“I sometimes even struggled to make it to games,” says Jersey bowler Scott Ruderham as he remembers the depths of his gambling addiction.
“I’d had personal problems in the past, but you have to put the past behind you and you have to just work towards your goals and ambitions.”
For Ruderham, that goal was to be picked for the island’s bowls team at this summer’s Commonwealth Games – the biggest stage the sport of lawn bowls appears on.
Earning selection has come at a huge personal and financial cost, as the 33-year-old lost what he describes as “large sums” that saw him almost turn his back on the sport he started playing aged 11.
“I used to play high stakes poker – money and things like that never used to really bother me,” he tells BBC Radio Jersey.
“It was terrible. I sometimes used to have bundles of cash, but sometimes I used to have nothing at all,” he adds.
“I never used to turn up to [bowls] games, I used to make excuses and lie to people. It just wasn’t me and it was just awful.
“People do it because it’s so well advertised – and people can have fun – but as they say, ‘when the fun stops, stop’. Sometimes you just have to knock things on the head and say ‘enough is enough’.”
Since turning his back on gambling, Ruderham has gone on to help Jersey win gold in the fours at the 2015 Atlantic Rim Championships and a silver four years later, as well as gold at the British Isles Championships in 2016.
It is this form that has led him to the Games in Birmingham and the greens at Leamington Spa, which will host his event.
“When you start growing up and you realize some of the mistakes you’ve made, you’ve got to think about what’s right,” he says.
“There have been so many people who have helped me, it’s letting them down really, and not carrying on pursuing your goals like the Commonwealth Games or even simply winning games for your club.
“It’s about getting over things, and luckily I’ve turned myself around and it’s definitely going to stay that way.”
Jersey has not won a medal in any sport at the Commonwealth Games since 1990, but bowls have produced some of their best chances to change that over the past 32 years.
In 2002 Jersey had four different quarter-finalists, but nobody made the semis for an automatic bronze medal.
In Melbourne four years later, Jersey’s women’s pair of Gaynor Thomas and Sue Dingle was inches away from bronze, while Jersey’s women’s triples team also lost a bronze-medal play-off and in 2014 Katie Nixon and Lindsey Greechan were one shot off women’s pairs bronze.
So can Ruderham and his teammates go one better and get a rare medal for their island at his first Commonwealth Games?
“I’ve played against most of the players who’ll be there,” he says.
“I know the big events well, it’s just another event for me.
“I treat every tournament the same, no matter how big or small, and I just try to enjoy myself and try my best.”
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