I have just read Catherine, Rosa and Caroline’s stories again and it prompted me to think about how many other women are out there trying to gamble away their sadness, grief, losses, horrible memories, anger, frustration and loneliness?
I hear from lots of people about their gambling, and as with Catherine, Rosa and Caroline I hear the pain in their story, sense the anger they have at themselves and their disappointment and frustration.
For many people, gambling brings about a great deal of sadness. There is regret for the lies and the secrecy and a sense of powerlessness over gambling.
Based on the many hundreds of stories I have heard over the years, I know that gambling, and in particular poker machines, and women can be a lethal mix.
Many gambling venues are very attractive to women – and they are designed that way. I hear from women about how they can walk into some venues alone and be greeted warmly by the friendly familiar staff and feel a sense of belonging.
While many women hate themselves for going to the venue again, knowing they will gamble money they know they can’t afford, they still have the thought that this time they might win. This time it might be different. Many people try and rationalize their gambling, telling themselves that somebody has to win and this time it might be them. But it usually isn’t and often problems become worse.
We know that long-term players do not win on pokies, yet many of us struggle to stop playing or to keep our playing at affordable levels. We also see people gambling more, and more women gambling. The question is why?
Something to consider is why we are attracted to gambling? On some levels it is simple – going to a club or pub or casino to gamble allows us to escape, to zone out, even if it’s just for a very short time.
We enter another world and stop thinking about our sadness. We forget our grief, our losses, work, or lack of work, relationships or lack of relationships and loneliness. We forget past traumas, health issues, past loves, our children (who might be driving us insane or our parents who might be). We escape our care-giving roles, and life in general. While we know gambling isn’t really helping us, and for some is causing even more problems, we find ourselves there in front of the machine. Then new worries set in.
When we struggle with gambling related problems, we are scared of what is happening and who to trust. We worry about what will people think. We think awful things about ourselves “I’m so weak”, “I gambled again, I’m so stupid”. It’s also common to get caught up in keeping it secret. “I can’t tell anyone”, “It’s so much money, what do I do?”
All I can say to you is let someone help.
Gambling Counsellors understand you and what it’s like. Some of us have had personal experiences with gambling.
My mum lost my dad, her husband of 30 years and the only man she had ever been with and loved. The local club became the perfect place for her – a wealthy, lonely widow, looking to escape. My mum gambled everything away and now lives in a caravan. She now says she really didn’t want the money as it kept reminding her that her husband was dead. She says she kept playing and playing to escape. The sad thing was she kept it hidden, no one knew and no one told us. She was another sad, lonely, grieving person going unchecked.
Most of my clients are women and many have experienced either trauma, abandonment or abuse and nearly all report to be suffering from depression and anxiety.
For a lot of people, gambling is a coping or survival strategy that helps them deal with psychological, physical and emotional pain (Boughton 2003).
Many of my clients are now in prison. All of them state they were abused either physically, emotionally or financially and some are now serving six years for gambling-related crimes.
When they were gambling they were too ashamed to talk to anyone and didn’t seek help. For many it’s only now through their counselling sessions in prison that they understand why and how their gambling evolved.
I often wonder how many other women are out there trying to gamble away their sadness, grief, losses, horrible memories, anger, frustration and loneliness, and I wish that I had a magic wand to take away the pain and stop the gambling.
Sadly there is no magic wand, but we know gambling is often a symptom of what’s really happening and we can work with that. Often we find the problems we are trying to escape by gambling bubbling along underneath, possibly in your subconscious. Sometime we know what they are but find it too painful and or shameful to address.
Sometimes gambling serves a purpose, it’s a way of coping with a situation or surviving trauma but many people have found the courage to say “I want life to be different. Gambling isn’t working for me anymore.” and they have found help to change their gambling and address some of the other problems in their life.
Just like Rosa, Caroline and Catherine these people have great courage.
I sincerely hope everyone who reads the stories, who perhaps relate to the stories being shared or know someone who gambles, will be encouraged to support them to seek counselling. Sharing a story and telling someone you have a problem can be the start of something really good.
Is it time you told the truth about your gambling and maybe started to reshape your life into what you want it to be?