If you are reading this blog, I will assume that you are either a person who wants to change their gambling, or a loved one of someone who is perhaps struggling with their gambling. It may be helpful to hear what has assisted others –their stories can show what is possible, perhaps you will see yourself in them, and learn from their experience.
Our first story in this series is about Diane* – a loving mother, wife and friend. Growing up, Diane took care of everyone, and carried this into her adult life. Before her gambling became unmanageable she was known among her friends as a very giving and caring person..
Diane’s caring nature meant that she often felt stressed and anxious because she always had too much to do– when things didn’t go right, or when her loved ones were upset, it affected her and she found it hard to relax.
To start, she found playing the pokies an enjoyable and a small outlet for her stress, but after she took on the responsibility of caring for her elderly mother, she found herself going to the pokies more and more, until it became almost habitual for her to be going every few days..
Diane started spending more than she could afford and hated herself for lying to her family, for losing money and not being able to say no to the temptation. She felt she had lost control of this important part of her life.
The extent of shame that Diane felt about her gambling was so great that she tried to hide it at all costs. All her life she had tried to do the ‘right thing’, and then suddenly she was involved in something that was destructive and harmful.
It is unlikely Diane would have sought help, however her mother found out that she had taken money from her account to gamble. This was part of a desperate attempt to win back her losses, before her husband could discover what was happening.
At this point Diane called the Gambling Helpline in extreme distress and spoke of her shame andthe looks on her family’s faces as they confronted her. She felt like there was no way she could come back from this.
It was a very upsetting time for Diane as she dealt with the hold that gambling had placed on her and started to repair the relationships with her family. It was a gradual come back that took time and had ups and downs. There were times she said she wished the earth would open and swallow her, as she felt she simply could not go on like this.
One year on, Diane is doing very well. Through hard work, determination and lots of support from her family and professional services she is able to maintain a distance from gambling and is working on repairing her life.
Working with a counsellor helped Diane to address her gambling problems and work through her grief, and the shame and disappointment that came with acknowledging that gambling had gotten the better of her for a while.
An important step for her was understanding how her gambling had got out of control – that it had progressed from being a simple place to relax and have ‘me’ time, to being an unhealthy coping mechanism that she was using to offset her underlying anxiety and stress.
By understanding her triggers, and the way that the pokies were deliberately made to entice and distract, Diane was able to make some important changes in her life. She found other activities she enjoyed like exercise, cooking and having coffee with friends.
How are you feeling?
How does Diane’s story make you feel? Perhaps this sounds like someone you know, or aspects of yourself?
If you are struggling with gambling, it might be good to consider what need it is meeting– perhaps it is a distraction from a big problem in your life, or a way to give yourself the opportunity to relax and switch off for a while?
Having a think about this could get you closer to being able to manage your gambling and choose what role it plays in your life. It could be a good time to call the Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858, to speak to a trained counsellor. Your conversation is anonymous and confidential, and they can also provide you with a referral to see a face to face counsellor in your area. *Names have been changed to protect the identity of the person.