Recovery Guest Blog & Article Spotlight. Marilyn Davis of ‘From Addict 2 Advocate’ & Article By, Carl Towns.

Note from  of  Addict 2 Advocate:  I’m always excited to bring another voice to From Addict 2 Advocate. Carl Towns discusses his struggles with gambling addiction and offers straightforward information, his experience with gambling, and some solutions.

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Gambling Addiction: When Rewards Stop Working

Gambling is one of those attractions that are present in everyday life – the football pool at the office, betting on a presidential race, wagering a dollar on the weather, bingo at the senior citizen center. We might even get a scratch-off with our change from the convenience store, and most people turn a blind eye to these kinds of gambling.

However, the rewards for these seemingly innocuous chance games is what can fuel a gambling addiction.

Our brains have neural pathways; one of which is the brain’s reward system. This system involves electronic impulses that turn into pleasure, memory, and motivation. When a person engages in basic actions such as eating, sexual activity or even sleep; the reward system starts to work. The brain releases a chemical neurotransmitter known as dopamine, which is the one responsible for all the feelings of pleasure and euphoria one might experience upon engaging in certain activities. Experts used to think of addiction as dependency on a chemical; they now define it as repeatedly pursuing a rewarding experience despite serious repercussions.

This is the reason drugs have such an addictive power. These substances basically trick the brain into thinking it has engaged in a highly pleasurable activity and releases up to 10 times the normal dose of dopamine, sometimes even more.

Gambling, much like drug addiction has the same impact on the brain and its dopamine production/release, the difference is that no outside chemicals are working, but the brain starts to relate only gambling-like scenarios with pleasurable ones.

For me, it was just an occasional escapade because I had a couple extra bucks to blow or because I ‘happened’ to be vacationing in Las Vegas and gambling is what people do in Vegas, right? At first, I thought of this as harmless fun, until it wasn’t anymore. I didn’t get the same feelings from just occasionally going to the casinos and found that it was impossible to distance myself from the practice of gambling in any form.

Although I realize now what was happening to me,  many people are unaware that gambling addiction causes the same outcomes as drug and alcohol addiction; it is a problem that affects people all across America and the world. If your gut is telling you that someone you know or love (or yourself) is engaging in gambling at the expense of other areas of their life, these facts may help you decide if there is a problem. As with a substance abuse problem, you may need to help your loved one, or yourself, find professional help.

1. Underestimating the Disease

One of the biggest problems is that often people treat don’t treat gambling addiction seriously. Many times I was told to “brush it off” or “snap out of it”. While those statements prompted my guilt, I was unable to stop gambling, so went to greater lengths to hide my gambling.

If someone approaches you telling you they are suffering from this, listen to them and support them, just like you would do if they were addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Gambling is not unlike chemical drugs; one taste can be enough to hook someone. The first time I set foot in a casino was on a cruise with my family when I was 17. I loved it and when I went back, I started looking for bets everywhere until I was able to work and I could play money.

If you go with young ones to a casino or any gambling site, such as a horse track; talk to them and have them understand that there are risks involved and they should not feel bad if they find it difficult to stop. Caution them that gambling addiction is real and that if they are struggling, even after one round of betting, whether they lose or win, is a good way to be proactive about gambling addiction.

2. How Gambling and Substance Compulsive Consumption are Very Similar

After an extended period of time of regular consumption of drugs or gambling, the reward system basically malfunctions, and three things occur as a result:

3. What Are You Doing and Where’s the Money Gone?  

There are many symptoms related to gambling addiction, however, one word sums them up –spending. How much time are you or someone you know spending in casinos, online, buying scratch-offs and how much money is being spent there?

While the “spending” symptoms are the biggest ones to look out for, there are plenty more signs that can indicate if you or someone you know is falling or has fallen into a gambling addiction. When gambling is a secret, how much money is spent, or what activities you’re engaged in; those are huge red flag warnings. Do any of the following sound familiar?

  • Breaking even will become the goal in the face of big losses (even though it probably won’t happen).
  • Gambling becomes a priority: Planning how to earn more money to gamble, how to take advantage of the games; gambling, probabilities, teams, machines, etc. are all the person can talk about, normal events (like social gatherings) are forgotten in order to go gamble.
  • Gambling becomes an exit to relieve stress or suppress feelings of anxiety and even loneliness.
  • Having the need to gamble increasing quantities of money, if the next bet is not bigger, then it’s not exciting.
  • No matter how much the person works or how much they (or you) earn, it will always be an evolving financial loss situation due to constant gambling.
  • Personal relationships, such as marriage, children, family or even close friends are put in serious jeopardy because of gambling, professional life will be affected too.
  • There are several (failed) attempts to cut down the gambling.
  • When their gambling gets cut down unexpectedly bad temper or irritability start to show.

4. Withdrawal

When I finally realized I had a problem, I tried to stop gambling on my own. I decided that isolation would work. I went to my family’s cabin (which is in the middle of nowhere, in Iowa) to get away from all the temptation.


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I always thought that abstinence syndrome or withdrawals only applied to drugs or alcohol, but in that cabin, I found out it applies to gambling too. I started experiencing unpleasant mental and physical distress, insomnia, anxiety, and even physical pain. A pathological gambler would have the need to be constantly aiming higher, making riskier bets to achieve the same thrill, and high, so when I denied myself all that, I went into withdrawal.

It was a hard path, and if you or a loved one are demonstrating signs of a gambling addiction, it’s very important that you understand it’s not a moral failure or a bad habit, but a compulsion and brain disorder. In order to be treated properly professional help must be sought, if you know of someone suffering from gambling addiction or if you are suffering it yourself, please seek help.

5. Help is Available

Remember that recovering from such disorder is something possible even for people suffering the worst of it. A pathological gambler can make his or her way back to sanity and stability in their life. Resources for gambling addiction are available through local mental health agencies or here are some online resources and books for you to see if you can identify with a gambling addiction and then find help.

The National Problem Gambling Hotline

Gambling Help Online

A great book on gambling and the price one woman and those who knew her had to pay is by Catherine Townsend-Lyon,  Addicted to Dimes (Confessions of a Liar and a Cheat)


Regardless of whether you find help locally or online, just know that gambling addiction will not improve on its own. However daunting that sounds, I know the pitfalls of gambling addiction and the peace and of recovery. I hope you find them, too.

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Biography: Carl Towns

I’m Carl Towns a 28-year-old wannabe writer; I am also a recovering addict on the path of self-discovery. My goal is to learn as many things as possible and to seize every single moment I live, pretty much trying to make up for all that I missed in the years I was lost in drugs and alcohol and gambling. I’m in love with tech, cars and pretty much anything that can be found online.

