I have worked as a peer worker for over three years now, and helped establish the Peer Support Service in the Gambling Help Service at Relationships Australia (RASA) South Australia. I have been the Senior Peer Support Worker for eighteen months.
Peer workers use their lived experience to inspire and offer hope to others for their own recovery. It can cut through stigma, shame and guilt that people who have problematic gambling usually feel. It provides a connection where they don't feel judged but feel understood and this gives hope that they too can overcome their problems.
An example of my role was working with "Annabelle" who had been to a gambling help service in the past and had been able to abstain from gambling for two years. However, after relapsing, she started seeing a counsellor at RASA and was subsequently referred to the Peer Work Service. At the time she was feeling generally "pretty low" about her life.
She had physical health problems and as a result had left the workforce and was on the Disability Support Pension. She felt as though she had lost her identity because she had always worked. Gambling had become her solace.
During our one to one peer support sessions it was evident that her goal was abstinence from gambling. To achieve this she wanted to bar herself from venues but at the same time was too embarrassed to carry this out. She had been having difficulty dealing with urges to gamble and had a real 'fear' that she would gamble again.
Our work has enabled Annabelle to reframe her 'fear' and the notion that 'once a gambler always a gambler' and she has not gambled for a year now. I accompanied her to the Independent Gambling Authority in the city for the process of barring from venues.
We explored recovery not just as cessation of gambling but the offer of a unique opportunity to search for a new sense of self and passion in one's life. She has started reflecting on the ways she wants to reclaim a meaningful healthy life.