Josh* had been gambling for 17 years when he finally got the help he needed from the Northern Rivers Gambling Counselling Service (NRGCS). For eight years he attempted to stop, but it was only through The Buttery’s program that he had his recovery breakthrough.
The 47-year-old said his addiction to the pokies quite literally steered his life.
“I literally couldn’t steer myself home. It’s like being possessed. I was pulled over by the Police once because I was circling a round-about six times. The pokies had such a pull on me that I quite literally couldn’t turn the wheel to get home,” Josh said.
Determined to beat his addiction, Josh joined Gamblers Anonymous, but admitted he couldn’t drive past the pub on his way home from meetings without succumbing to the lure of the machines.
As a successful tradesperson with his own business, he was often paid in large lumps of cash. “Every day I had cash. The cash was a trigger,” he said.
Josh admitted he would spend most of his weekly earnings on the pokies.
“One day I drove past the Tweed NRGCS office. I knew I didn’t have any control even though I wanted to stop. So I took down the number and rang up.
“(NRGCS Counsellor) Petra was my final solution. I related with her and when I met Petra I was ready to stop.
“I always thought gambling was a dumb-arse thing to do. That was until I had to stop playing footy due to injury. The stars sort of lined up; I got pretty dark. I was taking a lot of drugs. I had a traumatic childhood — had a father in jail for drug importation, and drugs and alcohol in the house.
“After the injury, I found the pokies imitated the pathways of playing the game.
“The thing about pokies is that you get results second by second. I didn’t have the patience for Sporstbet, or the races, because it didn’t have the same immediacy. I played professional sport, and the type of adrenaline that you get from sport, you get playing the pokies. It replicated how I would feel in the game – I got results moment by moment.
“When you drop the ball in footy it’s the same feeling as losing at the pokies. You try everything to get back up,” he said.
Josh said it was a combination of attending regular GA meetings and counselling sessions which got him ‘over the line’.
“Petra was able to get me to the point where I was accepting myself, which paved the way for a spiritual shift. I finally surrendered to it and all the trauma went away.
“I’m not a God believer but I believe in a higher power. Once the penny dropped it was amazing. Before that, it was just concepts. Petra really got to me.
“I had tried to get humility before but the thing I found was when the spirit was there, immediately I had the humility. Once I set on a path, the ego of the gambler went away. Before, I couldn’t admit defeat because my ego was too big. My ego was too big for a computer program designed to beat me.
“I have been motivated by pain to stop but I am now motivated by this beautiful feeling.
“Gambling cost me my relationships, my connection with my family and friends. I had completely isolated myself. But I can feel people now. I can look them in the face. Right now my typical day might be boring for most, just sitting on the beach and feeling it, but that is beautiful,” Josh said.
* Name changed. Stock photo used.