I am not a professional writer. No letters follow my name.
However, it doesn't take a degree to share a set of
I have experienced some of what life has to offer; awesome highs
and crushing lows. I feel qualified to share my story.
It might offer you hope, since you have been living a life that
Your choices and behaviours have created and shaped this unreal
world, and have blinded you to what is really happening. I call it
our 'dream state'.
Our dream state? Until not so long ago, it was my dream state
I had been living in this 'state' for some ten years. My path of
least resistance saw me gamble myself almost to oblivion. But
despite my worsening circumstances, I couldn't see another path,
even though one was always there.
Before poker machines changed the landscape of our daily lives,
I was happy living in the real world.
I loved my wife Lucy and we lived each day, enjoying all it
offered. I had a job I loved. We saved for what we wanted. We took
a holiday when we felt the need. Then everything changed.
One of our favourite pubs was advertising a promotional night.
Come along, win prizes!
The poker machines required no skill, emitted complex musical
sounds and mesmerised with their bright colours and graphics.
That night Lucy and I won several prizes; a CD player, a bottle
of champagne. We continued attending. She was reluctant, I was
eager. Lucy was committing the same sum for the night while I
wanted to gamble more.
We had stopped winning but I was still keen, thrusting more
money at the machines in the hope of winning.
Then the promotional period ceased.
I still wanted to try to win. Lucy was not interested. There was
an occasional argument.
This was the beginning of my dream state.
My previous self was slowly disappearing. All I saw were
possibilities for a win here, a gain there. Reality was fading
fast. If I heard concerned murmurings around me, I refused to
I began arriving at clubs as they were about to open. I would
eagerly thrust a $20 note at my favourite machine in hopes of
doubling it. But when this happened, it wasn't enough. I couldn't
bring myself to accept the winning and pull out. In my mind there
was more to be made; much more.
And then came the inevitable guilt of having lost everything,
again. I would trudge, defeated, from the pub or club, alone.
Once I withdrew $1000 from a savings account and inserted twenty
$50 notes into my favourite machine, watching as they disappeared.
It was at this point that I turned to Lucy and confessed.
She was incredibly supportive - more than I expected or felt I
deserved. I was ready to address my problem.
We decided that I would exclude myself from entering premises
with poker machines. I was restricted to certain bank accounts with
limited available funds, and certainly no joint money.
This worked for a while. Occasionally I would make a counter
withdrawal, which would then be swallowed up by the nearest
I garnered enough trust to have access to money to buy Lucy a
birthday present, but the shop was only fifty metres from a pub.
That money disappeared also.
You'd think I would have seen what was happening but I was still
very much in my dream state.
Lucy and I talked. I attended a meeting of Gamblers Anonymous
(GA), and then another. But perhaps my denial of my troubles got
the better of me and I refused to continue, saying that I didn't
like the religious aspect of the organisation.
All this time I knew there had to be a simple solution. Perhaps
I was depressed and was using gambling as a means of escape?
I visited a clinic, professing to be clinically depressed, and
was placed on a Prozac-like drug. Within months I was feeling
right. There was less fog in my head and my behaviours became more
Things went along smoothly for a while, and I was starting to
regain Lucy's trust.
Something in me had always felt a need to improve my financial
position. It was never enough to be patient and take one day at a
time; I needed money now and I was searching the internet for ways
to make it - fast.
I joined online pyramid schemes. I discovered 'auto-surfing',
whereby ads would rotate on your computer screen and as you clicked
on them you earned points which could be converted into dollars. I
joined online forums to advertise my site addresses in the hope of
sponsoring people beneath me who would do the same, and I would
earn a percentage of their earnings.
Months passed and the gap between what I was spending and
earning was widening.
I was on a losing streak.
But then I discovered the magic bullet!
A radio advertisement promoted online currency trading:
legitimate money making from home, analysing and trading in the
currency market. Lucy agreed that this was worth investigating, we
attended an information session and I signed up for the
It was simple enough - you just had to learn how to read
currency charts and recognise patterns of market behaviour. Past
market behaviour was a strong indicator of what might happen again,
so I opened an account with $15,000.
What I didn't count on was the emotions I would experience as a
result of being in the market'. I didn't recognise them at first; I
just thought I needed to persevere until training and intellect won
But time was running out as my account was dwindling quickly. I
was increasing my risk as a way of increasing my possible
And there is the kicker…I was still firmly entrenched in my
dream state. I was still utterly hooked on the gambling mentality
which saw me lose thousands of dollars in poker machines.
But I refused to see this. In one trade I could make several
There was my red sports car, overseas holidays, a large modern
home, dining at the best restaurants and drinking the best
wines…they were all within reach; I could hear the engine
But it wasn't happening.
As months went by I poured more resources into trading and
devoted more time to staring at the screen.
