In this three-part podcast series Mary talks about what it was like to married to someone who suffered from a gambling addiction, her experience with support services in those days, and how his gambling affected relationships.
We begin her story with what it was like to be married to a gambler…
*Mary is not her real name.
But anyway, never had any idea, no idea on this earth that he was a gambler. Now it sounds incredible that it could happen, but it did.
Anyway, we hadn’t long been married and he suggested we went to the races. It was the start of night trots, and I’d never been to anything like that either, so I thought, alright we'll go. And he won.
In those days it was a huge amount, 80 dollars or 80 pound it might have even been. So that was when I noticed the change start, so obviously the big win, but I’ll never really know that.
But to move on, he started gambling on everything, like it was two flies crawling up a wall, but it was progressive as well.
But not only was there gambling, but what I found there was drinking and womanizing. I had that in there as well, and that came in really early, as early as when I came home with my first baby. And he actually - I still can’t believe this - he said yes, [inaudible] he had met a girl while I was in the home, he was going out to take her out and see how he felt about her. And there I am sitting there with this little baby, and that was the start probably of the end.
And as the years went by I had two more daughters, and it was just like you say, the lies, and I answered the door one day and there was a guy standing at the door come to get all our furniture.
‘Sorry, you’ve come to get all my furniture, what for?’
‘Oh, because your husband owes us money’ and my kids were screaming. You know they didn’t want him to take the furniture out. And it was just, you know, things like that.
Diane: “Did he take the furniture?”
No I wouldn’t let him. I did say you have to come back when the children are in bed, you know, do not do this to them, they have enough going on in their lives without that.
Next door was on the roof; they couldn’t get enough of what was going on.
But he worked for, he was a merchandiser, and so he also went away every two weeks. He was away for a week, at home for two weeks away for a week. So there was a lot went on in the places, like Timaru, Nelson, where he used to call, that I had no idea what was going on.
He lived the life of a single bloke but he was actually married and, I cannot believe you could be in a situation where, you know, you didn’t know why the money wasn’t there.
In those days, you got paid, well we did anyway, the money was in the bank, he’d write a cheque out. Well I could write a cheque out either, but there was really no point, because I would go off to the bank with this cheque to get the money for the week for groceries and everything and they’d say ‘I’m sorry, it’s all gone.’
And I’d say what do you mean, I only got paid. Well it only happened twice because after that I kind of got used to it so I didn’t do it anymore. But yeah, he’d been down the day before with the cheque, or two hours before me with the cheque out of the back of the book. He stole cheques off people that he knew and forged their signatures. He was just very lucky he never went to jail. He should of, but he didn’t.
He lost two jobs, he stole. He worked for a cream bun factory or something, they sold buns and pies and that, and he’d disappear for three or four days on end with the van with the pies in and all the stuff in it.
Another time he worked for a chewing gum factory and he’d been with them for a long time, it was the only chewing gum factory around at the time. And he was up to so much they had to write a report every week and send it out. Because he did these calls, and he was the only one down here, and he’d called on some of these places for two years, they hadn’t seen him. They came down and spied on him and actually caught him out.
I just, you know, he came home one morning, he used to stay out all night like all the time, and then I used to say to my girls, they’d come in and say ‘where’s Dad?’ and I would say ‘I dunno’. I got sick of trying to make excuses, and then he’d come home and he’d tell them lies, absolute lies. ‘Oh Dad was gambling and playing cards and the police came and raided us.’ So the gambling part was probably true but the police never came anywhere near, because after he’d finished gambling it wasn’t enough of a high that it was all round to the girlfriends. So the next thing that came up was there was a baby on the way there, so there was a little baby involved there…”
To listen to part 2 of this series click here.
Free group counselling is also available for both the person with the gambling problem and anyone else who is concerned about the gambling. The Southern Family Group is held on Wednesday nights in the PGF Christchurch office. It has been running for five years and attendees offer each other support and understanding. It has been very popular and group members are encouraged to stay in contact with each other in between meetings. If you are interested in finding out what type of support groups are available in your area, please contact PGF on 0800 664 262.