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Biography: Marilyn L. Davis

A recovery curriculum author with 27 years of abstinence-based recovery, Marilyn advocates for and writes to the addicted population.
She opened and ran an award-winning women’s recovery home from 1990-2011, creating a recovery curriculum, Therapeutic Integrated Education Recovery System, which breaks addiction down into the variables and then offers time-tested exercises for healing, relapse prevention, and dealing with codependency and self-defeating behaviors.

She is the Assistant Editor at Two Drops of Ink, where she shares her gifts as a communicator, encouraging other writers to use their creativity to share their talents through writing.  She believes in the power of words and knows that how something is said is just as important as what is said.

From Addict 2 Advocate explores addiction, recovery, and codependency with the same attention; write, so people relate and heal, and become the best person they can be.

Awards
Marilyn Davis Community Service Learning Award, Brenau University, 2008: ongoing award for individuals in mental health, wellness and recovery.
Liberty Bell Award, Northeastern Judicial Circuit, 2010: given to non-attorneys for their contribution to the criminal justice system and their communities.

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**Presented By Recovery Starts Here! ~ Author/Columnist, Catherine Lyon** 

 

We Don’t Get To Chose Our Family ~ A Letter to My Estranged Family, “Leave Me Alone” Is My New Year Wish . . .

We Don’t Get To Chose Our Family ~ A Letter to My Estranged Family, “Leave Me Alone” Is My New Year Wish . . .

Unfortunately, the entire book is filled with lies. This is her attempt to get back at a her family of which I am a part of by slandering my Grandmother and Grandfathers good name. And all of the rest of us are sick at what she said in the attempt at writing a novel. It is hardly based in fact, in fact, this the stories in this novel only exist in her delusions. The one thing I would like from her for Christmas is to stop slandering my family. And to stop writing or sharing about our family. Thank you

 

MY RESPONSE Comment on Blog:

Dear Matthew and Family,

Well, Matthew, sorry you feel that way. And I don’t know why but once again my little sister filling your head with a bunch of crap as she keeps seeing things on my Facebook and sad to see “The Family Dysfunctional Dynamic” has not changed in “The Townsend Household.”

Let’s first put all of this to my friends and readers in proper context before I answer you.

My Father had stopped talking to me YEARS before my book even came out in 2013, as he stopped talking to me in 2005. His choice, I respected it and moved on.
WHY did he stop talking to me? I have NO CLUE.

At this point, I couldn’t care less as I have forgiven him and moved on. BUT? I won’t tolerate YOU or family members coming to voice their negative opinions in open forums as you all chose to not speak to me years ago.

And again, NO SURPRISE that you and my “so-called family” who chose, by the way, to be “estranged” from myself and Tom and who happens to be your uncle and “a son-in-law” who had not done ANYTHING to any of YOU or to my father, and it seems YOU have your FACTS INCORRECT.

My Memoir, not NOVEL, has nothing to do with family bashing as you put it, nor discrediting my parent’s name. Maybe your Grandparents should have known better before they chose to keep a lie from their children and SON for years and not think their children would never find out? My father opened that can of worms and it came back when Robert (my brother) found all about when Cecil died…. And we all know how that turned out right? Parents raise their children the way they were raised. It’s Fact. Like my mother always told me; “you kids were not born with a “rule book” on how to raise you, we did the best we could.”

Yes, she did. When my mother was in the hospital before she passed in 2003, and you all treated me poorly in July 2003 and I ended up flying home early because of it, mom and I spoke every morning as you all didn’t know about. We did make our amends and she shared much with me before going into the nursing/rehab where YOU ALL said she had no phone in the room??? Funny, Lil and Jim told me otherwise after a visit, as Lil called and told me at the time because I asked her to do so. So who lies to who Matthew?

It is also a surprise how you changed your feelings about my book after you told me your true feeling shortly after my book was released and you read it.

THIS BOOK is an inside look into gambling addiction, mental health challenges, and recovery. As many other people turn to addictions to cope after being “verbally and parental physically damaged and sexually abused” in one’s past childhood. You were not around then, so I don’t think you have the RIGHT or are qualified really to speak for my ex-family members. You were not even born yet as you told me on Facebook in a direct message reaching out with an amends letter.

Your mother used alcohol as well as we all know due to the amount of DUI’s she has and my brother used alcohol and dabbled in drugs, and Angela? Well, all of the above and has an anger problem. So why do you all keep denying the truth?? The truth sets you free and the healing can begin when you take your part of the ownership of what goes wrong in family relationships.  Face It, even my own father used alcohol to cope. Where do you think we saw and learned about addictions, Matthew? Each one of your aunts and your uncle had turned to something to cope.

That is the truth.

MAYBE it is time you and the rest of the family look within your own hearts and start taking accountability and ownership of how you tore a family apart. THAT I feel was started years ago by two parents as wrote in my book. Enough said about that.

This is not between you and me Matthew, as this isn’t even between me and my sisters which have shown their “True Selves”, this is about MY LIFE as a former addict and a person in long-term recovery and giving service to others in recovery. My book shows those who don’t understand addiction and recovery, as like many families don’t, that in recovery people can turn their lives around and be ‘Exceptional Human Beings’ coming out the other side.

So you all can say and think what you want about my book, but book reviews speak for themselves, Matthew. So I have nothing to prove to YOU or my Family.  I live my life today helping others and enjoying my life with my husband. I have moved on. You all need to do the same. What I shared in my memoir is the truth of which the family can deny all they want. I have faith and the backing of the “Man Upstairs,” and now, even my mother in heaven also NOW knows I told the truth inside my book. I did a lot of research and have lots of documents as well to back up all I wrote about. Most are all public records. Birth, adoption, marriage, Cecil’s death records and more. So I stand behind all that I wrote and shared.

Here is the beauty of my life today in ‘Recovery and Believing in God’ Matthew, ….
I now live my LIFE not needing your or anyone’s approval or affirmation including my estranged families.

Thank Goodness those days are over!

 

SO, please just give it a rest and let it BE! I understand family may have closed hearts, minds, and no empathy ….. Just leave me alone.

 

Respectfully,

Author/Columnist, Catherine Townsend-Lyon

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“Gambling Addiction Can Happen to Anyone. A Lawyer, A Policeman, Even a Postal Worker.”

“The holidays for many addicted gamblers can be a dangerous time while out “chasing” money they may need for holiday gifts or travel. I know I did it many, many Christmas’ past within my own past gambling addiction. So many wasted holidays due to my addiction. And you know what? I was only hurting myself and digging my family into a bigger financial hole…..

Gambling addiction is not a “poor persons” addiction as I have heard it be called many times. No, it happens to doctors, lawyers, policemen and even Postal Workers like this story shares by the publication Michigan Live .  It caught my attention because it happened to a Grand Rapids postal worker and my husband happened to be born and raised in Grand Rapids, MI. Why I am I sharing this guest article? To let others know that when we come into recovery wake learn and DO TAKE Accountability for the poor choices we had made.”   *Cat*

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Postal union official’s gambling led to theft of $9K intended for Muscular Dystrophy Associaton.

