On the morning of Aug. 21, 2017, Tyler Hatch put his dogs in their crates and wrote two suicide notes — one to his parents, the other, his wife.
He downed a bottle of sleeping pills with four beers, then fixed a belt around his neck.
After alerting 911 (so his wife wouldn’t have to deal with his dead body when she got home from work), Hatch hung up the phone and waited for death.
Through the fog of asphyxiation he heard the the faraway ring of a phone. It was 911 calling back.
Hatch managed to answer. “I’m glad I did.”
He didn’t want to die, he wanted help.
That awful day was the beginning of a journey toward self-worth that would include facing up to a gambling addiction that cost him a half-million dollars, getting treatment, filing a lawsuit against the B.C. Lottery Corp., and later withdrawing the suit.
Hatch now wants to make two things clear: He takes full responsibility for his actions, and if his story can help others, he’s eager to share it.
In a bright Yaletown office, Hatch, who now specializes in digital forensics, opened up about his path through depression, gambling addiction and recovery.
His game was blackjack, his dealer was online, his hand was $500.
“It was just me against my computer,” said Hatch.
The whole time he was gambling, Hatch, 42, believed he was in control — he even signed up for voluntary self-exclusion periods of three to six months, meant to help gamblers put the habit on hold.
The problem started years before, when the Surrey-born lawyer began to feel stressed by the demands of his career in commercial litigation. He dealt with the pressure by self-medicating — fast food, a few too many beers after work. “I would dread the next day coming, so I would stay up late.”
He spiralled into a depression. In 2010, he had a breakdown.
Eventually, his doctor advised him he should not return to law. Hatch took a permanent disability settlement worth $5,000 a month.
Married with no children, and not working, still coping with depression, Hatch was at loose ends. He began to gamble casually online. There were no indications that gambling would become a problem. He was the guy who called it a day if he lost $100 at a casino.
Online, things were different.
“It’s not real money, it’s not a chip. It’s just a little blue dot on your computer screen. It doesn’t seem real.”
Hatch didn’t know it, but EGMs, or electronic gaming machines and VTLs (Video lottery terminals) are tied to higher rates of gambling addiction. Provinces with a higher proportion of EGMs have greater gambling addiction rates.
“I won all the time, massive amounts of money, ten grand within minutes,” said Hatch. But, like so many gamblers, he found it impossible to walk away with a win. “It wasn’t about winning or losing. It was about the rush of the game.”
Besides, he had something he was good at again. He had a system. Sure, he lost more than he won, but he had a system, he kept spreadsheets, he was sure he could win back what he lost.
Hatch freed up more money by renegotiating his monthly disability for a lump sum settlement. In January 2016, he received a $550,000 payout.
Soon he was gambling $10,000 a week, the max allowed by BCLC online, and losing.
Hatch was also living a double life. No one knew what was happening. He didn’t understand it either. “I felt like I was consciously making a choice, I wasn’t aware of the compulsion.”
“My plan was to either win what I had lost back, or if I lost it all I was going to commit suicide.”
Within months, the money was gone. Hatch had hedged his bets, and lost.
The suicide attempt was a turning point. Friends and family supported his decision to enter a residential treatment centre. While in treatment, Hatch’s doctor noticed that one of the medications he was on, Abilify, was part of a class of dopamine agonists known to amplify compulsive behaviours, like gambling.
Now in recovery Hatch hopes others who recognize themselves in his story will reach out for help.
“There are a lot of free resources available,” says Hatch. “Talk to the people around you who want you to have a healthy, productive life. Talk to your friends, your family, your doctor.”
About 72.5 per cent of B.C. residents gamble in some form; 11.2 per cent identify as low to moderate and high-risk problem gamblers. At risk/problem gamblers are more likely to have mental health issues.
Life is amazing now, says Hatch. “I feel healthy. I don’t drink, I don’t gamble. I feel strong mentally.”
If you think you have a problem with gambling, go to www.bcresponsiblegambling.ca/resources-links/program-resources