For Tasmanian Anne Harrison finding solace in the pokies was the easiest and most logical solution - and in a moment of clarity this writer realises there is an entire dimension to problem gambling that has yet to be explored.
She is giving back to the community now, having kicked the gambling addiction and she is now working at a neighbourhood house at Risdon Vale, in one of Tasmania's poorest suburbs so for Anne this is a story with a somewhat happy ending. Unfortunately though, for every Anne there are 100 not so happy stories where the end is not so positive. But it's the fact that all these stories began in the same way that raises concerns and has this writer looking for answers and support in some way shape or form.
Let's hear more about Anne's story so we may get some insight into something I feel is happening all over the world, and regularly.
Who Plays Solitaire Anyway?!
Anne Harrison's life changed dramatically when her husband of 32 years, Joe, died 13 years ago.
"All of a sudden I was on my own, I didn't know what to do on weekends or to socialise or go out, we always did it together," she said.
Mrs Harrison had never previously shown an interest in playing poker machines, but all of a sudden found it easy.
"I could go and play pokies on my own and sit there and you know I could talk to the person next to me or I could have a drink, there was nice music, there was lights, you know it was great," she said.
"You don't feel as isolated."
Gambling played into the emotions she was already feeling.
"I can understand why people get addicted to pokies, it's one thing you can go and do on your own," she said.
Heading To The (Lonely Hearts) Club
Anne raises some very interesting (not to mention valid) points and it certainly has this writer thinking about the implications and potential solutions for what I personally think is a huge factor when it comes to looking at the warning signs of problem gambling and pokie addiction.
Anne has some other things to add which provide a little more insight into her situation and the motivation to seek out pokies and the associated social comfort this brought.
"I didn't feel I could talk to my family or my kids, I'm a coper, so I felt like I should cope myself."
For many pokies addicts, the lights and sounds of the machines are all part of the experience.
Mrs Harrison said her addiction to pokies was a rollercoaster of emotion.
"When I won, wow, that is the biggest high, literally a huge high, and I would come home and think wow, this is great, happy, happy, joy, joy," she said.
"But when I lost I would beat myself all the way home, I would feel depressed and sad and it took ages to get yourself out of that rut."
When the ABC spoke to Mrs Harrison she was working hard at the community centre and did not gamble on the pokies anymore.
She said she never lost a huge amount of money because she set herself limits, and obeyed them, before deciding it was time to stop.
"I just started to realise that ... the money wasn't going as far and I was doing something really silly, there was something in my head that clicked and told me it was time to stop," she said.
Don't allow your local Club to become a another Lonely Hearts Destination.
Problem Gambling Warning Signs
The Following links will take you to the best free resources online that provide information on the various problem gambling warning signs and more importantly they provide further resources so you can seek help and/or speak with an expert in that area.
Gambling Help Online is an Australian service provided free of charge and is a beacon of hope in a nation where problem gambling and pokie addiction is rife.
View their Gambling Addiction Warning signs page HERE
Be aware of the warning signs and above all seek help! Family and Friends will always be there for you...ALWAYS. You may be saying 'oh no, not my family' but if they knew the extent of the problem and how much worse it can potentially get then trust me, they'll surprise even you.
You can also call the following number from anywhere in Australia, 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Oh and it's 100% confidential and costs nothing, nada, zilch.
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