While working as a poker machine mechanic for 14 years Gary*, 58 saw first hand how destructive compulsive gambling can be.

“I saw people lose houses, businesses, their whole lives. I heard some staggering stories about people’s losses. The more they’d play the more they’d lose”.

But then, having overcome an active addiction to cannabis some years earlier, Gary took up gambling and found himself becoming addicted. He sought help through the Northern Rivers Gambling Counselling Service.

“I started gambling a couple of years ago. I never descended into homelessness, I always managed to pay the rent and meet my car repayments, but I was wasting money on gambling. I identified as a compulsive gambler and decided to seek help before it was too late.”

“I was already in a 12-Step program due to my cannabis use. I had been clean and sober for nine years when gambling kicked in as a secondary addiction.”

I joined a local Gamblers Anonymous group. He said he considers addiction, whether to substances or a behaviour such as gambling to be due to isolation and self- centredness.

“When you go to a 12 Step meeting, you realise you are not alone. The stories I hear in Gamblers Anonymous are similar to those I’d heard in Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Addiction does not discriminate, it affects every kind of person.

“I thought I was a weak person because I couldn’t stop. But I learnt that addiction is a disease and going to these meetings is my medicine in a way. I am constantly reminded of where I came from and that there is a way out of addiction.”

Gary said his contact with Emma Ryan of The Buttery’s Northern Rivers Gambling Counselling Service has been significant in helping him overcome his compulsion to gamble and has helped him maintain an optimistic view of the future.

“My life has changed dramatically for the better now; it is much better than I thought it could be. It’s not my old life polished up. It’s a new life.”

*  Name changed and library image used to preserve confidentiality.