“Wealth used to be the potential of winning lotto. But now wealth is health and family.”
John’s* addiction to pokie machines was ruining his life, in fact he says it was soul-destroying, but he couldn’t stop.
But after a change of heart and several years of counselling at Nga Kete Matauranga Pounamu Charitable Trust, he hasn’t been near a “dreaded” pokie machine in four years.
“I have gone from frequently being broke, stressed and anxious to a sense of peace now having my priorities in order.”
“I am sincerely grateful for the amazing support I’ve had. Words will never convey how thankful I am. I do hope that in some way I may be able to help and support others.”
This is his story:
John*, 50, knew from a young age he liked to gamble - more specifically the “feel” of the gamble. It was the thrill, the desire, the rush. Even at eight-years-old the idea of winning money was irresistible and before he knew it, it had turned into a life-long gambling addiction. John* went on to loose more than $20,000 a year for several years.
At eight-years-old he can recall often visiting an amusement parlour in town, and later wagging school to play pontoon with his friends, with $5 wagers. Once he started working gambling became his way of life. It was etched into every little crevice of his existence. John* admits pokie machines were his demon. The thrill he would feel from them never went away.
“All I could think was I might get the jackpot, it was the lure to make money. I felt safe there … it would take my mind off other stresses. The down times were tough but I’d get over them by playing the pokies.”
With a wallet full of credit cards it became too easy to obtain credit and for several years he estimates he put at least $20,000 to $25,000 through the machines each year.
Progressively the gambling worsened and John’s* wages were never enough. He was borrowing money to put petrol in his car but often it wouldn’t make it to the car, he couldn’t afford to pay his rent and credit card companies started chasing him.
Even still, he wasn’t happy at the pokies unless he had $300 in his pocket each time.
Five out of the seven days he’d be at the pokies after work, and sometimes even during work.
“I’d take extended lunch breaks because I got held up at the pokies.”
There were plenty of times he’d decided enough was enough. But it never stuck. He even recalled one occasion where he’d referred himself for counselling.
“But I remember being in a counselling session and looking at the time thinking come on I need to get to the pokies.”
Then in 2004 John* met his wife “a great blessing” and she was to become instrumental in his decision to quit the pokies for good.
“I was gambling a lot. She knew but not to the extent. I’d justify my gambling. It was my chill out time. She would go and play her sports and that was her chill out time. This was mine.”
John* struggles to explain what changed, but described it as something shifting inside him and he realized he needed to stop for good.
Five years ago he referred himself to Nga Kete and while it has been a long journey, it has proved successful. He last gambled at a pokie machine four years ago.
“It’s been life-changing. It was a team effort between Nga Kete, Diane and myself.”
“It’s like smoking. Sometimes I miss it, the good old times, especially when I was winning. But I don’t think about it long now. I know that it impacted everything … It sucks the absolute life out of you.”
Nowadays, he keeps himself busy helping others and spending time with family.
The idea of sitting down in front of a pokie machine again is not on his radar.
John* excluded himself through the Multi Venue Self Exclusion programme but the exclusion has now come to an end.
“I can now go to any pub and play the pokies but I choose not too.”
“Why would I go there?”
MULTI VENUE SELF EXCLUSION
If your gambling is getting the better of you and you need help to get back on track text your contact details to TXT 2 X (which means text to exclude). The programme allows an individual to access the Multi Venue Self Exclusion programme through a text message before an appointment is made at NKMP to begin the application process. MVSE allows you to exclude yourself from Invercargill gaming venues for three months to two years.