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My Affair with Gambling
Recovering Journey

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My Affair with Gambling 

Auyang, Male, 36 Written by Alvin Cheong

When I first arrived for treatment at the clinic for addiction treatment, my mind was running amok with thoughts, “Why did I come here? Who can help me with my gambling problem? Doctors? Counsellors? Are they going to give me money to pay off my gambling debts? Sigh, I’m wasting my time here, listening to people in fancy clothes telling me about self-help and to quit gambling. What do they know about gambling?”

In all honesty, I did not go to the clinic as a means to seek medical intervention for my gambling problem, or hobby, as I wrongly like to call it. It was merely my way of pacifying my wife and finding peace at home. Like any other hobby, gambling was fun.

Gambling had been my hobby since my secondary school days, but only my circle of close friends knew about it. My wife found out about my gambling one day when she discovered money missing from our joint savings account. She went berserk. She was yelling, screaming, throwing things around and almost tore the house apart. She hurled all the worst words she knew upon me, calling me an ‘addict’ and a ‘thief’. Seeing my wife turn from a beautiful woman into a screaming monster, I made a partial confession about dipping into our savings and pawning her jewellery. My attempt to convince her that I was trying to grow wealth for our family was met with total disbelief. Feeling betrayed and upset, my wife insisted that I make amends by seeking treatment for my gambling addiction.

My gambling addiction started during the World Cup season when I was in secondary school. My friends were unusually excited about the World Cup and one of my classmates displayed a newfound ability and generosity to treat us food and shower us with gifts. I soon found out what my friends were doing and got sucked into the game of making fast money by betting on game scores.

While it was fun and thrilling to accurately predict the game scores, the best part of it was the monetary reward. I was not academically inclined, but somehow, I felt like I was talented in gambling. As I continued with my ‘talent’, I started lying and cheating about my school assignments, class tests and my bookie duties to my family at home. I hung out more frequently with my friends and it did not take long before I joined a secret society. Home and school felt like a prison, where no one paid real attention to me and I was frequently laden with instructions and punishments. As I took little heed of my studies, it came as no surprise that I fared poorly in school. Engrossed with punting on game scores, I even gave my final year examinations a miss.

As I expanded my ‘talent’ in gambling, I started on social gambling games like 4D and TOTO. My bets soon exploded into the hundreds and my winnings saw a staggering five-digit figure. I felt powerful, with my huge winnings escalating my ravenous hunger for thrill and bigger winnings.

At times, I suffered big losses in gambling, but it was not long before Lady Luck shone upon me once again. I convinced myself that I was meant to do big things in life; to make big investments for huge returns.

As with every business and investment in life, losses were expected and I did not bother much about it. In my 20s at that time, the income I received from work was meagre in comparison to my winnings from gambling. The best moments of my youth came from the highs that my gambling wins brought me.

On two memorable occasions, Lady Luck appeared to be on a leave of absence. I suffered a series of gambling losses that snowballed to over $200,000. On both occasions, I approached my parents and was fortunate that they bailed me out of my debts. My work allowed me access to cash in the company. When I suffered heavy losses from gambling, I siphoned money from my company, believing that I could cover it up with my winnings shortly.

Subsequently, I was caught for misappropriation of funds and served a year in prison. At that time, I felt no remorse. Upon my release, I swiftly returned to gambling to raise funds for my new phase in life. In what I thought was a stroke of luck, two former associates offered me a large sum of money to start a virtual betting site. Enticed by the money, I agreed to the joint venture and gave them my signature on a blank piece of paper. Tricked into using the money to place gambling bets under my account, I soon lost all the money within a few days and was called in by the police to assist in an investigation on the virtual betting site.

I confessed the true extent of my gambling addiction after several counselling sessions. My wife was distraught to hear of my gambling debts. My parents were upset that I had not learned from the previous incidents where they had to bail me out, especially when my wife was pregnant with our child.

My debts had accumulated into hundreds of thousands. With no means to clear my debts, I filed for bankruptcy. On a few occasions, illegal moneylenders came by to harass us. We notified the police, who increased surveillance in our block of flats. The illegal moneylenders stopped their harassments and we made fresh negotiations on my debt repayment. Ultimately, their aim was money, and not to create problems.

Over time, my wife struggled to come to terms with my gambling addiction and my betrayal of her trust. In a bid to mend the broken trust between us, I gave my wife full control of the family’s finances. My wife took over the financial reins at home, as well as the management of my debt repayment, giving me a small allowance for my daily food and expenses. I attended my counselling sessions and support group meetings faithfully to keep myself in check and show my family that I was committed to being free from my gambling addiction.

To date, I am still attending counselling and support group meetings. I have benefitted greatly from forging healthy friendships with peers recovering from gambling addiction, and learnt new things from them. I am well aware that staying abstinent from gambling is a lifelong journey. I am confident that with continued guidance and support, I will be successful in curbing my gambling addiction for years to come.

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