I’ve lived most of my life in Melbourne, Victoria. Grew up here, went to school, went to uni, got a job. And growing up, I would hear about the pokies holidays; bus trips across the border into New South Wales, specifically for the purpose of spending a day or two playing the pokies before returning home to normality.
Because in the Victoria that I grew up in, there were no pokies. There was no casino. Sure, there was gambling… let’s face it, gambling has been around for a long time. You don’t need pokies to gamble.
But in 1992, when I was studying for my degree, everything changed. Pokies were legalised in the state of Victoria and swept across the state like a plague. I barely noticed at the time. I wasn’t a gambler, I had no interest in gambling. It didn’t affect me.
But a few years later, I played socially for the first time and was lost forever. Even now, years after I managed to break their grip on me, I’m a damaged man… but at least I’m free.
There were many reasons why I became a gambling addict; many factors in my life that contributed to my problem, that weakened my resolve and made it near impossible for me to stop. And I had to be confronted with my failures time and time again before I could stop. I had to dig deeper and deeper into my soul, the kind of man I was, in order to understand why I gambled, before I could successfully walk away.
When pokies were introduced to Victoria, no one was prepared. As far as poker machines went, this had been a non-gambling state for so many years, and suddenly it seemed there were machines on every doorstep, around every corner. Problem gambling numbers exploded across the state.
Even now, almost twenty years on, problem gambling remains a crucial social issue. Sure, the young adults of today have grown up in a pokies state, but they’re just as susceptible as we were back when the pokies were new. Then there’s the recent explosion in online gambling and sports betting; it seems that every time I turn around, there’s a new opportunity to throw my money away.
I’ve had enough of giving my hard-earned cash to the betting corporations and the government. I don’t owe them anything, and they won’t get another gambled cent out of me. But there are thousands of people, just like you, who are just like I was years ago, and I’m hoping this blog can help, even if only a little.
I’m going to explore my life, and how it related to both my gambling and my redemption. I’m going to document my thoughts and observations, what I did wrong and what I did right, and how it felt to lie awake at night believing myself to be completely alone. I’m going to do all of this in case maybe, just maybe, someone who needs help will read my words and find something that speaks to them.
Maybe it’s you.