I was lost. I began attending a men’s circle and seeing a counsellor. Theses outlets really helped get me through my darkest nights. I guess the most important thing for me in stopping was talking about it to people I trusted. It was especially helpful when they were non-judgemental.
I guess the most important thing for me in stopping was talking about it to people I trusted.
I’ve been able to give more to relationships since I stopped gambling, because my thoughts aren’t otherwise preoccupied. My mood has also been much more stable, as opposed to the massive swings I used to experience.
People have noticed the difference. Friends say I’m clearly less anxious and my step mum says I’m more consistent and more available, physically and emotionally.
Although I knew on the day I stopped gambling that it was all behind me, I still have urges. They’re less frequent than in the months after I stopped, but they still happen. The difference now is that my journey has given me the strength, resolve and resources to allow them to be there, yet not act on them.
I’ve recently completed an advanced diploma of counselling. For the practical placement of my course, I decided to volunteer at Gambler’s Help Northern for the Peer Connection program. I’ve been volunteering there for over a year now, using my gambling experience to support people struggling with their own gambling problems.