At 16 I was going to pubs, I did not enjoy drinking alcohol, I wanted to have fun so I started playing the pokies. All the bright lights, the excitement of winning, I knew instantly that I loved them viewing them as "fun".
A small habit initially that developed years later when I was more financial and working in a highly intense job within the mental health sector. My marriage wasn't the best, work pressures and feeling depressed. I wanted to have "fun", so on occasions I would head to the pub in my lunch breaks. I was losing money and lied to hide the losses saying bills were paid. Playing the pokies was somewhere I could go and the bright lights and loud noises would drown out my thoughts, I was greeted with smiling faces and handed cups of tea. It became my escape.
Becoming a mother was difficult and looking back I realise that I had Post Natal Depression. When I returned to work my pokie lunch breaks went from occasionally to daily. My losses were harder to cover and the lying was daily, lying to cover other lies.
I stole money from my work to be able to gamble more resulting in losing my job and being charged by the police. I was too ashamed to tell a soul about this hiding the truth from everyone. To hide my secret I would continue to look as though I was going to work each day. I needed to play the pokies, I needed to feel happy, and I needed to escape.
I went from gambling $700 weekly to up to $1000 daily. To support my addiction I did unthinkable things, losing all sense of morals and values. I knew I had reached rock bottom, I felt the walls closing in on me and was too scared, embarrassed and ashamed to seek help. I attempted suicide and woke in the hospital days after my attempt.
It was time for change.
My life focus changed. I engaged in services that are provided to unravel the mess my life was in. I realise that silence and judgement are destructive and that stigma around mental health issues and gambling addictions is something that society needs educating on. I feel extremely sad that when life events took place I didn't seek help due to fear and embarrassment. I now understand that good people can make bad choices but with hard work and determination you can change your life around.
I am now studying to utilise my lived experience to help others in similar circumstances. I have not gambled since my suicide attempt. I actively use financial counselling to help manage the severe debt my gambling caused. I still have personal counselling to ensure that my mental health and self is healthy, I am not ashamed of my experience nor hiding behind society's stigma anymore.