I was asked to write a piece describing my experiences and troubles that I have encountered with my gambling with the poker machines. I hope it helps those who may find themselves in a similar situation.
I am twenty-five years old and have been playing the 'pokies' since I was eighteen. I was first introduced to them by a family member and, as it happened, the first time I played I won. Looking back on this now I realise that this was probably not a good thing. I began playing in my free time, usually on my own and found myself going to play the pokies on the spur of the moment. I believe I began playing the machines for fun and excitement. At first I saw no harm in it. The truth was though; I was really trying to fulfil instantly something that was missing in my life. Instead of putting my resources towards something worthwhile that created real rewards, I was settling for an empty sense of excitement that would finish when I had run out of money.
There were more lows than highs, my behaviour changed and I began to lie about the amounts of money that I had lost. I borrowed money from family members to gamble and made up stories about needing the money for other purposes. I even got to the stage where I stole money from my Mum's transaction card to gamble and broke a promise to my Dad that I would not play any more. My biggest win was $800.00; I felt like such a winner at the time. Based on my experiences, a gambler will be more than willing to let you know how much they have won, but you never hear about the losses and for good reason. My biggest loss was $1000.00 in one day. The last time I played before seeking counselling I lost $900.00 in one night.
There were many reasons why I decided I had to stop gambling. I often found myself spending more money than I had planned, only to end up losing it. Once I entered a gaming room, I found myself without my usual self-control and unable to move. I knew that if I stayed I would be more than likely to leave with nothing. This usually equated to all of my pay for a fortnight. I went from being a modest saver before gambling, to borrowing money each week to survive through to my next pay day.
I understand now that the reason I was playing the machines was to supplement the lack of excitement in my life. I found myself playing the pokies at times when things in my life were heading off track e.g. having a fight with someone who is close to me. I came to the realisation that there is so much more to life than sitting in front of a screen like a zombie and pressing buttons for hours on end. I struggled to stop playing the poker machines and tried different ways to try to kick the habit. I tried stopping 'cold turkey' and playing with a limited budget, but to no avail. I did however manage to stop playing for over a year, because of a promise I made to my deceased grandfather. Thinking that I was able to control myself after such a long break, I began playing them again and soon I was back in way over my head. I believe there are different strategies for different people to overcome poker machine addiction. I have come to the conclusion that for me, I can never again play the poker machines and feel safe. The truth is that I have found real excitement and adventure in my life now and this has made me determined never to gamble on poker machines again.
I have not played the machines for over six months. In that time, I have become a more outgoing and social person, I have saved money on a regular basis and have just signed a contract to purchase a new home. I am proud of myself and what I am now able to achieve. I am glad that I was able to take the first step and seek counselling for my addiction.
* Real story kindly obtained from the Salvation Army booklet Anthology of Gambling Tales