I Am Worth More – Luke McLean

March 4, 2020

WHEN Luke McLean was 18, turned a $5 bet on a horse trifecta…

WHEN Luke McLean was 18, turned a $5 bet on a horse trifecta into $5500.

The high of winning large lasted beyond the initial few hours – it was the catalyst of a long-term gambling addiction that left him broke, depressed and anxious.

“It got completely out of control,” Luke, 31, said. “I could see the money coming out of my account each time I got paid, it was a visible record of every bet I was placing.

“And it was on all kinds of things – things I knew a lot about and sometimes things I knew nothing about. It was then I realised I had an addiction.”

As a youngster, Luke had always dreamed of becoming a professional AFL player.

His love for the sport began from an early age. When he was 5, he started mucking around at his local footy club and at 16, he signed up to Norwood to play in their senior team.

From there, Luke went on to represent South Australia in the Under018 Championships. But his career did not progress further than that.

“I was on the right path (to playing at a professional level) and not getting picked up at that point was demoralising,” Luke said.

“That’s when I started thinking I was a failure, I couldn’t achieve what I wanted to achieve, and the negative self-talk really began.

“I didn’t have a back-up plan, there was no balance in my life. It was all football – it was all physical fitness and football. So I then lost all that so I had to start thinking about other things, and that is where I fell into a sales job.”

Luke, who has been a member of The Gym Glenelg since December, spent years working in sales earning a good wage that further fuelled his gambling addiction. The losses and drunken nights made him miserable.

In 2014, Luke travelled to Brazil for the FIFA World Cup. It was this trip that changed everything, setting him on the road to recovery and a brighter future.

“I went there purely because I didn’t want to not go because if I didn’t, people would ask questions about why I wasn’t going: couldn’t I afford it?” Luke said.

“I went by myself, I was completely miserable, had no money because I had relapsed (with gambling) not long before trying to get money for the trip.

“I barely ate over there because I couldn’t afford to and I barely slept – and that is when I started having suicidal thoughts. I started thinking about how I could get through the window bars or to the balcony. I felt so worthless, that the world was better off without me.

“I don’t know what it was, but I didn’t do it. I just felt that maybe somehow, somewhere there was hope that I could get better.”

In 2016, Luke had his first visit to a psychologist who allowed him to speak freely about his experiences, emotions and thoughts, and assisted with therapy.

But he wanted to learn more, to find out what practices he could implement on a daily basis to prevent a relapse and to assist others who are going through the same thing, in the future.

Rebuilding relationships, practicing mindfulness and gratitude, and volunteering with an organisation helping homeless people in Melbourne were among those steps.

Success with these practices triggered Luke to hosting public speaking events about his experiences and eventually starting his charity, I Am Worthmore.

I Am Worthmore offer one-hour – soon to be two-hour – sessions to businesses, high schools, sporting groups and community organisations that aim to raise awareness about men’s mental health, educate participants and share lived experiences in a relaxed and interactive setting.

Each session covers a range of topics, including gratitude, mindfulness, kindness, relationships, purpose and vulnerability.

The idea is to share lived experiences and teach participants how to implement small, manageable steps into their daily routines to prevent mental health issues.

“It basically started during a time when I was Googling mental health and everything that came up was negative,” Luke said. “I wanted to provide information and education about the fact that it doesn’t have to be negative.

“I don’t want to just share my story, I want to condense that down and show people what strategies we can work on each and every day to improve their lives.”

To find out more about the programs, visit www.iamworthmore.today

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