In my last blog post, I wrote about the reasons why good people do good things, and the reasons why I do what I do. At the end of the article, I mentioned a recent experience I’d had, where I’d been contacted by someone who had a gambling problem. I told her that if she was up to it, I would be willing to post her story here on my blog. She said yes.
This is her story, in her words. I’ll shut up now and let you read.
My first experience with the pokies was when I was about 12. Pokies weren’t around in Victoria so my parents would often drive across the border where they would leave my younger sister and I in the car. They always ‘won’. They’d come back bragging how much money they had won and how whichever suburb they had been playing in would need to take out a loan to cover the amount that they had to pay my parents out. We always used to go to the smaller towns on the edge of the border.
I was one of these kids who was lucky enough to have a fake ID. Pokies had since arrived to Victoria and some of my older friends would go there and put their pay through in hope of winning big. I remember watching in fascination as my friend thumbed through coin after coin into the slot. He’d lose so he’d move to another machine. He’d then borrow money from a friend to get him through the rest of the week.
I remember the first time I actually played. It was on one of the machines that has the option of 6 or 7 different games. I remember bumble bees. I had a small win and left it at that. My friend who I went with won quite a lot. We’d go quite often. When I ran out of money, I’d steal money out of the vending machines in the toilets and anything I got, I’d put into the machines. This was the days before I had an income.
I met a man whom I thought would be the love of my life. We had a child together. I lost interest in the pokies at that stage as not only was I a new mother but my partner was putting all of our pay through the slots. We had no money, no one to borrow any off and no credit rating to enable us to borrow anything to get anywhere. I would often rely on my parents to get us through.
I recall shortly after my second child was born, my partner hadn’t come home. I drove around looking for him. The day before, I’d borrowed another $1,500 to cover the rent. I saw his car parked at the local club. I ran inside. I left the kids in the car and had alerted Security that I was running into the venue to get my husband. The man nodded and stood by my car. I walked in to see him at a machine with an attendant and a security guard. I asked what the problem was. He had spent all of our rent money and had resorted to using some amusement park coins. One of them had gotten stuck in the machine and the attendant was trying to get it out of the machine whilst the security guard was questioning his motives. I told him that the kids were in the car so he went outside to watch them whilst I was left to clean up the embarrassing mess he’d left behind.
When we separated, I was forced to go bankrupt at the age of 21. We no longer speak nor does he contact the children.
I continued to go to the pokies at any opportunity I got. I would have a few wins and a few losses here and there. I remember putting $300 through one day and feeling sick when I walked out. I would often find myself borrowing money from pay day loan places and given the fact I was now a single mum with one income, things were tight. I couldn’t ask my parents as they’d helped me out so much and I had to justify to them what I was doing with my money. Something I was not prepared to admit at that stage.
I found it hard to go to the pokies as I no longer had the time. This is when I discovered online gambling. Slots and bingo were the main things that I used. They were very new ‘back then’ (nine years ago) and there were three sites that I used often. I’d spend a FORTUNE and although I never added it up, I was chewing through about $600 per week.
I met my now-husband about six years ago. I told him that I had a problem with the pokies shortly after meeting him. It’s not something that he’s ever interfered with. Not sure if it’s because it’s not affecting us as badly as what it could do or if he is afraid of my reaction. I have sometimes wished that he would say something so that I would know how he is feeling and what his perspective is on what I do. I hate to think of what we could have done with all that money. I have never hidden my habit from him and have always been honest with him about what I am doing (or have done) or how much I lost (or won).
Recently, I have had a few things go on in my life that have made me feel quite depressed and have been finding myself going to the pokies a lot more. I went 2 weeks ago. I put in $200 (I always take the money out of the ATM at the venue so I don’t feel as though I am hiding from my husband) and I had $30 of that left when I won the $400 jackpot. I went and got the money and then put another $200 through. I walked out before I put any more in. I came home and told my Husband what had happened. I also then told him that even though I won that money, I wasn’t even as I had lost over $600 on the online gambling platform a few days prior.
I hear the pokies in my head for hours after I’ve been there or have been playing the online games. A lot of advertising on the TV reminds me of some of the machines. I often get urges at two in the morning to go there and see if I can win when my ‘gambling brain’ is thinking I have a better chance of winning as there’s not as many people. I think that some machines must have something against me because they never let me win. I sometimes forget how much I have put through or even used on the credit card when going online.
Online gambling is very dangerous. They give you ‘free’ credits and send you emails and scratchies in the post. If you use these free credits, you have to wager certain amounts before you can withdraw your money. Say for example if I deposited $50 right now (or $20 for that matter), I’d have to put $690.90 through to be able to withdraw a cent. Even when I knew this last week, my ‘gambling brain’ didn’t care. I was betting $20 a spin. Sure, I’d have a small win here and there but never enough to reach my $690.90 to be able to withdraw my money.
Despite this, on the Saturday just gone, just before I was about to reinstall the software so I could gamble, I jumped on Twitter to find some comments by cyenne40. I’m new to Twitter but am slowly getting the hang of it. I scrolled through the tweets and read 14 questions that really made me look at my gambling. I had a laugh at some of them thinking ‘wow, do people really talk to their machine?’ and had no problem admitting that I go out to play the pokies. No doubt about it.
I want to go to a GA meeting – they are on a Monday up here. So many things have come up over the past few weeks and I haven’t been able to go. I am not sure if I want to stop gambling all together or if I want to learn how to do it responsibly. Either way, the simplest little tweet has managed to keep my ‘gambling brain’ in hiding and If that’s what works for now, then that’s a good thing.
Cyenne40 – please know that what you are doing is so important. And I am sure that there are so many people whom have rethought what they’re doing because of your honesty and sensible messages. I still think about your poker machine mathematics entries on your blog. I have read them over and over again. I speak for myself but, as a newbie to your blog, up until I contacted you, I had been a lurker. You are making a difference and you are giving people the courage to face their problem and better still, you are helping people make sense of what is often such a hopeless situation. And I thank you for your honesty and the time that you put into your blog – you are standing up for all of us including many who don’t think they need to be stood up for.
I know I have a problem and I am searching for the solution that fits me. The last time I gambled was on the 21st of July 2011. Let’s hope that it stays that way.