Click on the links below to read real life stories of people affected by problem gambling. Note all stories are published with the consent of the participants and have been de-identified to protect both the participants and their families.
Hello readers, I came to Australia thirty years ago. My initial contact with gambling was only during the Chinese New Year. After the casino opened, my friends and I went there and played on poker machine for fun. As a new comer, I focused on my work and did not have extra money and time to spend on gambling. Occasionally I just gambled small amounts of money. Quite often I had a small win though.
About fifteen years ago my financial situation began to get better, the frequency of my gambling increased. I used to gamble whenever I felt bad with my work and my family. Hoping to forget my troubles and bad feelings in the gambling environment, I remember that at that time I always won small amounts of money. With that lucky experience, I started going to gamble no matter whether I felt good or bad. However, the more I gambled, the more I lost. When I lost I always wanted to win the money back.
In recent years I have been constantly thinking about playing the poker machine. I have become addicted to it to the point that I lost all my savings. Thinking that all my hard earned money is lost in gaming, I felt depressed! A deep sense of guilt and self-blaming had made me lose sleep for many nights. What I thought about at night when I closed my eyes was the sound and glittering light of poker machine. My gambling addiction seriously affected my usual work and life.
当时心情很焦虑。决定戒赌!曾经试过打戒赌热线电话，去一些机构查询，拿了些资料回来看，跟着去club签自我禁制令。但是一旦遇到各种各样的压力，或者觉得要放松要娱乐时，心思思又想着去。又会找一些新的club， 找不到club， 就会去一些Hotel。每次输了，内心很憎恨自己，但又总是戒不掉，内心很煎熬。
I was keen to stop gambling. I contacted counselling agencies for assistance and was told I could sign up for self-exclusion in person at the club. I did it as advised. But when I felt distressed, or when I wanted some entertainment, I went to gamble at other clubs or hotels. I was afflicted, I hated myself for not being able to control my gambling behavior.
在一次阅报时，偶然看到一个叫多元文化问题赌博辅导服务(MPGS)的小广告。这个MPGS 跟我以前接触的Gambling Help不一样，声称有专人帮助想戒赌的人一次性禁足几十家赌博场所。因为我很想戒赌，但是又不成功，心想一定要试试，马上拨打了电话。接电话的职员非常有礼有耐心地询问了我一些简单的情况，马上安排见面时间。当时打电话我心里还有点忐忑不安，结果通过话之后，害怕的心情一扫而光，我很期待这个约会。
One day I read a little advertisement in the newspaper about the Multicultural Problem Gambling Service (MPGS). It was not the same as the other Gambling Help services I had contacted before as it could provide assistance in taking out multi-venue self exclusion. I did not find it easy to make the call to the service. The staff member who answered my phone was very nice, and my previous worry disappeared instantly. He patiently asked me some simple questions about my situation, and the first appointment was arranged on the spot.
On a sunny afternoon, I went to the appointment feeling tense. The office was located in a quiet and beautiful area. The counsellor was very polite, kind and warm which helped my nervousness.
I told the counsellor directly that I had a gambling addiction playing on the poker machine. I did not want to continue such bad habit any longer and really wanted to stop. The purpose of my coming was to ban myself from entering all gaming venues where I used to gamble. The counsellor listened to me attentively and patiently. He replied that he could assist me to take out the multi-venue self exclusion first, and then a series of counselling sessions be arranged to help me have in-depth understanding of my own gambling problem.
After finishing the self exclusion process, the counsellor said to me: “From now on you are going to make a full stop on your gambling behavior!” This statement strengthened my confidence and determination. He explained that it would be expected during the process of counselling that he will ask about my gambling history and my family background. The conversation was carried out in a relaxing and pleasant atmosphere. When the counsellor asked me one particular question about the relationship in my family, I did not know why, my tears started running. I never knew that this might be the underlying cause of my on-going gambling problem. I could not stop my tears streaming down my cheek. After a long time, my mood calmed down. It was strange that my heart became so relaxed afterwards.
In the next session, the counsellor used professional questionnaires, gave an interesting explanation about the nature of problem gambling. With a lot of expert knowledge, he also educated me about poker machines, from the sound effect and the screen display to the psychological models in order to illustrate how the machine was designed to attract players. Evidently, it was basically impossible for players to beat the machine.
Each counselling session was a very pleasant experience. The counsellor helped me understand myself, the inner reasons for my gambling addiction. He also suggested ways to minimize the harm in case I decided to gamble. Step by step he guided me to recognize my gambling behavior and to understand the potential devastating consequences of gambling. After a few months without gambling, I felt that I had stopped the gambling successfully. The feeling was very good, I could sleep well at night and even I could save some money.
Friends from overseas came to visit me. One day I took them to the casino as one of the tourist attractions to visit. Looking at the poker machines that I did not play on for many months, I felt proud that I could detach from them finally. After my friends left the casino, I had a strong urge to test my ability to see if I could control my gambling behavior. However, I lost my control after putting money into the machine. I was disappointed with myself that I still could not maintain control. My mood was very low, I thought I was a terrible person. In the following session, I was embarrassed to tell the counsellor about my relapse.
However, the counsellor was not surprised by my relapse. He explained to me in detail about relapse as part of the recovery process. We also explored and discussed ways to deal with gambling urges. Nevertheless, he did not recommend the idea of self challenging by putting myself in a tempting situation! Main strategies were discussed to change my own mentality, change my thinking, restructure my value system, cultivate better behavior and hobbies, and use good hobbies to replace gambling behavior and so on.
