So, I’m Going to Stop Drinking. Alcohol, that is. Not water. That’d be impossible. Water’s in nearly everything. Fruit, meat, taps and even alcoholic drinks are mostly water.
Also, it’d be deadly to stop drinking water, as it’s essential. For me, alcohol has often been essential too. Which is one of the reasons I’m planning to give it up.
Anybody who knows me will be reading this through a smirk and thinking, “Bullshit”. Which is fair enough. For years I’ve been the last man standing, the good times guy, the person that everyone blames for turning a few drinks into a full on bender. Who did introduce us to those flight attendants, but then got kicked out for dacking a bouncer.
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IN Monday’s Advertiser I wrote a story about an Adelaide mother whose teenage son is addicted to the online video game Runescape.
This 17-year-old plays an average of 16 hours a day, sometimes doing marathon stretches of up to 25 hours at a time, often foregoing showers, proper meals and sleep to get his fix.
When his mother took his computer away in an attempt to curb his habit he flew into a frenzy, smashing up her bedroom and her mobile phone, ripping down curtains and cutting electrical cords with scissors. He even cut the laces off her shoes, she says.
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By the end of today Australians will have spent just under $800 million on an event which lasts for just over three minutes.
According to research by the financial modelling firm IBISWorld, $377.7 million will be spent on fashion and fascinators, booze and canapés, as well as travel and accommodation for those making it to down to Melbourne. Another $404 million will be spent directly on gambling, be it a couple of bucks in the office sweep or the big end of town plunging tens of thousands on their favourite nag.
The total amount: $781.7 million. An extraordinary amount of money by any measure.
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On my access visits to my Dad in Adelaide, he’d make me his honorary Bookie’s hand at the Morphettville race track. The ladies would don their Harris Scarfe hats, the blokes resplendent in T-shirts, Stubbies and thongs to have a flutter on fine fillies with names like “Dagger Bow”, “Dad’s Army”, or “Howyagaarn”.
They’d rip crisp twenties from newly opened pay packets, kiss them passionately goodbye, before staggering to the bar for another West End draught. Pickaxe size, luv. No breathos back then, matey!
Mum and Dad both ran TABs too. As a teenager, my job was to sweep the ciggy butts and tickets off the floor. Oh the tickets. Thousands of the big beige things. Every single one hurled to the floor in disgust, insousiance, regret. I witnessed people throw thousands of dollars over the counter, thousands they could not afford. This was the ‘60s. Even then, the money generally flowed in one direction.
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“I don’t know how they take those hits and keep going. I don’t know how they take the big marks. And I really don’t know what I’m doing standing here on the home turn at Flemington while a herd of thoroughbreds thunders towards me.
“But I do know what punters want. You want to bet with a nice, clean-cut handsome young bloke who doesn’t look like one of the gnarled old bookies of yesteryear with a pork pie hat and an old-school leather satchel…”
Ahem. We interrupt this crudely paraphrased Tom Waterhouse ad to bring you news of the glamourisation of the sports betting industry, a clever marketing trend which is making gambling ever more appealing to the impressionable young.
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Neil Watkins is a sex addict and an acclaimed performer. His play – The Year of Magical Wanking – has been called beguiling and poetic, intense, funny, and astonishingly brave.
“I am Neil Martin Watkins and I am a sex and love-addicted innocent.” That’s how I begin my autobiographical monologue about my sexual shame as a result of growing up in Catholic Ireland.
Of course, it was all just the norm then. An altar to Mary and Jesus on the window sill. A holy water font in the hall. Our mother anointed us every morning before school.
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Everyone’s talking about poker machines these days. Our politicians and our newspapers, our clubs and pubs; everyone has an opinion on what we should and shouldn’t do with regards to the pokies. But they’re talking about numbers and policies, votes and strategies and campaigns.
They’re not talking about the people who have been hurt, who are hurting still. People like me.
When I was 24 years old, I had the world on a string. Life was mine for the taking. I was engaged to be married and surrounded by fantastic friends; I had my university degree framed on the wall, a great job and excellent prospects. But by the time I turned 25, life as I knew it was over. I was addicted to poker machines.
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Rehabilitation works. Just ask Sally*, who first injected heroin at the of 15.
By 19, she was injecting four times a day and was working as a prostitute to pay for her habit. This continued until she met a social worker who referred her to a drug rehabilitation clinic.
After a tough battle with a few setbacks, Sally is able to live without heroin, and is now completing her second year of a law degree. And this is all thanks to rehabilitation.
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Gambling is a serious social problem with horrendous consequences for the vulnerable. I grew up in suburban Brisbane and my most vivid childhood memory of my step father is when he violently ransacked my brother’s school bag for $1.50 and said, “F—k Dean, he can go without.”
