Kate Seselja doesn’t believe in the concept of ‘recovery’. The Canberra woman hasn’t touched a poker machine in over six years, but there’s something about the permanency of the word – the way it forever burdens a person with their addiction – that doesn’t sit well with her.
“I’m a human being and I’m fallible, and that doesn’t make me different from anybody else who is in fact human and fallible. So to operate under a label of any kind makes no sense to me,” the 39-year-old told Mamamia.
“And so I decided I was ‘restored’.”
Kate’s restoration began in 2012. Over the previous 15 years she’d surrendered more than $500k into the chiming, lurid devices, and once again she found her self sitting before one at a local club.
After eight hours of spinning, ignoring the missed calls on her phone, she’d fed her last note into the slot.
“I really had lost hope that there was any solution,” she said. “You know, I’m financially ruined, mentally ruined, emotionally, and I’m feeling like I just couldn’t keep breathing anymore.
“But I was pregnant with our sixth child at the time, and I didn’t know how to take my life and not hers. So I felt even angrier that I was trapped in this hell that I felt like I had created.”
She sat alone, crying, overwhelmed, afraid to go home and have to tell her husband that she had “screwed up” again. Her phone rang, and this time she answered.
“Thankfully he called me and said, ‘Please, please, just come home.’ I just had no words left, none. I was just done. If he hadn’t have yelled at me, I probably wouldn’t have come home that day,” she said. “At all.”
“I just wasn’t able to walk away.”
Australians are among the world’s most prolific pokie gamblers. We have roughly 200,000 machines around the country, which equates to one for every 114 people – that figure is outstripped only by gambling meccas Monaco and Macao.
Our losses are world-leading, too. According to government statistics, of the $24bn we lost gambling in 2015-6, $12bn was on pokies.
But what makes these devices so potent? As The Conversation, it’s a combination of ubiquity (ease of access), intensity (high stakes and speed of each ‘spin’) and the characteristics of the machines themselves.Senior Lecturer, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, explained via
“Poker machines cultivate addiction by teaching the brain to associate the sounds and flashing lights that are displayed when a punter ‘wins’ with pleasure,” he wrote. “And since the pattern of wins, or rewards, is random, the ‘reinforcement’ of the link between the stimuli and pleasure is much stronger than if it could be predicted.”