second series 1: gambling troubles
a: Gabriela Byrne
b: Gabriela Byrne: annotated version
Gabriela Byrne lives in Melbourne, a large city in southern Australia. In 1992, she was thirty-six years old. She was married  and had two young children. She also had a well-paid job. She didnt like her job, but, she says,  she was earning too much money to quit . One morning she had a fight with her boss. She was so upset  by this that she almost did quit . Instead, she went to have lunch in her favorite pub . She had been going there for a long time, but it was only recently that pokies had been installed. Pokies are a special kind of slot machine: you put a coin into a slot, pull a lever, and, if youre lucky, you win money the
Pokies were illegal  in Australia before 1992. Then the government legalized  them, and soon there were many thousands of them in bars, hotels, and casinos across the country. Every year, Australian governments get about one billion Australian dollars in tax money from the pokies. But there is a price to pay  for this: Australia has the worlds highest percentage of problem gamblers people whose lives have been damaged by gambling. And it has been proven that increases in crime and homelessness since 1992 have been caused by the pokies.
Gabriela had noticed the new pokies in her pub, but she hadnt been tempted to play them. She had never gambled in her life. On that day however, perhaps because she was so upset, the machines suddenly seemed attractive. Their lights were flashing and music was coming out of  them. She wanted to play, but it seemed shameful.. Finally she could resist no longer. She told herself no one would notice. No one would think she was doing anything wrong. So she started to play.
When her lunch hour was over she left the pub and went back to her office but she was hooked [12 ]. Within a few weeks she was playing as much as  five hours every day. She spent less and less  time at work. Before long she was fired. She soon got another job, but this didnt help because her office was close to a casino. She gambled there before and after work. A few months later, her familys bank accounts were empty.
Gabriela and her husband, Peter, agreed that she shouldnt have access to the bank accounts. But that didnt work. Gabriela started selling health products in her spare time  and spending the money she earned in casinos.
Gabriela realized she couldnt control her addiction by herself. She knew she needed help. She joined a group of compulsive gamblers  who were trying to help one another escape addiction. But going to group meetings didnt work. She still couldnt control her urge [17 ] to gamble. Sometimes, after a meeting, she went directly to the pokies.
Gabriela left the group and began going to regular counselling sessions with her church minister. After about a year of counselling, she felt she was cured.  She had stopped  going to casinos. The urge to play the pokies had disappeared. Her husband felt he could trust her with money again and gave her back her credit cards.
One day after Gabriela had gone for three months without gambling  she had some gift shopping she wanted to do. Her husband had gone to another city for a few days, so she left her children with her sister-in-law. She said shed be back  in two hours, but to her surprise, it only took a few minutes[ 22] to find the gift she was looking for. Suddenly she decided to go a pub and have a drink. Later, she said that she was feeling completely confident at that moment. She was sure that she could sit beside the pokies without being tempted to play them.
But as soon as Gabriela got into the pub, she started to put money into the machines. When she couldnt get any more money with her cards, she left the pub and went to a casino where she was well known. For a while, that casino lent her more money so she could keep on playing.  When she couldnt get any more money, she called her sister-in-law and asked her to keep the children. She phoned her husband and asked him to come back to Melbourne right away. Then she went home.
When she got home, she knelt on her kitchen floor. She cried and screamed. She asked God to forgive her. She was filled with guilt and shame. She even thought of killing  herself because she had lost hope. She had tried as hard as she could  to escape, but she was still an addict.
However, that night Gabriela did finally escape. Her husband says that when he got home and saw the expression on her face , he was sure that Gabriela wouldnt gamble again. He was right. After more than four years of addiction and after losing more than $A40,000 of her familys money, Gabriela stopped gambling for good . And she went to work in the anti-gambling movement  trying to help people who were going through the same things  she went through. She created a successful counselling program called Free Yourself. She worked on educational materials  for teaching high school students about the dangers of gambling. And got involved in  campaigns to get the Australian government to regulate gambling more strictly.