I’m a gambling addict. Three years ago, I was convicted of white collar fraud, after I stole over $130,000 from my employer to fuel an insatiable addiction.
My poison of choice was not poker machines, but online gambling.
Racing, the thoroughbreds, the trots, the dogs — I wasn’t fussy, so long as I could get a bet on and fuel that addiction.
The bets would range anywhere between $5,000 and $20,000 a day. I would bet until 3:00am, try to sleep for three hours and bet again for another three hours on online racing in the United States.
I always thought the stereotypical gambling addict was a working-class middle-aged man or woman, sitting at their local club, feeding their favourite pokies machine four or five nights a week.
But I rarely ventured into the local TAB.
Betting while the kids were in the bath
At the zenith of my addiction, I was married with two beautiful young children and working as a finance manager at a local council.
When I was with my family, I was physically there — but mentally, I was miles away, thinking about gambling: when I could next bet, where would the money come from, whether I could back a winner.
I thought about gambling 24/7. I placed bets at home, at work, the shops — basically everywhere and anywhere I could get reception on my phone.
I would be walking with the kids and our dog, yet I’d still be trying to place bets. I would even bet and watch the races on the phone while the kids were in the bath.
A knock at the door
I had been thinking about stealing to solve some of my debt problems for months, but I couldn’t do it because I knew the consequences would be dire.
Then one evening, I had a visit from two large men with a baseball bat, strongly suggesting it would be in my best interests to repay a sizable debt that was due that week.
They punched me and threatened to use the baseball bat “next time”.
I was left bruised and battered from their warning. It was a seriously scary moment; I still occasionally have flashbacks and it sends chills through my body.
That night, I made the decision to steal from work. I felt physically sick and fidgety; my mind wouldn’t stop racing. I knew it was wrong, but I did it — knowing I could one day get caught.
This article was originally published by ABC.net.au.