Success Story: Robert Janssen
Robert always thought he was a lucky person. He married his high school sweetheart, and had three beautiful children. He worked for over 20 years as an actuary for a large company, and was happy with his life on the east coast. He and his wife Deb were always outdoorsy and they enjoyed many different hiking, fishing, and canoe trips as a family.
When she was just 45, Deb was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer. Within six months, Deb was gone and Robert found himself a widower at the age of 50. He was completely crushed and felt totally lost without his wife.
One day, Robert bought a scratch lotto ticket from a convenience store and won $250.00. He was amazed at how great it made him feel. He’d been so depressed lately, and the rush of winning the lottery made him feel alive.
Robert started buying more scratch tickets, but then decided sometimes it was easier to gamble online. It was innocent enough at first. He would play blackjack on a website after work, and sometimes he would win - although most of the time he didn’t.
He decided to go to a casino for the weekend. His kids thought it was nice to see their father get away from the house, and didn’t think much of it. Maybe he would meet somebody?
Robert spent the entire weekend gambling. It really didn’t matter what: blackjack, roulette, slot machines. Robert lost $10,000 dollars that weekend. But that didn’t seem like that big of a deal. If he just bet more online, then he would surely win it all back.
Robert downloaded an app on his phone so he could gamble wherever and whenever he wanted. He started using the company computer as well, and would place a bet any time he had a free moment. When his credit card company called to say he had maxed out his limit, he applied for another one. He would just win the money back to pay for both.
Robert’s friends started noticing he wasn’t coming out as much. At first they thought it was because he was grieving the loss of his wife, but after two years they noticed he was withdrawn. Whenever they were together, he would be on his phone playing on the gambling sites.
His children also became concerned. Robert was no longer interested in getting outside like he had been for his whole life. He ignored phone calls and texts and often missed out on family events, or always seemed to leave early.
Robert re-mortgaged his house to pay for some of his gambling debts, but immediately started betting again. When he wasn’t online or buying scratch tickets, he was at the casino for entire days at a time. His friends and family spoke with him on many occasions, expressing their concerns about his habit.
Robert told his loved ones it really wasn’t a problem, but continued to gamble and kept it a secret. He made increasingly riskier bets in attempts to get all of his money back. After a particularly large loss, he decided he would stop. It couldn’t be that hard could it?
He stopped for a few days, but then couldn’t help himself. He thought he’d just buy one ticket. No problem right? But one became seven, until finally he was back to gambling for most of the day. Robert didn’t feel the same rush when he won, he only felt the need to gamble again, to win it all back.
By age 55, Robert was in financial ruin and his work was suffering. He couldn’t sleep and felt desperate. He called an old school friend to borrow money, only to lose it all the next day.
Robert was anxious and depressed, and the only way out felt like winning more. When he wasn’t gambling, he experienced suicidal thoughts - was this really all there was? If he was just going to lose all his money, maybe he would just end his life.
His family decided to step in after watching him spiral out of control. Although he tried to hide it, they knew he had a problem and he would need professional help to recover and get well.
Robert agreed and applied for benefits from his employer so that he could take the time off he needed to treat his addiction. He was denied by his insurance on the grounds his gambling was not a disability and did not justify getting the benefits. His children were devastated, knowing their father desperately needed help. His eldest daughter Magda, researched online ways to get help for her father and found the Share Lawyers website.
Share Lawyers started by helping Robert get substantive medical evidence to prove that his gambling was disabling, addictive behaviour, and he should be entitled to his long term disability benefits. After months of excuses by the insurance company and many delays by their lawyers, Share Lawyers were able to reach an agreement at mediation that allowed Robert to take the time off work and access the help he needed. He received a lump sum payment that included his back payments since he was off work and several years into the future to assist him in getting his life back on track. His depression and anxiety also needed to be addressed, as well as his addiction – as they often go hand-in-hand.
With the support of his family, the time off work, and counseling services, Robert was able to get his addiction under control and now enjoys a life free of gambling.
*All names and identifying details have been changed to protect the confidentiality of all involved.