Gambling was ruining my life and my health, and I stopped eating because I was so anxious.
My name is Shirley Fletcher, I’m 54, and for the past few years I’ve been gambling away everything I earned.
I grew up near Riverton and left school at 15. I spent the next few years working as a caregiver, a nurse aid, and a cleaner. I loved helping people. I never had a problem with gambling at that stage, it didn’t even interest me.
But, a few years later I started popping some coins in the pokie machines at the RSA every now and then. One day I won $50 and I felt like I’d won the jackpot! I was sensible with it though and I used that money to buy extra food for my children.
I didn’t gamble really at all throughout the next few years. I had landed on my feet. I had my own house, a great job, two beautiful children and I was doing really well for myself.
But after my father passed away my mother was down, and she would play the pokies to lift her spirits. So, I started going with her and that used to be our ‘girl time’ together. I’d often get a thrill out of the free spins! Although, I’d only go when money permitted.
One day I walked in and won $300, so I decided to go to another pub and I walked away with $400. It carried on like this throughout the evening to the point I had won more than $3000! Three weeks later, it had all gone back into the pokie machines.
I started to get into trouble with my gambling. I’d gamble instead of paying my rent and I just about lost my house twice. It was at that stage I decided to exclude myself.
But, a few months later I was at it again. I played the pokies every second or third day and I’d easily spend up to $150 a day.
I started becoming sneaky with my partner, which gut wrenched me because I didn’t want to lie to him.
It was then I realized I’d had enough. I’d had enough of my whanau worrying about me. I didn’t want to waste money or my life away anymore. I’d had enough of dealing with headaches, not sleeping, and getting myself so anxious and wound that I would vomit.
So, in May last year, for the second time, I was self-excluded. Only this time I was referred to Nga Kete and received one-on-one counselling, which I found very helpful. The counsellor was so easy to talk to! I felt I was able to lay everything on the table and wear my heart on my sleeve. It was just like talking to a friend.
I also attended the Problem Gambling Support Group. I found it very supportive, and helpful to be able to speak with people who had been through the same situation as myself.
I also completed the Sorted Whanau Financial Capability Programme at Nga Kete, which I would recommend to everyone. It made me aware of what I was spending and gave me general tips on how to save money, how to think smart around money, and how to talk to banks. Through the programme I kept a diary and wrote down every time I spent money, which I am continuing to do. I now have a goal of buying a house, which I am excited about! I’m also getting married this year and budgeting for a honey moon!
This is all possible now because I don’t gamble anymore.
My mother, before she passed away, was so proud of me for having stopped gambling. I couldn’t be happier that she got to see that, and I know I will never play the pokies again.
Thank you to everyone at work – You’ve been great with your encouragement and support. To my babe I love you, thank you. And to my boys, thank you for always being there for me.
Problem Gambling Counselling
We deliver a free professional problem gambling service for both gamblers and others affected by gambling, offering:
- One-on-one individual support.
- Te Rongo Pai - Support group held every Wednesday 10.30am - 12.30pm for individuals and their whanau affected by gambling, alcohol or drugs (18 & over).
- Problem Gambling Support Group, an open support group for individuals affected by gambling, every second Tuesday, 5.15pm - 6.30pm.
- Whanau/family meetings as part of a healing process.
- Mobile service (conditions apply).
- External Agency Referral