Started gambling at 18, a year later he was hooked
WHEN Blayne Marcantelli started gambling at 18 he didn't think much of it, but 12 months later he was hooked.
"I was at the pub with my mates and in a matter of 15 minutes, we walked away with $500 ... I thought, if we could do it then, we can do it again," he said.
He gradually lost interest in his sports, including cricket for which he reached a reserve position on the under-19s New South Wales team, his relationships broke down and he blew any money he earned.
His lowest point, Mr Marcantelli recalled, was when he was living with his mother in Ocean Shores in his mid-20s.
"I was blowing all the money I was earning and I was hardly paying mum for rent," he said.
"Probably one of my darkest moments, mum got paid ... she asked me to go and get something for dinner and I went down with her car, I got money out and I wasted it all."
At 31 years old, Mr Marcantelli is starting to get his life back on track.
He's taking his driving test next week, saving money to get a car and he's looking at moving up to the Gold Coast to be with his partner of five months within the next year.
"I eventually realised I couldn't keep doing this for the rest of my life," Mr Marcantelli said.
"There were so many times I lied and told family and friends I'd change ... I threw their help back in their faces.
"The last couple of years I got help through the Buttery ... we got exclusions set up and that went well."
He said he still struggles on occasion, but the key was to be open with friends and family, and to keep busy.
He advised gamblers seek help straight away.
"If you don't, life will just slip away," Mr Marcantelli said.
This week is Responsible Gambling Awareness Week.
Manager of The Buttery's Northern Rivers Gambling Counselling Service, Emma, Ryan, sees it as an opportunity to raise awareness about free counselling and support services available.