Alex’s courage changes his life

Four years ago, Newcastle local Alex* realised he needed help.

For decades he had struggled with gambling and it reached a point where he could no longer afford to pay his rent, bills or buy food.

He knew something needed to change so he reached out for help – a step that took a lot of courage.

“Gambling has impacted my life quite severely at different times,” Alex explains.

“I never gambled because it was a positive thing, I think I was trying to distract myself from the stuff going on in my head – if I blew my money on the poker machines, there was a reason for me to feel bad”.

Since he was a teenager, Alex has “suffered quite severely with [his] mental health” and gambling was a way to connect something to the pain he felt.

“But it got to a point where I realised that I didn’t have any control over it,” he said.

“I was running in this cycle of getting paid and having money for a couple of days and then having nothing until I got paid again.”

So, Alex sought out the support of GambleAware, with the hope the service could help him take control of his addiction.

One of the first steps he had to take was finding the courage to tell his friends and family.

He said learning this skill had helped him in other aspects of his life too, he was no longer afraid to tell the truth.

The next step was finding a way to control his temptation to gamble; living very close to pubs meant Alex was a five-minute walk away from a poker machine.

One of Alex’s goals was to be able to visit those places and remain in control. Through counselling he was able to understand why he gambled and how he could stop himself from giving in to the attraction.

“I can’t say a bad word about the service,” Alex, 43, said.

“I feel safe and supported by my caseworker and that doesn’t always happen.”

Even though his journey has included relapses, Alex is confident to ask for help and acknowledge the problem.

“It’s made a really big difference in my life,” he said.

“I’m not worrying about my bills and I’m not going without my medication or food, but I know it’s not always going to be an easy road.”

“It’s definitely something that I will have to work on for the rest of my life. But I am motivated to because my life is a whole lot better now than what it was when I was gambling.”

Taking control has given Alex so much of his life back, he now has time and money to focus on the things he loves, such as music, art and skateboarding.

When asked what he would say to his caseworker, Alex got a bit emotional.

“I just want to say, ‘thank you’, I don’t think there are enough words,” he explains.

“She has seen the good and bad parts of me and has never given up – there are not enough nice words in the dictionary, I will forever be grateful to her.”

He hopes that sharing his story will encourage others who need it to ask for help.

“There’s nothing shameful in asking for help when you have a problem,” Alex said.

“If anything, it’s empowering, it means that you’re stronger than you think.”

“When you put your hand up and ask for help, the possibilities are endless.”

Alex is just one of the hundreds of people GambleAware Hunter New England has supported.

Delivered by CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning, in partnership with Centacare New England, the service provides support to people who are affected by gambling.

Team Leader Stephen Dooker said anyone is welcome to access their programs.

“Most people gamble at one time or another. It may be on poker machines, at the TAB, online betting, or on lotteries,” he said.

“For many people, gambling is fun, entertaining, and causes no harm. However, for some people, gambling can become a problem.

“If you are struggling, just talk to us, making a phone call or sending us an email is all you need to do for us to help you,” he said.

“There is no judgment – everyone faces challenges in their lives and we are here to listen and support you through every step.”

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*Name has been changed to protect identity.

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