 

Guest Author: John Agar | jagar@mlive.com
on December 14, 2016, at 9:11 AM

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A former union official for letter carriers blamed a gambling addiction for his theft of $9,000 intended for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Brian Cisek embezzled proceeds of two charity golf outings he organized in 2013 and 2014, court records said. Cisek, 47, was sentenced this week to two years on probation and fined $3,000. He has already repaid the money he took. He has worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 28 years and wanted to avoid a prison sentence to hopefully keep his job, said his attorney, Donald Garthe.

He said his client is receiving treatment for a gambling addiction. Advisory sentencing guidelines called for zero to six months in prison for theft of union funds. U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker sentenced Cisek.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Clay Stiffler did not object to a probation officer’s recommendation that Cisek not be incarcerated to give him a chance at success in recovery. Stiffler said Cisek served as sergeant at arms and chairman of the National Association of Letter Carrier’s Branch 56 Muscular Dystrophy Association Committee from 2012 to 2015. Its major fundraisers were golf outings. Cisek was committee chairman of two golf events.

Instead of depositing proceeds into established union accounts, he opened a new account as sole signer.  He had obtained a $15,000 personal loan from Lending Club in November 2012.  The following February, the MDA fund held $1.03. He then tried to make a payment to Lending Tree from that account but there were insufficient funds.

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A few days later, he sought a $500 advance from the union to cover costs of the upcoming golf outing. The money, instead, was sent to Lending Club. Branch members became suspicious in early 2014 because the Postal Service newsletter did not say how much money had been raised in 2013 for MDA.

Questions were raised that fall, too, after the branch president contacted MDA, and found out it had not received any funds. When confronted, Cisek said the savings account had been compromised, and the bank would not allow access to it. Cisek provided a back-dated $9,100 personal check that ultimately bounced.

He then provided a $9,200 cashier’s check. Cisek apologized and resigned his union post. The federal prosecutor said it was unclear how Cisek obtained the money but his attorney said he borrowed it from his in-laws, court records show.

“Cisek has accepted responsibility for his actions, demonstrated that he is remorseful, guilt-ridden and sorry for his crime and repaid the money he owes,” Stiffler wrote.

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“I am a firm believer in two things…. “Hate the Addiction, Not the Addict”  and we all deserve a second chance in life as no one person is perfect. Even those who fall prey to Addictions.”

Author/Columnist, Catherine Townsend-Lyon

Thank You to ‘Keys To Recovery News’ for Printing My Holiday Article! I am Honored.

Hello and Happy Holidays Recovery Friends,

I am very Happy and Honored that the recovery publication “Keys To Recovery Newspaper”  a FREE recovery newspaper  by  way, has printed a Holiday Article I wrote about “Gambling Addiction and my Addiction Christmas’s Past” in their new Column titled; “QUIT To WIN” and I wanted to share it here with all of you.  We all know the holiday season can be tough many in recovery. So I want to remind them they are not alone. XO Cat

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“QUIT TO WIN”

LET’S QUIT TO WIN FOR THE HOLIDAYS!
By Author, Catherine Lyon

“Now that the holidays are upon us, those of us in recovery can have a tough time around the holiday time. I know I have in the past with self-sabotaging my Christmas season. How do you ask? Let me share a “war story of Christmas past.” We can learn and grow in recovery in when we safely look at the “Then & Now of Christmas’s Past”, as an addicted or problem gambler.”

Many of us in recovery advocate to show to others who still suffer from this cunning addiction the importance of sharing our experiences, strength and hope with others when we do tell some of our “war stories.” It does show how insidious this addiction is. It is one of the area’s I don’t feel is proper about 12-Step programs. They tell us not to share war stories as it could maybe trigger someone in a meeting. But, if we don’t learn from these mistakes or choices, how do we look back and find growth in our recovery? Yes, you can see growth by just doing the 12-steps, but many need more than that to recover fully. I know I did. I recall one Christmas that has to be my worst within my gambling addiction and will never forget. And it is why I make sure all holidays now are safe, happy and full of JOY. It was back in 2005.

Our home we had lived and worked very hard for, had to be sold through a short sale or we would have lost everything we put into it. But even then, it felt like we lost it as we are still paying on the balance that was not covered by the sale. It also caused me to make a few bad choices, residual addicted “thinking,: I had committed a crime, that big catastrophe! I wrote about it in my memoir, and I was reeling.

I stopped taking my bipolar meds, then took them all at once! I was so angry with myself, feeling so much shame, guilt, low self-worth and again suicidal because I knew it was because of my past gambling is how we got into this mess in the first place! Of course, no excuse’s, just insights. We were so financially broke. I remember being in JCPenney walking around aimlessly wishing I could buy this or that for the family for Christmas and again in Walmart. Luckily, all our family lived in other states than Oregon. So I had to do the same lame thing I had done for many past Christmas’s, just send a card.

It was tough already that we both had job loss, the very beginning of the economy and markets were getting ready to pop. We had a hard time finding good paying jobs, and I ended up back in an addiction/mental health crisis again with another breakdown right after the holidays. It was all too much! When I got released from the crisis center, I knew I had a lot more recovery inner work, which included financial inventory to take and work on. I had been doing well in my recovery and gamble free at the time, but something was nagging at me. See, you need to know that no matter what the addiction is, it’s always waiting for us.

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Like the holidays for instance and the point of this post, we can have a lot of temptations around us at this time of year. There are holiday parties for both personal and work related that can be stressful. We may have had fall outs due to the holidays, (thanks to our addictions and why we have step 9… make amends where ever possible) with friends and family. Many different reasons that can become a trigger or bring on urges. The stress of the season, lack of money for presents, a slew of things swirling around in our heads! The “cycle” if not broken or interrupted will keep you either in the addiction or just on edge waiting.

That is what I needed the second time around after coming out of the crisis. I chose to work with a gambling addiction and behavioral specialist. And he would not “cut me loose” until I could tell him how the “cycle” of addiction happens, and tell him the skills and tools to stop it which took me a year. Once I learned that and applied those skills and tools, I began the road to long-term recovery. So my point is everyone needs a relapse plan. A solid plan that will help you avoid these pitfalls. I had been given a workbook that I now have listed on my recovery resource pages, for all to come and use for their recovery from gambling.

It shows step by step what is needed to make a plan to prevent relapse for any occasion, like the holiday season, life events like a loss from death, a job loss and much more. These events and the holidays will come. So you need to prepare before not after they happen. Be prepared and use those tools taught and learned in treatment, or a 12-step program, maybe in therapy or however you choose, to reach out and start your recovery journey. And learn about “the cycle” of addiction. When you do, I guarantee you will have many, many ‘Happy Holiday Seasons’ to come!

