We’ve had many successful punters, trainers and jockeys on the Betting 360 podcast over the last year but today it’s a special edition as it’s Responsble Gambling Awareness week. As a show that covers betting from all angles it’s a topic we simply have to talk about and who better to do that with than a recovering gambling addict. Gambling almost ruined the life of former AFL footballer Daniel Ward and he’s on the show to talk about how that happened and how he managed to drag himself back up again.
Punting Insights You’ll Find
- How betting can go from a hobby to a problem
- The warning signs to look out for
- How to use futures betting to your advantage
- Why reaching rock bottom can be the start of the solution
- The best places to go for help
- Daniel Ward who is an ambassador for Responsible Gambling Awareness Week (another important site is Gambler’s Help).
David Duffield: Thanks for joining me today Daniel. Could you start by giving us a bit of background on how you went from gambling for fun through to it being a problem that had such an effect on your life?
Daniel Ward: Probably when I just got past the stage of when you’re setting limits and going past that, and going back to the ATM all the time. Then, for me, it probably got to a stage where I was betting way beyond my limits, and betting on credit, and borrowing money, and all that sort of stuff. Once that starts to happen, it is a bit of a slippery slope. Probably once it got past that stage, that was a bit of a drama for sure.
David Duffield: Was that a gradual thing or is it over a number of months or years?
Daniel Ward: It was probably a gradual thing, it went from the level that betting on horseracing, probably got introduced to a bookmaker. The worst thing to do there was I had a decent stretch at the start, and I think I thought, “How long has this been going on?” And then you increase your bets and all that type of stuff. Then what invariably happens, the wheel turns and you end up chasing and yeah, that was probably over maybe a 12 month period.
David Duffield: At the time, you’re playing AFL and probably in those days, you had a bit more time on your hands that you would as an AFL footballer these days?
Daniel Ward: Definitely it’s a really good point. I spoke to a few clubs about that, and clubs are a lot better, and filling the days, if you like, and they’ve got a lot that they need to do throughout the day. For me, I got to a stage where I may even, if I had a couple of training sessions, one in the morning, one in the afternoon, I’d race to get my fix, if you like, in between, and get as much punting in as I could. Even to this day, it is a bit of a regret that I have because I wasn’t doing those extra things that other guys were doing, or having lunches with mates or whatever. I was going, getting the punt in as much as I could.
David Duffield: Were you betting almost every day?
Daniel Ward: At the start, yeah, for sure, and then even towards the end, on sports betting and multi bets and all that thing mostly come in. I probably couldn’t watch a sporting event without gambling on it. I had to teach myself to enjoy sport. I wasn’t going to give up watching sport, so I had to teach myself to enjoy watching sport without having anything riding on it.
David Duffield: For the horse racing, were you actually putting work into the form and expecting to win, or was it more about, you said that you got off to good start and you were doing it for fun, and then it got out of hand from there?
Daniel Ward: Yeah, good question. I’d spend a lot of time on Friday nights, and then even in recovery, the meetings or whatever you go for, going and seeing someone, in recovery, you think it takes up a lot of time, but the amount of time I was putting into researching and getting tips, and doing the form, and all that type of stuff, it was so much more than in recovery now. I suppose everyone thinks that they’ve got the inside word, and have it all figured out, but, I definitely would study a fair bit on a Friday night before a big race meeting.
David Duffield: You mentioned there were problems like going beyond your limit and borrowing money, and credit and the like. Also, I’ve heard you talk about this before and mention that lies often go along with it as well. When did they start, and how did they impact your life?
Daniel Ward: Oh, look, they probably started from when I started gambling, to tell the truth. It is the old story about what you, even if you’ve had a big win, what you tell the wife, or if someone asks you, if you’ve had a really bad day, and they say, “Well, how did you go?” You say “I was even.” That probably goes on the whole time. It did accentuate a lot when I was getting to a stage of having to come up with stories of why I couldn’t pay this and all that type of stuff. Once the fog clears, if you like, and you’re in recovery, it’s amazing how much clearer you head is, and you don’t have to come up with these fanciful stories. I’ve spoken about it plenty of times, about you could probably write a couple of Hollywood scripts with stuff that I’ve come up with. Definitely a tough period to have to go through that type of stuff.
