“I’m so glad I went down that track,” Sandra* says. There’s not a moment Sandra has regretted calling Wesley Mission.
While reaching out for help was Sandra’s first step towards recovery, it was an initial conversation with Wesley Mission that ultimately changed her life.
“All this support has just snowballed from this in a good way – from one phone call to Wesley Mission,” Sandra explains.
“I rang Wesley Mission to get some legal help and the lady who answered the phone was just fantastic, so understanding and so helpful. She put me in touch with Rhonda from Wesley Community Legal Service, and she’s just the most amazing woman, amazing lawyer.
“I’ve been talking to Rhonda for about three months now, just getting my case together and she’s been helping me with so many things.”
For years Sandra has battled a gambling addiction. Sadly, her addiction took her on a pathway she never imagined for herself – one that ended up in theft.
Stealing was out of character for Sandra. She’d never even had a parking ticket, let alone theft. Having devoted her life and career to caring for people, Sandra never thought herself capable of committing a crime.
But as her gambling addiction grew, so did her desperation for money. While caring for a patient, over time she stole money and goods.
Filled with regret for her actions, Sandra is now on a path towards recovery. “I feel like I’m on a healing track, not a lying track or a gambling track. It’s on a good track even though it’s a tough track,” Sandra says.
And while she’s ready and willing to face the consequences of her actions in court, Sandra is also dealing with her past hurts. Sandra now knows it’s her past trauma that saw her spiral into a life of addiction.
Emotion stirs in Sandra’s voice, “This has been a long journey. In the beginning, I didn’t tell the truth. I was just scared. I remember just sitting there looking at the ocean and just thinking, I need to get help.”
Time and time again Sandra has faced trauma beyond her control. As a child she was abused by a relative and as an adult, she became a victim of rape. And when she was young, Sandra also battled bulimia.
“I had a lot of relationships that just weren’t healthy. I was very insecure,” Sandra shares. “This started when I was so young, so I just squashed it down and never dealt with it. That’s kind of what I learned to do all through my life.
“I was always caring for other people. I’d always take the attention off me and deflect it back onto somebody else. I was good at that. It meant that I didn’t have to deal with myself.”
Sandra says she’s still working on forgiving herself. But she’s on the journey and for the first time, she’s found peace from her past trauma and mistakes.
“I have to forgive myself eventually. It’s pretty confronting for someone who’s helped people their whole lives. To think that I just did that, just shows my addiction. That’s all I thought about when I was saw the money – I was gambling. I almost separated myself from the people that I love. That’s how it was for me.”
Sandra has now surrounded herself with the right circle of people – Rhonda, her lawyer from Wesley Community Legal Service, Heather, Wesley Community Legal Service Paralegal, Fiona, Wesley Financial Counselling and her mental health support specialists.
“Wesley Mission and all my counsellors and psychologists, I want to thank them for believing in me and making me realise that this is an addiction and I’m not a terrible person,” she says.
Rhonda and Heather live and breathe Wesley Mission’s vision to support the whole person and assist all their needs. Since meeting Sandra, Rhonda, Heather and Fiona have provided her with more than just legal support. They’ve connected Sandra to a psychologist and they all offer a listening ear for whenever Sandra needs it.
“When I talk to Heather, she just has this amazing, calming, wonderful voice on the other end of the phone. She’s not judgmental and she even said, ‘Ring me anytime if you just need a chat’,” Sandra explains.
And when Sandra was struggling with her mental health, Rhonda made herself available and checked-in on her regularly.
“About a month ago Rhonda was pretty concerned about me and maybe self-harm. She rang me or texted me every day. Sometimes twice a day, just so I had some contact with her,” Sandra shares.
“This is just so above and beyond what a lawyer does. I’m so grateful for that. I feel in such good hands with her. She understands. There’s so much shame around all of this and she just doesn’t make you feel that way.”
Rhonda adds, “People experiencing problem gambling often keep their behaviour secret. This can make getting help scary. This is especially so when help is needed not only for the problem gambling but also because there are criminal charges.
“At Wesley Community Legal Services, we are able to help our clients with their legal problems. We are also able to help them find a support network. This means that our clients do not have to face a very challenging situation alone.”
The shame Sandra once carried initially stopped her from reaching out for help. Sandra is now passionate about preventing others from falling into the same trap.
“I’ve come to the realisation, that if this all didn’t happen, I would not probably be on this track to healing and getting the help that I needed. A couple years down the chart, it could have been 10 times worse. My addiction – stopping that and getting help. While scary, it’s also so good for me,” she says.
“So, I hope to be able to help other people like me. People don’t talk about issues and things they’re going through. I feel that they have to struggle alone.”
Having personally experienced the lure of gambling, Sandra hopes her story can inspire others to reach out for support.
“My story is a real and our country needs to look at the gambling. It’s the only thing that doesn’t have a law. If you drink too much at a pub, you get asked to leave but not gambling. You walk in there and you’re welcomed. You get treated like a king – it’s just disgraceful,” Sandra says.
“I would love to be able to help in some way to change that.”
*Name has been changed to protect privacy.