“You Are Worth It In Recovery”

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Catherine Townsend-Lyon is the author of the book “Addicted To Dimes, Confessions of a Liar and a Cheat.” Available at Amazon.com.

Catherine is a Columnist for “In Recovery Magazine’s “The Author’s Cafe” where she interviews and writes about author’s and their books, films, and apps of recovery products. She has been featured in many articles about gambling addiction, most recent had been by “Columbia University” titled; Gambling with America’s Health and interviewed for a new article out soon by “Time Magazine.” Catherine lives in Arizona with her husband of 26 years and her three cats, Mr. Boots, Miss Princess, and Simon Peter. She is the owner of ” Cat Lyon’s Reading Den ” a “pay it forward” to help authors free of charge learn how where to promote their books.

More New Book Reviews for My Book: ‘Addicted to Dimes’ . . .

” I am always Humbled and Grateful when others buy and take the time to read my book and have a Heart of Gratitude when they leave a book review as many have.  Thank You! ”

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NEW BOOK REVIEW FROM GOODREADS:

Good honest stuff! We need more stuff like this — more people telling it like it was and also telling it like it IS after getting free. To me, this author is helping. She offers hope for people hurting in a very broken world. Her sharing is the exact opposite of “looking-goodism” in which I spent so many years in bondage, and reading she had, well-defended by walls as thick as Jericho. This book proves that victory is possible, no matter how deep the darkness. And I say that’s a good thing!



NEW BOOK REVIEWS FROM AMAZON:

5.0 out of 5 stars A story to be remembered

Addicted to Dimes (Confessions of a Liar and a Cheat) (Paperback)

Fascinating read. This author truly brings to light an issue that needs public awareness. She portrays her turbulent and painful childhood, what brought her to gambling, and all the heartache that went with it. She holds the reader’s rapt attention throughout her journey from the initial highs to the devastating lows, and finally to recovery and freedom. This book is one to be remembered.

5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable Story of a Remarkable Life Journey….


Addicted to Dimes (Confessions of a Liar and a Cheat) (Kindle Edition)

Catherine Townsend-Lyon’s riveting story of her downfall into a life of addiction to gambling is a heart-wrenching read that ends with a great light of hope. It was hard to put this book down, so involved in wanting to know where it all went and landed in the end. Recommend this to anyone addicted to gambling, or any other addiction, as it offers the raw authentic story and hope for healing.

 

About My Book:

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“How does a good girl go bad? Based on a true story, told in the author’s own words, without polish or prose, this haunting tale of addiction, family secrets, abuse, sexual misconduct, destruction, crime and…. recovery! One day at a time, one page at a time. Learn and read this remarkable and brave story.”

Available on Amazon.com and Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble & WalMart Online!

 

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The Oregonian Puts A Spotlight on Addicted and Problem Gambling With The Oregon Lottery: “Selling Addiction.”

The Oregonian Puts A Spotlight on Addicted and Problem Gambling With The Oregon Lottery: “Selling Addiction.”

“While researching data and facts last week for my week-long blogging for “The National Week Of Action Against Predatory Gambling” along with Les Bernal, my hardworking friend over at
Stop Predatory Gambling, I happen to come across a series that is written by  Senior Political reporter Harry Esteve on the Oregon Lottery and it’s called:   “Selling Addiction” series ….  
It is a very interesting series about how “The Oregon Lottery Offerings” have affected many Oregonians and their families.”


See, I lived in Southern Oregon for over 26 years before moving to Arizona in late 2013 and I to had  become addicted to the Oregon ‘Lotteries Video Poker/Slot Machines’ that were introduced back in 1991 and Keno way before that. If you have read my book “Addicted To Dimes,” then you know how that all turned out for me, NOT GOOD. Yes, I did also gamble at an Indian Casino 40 miles North of my home, but it was the slot machines by the Oregon Lottery that fueled my gambling addiction most times because of access.  They are everywhere!!

I could walk across the street to the bar and gamble, walk up a block and there were 3 more lottery retailers with machines I could gamble on. And so on. I was gambling 2 to 4 times a day at my worst of my addiction. In turn, I attempted suicide twice and blessed I failed. But many others were not AS fortunate. as I. This series will share much of that as well  .  .  .  .

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Harry Esteve | hesteve@oregonian.com
By Harry Esteve | hesteve@oregonian.com
on December 06, 2013 at 8:07 AM.

Oregon Lottery: Readers continue sharing stories of bankruptcy, shame, despair…

The Oregonian invited readers to share Oregon Lottery experiences in a questionnaire. We published dozens of their stories as part of our “Selling Addiction” series, and that led to even more submissions. Here are some of the latest to come in. Because of the personal nature of comments, many asked that their names be withheld all or in part.

Portland,OR woman, 52

Have you ever won a big prize?

I won $1,500 on Big 5 when it first came out. I think that was the beginning of my slide into problem gambling.

When you play, do you sometimes feel you have a problem stopping even though you know you should?

Yes, my mother gave me some money and instead of going to my bank I spent it gambling. It made me feel bad, remorseful, stupid — all the names one could call themselves.

Has your life been affected by gambling?

Yes, it has impacted relationships and my ability to save for retirement. It has caused me to come close to lying which is something I never do and to spend money I should not be spending. It is sneaky and insidious when you get the gambling bug. I’m an educated women and I feel like I should know better but when I start it is hard to stop. I do not like the person I have become since I have become addicted and I struggle every day with fighting the urge. I worry about my future.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

The Oregon Lottery management has no vested interest in helping gamblers and is only interested in hitting targets, etc., and how to hook more gamblers. I feel like they do everything in their power with ads, putting signs outside buildings that I have to see everywhere I drive which tempt people like me, to hook and retain problem gamblers. The lottery should have an overseeing agency to put them into check.

For example, the lottery should not be allowed to advertise on buses/TV/papers nor put its signage outside business establishments. They have an obligation to help the very people they purposefully attracted. Ten percent of their revenues should be dedicated to problem addicts and making help/programs more accessible in better parts of town. But they don’t want to treat the problem gamblers because if they do, they will lose the very people they depend upon. Oregon should have never gone down this slippery slope.

Beaverton, OR man, 33

How much money do you spend on a typical outing to play video poker or line games?

$100 to $400.

What do you enjoy about playing lottery games?

They are fun to play, and they are very addictive. The thrill of possibly winning big is what keeps me playing.

Have you ever won a big prize?

I have won $800 and $600 and won a couple of times of $400-500. I hit the max credit and won twice, and that is a wonderful feeling. Losing that much is the exact opposite.

Have you ever lost more than you could afford?

