Gambling robbed me of so much more than money
Journalist Heather Goodwin fell in love with a generous and talented man who would give his last dollar to a stranger in need. But beneath her husband's beautiful personality lurked a demon that he could never control.
SCOTT and I were together a year and a half before I became aware he had a history of problem gambling.
The truth came out at the same time as one of our bank statements, and in that moment all my hopes and dreams for our future together fell apart.
It was devastating to realise the person I had entrusted with my heart, my happiness and my money had been lying to my face.
"I've already paid that bill," he would say. And I had no reason to think he hadn't.
My anger gave way to sympathy a little as he sat and told me his story.
Within a week of the first poker machines being installed in his home town he'd had a $1500 win. For him that was the beginning of the end.
The youngster with so much potential - who had been chasing sporting glory playing indoor cricket for Australia - began chasing his gambling losses instead.
He went on to be convicted of theft and fraud, served time in jail and underwent treatment programs.
Being the last to know - and finding out the hard way - was humiliating for me.
Up until our move to the city, Scott had been under the watchful eye of family and friends. He himself had made sure every pub and club in the small town banned him from using the pokies.
I felt just as betrayed by the people who failed to warn me as I did by him, but I think he had managed to convince them, and himself, that his gambling was a thing of the past.
Indeed every online forum I scoured confirmed that gambling addicts are experts at deception. I found very little that gave me hope that the problem could be overcome. Even the woman at the end of the Gamblers Anonymous helpline sounded as though she already knew how our story would end, given that it was I who had made the call and not Scott.
I pushed on and organised counselling and support for him. But the final straw came when he called me one day from the police station. He had stolen from his workplace and was facing charges.
We solemnly packed up the house and cried in each other's arms as we conceded the gambling addiction was bigger than both of us.
A few months later, while I was still busy being angry at him and refusing all contact, I learned he had been killed in a head-on crash.
Straight away I wondered if it was suicide, but it seems fatigue was to blame. The accident had occurred after he had driven all through the night to make a delivery.
He was known for working all hours, seven days a week often - trying to make a dent in his $80,000 debt as it turned out. It's a wonder he'd ever found time to gamble, but I suppose it takes no time at all for pokies to consume your cash. Blink and it's gone.
At his funeral Scott was remembered as a talented tradesman, a lethal sportsman and a great mate to many. He was, and he broke all our hearts long before he died.
"You're crying over him? After what he did to you?" I was asked.
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I believe nobody suffered more from Scott's gambling than he did. It took only glimpses of his turmoil to know that.
A gambler is not all he was. He was extremely likable and incredibly generous with his time. It was almost as if, deep down, he knew he had a lot of making up to do.
He was the guy who would pick the strawberry lollies out of the party mix for me. He was the guy who would sing and dance as he cooked up a barbecue feast for everyone.
He was the guy who never complained when my dog crept up on the bed, and crafted her the Taj Mahal of kennels because he knew it would make me happy.
He was the guy who would magically appear next to me whenever there was laundry to be hung out or a bed to be made.
He was the guy who dreamed of owning his own delivery business and of coaching junior cricket.
He was the one person who could have turned his own wake into a real party.
Gambling robbed me of so much more than money.
- For 24-hour support phone the Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858; If you or someone you know needs mental health support, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.