Shayne Rodgers, photo: Paul Jeffers
Gambling was in my life from the very start. I first remember gambling when I was 12 or 13 in TattsLotto family competitions, and putting really small bets on the horses. By the time I was 18 and could legally gamble, I felt I was already out of control. I struggled until the moment I stopped at 27. It was stressful and embarrassing – borrowing off friends, trying to make ends meet each week and feeling like the only way out was to win.
Everywhere I looked
When I didn’t have money I felt like I needed to gamble, and when I did have money I felt like I could gamble. I think it goes back to my childhood, where it seemed like the only way we were ever going to have money was to win TattsLotto. My mum and dad always worked but I grew up with the mentality of, sure, work hard, but if you really want to end up with enough money to prosper, you’re probably going to have to win it. I didn’t realise how silly it was to lose all your money every week because people around me were doing something very similar.
I grew up with the mentality of, sure, work hard, but if you really want to end up with enough money to prosper, you’re probably going to have to win it.
I’m a plumber and I initially sought help through the building industry’s Incolink. I also saw a couple of Gambler’s Help counsellors, which definitely helped. I’d stop for a few weeks after those sessions but then I’d sell myself another story – just have small bets, or have one bet – knowing too well that once I was back gambling, away I’d go again. Early on I missed some appointments because I was too afraid to go in. I’d just sit out the front. I think that’s a good message for counsellors – don’t give up on clients. They probably want to come but just can’t.
Too precious to gamble
About 12 months before I stopped in 2012, I met my now-wife Emma. I hid pretty much all my gambling from her for that first year before realising one day that I would probably lose her if I didn’t stop. Telling her was the worst part – it took a long time to get her trust back. But I did everything I could. I gave up all my finances to her and swore I would never gamble again and I haven’t. That was it. She meant so much to me that it just wasn’t worth it.
My key message is to just keep going and try different things, because one person’s way of stopping might not work for the next person.
I started volunteering with Banyule Community Health’s Peer Connection program in 2015. I support about 10 people who I call once a fortnight. Sometimes it’s the first time they’ve ever spoken to anyone about their gambling, but people are so much more relaxed when they can say, ‘This is what I did. What did you do?’ It makes all the difference. My key message is to just keep going and try different things because one person’s way of stopping might not work for the next person.
I suggested a podcast about lived experience stories to Banyule Community Health and they thought it was a great idea, suggesting I apply for a Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation grant. I’d never done anything like it before so I was really out of my comfort zone, but we knew we wanted to share people’s stories as well as interviewing academics, Gambler’s Help professionals and talk about the ways people recover from a gambling addiction. Our podcast, Not a dollar more, was launched in February.
I felt like an expert coming out of my addiction.
When I came up with the podcast idea, I knew something would come of it. We’ve had so much good feedback from professionals working in this space and from gamblers. One of the young guys I speak to through Peer Connection told me that he didn’t feel alone when he listened to it. That was a very emotional moment. I feel there are so many more people it can reach. It’s like a good book – we’ve made it timeless because we’re not just talking about the ways of stopping gambling but also the emotions people go through when they gamble, and those emotions will never change.
Speaking out for young men
In my work as a supervisor for a plumbing company, I see a lot of young guys on their phones having bets on games of basketball or whatever. It’s hard to watch because I know that those initial innocent bets – $5 or $10 – is how it all starts. We listen to a commercial radio station at work and every second ad is gambling, so it’s right in everybody’s faces. Guys are not just betting through bookmakers either, they’re betting amongst themselves too. It’s definitely a problem.
In 2018 I joined the Foundation’s Lived Experience Advisory Committee as the youngest member. It’s about being a voice for those young men. My family has always been community-minded and I feel very proud to be able to use my own experience to help others. Without trying to sound too confident, I felt like an expert coming out of my addiction. I knew so much about gambling harm, and I feel like I have so much to give.
Shayne Rodgers is creator, co-producer and presenter of the nine-part podcast Not a dollar more. This free series aims to support people worried about their own or loved ones’ gambling. Topics covered include young men and gambling, triggers and urges, the pokies, drugs and gambling, and powerful stories of recovery.
Find out more about the Foundation’s Lived Experience Advisory Committee.