I have always paid my bills on time, but I have lost a lot of money to the point where I could have paid off my bills rather than just making the monthly payment to stay current. I have used cash advances on some credit cards but have then paid them off only to do the same thing over and over again.

When you play, do you sometimes feel you have a problem stopping even though you know you should?

For sure! I can sit at a machine for hours drinking and playing, going back and forth from the machine to the ATM and back. I think that I’ll just pop into the bar on the way home from work as the wife won’t be home for another hour or so and play 40 bucks. Three hours later and a couple of lies, and you head back home down $300. You go in there thinking, “I can win $300” only to lose the very $300 you were trying to win and MORE!

Have you ever sought help for gambling addiction?

Never have sought help. Currently trying to coach myself to quit, but it is very hard, knowing I can be at a machine within 10 to 15 minutes, sometimes less, from just about anywhere in this state. I think typing this out is a big step for me: To admit to myself that I do have a problem but with the hope to correct the problem.

Has your life been affected by problem gambling?

For sure. The amount of money I have wasted playing these highly addictive and expensive video games would total over $15,000 over the past 12 years, with the most damage coming in the past five years. Could have paid off several bills sooner than I did. Could have all that money saved for a down payment on a home or in an IRA. Have lied to others about where I have been and what I was doing. Wake up the next morning with the worst feeling I have ever had. A feeling of remorse and regret and shame. Feelings that humans should not have to feel from a “game” or “entertainment.”

Do you think the benefits from Oregon Lottery revenues — to schools, parks and such — outweigh the harm caused by problem gambling?

I get that the “State” benefits from a small population of the state, but I believe that there are other ways to get money for schools and parks and feel that this is a problem that the majority of people don’t ever speak about so the numbers are probably higher than reported. My short answer is NO.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

I believe that for myself and my family that if these machines weren’t in the bars and delis, then I would not be gambling. It’s that simple for me. That may sound like an excuse but “out of sight is out of mind.” Spirit Mountain and Chinook Winds are quite a drive. It’s certainly not right around the corner but you know what is?? About 15 to 25 bars on my way home from work.

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Mike Burton, 72, Vancouver, OR

I served in the Oregon House of Representatives 1985-1995. I made several attempts to curb the lottery in 1985 and then video lottery in 1991.

My objection to video poker is three-fold:

1. The easy access just makes it easier for problem players to lose.

2. The losers, as your article’s point out, are those who can least afford to lose. We knew this in 1991; no one listened. Then-Senate President Kitzhaber (after I had the expansion bill stopped in the House) came down from his podium and made an impassioned plea to pass the bill, saying there were no problems.

3. Worse, it creates a false economy. That is, there is very little created in the way of “new” money or jobs, it simply shifts the money around and the state becomes the addict here, depending on its revenues to fill the budget and always being hungry for more. This avoids the real debate about fees and taxes because lottery winnings are a “tax” on someone else — a stupid tax.


Vancouver man, 65

How much money do you spend on a typical outing to play video poker or line games?

$200-$2,000

Have you ever won a big prize?

Oh, yeah, that’s part of compulsive gambling, winning the big one and giving it all back and then some.

Have you ever lost more than you could afford?

I have enough money and can afford to lose big, but it isn’t about the money. It becomes a living lie of deceit, deception and not facing up to one’s problem.

Have you ever sought help for gambling addiction?

I have. I regularly attend GA meetings and work the 12 steps “day by day.” It has helped, at least yesterday and hopefully today!

Has your life been affected by problem gambling?

Yes, the self-deception and lying to oneself about the problem have been tough to overcome. I’m a college-educated, smart guy. I have a great job and earn $150,000 per year. The people who work for me and with me respect me. I am well-known in my community for my work with youth baseball. Yet, when it came to gambling, I didn’t have the sense of a goat. I couldn’t stop until I’d maxed my daily withdrawal on my cash advances. The only way I’m beating this is “day-to-day.”

Do you think the benefits from Oregon Lottery revenues — to schools, parks and such — outweigh the harm caused by problem gambling?

No, the state should realize the lottery is nothing more than a regressive tax. The majority of those who lose can’t afford to lose. I see it at my GA meetings week in and week out. “I got paid from my job waiting tables and lost it all. … How am I going to pay my bills?” It’s ugly, real ugly. But, as I am a compulsive gambler, the state, too, is hooked on it. The fact that more up-to-date slots are coming speaks volumes. The state will continue to bleed those addicts dry and will create another generation of them.

Gail, 66, Tigard, OR

How long have you played Lottery games in Oregon?

I seldom play; it’s my 85-year-old mother who has a gambling addiction.

How much money do you spend on a typical outing to play video poker or line games?

She’s lost, as far as we can calculate, around a quarter of a million dollars in the last 10 to 15 years.

Have you ever sought help for gambling addiction?

She did seek counseling a few years ago. Until they said they were being “shut down” due to lack of funds. It didn’t do any good, anyway. She lied to us and to the counselors.

Do you know other people who have a problem with gambling?

I just know that my mother’s problem is really sick and sad and disgusting. And it’s really caused a major problem in our family. I should mention, her gambling has gotten much worse since the death of my dad eight years ago.

Beaverton woman, 41

How long have you played Lottery games in Oregon?

I have played scratch-off tickets since I was about 10 years old. My parents would buy them for me and cash them in if we won anything. I began playing Keno when I was a teenager in restaurants with my parents. I began playing video lottery machines when I was 25, and I have had a gambling problem since I was 26.

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Where do you typically play?

I will play anywhere that has a video poker machine if I am by myself. Nobody talks to each other. There are people who will use the ATM repeatedly and hit the buttons on the machines in frustration when they are losing their money. I will often find a bar or restaurant downtown near my workplace and play on my lunch breaks. It was always the same people playing when I arrived, who appeared to be workers downtown also.

How much money do you spend on a typical outing to play video poker or line games?

I have lost an entire paycheck the day I was paid within a matter of 90 minutes. If I begin gambling, I will spend as much cash as I have on me. As soon as I’m started, I am completely out of control.

What do you enjoy about playing lottery games?

Nothing anymore. It is fun to win until you play because you have to win. I gamble infrequently compared to as much as I did six months ago. Six months ago, I was playing before work because Maddy’s opened at 7 a.m., playing on lunch breaks at bars downtown and playing on my way home.

Have you ever won a big prize?

I won two $2,500 jackpot prizes in two days. I have won a third $2,500 jackpot and another $1,500 jackpot. There are countless times I would win $500 over an initial investment of $60 or less. It was a rush to see them count out all of those $20 bills on the bar and being unable to close my wallet. It was a rush to live recklessly with financial abandon with my winnings for a day or two after winning.

Have you ever lost more than you could afford?