David Duffield: How did it go on for so long? Early in your career, about 2003 I think it was, there were headlines about owing money to a bookmaker, and then later on, there was a breach of the AFL’s gambling rules. You hadn’t hit rock bottom by then or it hadn’t actually been brought to a head, so how did it go on for it must have been not far off a decade?
Daniel Ward: I suppose I always had, if there was a situation like that, I might have a couple of months and I’d go and see someone, or I’d go to gamblers anonymous meeting or something like that, for whatever reason. Now I know how strong my addiction still is to this today. Once I relaxed on that, I thought I was, not maybe thinking I was cured, but this sort of addiction is over in the corner doing push ups and ready to pounce again, and that’s what happened. People would think that I’d been on the straight and narrow.
From not working on myself, if you like, that would strike again, I’d get in the same. Rock bottom is probably the big thing. I’d probably always think in the back of my head, “Well, now I’ve got another year or two of footy left, and I can make that up, the hole that I was in, or whatever the case may be. I finished footy in 2007 and then that money dried up, but I still was punting off for nigh until 2010, so just trying to fix the damage, for want of a better term, of what I’d done. I had in my head that once I’d fix this damage up, I’ll just stop, because it wasn’t an enjoyment thing. It was more just chasing my losses. Obviously that ever happened and you end up digging a deeper hole.
David Duffield: Tell us about the intervention that your family held and then what happened after that?
Daniel Ward: Yeah, so basically, that was June 25 2010, so four years ago next month. I walked in, I’d fessed up a few days earlier and mostly spoke about, I couldn’t hold my tracks any longer. I walked into a meeting, I just thought my wife and a psychologist. There was my wife and her family members, and my family members, and a couple of friends there to basically say that I need to go and get help, and it’s been going on too long. They’ve actually done everything for me, and booked me in.
All I had to do was say that I’d go and get help, and that’s all I had to do was go to Adelaide, and I entered a rehab program over there, and that was for 30 days. It was in there with all different types of addicts. I used to think I was different than a bloke who stuck a needle in his arm, drug addict, but, I actually wasn’t. We had the same sort of issues but the addiction’s just come out in a different way. Went and did that, and luckily, was taught well over there, and four years down the track, still haven’t gone back to having a bet, but I am only one bet away from being back down the same path. I’ve still got to continue to work on that, and just realise the fact that I’m an addict for the rest of my life.
David Duffield: It seems like right now, you can talk about it in a pretty matter of fact manner, but when there was the intervention and then you went to the addiction clinic, what was going through your mind at that time? You mentioned it is rock bottom, but is that what has to happen for you to get better? They talk about having to absolutely hit rock bottom before you can start the climb back up?
Daniel Ward: Yeah, I’ve probably spoken about this a couple of times, and that was the term ‘rock bottom.’ Basically, that was there and then, so I left my family at home. I was over in Adelaide, and basically was there on a Sunday before the program started on Monday. I was in a room by myself. The other two people I shared with weren’t there. They had Sundays off. Basically just looked in the mirror and broke down, and thought, “How did I let it get to this stage?” Yeah, talk about rock bottom, yeah, I wasn’t at my best then and there. Yeah, that was my rock bottom. Luckily, things have looked up since that time, but definitely when I got in there and had time to take stock about the damage that I’d caused, and where I was in my life it was a pretty big moment.
David Duffield: What did the treatment involve? Because if you’re a rehab in an AFL club, it is a pretty structured process but you can see the results. Rehabbing the brain, or the addiction part of it anyway, is a little bit different. What did you actually do for those 30 days?
