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Fight gambling addiction with theater

Explore the impactful tale of Anna Bardsley, who triumphed over gambling addiction and became a proponent of transformation.

The summary of a podcast highlights her motivating odyssey, the significance of theater and activism, and the efforts of the Alliance for Gambling Reform. Tune in to the complete episode for a comprehensive discussion and valuable insights.

Super Summary:

Anna Bardsley shares her inspiring journey of overcoming gambling addiction and becoming an advocate for reform. By using theatre and advocacy, she raises awareness about the devastating impact of gambling on individuals and communities. Anna discusses her work with the Alliance for Gambling Reform, aiming to change the industry for the better. Throughout the conversation, Anna addresses the unique challenges faced by young people struggling with addiction and emphasizes the importance of self-compassion and support in achieving lasting recovery.

Top 5 Takeaways:

  • Sharing personal stories can raise awareness and change the conversation around gambling addiction.
  • Theatre can be a powerful medium for communicating the impact of gambling on individuals and communities.
  • The Alliance for Gambling Reform works towards industry reform and increased government action.
  • Young people facing gambling addiction have unique challenges and may be less willing to share their stories.
  • Self-compassion, support, and open conversation are vital for overcoming gambling addiction and achieving recovery.

Brian discussed with Anna Bardsley, who shared her experience with gambling addiction and her unexpected journey to becoming an advocate. Anna, originally from Melbourne, Australia, recounted how poker machines were introduced about 30 years ago. Initially advertised as a fun activity to make friends and have a good time, Anna found herself drawn to these machines to escape her difficulties.

As Anna’s addiction intensified, she began gambling several times a week, lying about her whereabouts, and concealing her addiction from those around her. Eventually, Anna joined a writing group where she and other gamblers documented their experiences with gambling. Through this process, she confronted the shame she felt and started to understand that not all of the shame was hers to bear. Some of it belonged to the machine designers, the pub and club owners, and even the government that legislated and permitted the machines to exist.

As her story became public, Anna spoke out for others who couldn’t, unexpectedly becoming an advocate for gambling reform. In Australia, gambling is a massive industry, and the country has 20% of the world’s poker machines, despite having a much smaller population than other countries. It’s a significant issue that Anna hopes the government will act on so she can move on to other things in her life.

Gambling Reform in Australia

Anna discussed the progress of gambling reform in Australia and how more people speak up about their experiences. People share stories of harm caused by gambling rather than labeling themselves as problem gamblers. These powerful stories are gaining attention and changing how journalists approach the topic. Anna shared her experiences with gambling and how she retrained her brain during the early stages of recovery to resist the urge to gamble.

When asked how she filled the void left by gambling, Anna mentioned rediscovering her love for music and reconnecting with herself. She also found support from her old and new friends and became involved in advocacy work. Anna expressed her belief that recovery is about discovering one’s true self beyond the mistakes and actions that define them.

Anna is involved with several organizations focused on gambling reform, including the Alliance for Gambling Reform. She mentors others like her to advocate for change. She also performs with a theatre group called Three Sides of the Coin, which uses theatre as a powerful tool to tell stories of gambling addiction. It highlights various aspects like family violence, crime, and mental health. The performances are particularly impactful because the actors are real people sharing their own experiences with gambling.

The theatre group’s formation was an accidental result of the publication of a book called “From Ruin to Recovery.” After a well-received dramatized reading at the Melbourne Writers Festival, the group decided to continue sharing their stories through theatre, shedding light on the intersections of gambling with various aspects of life.

Overcoming Gambling Addiction through Theatre and Self-Discovery

Anna shared her journey of overcoming gambling addiction through theatre and self-discovery. She described creating a theatre performance that tells her story and the stories of others in her group. It educates the audience about gambling addiction and provides an opportunity for those who have experienced it to share their truth.

The performances involve a series of intertwined short stories and are presented with tight timing. They provoke questions and challenge the audience to think about the impact of gambling on people’s lives. The group has also taken their work to professional development events and organizations that intersect with gambling, as they believe gambling is not discussed enough.

Anna admits that performing her story could be emotional, especially since certain parts were challenging to rehearse due to the pain they evoked. The group supported each other closely and emphasized the importance of having their voices heard. They also met separately to discuss their goals and what they wanted to achieve with the project.

Anna’s family and friends were unaware of her gambling addiction until she went public with her story. Her then-husband knew she had a gambling problem, but he didn’t realize the extent of it until reading her writing. Anna struggled with taking full responsibility for her addiction, feeling helpless, and wanting to die. It wasn’t until she asked for help and recognized that her problem was more than just her own fault that she could start stopping gambling.

Learning to Live Without Gambling

Learning to live without gambling and finding alternative ways to cope with her emotions was challenging for Anna. She developed mantras to help rewire her brain and learned about the psychology behind addiction. By understanding that the design of the gambling machines played a significant role in her addiction, she could shift some of the blame away from herself and focus on what she needed to change.

A crucial part of Anna’s journey was learning to be kinder to herself. She grew up believing self-praise was a sign of arrogance but eventually realized that she needed to treat herself with the same kindness and compassion she would show others. It involved changing her language and attitude toward herself, a process that took time and patience.

Anna shared her experiences and insights as a recovering gambling addict. She talked about her motivations for change, emphasizing that she didn’t want to die as someone who hated herself. She believes everyone is worth more than that and feels heartbroken when she hears stories of people hating themselves because of gambling.

When asked for words of encouragement for those new to recovery or struggling to stop gambling, Anna said it’s worth it – life is much better without gambling. She tried various gambling therapy and gambling support groups, such as therapeutic counseling, art therapy, and writing groups. In these settings, she learned she’s the only person she can change.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform and Future Changes

The Alliance for Gambling Reform strives to attain changes in the gambling sector, primarily focusing on governmental intervention. Anna doubts the industry’s desire for reform since it could adversely affect their profits. She pinpoints that the existing system is harmful, exploiting addiction and marginalized individuals.

She suggested that the government could act in areas such as banning all gambling advertising and implementing restrictions on poker machines. However, she recognized that there needed to be the will to change. In Australia, the sports gambling industry targets children, which is a significant concern.

Comparing her situation in Australia to the US, Anna acknowledged that the UK and Australia had made progress in raising awareness of gambling issues. In contrast, the US is still relatively new to widespread accessibility. She hoped the US could learn from their experiences and avoid the same pitfalls.

Anna recognized the contrast between her circumstances in Australia and the United States. She observed that the UK and Australia had taken strides in promoting awareness of gambling-related problems, while the US had only recently achieved broad availability. She aspired to share their knowledge with the US and prevent similar errors.


Throughout the conversation, Anna’s story served as a powerful reminder of the impact of gambling on individuals and the importance of support and reform to help those in need. They discussed the effects of gambling and their journeys in overcoming addiction. She explained how she felt shame due to her addiction, as gambling wasn’t part of her upbringing.

Anna and Brian highlighted the importance of seeking help and discussing their addiction. They touched upon the challenges of stopping gambling and how self-awareness is essential and asking yourself the right questions to find an answer. They acknowledged the difficulty of quitting but also stressed the possibility of recovery.

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