My wife was more and more concerned about my change in
behaviour. I was not 'with her', physically or emotionally. I was
at the computer, or thinking about being at the computer.
I started raiding our accounts for money to support my dream.
Lucy didn't understand that I was doing this for us and our future.
Any refusal on her part to accept what I was doing was obstinacy
and lack of understanding.
I invited her to learn the markets with me so we could do this
together, but this idea was quickly put to bed.
$100 here and there would evaporate from our joint accounts and
arguments and discussions would follow.
Obviously I would have to use discretion and secrecy as a way of
continuing my activities.
I talked to my mother about my trading prowess. She agreed to
lend me $5000 - without telling Dad. I agreed to pay it back
quickly. The deadline came and went.
Calls from Mum were ignored. I accessed her credit card for
additional funds without her consent, which she quickly
Because I couldn't sleep I would sneak out at night. I raided my
wife's purse for credit cards, forgetting that the next statement
would reveal my deception. I would have all the money restored with
dividends and she would be grateful.
I intended to pay everybody back, honestly. It was the single
thought that dominated my waking moments. My dream of a lavish
lifestyle shifted to helping everyone around me to be
I found myself in a deep depression that saw me lose my job. It
was the realisation that my dream, and my investments, had been
flushed away. I was now condemned to working a standard week for a
wage. I was crushed.
Lucy and I decided that I needed professional advice. I began
consulting a psychotherapist .
A doctor prescribed a new drug, a powerful mood stabiliser that
acts on brain chemistry. It has strong side effects, including
severe weight gain.
I quickly gained almost 10 kilos, and soon I was puffing and
panting just putting on shoes and socks. I was also reverting more
and more to old behaviours that saw me get into all this trouble in
the first place!
A decision was made to take me off all medication and just
continue with psychotherapy.
Dramatic changes happened, almost immediately.
I started losing weight, fast. Most unexpected was a rapid
clearing of my negative thoughts and emotions. These were fast
being replaced with positive thoughts of a future without
My thoughts had been focused on wanting everything today…debts
paid off, a lavish future and so on. But I was starting to achieve
a level of personal understanding about an alternative
My desperation to have everything now was eroding and leaving
behind a rational understanding that these things may or may not
happen at all, and if they do it will be the result of a day-by-day
I had come full circle after having attended my first GA
meeting. They don't gamble - today. There's no point thinking about
tomorrow. All we have is today. When tomorrow becomes today, then
we make that vow, but never before!
There is a riddle: how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a
I have adopted this approach to my daily life. It makes so much
sense that I'm amazed that it has taken me until now to realise
Dreams are good…they provide hope for a better future and this
propels us forward.
But how can we move forward when we are confronted with
difficult choices and confronting challenges? How can we ensure
that we choose the path that will ultimately lead us in the right
I left my last job because I felt out of control and stressed to
One day, I just pulled over to the side of the road, turned off
the engine and started crying uncontrollably. I was angry,
frustrated, and ashamed.
I rang Lucy and confessed that I was about to quit. Bless her,
for she left her responsibilities and drove nearly an hour, just to
Thinking back, this situation was littered with moments in which
I could have chosen differently.
With my newfound understanding of taking things
moment-to-moment, I can see this so clearly now. The art is in the
breaking down of the event into its tiniest components, until you
are literally in the 'now'.
What do I mean?
Think about the GA promise; not to gamble today. It's a choice
not to see past today because this helps break down something
insurmountable into something recognisable and achievable.
Take it further…
I can't ensure that a whole day works out as I intend; sometimes
life throws a curveball. I have to adjust constantly to this.
We all do.
That's why I don't just live for today -I live for this
I can be confronted a thousand times a day with a difficult
choice but as long as I realise that all I have is this choice in
this moment, it's as simple as it gets.
We've all heard the saying 'one step at a time'. It's impossible
to take more than one step at a time, so why try? Why emphasise
getting through this week when we only have this moment?
The trick is to string together a few good moments, an effective
shift at work, a successful day, week, month, year.
Living like this has rekindled my relationship with Lucy, and we
are well on the way to paying back my debt. It will take years, but
I can't think that far ahead. I need to be able to work day by day
and bring in my wage so I can continue to contribute to our
And I do this moment to moment.
Kyle is aware of the proposed legislative changes regarding
gambling. While he understands the appeal of strategies such as
reducing maximum betting sums and the removal of automatic teller
machines from near hotels and clubs, he believes that they don't
address the heart of the problem. He agrees with Youth Off The
Streets founder Fr Chris Riley, who says that counselling and
education are the keys to moving forward. "Education,
education, education - and support," Kyle says unequivocally. In
his case, the impact of various medications, and the ease with
which credit can be obtained, are other areas of
*Names have been changed at the writer's request.