I have a discharged Chapter 7 bankruptcy from multiple payday loans, maxed out credit cards and overdraft checking account fees. I’ve been sued multiple times for failing to repay obligations. The rest of my family is very financially responsible. I haven’t told anyone that I’ve been bankrupted. I feel like a liar and a cheat like I would be a complete embarrassment to my parents, and despite a college education and a very good job, I feel like I am the biggest idiot to ever come out of my gene pool.

When you play, do you sometimes feel you have a problem stopping even though you know you should?

I closed my bank account and cut up my ATM card. If I had access to any more cash, I would spend it. If I ran out of all resources, I would use a hot check and get a payday loan to cover basic expenses, sometimes to gamble more. At one time, I was juggling five payday loans at once, using one to pay off another, re-borrowing to pay off another — it was a vicious cycle.

Have you ever sought help for gambling addiction?

1-877-MYLIMIT (The Oregon Lottery Help Line) – is honestly a complete joke. Many of the programs they referred me to serve criminal clientele as well, so you feel like even more of a lowlife for having a problem. Most of the programs they referred me to in the Portland area did not return my calls seeking treatment. I sought the help of a psychiatrist, who put me on the prescription drug Naloxone, which is an opioid antagonist, hoping to change the reward structure in my brain so that I could somehow find gambling less exciting. I completed an intensive outpatient mental health program through ‘Kaiser Permanente’ four months ago after completing a bankruptcy and suffering from suicidal ideation.

Has your life been affected by problem gambling?

My life has been affected in every way by problem gambling. I tell half-truths or even bald-faced lies to my friends and family about my whereabouts or my finances. I’m nearly 30; I do not live on my own because I haven’t been able to afford to, I’m bankrupt, and I have difficulty meeting my basic needs. I feel like I have to start my adulthood completely over again and learn better financial habits due to the wreck that the Oregon Lottery has helped me to make out of my life.

Do you think the benefits from Oregon Lottery revenues — to schools, parks and such — outweigh the harm caused by problem gambling?

No. I think the Oregon Lottery should be shut down as soon as possible. There is nothing good that can come out of it. The devastation it causes people should not be used for revenue by the government. The justification — providing schoolchildren with materials they need or providing medicine to the poor and ill — should not be any type of excuse for this type of pain and devastation. Oregon is in the business of ruining lives.

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“I feel like a liar and a cheat” Now this statement from this person interviewed for this article is exactly the way I FELT when I gambled addictively. And is why I added it to the Title of MY Book/Memoir. I did FEEL like a Liar and a Cheat!  That is what Compulsive Gambling Addiction turned me into, a liar and a cheat.

It was my way of taking accountability and ownership of all my “Character Defect and to those, I had HURT  within my addiction.” So that statement she made was powerful to me when I read it. I will be sharing much of this series all week & weekend long . . . .

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Author & Recovery Columnist,
Catherine Townsend-Lyon


Product Details

( Ebook now on sale for 3.10! )
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“How does a Good Girl Go Bad? Based on the author’s true life story and experiences told in the author’s own words, without polish or prose, a haunting tale of gambling addiction, dark family secrets, living with undiagnosed PTSD, and much more. She has overcome, she has triumphed in recovery one day at a time. So read this woman’s remarkable brave story!”


Honoring Bobby Hafemann’s Memory and Ronda Hatefi and Family. What Life is Like Today Without Bobby. . .

Honoring Bobby Hafemann’s Memory and Ronda Hatefi and Family. What Life is Like Today Without Bobby. . .

Today I close out the “National Week of Action Against Predatory Gambling on a personal note. I am shining the spotlight on a family that has been through heartbreak and know very well what it is like to lose a brother, son, uncle, and on. His name is Bobby Hafemann. . . . .

Ronda has had to describe many times over through the years about what happened when Bobby decided the only option he had to stop his addiction to gambling was to take his own life. Bobby became addicted to the Oregon Lottery Video Poker machines that went on-line in 1991. And to me? This is heartbreaking.  He was failed by many before he died after talking with Ronda at length a few weeks back. Ronda and her family desperately looked for ways to get Bobby help from Gamblers Anonymous, support groups and out-patient treatment which he was attending until Oregon pulled it, possible due to not enough funding yet from the profits of the Lottery. His treatment therapist just suggested he go to a psychologist or psychiatrist for help. AGAIN, they all were failed. Professionals didn’t really know how to treat a person with addicted compulsive gambling at that time.

So today, I wanted to share how Ronda and her family are doing today, today now that Bobby has been gone for over twenty years. So asked her to write this ‘Guest Post’ so I could share it to keep Bobby’s memory of a life taken to soon from this cunning addiction and disease. We as addicted gamblers deep within the worst of our gambling don’t know what we are doing to those we love and others around us. I want to say thank you to Ronda for all the tireless hard work she and her family puts in each year to help others, advocate, raise awareness and keep Bobby Hafemann’s memory ALIVE. Yes, it is long but very worth the read for an in-depth look at what a family goes through when losing a loved one from the disease of gambling addiction .  .  .  .

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* How Gambling Changed My Life! ~ Guest Author & Advocate Ronda Hatefi *

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Ronda Hatefi
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“July 22, 1995, a day that changed my life forever. Not only mine but the life of my parents, siblings children and extended family as well.”

That is the day I got a call that my brother and best friend was found with a gunshot to his head. Bobby was 28-year-old, he was the 4th of 5 children in our family. I was the 5th. Bobby and I were both diagnosed with Epilepsy when we were young, Bobby was having constant seizures during the day and ended up having to repeat second grade. That meant we were in the same grade from my 2nd-grade year through high school.

We became each other’s best friend and at times worst enemy. We ALWAYS had each other’s back no matter what. We truly did everything together, his friends were my friends and vice versa. School was always hard for Bobby; he struggled with almost everything, not because he wasn’t smart enough to do but because it took time away from things he thought were more important. He loved to work, he loved to make money. He mowed lawns and delivered papers at a very young age. He loved to be able to do things for others, he loved to give gifts.

He quit school in high school, which Mom and Dad allowed him to do with the condition that he had to take and pass his GED. He did that and got a job. He worked here in Eugene, Oregon where we grew up until Mom and Dad moved to Portland. He decided to move there too and got a great job working at a Steel Mill making about $45,000 a year. That was great money for a single guy, but it came at a price. The hours were rough, 3pm to 1am 4 days a week. So he went to work just a little while before Dad and our other brother E J got home. They were all in bed long before he got off work. So to unwind after work he started going to a bowling alley just for fun. A cool place to meet people and have a beer before coming home and crawling into bed. This was fine for a while, but in late 1991 video poker was introduced. It was a quick hook for Bobby, he could play for awhile, and walk away with winnings. But it didn’t take long for it to become a little more important than sleep, it became something he had to do, not wanted to do.

