Anna Bardsley: My name is Anna Bardsley. I'm a retired business woman, mother of five. I am a singer and a writer, a gardener, a grandmother and I lost ten years of my life to the pokies. I was introduced to the pokies when they first came to Victoria and I used to go with a group of five women and we'd have a cheap and cheerful and a flutter and nobody spent any more than about twenty dollars and we all knew how to say 'Well that's it let's go'.
That was fine until my life got difficult. After a particularly bad argument with my husband one night, I had to get out of the house so I went for a drive and went past one of those places that I used to go to with my friends. I know now that what happened was the machine calmed me down. The symbols going around. The music, the atmosphere, the whole place I just I could feel the agitation settling. It was the first time I stayed longer than I meant to and the first time I spent more money than I meant to.
It wasn't long before I was going whenever I had half an hour to spare and I would go without telling anybody where I was going. I found it really hard to ask for help. I didn't think that I was, I didn't think help would help. I thought I should just have to do it myself. And every time I relapsed or fell back into that hellhole, I felt worse. I remembered looking in the mirror and thinking who the hell are you and how did you get inside me.
And then I saw an ad for the smoking quit campaign which said every time you quit you're closer to quitting. And so I decided to take that on board. That was when I went and got some serious help and I went to Gambler's Help. Having the support of others was central, essential and I wouldn't have done it without them.
Being with other people who understood what you were talking about, what it felt like to have an uncontrollable urge to go and gamble. Lots of times people have said to me 'You're so brave' and I think, well not now. The really brave work is telling somebody and find somebody safe to tell. When I'm with other people who've experienced gambling harm, I know I'm not alone.
And now I'm not the only one. Life is so much better and get better. So much better. One of the wonderful things that I have found is that recovery is more than just going back to who you were before. It's finding out who you were meant to be. It's worth it.