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Getting Caught – A Blessing in Disguise
Recovering Journey

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Getting Caught – A Blessing in Disguise

Alan, Male, 40sWritten by Naseera Banu

What had happened to me was nothing short of a miracle. When I came to Singapore in my early twenties to grow my career as an engineer, I did not foresee myself getting into trouble with the law, forsaking my family or even living off the streets when I had my own house. It all started out innocently with me trying my hand at 4D lottery in Singapore. All my colleagues were playing and so did I. When the local casinos opened in Singapore, I also tried baccarat there and I got hooked. I wanted to make it big quickly, thinking what better way to do it than with gambling!

I could not really see what gambling was doing to me or my family. I was slowly accumulating debts and at the peak, I had lost over $60,000 at the casino. I knew this was wrong. The worst was when I missed my daughter’s birthday party, while she waited for me to cut the cake. I had come home drunk after losing it all at the casino. Eventually, I decided to put a stop to it and applied for the self-exclusion order.

Just when I thought my gambling problem was behind me, I ended up at the casino again using my brother’s identity card when I was in a drunken stupor. Since my brother and I look almost alike, there was no problem entering the casino and the adrenaline rush started. I saw a chance to win again and a chance to get it all back! Before I knew it, I was going in and out of the casino up to five times a day like a zombie. One day, I accidentally used my own identity card to enter the casino and that was when I got caught. My life spiralled downhill from then.

I was feeling lost with thoughts of suicide in my mind. Then I decided to seek treatment with hopes of turning things around. After my first session with the psychiatrist and counsellor, I gained a lot of strength and hope. They recommended me to attend the support group for gamblers in recovery. After my first session, I felt so relieved to know that I was not alone in this and gained some confidence that I could overcome problem gambling.

I felt a big dip in my hopes for recovery when the police said I could face multiple charges for using another person’s identity card to enter the casino, and for evading payment of the daily casino entry levy. This could mean imprisonment for up to three years. My mind started racing over how my wife would manage caring for my two young children on her own since all of our relatives were based in Malaysia. Even more worrying was the harassment of moneylenders that my wife would have to face alone. At that point in time, I just wanted to crash my motorbike and kill myself so that my family could claim the insurance money and use it to clear all of my outstanding debts. But something kept me alive and made me go speak to the psychiatrist at the clinic for addiction treatment instead. The psychiatrist helped manage my mood with medication and put things in perspective for me. He also discussed plans to keep myself safe.

I continued to see my counsellor and attended the support sessions to gain strength and keep going even after I had stopped gambling. The consequences of my gambling addiction did not go away just because I was in treatment. I still had to face up to them. I continued to face various trials such as managing those who lent me money, living alone in Singapore while my wife and children stayed in Malaysia temporarily, and managing the uncertainty of the police charges as the case went on for almost two years! I was even detained for five days unexpectedly over some problems with bail. I almost became irrational after the third day when staying all alone in the cell, not knowing day from night. My faith in God helped me to pull through all of these tribulations.

Just when I was expecting a prison sentence, I only had to pay a fine of $30,000 instead. Later on, my criminal charges were dropped and I was recommended for a Mandatory Treatment Order (MTO) by the prosecutor. All these miracles strengthened my faith in God even more.

It would have been easy to simply default on the repayment of debts that I had owed and tell my debtors that I had no ability to pay. However, I was quite determined to make the repayments. I needed to feel the pain of repaying debts as a way to remind myself of the consequences of my gambling behaviour and to keep me from relapsing. At one point, I even worked up to four jobs a day just to earn enough money to repay debts. My debts were reduced from $600,000 to $150,000 over a period of 30 months.

Now I am in my fourth year of recovery and I am happy with what I have. I am grateful for all the peers that I met at the support groups and continue to live in gratitude for all the miracles that had happened. I am happy with what I have. All my troubles disappear the moment I step into my home and see my children. No amount of winnings from gambling can make up for the love and peace that I feel with my family, and I will continue to persevere and work on my recovery journey to preserve what I have been blessed with. When I have more time on my hands, I hope to become a peer support specialist so that I can share my story and lend a helping hand to others.

At this point, I would like to thank those from the treatment team who have helped me, my counsellor, my peers and most importantly, my family, for being there for me and not giving up on me despite all the consequences that I had to face from problem gambling. When I think back now, getting caught by the casino authorities had forced me into recovery, and it was indeed a blessing in disguise.

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