Daniel Ward: Those 30 days, so basically, it was a little bit different than maybe a drug addict or an alcoholic, they might be on medication to help wean them off. For me, it was basically more just about, best way to describe it is that you’re actually finding out reasons, if you like, of why did it take 10 years? It is a holistic sort of thing on you, and it’s not a blame game, but reasons that it may have kept occurring and this is why, because you dropped off on doing this, or this is a really hard situation for you. There was a group of 14, 15, and you were getting therapy daily in a group situation.
There are still things that I got from that 30 day period that I still can remember vividly today, and different people in the room, and their stories and how they got to there, and what they needed to do to get out, and all that type of stuff. It is basically just full on. You get up and you go to the gym. I was going to the gym at 6 o’clock in the morning, and eating healthy and then spending all day in therapy, and then going to meetings and hearing other people talk at night, and basically go to bed and do the same thing, repeat the same thing over and over. I didn’t get to have contact with the family for the first couple of weeks, and was allowed a phone call on Sunday for the last couple of weeks. Yes, it was pretty full on. It was a tough 30 days, it really was, but I am obviously glad, looking back on it now, that I got through that and life’s got a hell of a lot better.
David Duffield: It sounds like an intense crash course, but then once you’re out, then there are temptations again, it might be a few months down the track. How do you handle those?
Daniel Ward: Oh, I think it’s just expecting them and talking to people. Obviously people closest to you know what you’ve been through. For me, or for most addictions, it’s been too strong for us to handle by ourselves, so I have to lean on my wife, and family members, and friends, and when I am struggling, because you are going to have those days when you’re struggling, and if you try and handle it yourself and just don’t speak up, that’s when troubles occur, that can lead to getting back on that horse, if you like, again.
That is where I’m lucky, I’ve seen several other people that suffer with addiction or that go back and don’t have that support, a wife, or kids, or a close mate, or family, or whatever the case may be. I’m lucky I’ve got all of that because I need to lean on those people, otherwise I’ll go back to doing what I was doing. I am very lucky, the support that I have around me really.
David Duffield: So for people listening to this, what are the warning signs for them to look out for, either for themselves or even for their mates?
Daniel Ward: Probably just give yourself a little test, so whether it be setting limits, “Well, I am just going to leave my card at home, and I’m just going to go for a punt on a Saturday, or I’m just going to take $100 with me. If I do that $100, well, I can afford that, that’s fine.” I guess you have got a bit of an issue if it’s then, “Well, I’ll borrow of a mate or I’ll go back and I’ll grab my ATM card, or I’ll bet on credit”. All these things, when you are thinking clearly the night before or the morning of, and you’re saying, “Look, this is all I want to spend,” and once you’re going past that, or whether it’s how regularly you do it. If you’re doing it every day, well, try and go three or four days, or a week, without it and see what that does to your moods, and all that type of stuff. For me, I’m an ambassador for the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation.
They have a program there that I’ve got a lot of my friends onto, that have had problems with the punt. It’s a program called a ‘100 day challenge,’ where you get on there and basically register and there are stories, including myself, of people that did the 100 day challenge, 3 others. We just go through the pitfalls of that 100 days, and what your mind’s doing, and what it’s doing to you, and it’s whether you can get through that 100 days. At the start, it seems like a pretty far-fetched idea to get through and how it gets easier and hopefully you come to the end of it and then want to make those changes in your life. Yeah, it’s when you’re thinking clearly, making those right decisions and then trying to stick to that, and if you go past that, well, then, you may have a bit of an issue that you need to speak up and speak to someone about.
David Duffield: Definitely. It is Responsible Gambling Awareness Week, so we’ll link out to some of the help you can get from various websites and organisations when this show is published. Really appreciate your time and how open and honest you are Daniel. I’m sure it will be an eye opener for some of the guys that are listening to this, who may have some of the issues that you’ve mentioned, so, yeah, really appreciate you sharing your story with us.
Daniel Ward: No worries, anytime.
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