Peter is a 68 year old man who had battled with a gambling problem for years before he reached the point of rock bottom. What started as a way to pass time and have a bit of fun betting on horses at the age of 27 led into a full time obsession with the pokies at age 55 that Peter said he had no control over. Following the second marriage break up, financial loss through the settlement of the family home coincided with Peter having a large win on the pokies.
At 19 years of age, Peter said that he remembers fondly crossing the border to Twin Towns to play the one arm bandits and was quite pleased when he heard the pokies were coming to Queensland. But it wasn’t until that second marriage break up at age 55, with harder times and nothing to lose sitting in the pub popping a coin into the pokies and seeing “5 pictures” come up that he felt like his luck had changed and things were turning around. He said he remembers leaving the pub feeling really excited at the prospect of future wins.
For years Peter returned to try his luck, but as he said he always paid his rent, had groceries and red wine but that the rest was to feed what had become the obsession to win which left him broke until next pay. He said he was slowly racking up a substantial credit card debt and selling off any furniture that he had left from the marriage to give him more chances on the pokies.
With years passing, Peter said this soon took its toll and he found himself in a dark place with suicidal thoughts spiralling downwards. Peter was expecting a close friend to visit from overseas. In an attempt to have extra money to splurge with his friend, Peter fed the pokies and lost not only his wage but he had not paid his rent nor did he have food. Peter said “I felt worthless”. With no other options Peter said he had to do what was the hardest, most humiliating thing in his life he has ever had to do. He had to do admit to his friend that he had a problem with gambling, no money and had to ask to borrow money to pay the rent.
Peter’s friend agreed to pay the rent but under the condition that he seek professional help. Peter said that as soon as he sought support it felt like a load had lifted and there was a road to recovery. He said that when he looks back it is like he is talking about another person but that through all of it he always continued to love his children and that their continued support helped him through as did formal support.
Peter has now gone for over 10 years where gambling is no longer a problem, he can go to a pub and not be burdened by the pokies. He said “I have come through it with scars but also with a positive mind”. The scars were financial and relationship loss, but he said that he sees life with an appreciation and enrichment for all that it has to offer in a way that was never there before. He said he has swapped 10 hours a day in a dark room for engaging relationships with family, friends and work colleagues.
Peter’s life has a new direction where he now is a Community Educator for Gambling Help and he says, “It is a privilege to help others find the road back”. He says that he wants to spread the word that there are services out there that can set you back on track and that it is possible to overcome a problem with gambling. He said “It’s not easy to change but it’s worth it. It’s worth putting up with the pain, for what you gain".