Fast forward now just a few years. I watched my brother become someone I didn’t know. He withdrew from family functions, he was irritable, he was always broke. He was borrowing money from everyone he could but tried hard to pay people back. He started selling things, hawking important items, and not paying people back, which meant he just avoided us even more. Things that had always been important to him weren’t anymore. He was sad. He wrote a bad check to my parents, which meant he needed to move out, focus his money, time and attention to other things again. That is what we thought we could do to help him. He knew he couldn’t afford to gamble anymore, he just would quit….right?

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It isn’t that easy. We had many late night talks, crying together about how hard it was for him. When the State is telling you this is entertainment, why doesn’t it feel fun? Why can’t I stop? Feeling so bad about the people he didn’t pay back. It is heart wrenching to watch someone you love so much be in so much pain and not understand how to help fix it. I wish over and over that I could have a do-over on those nights. I wish I could stand up for him, to hold his hand through this process of healing that I have done many times in the past 21 years. I know he would stand with me if he could. I am proud to have shared his story and help others. Sometimes I feel angry that it wasn’t him that I helped. I go to his grave and talk to him about it. I ask him for strength and ask him to be with those who are struggling here. I don’t know really what I would do if one of the gamblers I have helped succeeded at suicide. I think about it, and wonder if I could get through that pain again. I wasn’t sure I was going to get through it the first time.

I will walk you through that horrible day that we got the call. My family and my husband, my 6-year-old daughter, and 18-month-old son were all getting ready to go to Portland to surprise Bobby at his company picnic. We were getting things ready in a leisurely way, enjoying the morning. The phone rang, I answered, it was my brother E J and all he said was, “Can I talk to Darren.”  I don’t know why or how I knew but at that moment, I knew I lost Bobby. I screamed. I don’t remember that, but I was told the neighbors heard and rushed over. My body trembled, I remember my husband trying to hold me down, hold my body still. My daughter was crying because I was scaring her. I have no idea how long it took to get loaded, I have no idea what was loaded, I just know we were at my sister’s house.

Then her family, as well as my other brother and his family could travel together to my parent’s house in Portland. I don’t remember the ride other than reading my bible out loud, I’m not sure what I read. Seeing my parents in their driveway was one of the worst feelings in the world. To see the pain in them, I can’t imagine what was going through their heads. My Dad and my 2 nephews rode their bikes to Bobby’s apartment to surprise him that morning, and when he didn’t answer they asked the apartment manager to let them in. That is how Bobby was found, no parent should ever have to witness that. They think he had been gone for 2 days.

Why didn’t someone hear the gun shot?
Why didn’t a neighbor seem to notice he wasn’t in and out?
Why did he have to lay there alone for 2 days?
Would he have survived if he was found sooner?

These are all questions that I think about still. I wish I could have been there for him, he had my number written in his notebook but he never called. WHY!
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That night we all sat and tried to console each other. We talked about what went wrong. We thought about Bobby and told stories. I didn’t sleep at all, I cried all night. I wrote him a 9-page letter telling him that I missed him. That I loved him, maybe more than he realized. That I would have been there if he just called. I told him that I forgave him, that I didn’t understand why he did it, but I forgave him. I remember my brother-in-law coming into the dining room where I was in a puddle on the floor sobbing and trying to get me to go to bed. I didn’t want to bother anyone so I thought I sitting in the dining room would be the best place.

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The next day a few people went to Bobby’s to clean up the mess. I couldn’t go. I felt so bad but I couldn’t help, I just couldn’t do it. I wanted his “stuff” just anything that had his smell. I brought home his tennis shoes, his clothes, and other things just to have a piece of him. My parents later let me have his rings and his hat. I didn’t want anyone else to put his hat on their head. It is funny the things that were important to me.

We got a call from his work saying they had heard, and they were sorry. We got a call from 7-11 saying that he was in earlier in the week, they had fronted him his paycheck so if we could please bring his check to them when we got it that would be great. We had to start making funeral plans, canceling things like his phone, electric, truck payments, and credit cards. None of this was easy. We moved Bobby’s truck to Mom and Dad’s so it wasn’t at the apartment, and every time we looked out we thought he was home. It was so hard seeing it, he loved his truck. We called and asked the bank to come get it, we needed it gone. They couldn’t do that until he was 3 months behind on payments. I finally called and told them that if they didn’t come and get it we would park it somewhere and they would have to find it. That was the hardest part for my Mom was seeing that out front. They did finally come get it, but it took way to long. The phone company was the other hard one to deal with, they wouldn’t disconnect the line without his permission. I finally told them that when they got a hold of him to please let him know I had a few questions myself.

We had his service in Portland, we all worked to make it the way he would have wanted it. We all went to pick out Bobby’s casket and decided to put it in a cement vault too.

We were all numb, I don’t remember much about any of that. I don’t remember the funeral really either. I do remember his girlfriend at the time coming from Bend to stay with us. She let us hear the messages he left her, oh my goodness. He was crying for help, he begged her to help him. He told her he had a gun to his head. I think it was 5 different messages, and she did nothing. She talked to him once and thought she talked him out of it. She didn’t bother calling my parents, the police or anyone. She just didn’t think he would do it. I asked her so many questions that night my sister made me stop. I just wanted to know everything. She was the last one to talk to him, I wanted to know every single thing he said. She helped us with funeral plans a little. I know he loved her, I wanted to be fair.

“My Mom wrote on his death certificate, suicide thanks to the Oregon State Lottery.”

The paper could not print it that way, but they did call us and asked us if they could do a story. We did. Our lives changed. We were not alone in our lack of understanding about gambling addiction. After the story ran in the Oregonian we received 2 phone calls on my parents’ answering machine in Portland. One was a man who thought Bobby was right, that was the only way to escape this terrible addiction, and he was later arrested for trying to jump from a bridge in Portland.

And the other from a very distraught gambler who had lost his wife, kids and was near suicide when his Mom called him and made him come read our story. I called both men back, didn’t reach the first one of course, but did talk to the second one. His Mom and Dad joined our fight and has been a part of everything we have done since. It took him awhile to get it all together, but he has. He is remarried, reconnected with his kids and living a gambling free life for 15 years now. We are very close to his whole family and so grateful that he was able to recover from his struggle and live the life he deserves.

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(Bobby Hafemann of Oregon was only 28-years old when he passed due to gambling.)
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I needed to understand what Bobby was feeling, I wanted to know every last thought he had and I wanted to know why a machine could take him away from me. I called a Gamblers Anonymous hotline number, the same one Bobby called, and on the other end was whooping and hollering with a man saying: he was out gambling, he slipped and couldn’t even help himself so he couldn’t help anyone else either. I left a message; he did call me back and apologize for the message but did give me some insight. I called our local treatment place in Eugene, I talked to a counselor who was very nice to talk to me and invite me to a meeting so I could sit in and listen to their words to see if it helped me.

