I started gambling, at the early age of 13, at a racetrack near my home. It was owned by friends of my father and it was my summer job. It was here that I gambled for the first time, placing a bet on a race. Little did I know that it was the beginning of 40 years of gambling, that went from being fun to being a major problem in my life.
I gambled through most of those 40 years and lost a significant sum of money (some where in the $500,00 dollar range). For a major portion of this time, I was single and at one point I had 2 full time jobs and was homeless in the middle of winter for about 3 months and yet I still hadn’t reached my “rock bottom”.
My “rock bottom” finally came in January of 2000. I was on my way to the casino to try to increase my available cash flow before going to the off-track betting shop to pursue my gambling of choice. I was married, with 2 children, a full time sales job and a wife that was completely in the dark with respect to my gambling. I would leave my home in the morning and drop her off at work, go and do sales calls until around 11:00 AM, then to the casino for a couple of hours before going to the off-track betting shop. I would play the horses for the afternoon and then go and pick my wife up, stopping on the way to get her, to get the mail and hide the past-due notices. This was a regular weekly routine, Monday to Friday, daytime only. I never gambled at night or on the weekends.
In January of 2000, my “rock bottom” arrived. I had put my family in a very serious credit situation and it was all about to blow up in my face. I finally had to face the realization that I was not going to get that ” one big win that would allow me to pay off all the debts without having my wife find out about my problem. I would quit and everything would be just fine”.
This was the turning point in my life. I went to the casino as usual but instead of going to the machines, I went to the reception desk and asked to self-exclude. Next, I called a help line and was give the phone number of a community health centre, which I called and made an appointment to get counselling. That was the easy part. The hardest thing I ever had to do was face my wife and tell her that I had a gambling problem and that we were on the verge of bankruptcy. I will never forget the look of hurt that I saw on her face. It ripped me apart inside and, at that moment, I knew that she was probably going to leave me and it didn’t matter. I had to save myself or else there was nothing there for her anyway.
That was the day that I took the biggest gamble of my life and I’m glad to be able to say that we are still together. It wasn’t easy. It took a lot of years to regain her trust as well as my self-esteem, but it has been a journey that has changed my life. I’m not ashamed of who I was, I’m proud of who I am.
Terry (Board Chair of the Responsible Gambling Council