My name is Conny. I’m a former gambler and Peer Connection volunteer.
As a teenager I had an Uncle who worked in the mines nine months of the year and then come to Melbourne and spend his money on the races. All I heard was how much he kept winning. I thought how easy is this. It was also a fabulous memory because he very generously shared his winnings with us as teenagers.
I first gambled in my twenties, going on bus trips to New South Wales. There weren’t enough trips for me, so when I had the opportunity to join the committee of the social club at work, I organised my own bus trips. I didn’t realise how popular the pokies were with other people.
When the machines came to Victoria they were in the clubs at the beginning. I would find a friend to sign me in so I could play. Looking back now I know it was a problem for me from the beginning.
I had problems in my marriage, I didn’t like my job, I had very little money to spare and found my house to be very depressing. So when the pokies came to Victoria I found them to be a God send. I could go and just zone out. No marriage, no work, no money problems, no depressing house. All I saw were bright lights and pleasant music that made me forget the real world. All I had to do was feed the machine some valuable paper (money) and press the button. That kept me happy for hours. Of course in the end I ran out of paper that kept me there and eventually I had to go back to the real world and then the lies began. I’m just going shopping or I’m going to lunch with a friend. Any thing to get me out of the house and down to the pokies.
The feelings of shame and guilt were strong but the feeling of happiness and zoning out were much stronger and they won in the end.
After 10 years of successfully hiding my addiction, except from my daughters, by hiding bank statements and always grabbing the phone so that I caught the calls from debt collectors, my partner finally caught me. He looked up the bank statements online and saw all the withdrawals at the venue.
There were tears, anger and threats but in the end I decided my marriage and my new house were more important than gambling and I used the gamblers help card I had sitting in my purse for 12 months and got help.
Through Gamblers Help we learnt about the Peer Connection Program. A phone support program for problem gamblers and their partners. I have about 12 callers I talk to every fortnight and just support them. We talk about goals and strategies and sometimes just about what’s going on in our lives. My partner talks to other partners and supports them with any difficulties they may have.
The biggest question I get asked is ‘how did you stop?’ We find because we are also gamblers we know all about the things we do to keep our gambling secret and they have an outlet to discuss it without feeling bad about themselves.
My callers keep me honest and I feel just as good about myself as the callers feel about themselves. I celebrate all their wins in life but the happiest day is when they say “thank you for all your help but I can do it on my own now”.