I had attended counselling sessions for one year. With his help, I learned a lot. The most important thing was to understand myself and to make a fundamental change in myself, the gambling behavior would fade out gradually. This cessation process was not like “cutting butter”, it was not a quick and easy job. Relapse might happen during the process, but the intensity of gambling urge became weaker and weaker to the point that poker machines attracted me no more. In fact, I found gambling was meaningless; I had no interest to play again.
There are many interesting things in life that attract me more than gambling. As long as we realize the harms of gambling on every aspect of life, even on our dignity, it is not worthwhile!
If you decided to read this article, no matter whether you are a gambler or you want to help a family member quit gambling, I hope my experience can be helpful to you. If you want to stop gambling completely, please take one further step and contact MPGS for professional help. You may certainly get unexpected reward! Life without gambling is a renewed life. I feel like I am a new person.
I would like to say thank you for the help to my counsellor. My thanks also extend to MPGS. Thanks for their help in helping me regain my life!
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Qingcao's Story 青草
Because I have a gambling husband, my marriage and family have been struck with sorrow and pain for forty years. Since the children remember, every few days they witnessed their parents blaming/beating each other, turning over the dinner table, throwing things at each other. Any readily available object was used as a tool to vent intense anger. Our two daughters said that they would prefer to be beaten by their parents than to witness that father hit their mother’s head against the wall. Trivial things like rice, salt, water, gas and electricity expenses were the trigger of arguments.
In 1990 I chose to migrate to Sydney for a better education for my children and for the environmental change to help my husband to stop gambling. I was hoping my family life will restart over here. I trusted my husband and transferred all my savings from Hong Kong to our joint account in Australia six months before I arrived. I never expected that he will gamble and lose all my savings without my knowing. I was desperate. I started working as a tailor to earn some money for household expenses, but the relationship with my husband was back to blaming and beating as before. My two daughters were in great pain and cried and begged us to stop fighting. I once told my mother about my intention to divorce and go back to Hong Kong. My family did not agree with it and they advised me that because of my two children my top priority was to provide them with an intact family. My family also flew to Sydney immediately and lent us A$200,000 to buy a house.
I really did not know what does a pathological gambler looks like. I was just living a life of waiting for him at home, waiting for pay day to pay off household expenses, and blaming and beating each other in anger. There were countless occasions when I was wandering in the street all night, following my husband to the casino or in the maze of poker machines. Sometimes I was in so much pain that I just wished I had a sudden accident and died. Fortunately enough my Christian faith gave me hope and sustained me through the difficulties. I was aware that complaining and self-pity destroys friendships, and therefore I gradually learnt how to maintain a normal life. I understood that my advice was just useless effort in his eyes, and any distance would create conflict and verbal abuse between us. Finally, I realized that one can lose his good human nature, and end up living like a zombie when trapped in gambling. My husband’s relationship with gambling was unimaginable; I could not fight with him.
I was so delighted to see my two daughters married and have their own family. Poor marital relation with my husband taught them to cherish their own family. They always put their children as top priority. On New Year's Day 2016, my husband called our eldest daughter in Hong Kong and requested her to send him A$100,000 to pay his debt. He also wanted to sell the house and get half of the money. Our youngest daughter in Sydney gave him A$30,000. She took the money to the casino and paid a loan shark. However, the help of our daughter did not stop his gambling.
In December 2016, he called again and asked for more than A$100,000 to pay off his gambling debt. When he was refused, he asked all the family members in Hong Kong for money. I was again threatened with divorce, violence and forced sell the house. He also told our youngest daughter that he would commit suicide by a car to solve the problem. Such threats unsettled the family, and our two daughters worried about my safety too.
今年2月初，上網搜尋那個機構可以提供輔導幫助，幸運地接上了多元文化問題賭博輔導服務 (MPGS)，並且安排了約見。輔導員詳細分析病態賭徒的各種狀況，讓我了解如何才是真正的解決方法，如何保護自己身心不受傷害，期間常告訴兩女兒不要擔心我。MPGS 機構使我們這些被賭博問題所傷害家庭、弱勢的人不孤單，不被羞耻感吞噬。
In early February this year, I searched on the Internet as I wished to get counselling help. Thankfully I got connected to The Multicultural Problem Gambling Service (MPGS) and spoke to a counsellor. In the counselling session, the counsellor provided me detailed analysis of of pathological gamblers. I learnt how to solve my problem effectively and knew how to take care of myself and protect my family from further physical and mental harm. I told my two daughters that they did not need to worry about me. MPGS provides valuable support and assistance to vulnerable families effected by gambling, lest they are alone and being devoured by shame.
Few months later, my two brothers from Hong Kong came over to Sydney and offered advice and help. After discussing with family members, I accepted the consensus that the two brothers lend us money to buy my husband’s title of the house, so that he had money to pay his debts to the loan sharks. Family members also reminded him that the potential loss of gambling is not only money, but also family relations. He was also warned that if he continues his gambling, he can expect breaking the connection with his daughters and grandchildren. For a gambler to change and take initiative to seek gambling help depends on whether he can calm down. However, my husband is still not ready to deal with his gambling problem. Nevertheless, I continued to receive the encouragement and support from my counsellor.
Looking back on the distress of the past few decades, I really appreciate the service of gambling help for the Chinese community. In counselling sessions through strong empathetic and gracious support I found a refuge and it sustained me to go through the past 10 months of trouble. When there was a need to improve the marriage and family relationships, I learnt that acceptance and good will is the power of communication. Finally I am grateful and thanks to the MPGS for offering help to those who fall victim to problem gambling.
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