A massive bottler, like me
Addiction certainly doesn’t have a switch that you can flick to get better immediately. Recovery is something that takes a lot of time and effort.
For my friend it was a real challenge, as speaking up isn’t something that comes easy to him. He’s a massive bottler, like me.
If I get sad or stressed, my friends know that they need to extract information from me. I tried to use that same strategy with him, picking the right moments, to try and get him to talk about things, because the second you shut down and refuse to let people in you can find yourself in a very dark place.
He went to counselling as well, which was very helpful, but as friends we just wanted to make sure he knew that we were there for him. And to make sure he knew that he could talk about anything with us.
His wife stood by him during that time, helping him get out of that horrible, dark place. He couldn’t have got through that period without her support.
They aren’t seeing reality
Working in Melbourne’s sporting circles, I can tell you that gambling is out of control.
I’ve seen it first-hand, and it’s a dramatic issue that needs to be spoken about a hell of a lot more than it is currently.
In professional sport, there is a certain profile that people think they’re supposed to fit, regardless of whether they are male or female.
The culture is to be strong and show no weakness. That comes at a cost.
We’re talking about men and women who are role models to people young and old, which comes with a lot of pressure as well. That can make it even harder for them to speak up and get help.
But in the last couple of years, we’ve seen people start to let their guard down and show their vulnerability.
Wayne Schwass has been an incredible leader on that front for the AFL, opening up about his gambling and mental health problems. More people need to follow his example.
As a sporting industry, we need to show Australia’s broader society that we are real people, and that we make mistakes like anyone else. We need to do a better job of leading the conversation.
I don’t think people really understand just how common problem gambling is in Australia, by the nature of it being such a hidden addiction. It’s a mental health problem we’re talking about. And that’s the problem, they aren’t seeing reality.
There’s a delusion that the next race will be the one that changes their life, or that the next spin of the pokies will give them that winning feeling. But that’s just not how it works.
The first step is honesty
I love going to the races for the social side of things. And I’ve placed bets before, usually based on my favourite number or the colour of the silks the jockey is wearing.
When I’ve had a win, I’ve felt that rush too. I can understand why it’s intoxicating for a lot of people, and why they can lose control.
If you’re in deep, or you feel like that’s the direction you’re heading, honesty is the best policy.
You can’t just rely on yourself. You need to be able to talk about it and seek help. Your friends and family will want to help, and professionals are available as well.
But they can’t help if you don’t let them. So regardless of how scary it might be, the first step is honesty, so you can begin to own the situation and your recovery.
If you or someone you know is affected by gambling, call Gambler’s Help on 1800 858 858 or visit gamblershelp.com.au.