In return, I had to tell my story to try to help them. As I was listening to the gamblers stories, a gambler had spoken almost word for word a part of Bobby’s suicide note. It hit me hard then, and it still hits me hard today. By far one of the hardest part of me telling Bobby’s story. Bobby wrote that he felt like a ghost that no one could see or hear. He wanted to be a ghost so others wouldn’t see him. We were such a close loving family, that to hear he felt like a ghost rips my heart out. I never wanted him to feel alone, how could he, we were always here for him, we wanted nothing more than for him to come back to our family as his old self. I sent him notes from me, and my kids on a weekly basis. His other nieces and nephews wrote him notes and drew him pictures to hang on his fridge. He was very loved and very much an important part of our family.

After the funeral, we all came to Eugene, we had him buried where my parent’s plots are. We had a little service there too, for all our Eugene family. I remember having so many dreams about him, some he was crying and saying he was sorry. Some asking me to give messages to others. He wanted me to know it wasn’t his girlfriend’s fault. He wanted me to tell my Mom he loved her and appreciated her help and support. He would sit on my bed and tell me that I was going to be ok, that he was ok. I would beg him to come back, and he would tell me that I knew he couldn’t but he loved me. I would hear gunshots but never see his face. It was just a couple of years ago that I was able to ask my brother for details about the gun, what it did to Bobby’s face and if he thought Bobby suffered, and why nobody heard the shot.

Those are things I always wanted to know but it is so hard to ask. I’m only one of 5 siblings remember, so I know they have hard days too and I didn’t want to ask things that would be hard for them to answer. I am so thankful for my brother Harvey who was my rock then and still is today. He has supported everything I have done since day one. We all dealt with the grief differently. 2 of my sisters’ boys were there when he was found so she had them to take care of. My other brother’s kids were out of the State with their Mom when it happened and they lived with Uncle Bobby for years, so were very close to him. E J was very angry with Bobby for doing that to his kids. I don’t blame him, explaining to our kids what happened was the worst! For years my Son would ask, “Mommy, tell me again why did Uncle Bobby have to die?”

My daughter had terrible nightmares for years. She wrote an incredible story for school her freshman year about how she remembers those days. I find it interesting that I can tell you this part of the story. I really don’t remember much of the first year he passed other than what I did for him. I remember crying at night because I didn’t know if I fed my kids that day, or if I took my daughter to school, or bathed my son. I didn’t write a thing in their baby books for a year. I know I would go to my other brothers’ house a lot because I knew his wife would take care of my kids. About a year after Bobby passed I remember looking in the mirror and not really recognizing me, my hair was really short, I gained a lot of weight, I wasn’t taken care of. And I didn’t care. I was just hoping I was taking care of my kids. My main focus was really just to learn as much as we could from others, and help others by telling our story.

My Mom and I got a call from the Maury Povich show, which we were flown to New York to record a taping of an episode. We did a news story for a station in Seattle WA, Dad and I went to the National Conference in South Dakota one year so I could speak on a panel, which I have done now a few times. We have spoken at Churches, in Schools, at the Capitol building in Salem, Oregon, at Lottery commission meetings, and many other places. There have been times in my life when I think I need to be done, I am not making a difference, I am tired of fighting and getting nowhere. About that time, I will get a phone call from somewhere across the United States from someone who found my information on the web and they just need to talk to someone.

They thought I would listen. And I do. I am not a counselor, I do not have certified training to be one, but I can listen and give them ideas on how to find help. It is very important to me to make sure each person I talk to feels supported, not alone. I want them to know they have loved ones who want nothing more than to help and support them through this even though they have done things they can’t even believe. I know that first step has to be so hard, but they can do it. I am very proud that the Oregon Proclamation has been renewed every year since we started. It is a starting point, it is something that shows whether or not they want to deal with it, our Government knows we have a problem in our State of Oregon. I am proud of what we have done with “Gambling Awareness Day” each Sept 29th. From family gatherings, sending balloons with messages to the sky the first year to going national, 20 States, 2 Countries and over 100 Actions taking place last year.

We have rallied on the State Capitol steps, even having one of the Governor assistants reading our proclamation to the crowd of people. I am so excited to see where we can go with our TAKE A BREAK campaign. It is just another way to reach out. My goal is the same today as it was 21 years ago, to reach out to those who are struggling, who don’t understand what is happening from gambling and to the families who are frustrated and don’t know how to help. I want them all to know they are not alone; they have people who are standing up and being the voice when they cannot speak about it. I have a few people who have been by my side for many years, some in prevention and many in the treatment field who have said to me, “I hope that one day you will put me out of work.”

Their hearts are in the right place, they are doing what they can do to HELP others. I know it has been said by others that they need problem gamblers so they can keep their jobs. I hope one day I can put them out of work too! What I have learned from this whole experience is that sometimes we are called to do things that we had no idea we were capable of doing. It is with hard work, dedication, determination and a lot of support from the connections I have made to keep me moving forward. I want my kids to know that just because something is hard, doesn’t make it ok to quit. That is how we find out who we are, and how strong we can be!

Thank you, Catherine, for letting me tell this side of my story, It is something I haven’t done. It is hard to think that I took that much time away from my kids, not to mention my husband. My sister would tell me often, this is too hard on you, you need to stop telling this story. I really can’t imagine life without Bobby, and the only way I know how to keep him close is by telling HIS STORY.

I have his hat hanging on my wall with his picture. I wear his ring every day. I still have a shirt of his that I wear when I need a hug. I miss him every day. I think about what he would be like today, how much he would love my kids and grandkids. His girlfriend at the time still calls and we talk, she has a daughter now but isn’t very happy in her marriage. When my Mom passed on Mother’s Day last year, it made me smile to know she was able to be with ALL of her kids on Mother’s Day, she missed Bobby so much too. I can only imagine the big smiles on their faces when they were together again in Heaven!


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OGAO – Oregonians for Gambling Awareness Organization

The OGAO was founded by Ronda Hatefi, who lost her brother Bobby Hafemann in 1995 to suicide related to his problems with gambling. Bobby was only 28 years old.

Ronda commemorates Bobby’s birthday every year on September 29 through Problem Gamblers Awareness Day. She also chairs the Lane County Problem Gambling Advisory Committee.

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In closing, I have to say I have been very blessed to have met Ronda and am Honored each year to help her in her quest to raise awareness through Bobby’s Memory and tragic story. I wish and I pray for her and her family that they keep all those beautiful special memories of Bobby deep in their hearts. But as we both know, advocating shares HOPE to others and hopefully save lives from the disease of Gambling Addiction.

God Bless All,

Author & Recovery Columnist, Catherine Townsend-Lyon
“National Week of Action Against For-Profit Predatory Gambling.”