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How Much Did I Win? How Much Did I LOSE?

John Francis

John Francis, 2001-2002 Fellow, is the founder and publisher of TEARAWAY Magazine, The Voice Of New Zealand Youth.

My name is Alicia and I'm 19 years old. I work as a youth worker/mentor for a youth health service.

I've been doing my job for three years, since I was kicked out of college at 16. I love my work and a huge part of it is supporting young people with issues in their lives.

Funny, considering that I had such a big issue of my own.

A friend got me started

I started gambling two and a half years ago with a friend who was already addicted.

I would go with her to the pub and put in a few dollars and soon get bored and want to leave. Of course she didn't, so we would stay for a couple of hours or until she had no money left.

At the time I was with my partner (now my ex). Neither of us was at a very good place in our lives and we argued a lot. I would get angry and leave.

There was a pub about a five-minute walk up the road. I would go there, play maybe 20 or 40 bucks for half an hour and then go home.

I noticed that slowly the amount of money was increasing.

The rush kept me playing

I moved out of home in 2003 with the friend who first introduced me to gambling. Not a very smart move, but I didn't understand how serious it was.

We kinda lived off of each other's addiction. We kept each other company at the pokies, and lent each other money. The amount and time that I was gambling doubled in a month.

I convinced myself that it was all right, but I knew it was getting out of hand. Part of me didn't want to quit. The rush I got from playing was unreal, and when I won it would keep me smiling for days.

I was constantly telling people how much I had been winning, but the losses I never talked about.

Rent not paid

A few months after we moved in my landlord said our rent hadn't been paid. My flatmate said she must have put it into the wrong account.

It happened again and we were $600 behind. I freaked. I moved back with my father, which left me with all my money to play with.

On paydays I would get out of work early just to play, and I would only leave when there was no money left.

I had no money for petrol, for cellphone payments, or to pay my dad. I was miserable, crying all the time, lying to everyone, and borrowing money constantly.

One week I knew I would be getting a good pay. I wanted to buy clothes, pay people the money I owed and make phone payments.

I headed to the mall. On the way I saw a pub. I remember saying to myself, "Just $20, that's it."

Within four hours I'd lost $650 on the pokies. I arrived at my sister's in a mess, crying. She just hugged me. So began the long road to recovery.

I rang for help

There were a few more episodes like that. I was trying to do all the work myself, with just my sister's help.

I needed professional help. I rang the Problem Gambling help line. It was the hardest call I've ever had to make.

I gave my sister my Eftpos card and she brought everything for me. I wasn't allowed cash or my card, and I had to account for any money I did have.

It's a long process and I'm still only taking baby steps, but slowly I'm getting there. I still go to counselling regularly, and I've had relapses where I've gambled again.

It's a life-long journey, and the temptation will always be there. It's just that now I'm in a stronger position to fight it.

How can we ignore this problem?

It scares me how many young people are gambling at all, let alone excessively. It scares me how willing New Zealand is to ignore an ever-growing problem among our rangitahi.

In my small central-city area I can think of eight pubs with pokies in them. I can't understand why people think this is okay.

We need to stand up against having these things by the dozen in our local areas - otherwise too many young people will be sucked into this trap, and may not be as lucky as I have been in getting out.


• In ya face Youth Gambling Helpline: 0800 654 659,
• Problem Gambling Foundation of NZ: 0800 664 262, (You'll find other contact addresses and phone numbers at this address)

Thanks to Problem Gambling Foundation, for putting us in touch with Alicia, who tells her story on this page.

Copyright 2004, Used with permission from TEARAWAY Magazine.

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