From pokies to prison: Gambling addict's downward spiral
FOR some putting a few dollars in poker machines is a bit of fun, but for others it fuels an addiction.
It took one Bundaberg man to hit rock bottom before he woke up and sought help. He said his pokies addiction saw him spend time in jail after he stole thousands of dollars to fuel his need.
The man has come forward to share his story after reading a report in last week's NewsMail which said Bundaberg's poker machines made an average of $5865 every hour in December.
"I used to have severe depression and pokies acted as a band-aid solution for it," he said.
"If anything, playing made my depression and anxiety worse which led me to a suicidal point.
"I got to the point where I was so far under and mentally gone I started stealing money and I did time for it.
"It destroyed my career and almost my life."
The man said he knew he had a problem long before he decided to get help.
"My decision at one point was to just go hard," he said.
"I either have a massive win and pay all the money back in one go or I'm going to die, but I didn't take the first step until I was caught out.
"I thought 'bugger I've been caught' so I did a runner and partied hard and attempted suicide.
"But during that period I had a moment where I thought 'yes I want to die, but I want to change this'."
The man said when he was using the pokies he would zone out.
"Not many walk away a winner, when you're in the depression mode you don't care if you're winning or losing," he said.
"You're happy to zone out, lose money and you can completely forget your life.
"It has the same affect as drugs, you just keep going until you have that hit where you win."
He said when using the machines an early win wasn't enough to satisfy.
"You have a small fist pump and think 'I can just bet more to win bigger'," he said.
"You're happy but you are angry as well because you think 'you owe it to me'.
"If you don't get the free spins and it doesn't pay big, you just want to keep playing that one machine more and more."
The man said while he is just one person who suffered from the addiction, there are others out there going through the same thing.
"At the moment Bundy's economy cannot support the habit," he said.
"You go to a club or a pub to be social and catch up with people, which is why I'm OK with Keno or the TAB because you can still be social.
"Alcohol and pokies are not a good combination."
Since doing jail time and getting psychological help, the man has turned his life around getting back into his passion for art.
"Art is my therapy now, my pencil sketches have turned into comic related art and portraits and I've been selling my work," he said.
"Now I can walk into a place and have no desire to even put a coin into the pokies whereas before I was itching to get in there.
"They're a very anti-social thing."
The man said he hoped to help others by sharing his story.
"But until you're prepared to take the first step nothing will change," he said.
If you need help please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.