He took the boy’s lunch money, slammed the door, and went down to the TAB to place a bet on another horse destined to lose. I’ve never looked at the man the same way since.
Such is the addictive power of gambling that a father would rather see his own son go hungry so he can satisfy his hunger to gamble. Gambling addiction is a disease. It consumes, controls, and destroys. It’s a monster. I know because I’ve seen it. In the long-running sitcom, The Simpsons, Homer Simpson even gave a name to the addictive power of gambling when Marge got hooked on the pokies at George Burns’ casino. He called it “Gamblor”.
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It is hard to believe the NRL, a code which galvanises communities in two of the largest states in Australia, could be staring at financial collapse because of the Gillard Government’s gambling reforms.
It is hard to believe that the AFL, the national game which enjoys the status of a religion in four states and one territory, is also facing ruin because of the mandatory pre-commitment proposal to make gamblers think about how much they are prepared to wager on poker machines before placing a bet.
It is hard to believe because it is simply unbelievable. It is hard to believe because it is rubbish.
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They say quitting smoking is hard, but I’ve learnt the real truth. It’s not just the quitting that’s difficult (although it is), starting up again is bloody hard too.
I’m not just doing this for attention; this is not a cry for help nor is it part of any quarter-life - well, a little closer to third-life - crisis. Truth be told I always enjoyed smoking and I never wanted to give it up in the first place.
I started engaging in smoking when I was sixteen. I say “engaging” because I was really pretending to inhale smoke whilst holding it in my mouth before blowing it out like a clandestine burp.
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After more than a decade in politics, I have sadly grown used to watching the often bizarre stances taken by other pollies and wondering why they are doing what they are doing.
The response of some members of the Coalition to the poker machine issue is a case in point.
To truly understand the Coalition’s current position on pokies, you need to know it has nothing to do with pokies.
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It’s stating the obvious, but problem gamblers have a problem. They suffer from a horrible addiction – the same as alcoholics and druggies – that causes impulses they cannot resist and consequences that affect all those around them.
Like all addicts, problem gamblers go to extreme lengths to get their fix. For 60 per cent, that involves committing a crime to get the cash to feed their habit.
A report by private corruption investigation group Warfield & Associates found poker machines were the most common way to gamble stolen money. The study found between 2008-10 a whopping $13 million was stolen to play the pokies.
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It is not the done thing for one reporter to quote vast slabs of another reporter’s work. There’s one’s own ego to think of, not to mention copyright.
But Darwin ABC’s morning presenter, Julia Christensen, has given her blessing to The Punch to reproduce great slabs of her interview with the Country Liberals’ member for Port Darwin, John Elferink, conducted on local radio yesterday morning.
We do this as a public service. Chances are that never in your life will you have heard such a bizarre set of admissions from a public figure. Unless you were listening when the Elf, as he is known up here in the Northern Territory, last turned up on radio.
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The ABC drama “Curtin” put into focus the life of John Curtin – one of Australia’s greatest Prime Ministers.
Like so many people, alcohol was Curtin’s greatest challenge. He had grown up around it with his father running several pubs. But it was during his time as the Victorian Secretary of the Timber Workers’ Union that Curtin’s fondness for the demon drink grew into a major disability. According to his biographer David Day: “the culture of the male-dominated union movement was steeped in beer” and Curtin was steeped in the culture.
Suddenly in November 1915 Curtin resigned his post. He went briefly to work for the Australian Workers’ Union and then was appointed the organiser of the anti-conscription campaign being run by the Congress of Australian Trade Unions. The work was stressful and intense and his drinking continued and became worse.
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It was around 11 in the morning and Aunty Mavis came to the door. It had been raining: her wig was askew and her badly drawn on eyebrows were running down into her eyes. As usual, she had a bottle of Stone’s Green Ginger wine in a string bag.
It was just before lunchtime and my sisters and I were sitting around the Formica table in my grandparents’ kitchen shelling peas onto newspaper, preparing for a baked dinner. She came in and was drinking with Nanna who was peeling potatoes in the sink. Grandad was out the back, drunk, listening to the races.
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James Packer has clearly decided that attack is the best form of defence in aiming a strident up-yours at critics of casinos - which he of the diminishing billions billed today as the unsung heroes of job creation, urban renewal, skills training and government assistance.
“Next time you read an unbalanced story about your casinos and their impact on the community, stop and think about the other side of the story,’’ the Crown chairman said at today’s AGM in Melbourne.
“The one that rarely gets reported. That is, of the contribution Crown makes to tourism, to employment, to training, to urban development, to community partnerships and to government revenues. Contributions that make us fundamentally different to many pubs and clubs.”
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It was the third day without internet that things really started to go pear-shaped.
We’d tried everything. The modem, the network card, the f—-ing wifi router. All had been plugged in and out, cleaned, hugged and yelled at but still our small sharehouse was stuck in an interweb drought.
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