Bet Free Recovery Now-Holiday Series. Story #8, My Voice & Story of Gambling Addiction & Recovery as Featured In #ADIVAMagazine Fall/Winter 2020…

Bet Free Recovery Now-Holiday Series. Story #8, My Voice & Story of Gambling Addiction & Recovery as Featured In #ADIVAMagazine Fall/Winter 2020…


It is not every day you are invited and featured in a national and international womens magazine, this is what happened to me recently. I am not only honored but humbled to share my story and voice to other women around the world who just might be suffering in silence from addicted gambling like I was 14-years ago and had no clue how to STOP… The rest of that story I am about to share, the same article that is currently being read now in ADIVA Magazine –issue #3 for our Fall/Winter 2020.

You may check it out and learn all about on Facebook here:
https://www.facebook.com/StellaDamasusOfficial/videos/adiva-magazine/385566179159699/
I want to thank Stella Damasus for the invite and I have received amazing feedback and some emails too! When we share HOPE and our experiences with others? THAT is what helps me going forward in my recovery. I may never know who it may impact or “touch” but even if it is only one person? It worth IT!

~Catherine Townsend-Lyon, Gambling Recovery Advocate


ADIVA MAGAZINE ~ Issue #3 Winter 2020



My Addiction Required No Substances…


My name is Catherine Townsend-Lyon, and I’m a recovering gambling addict…


My addiction didn’t require any substances—no pill, needles, liquids, or smoke
Yet, every one in five gambling addicts will try suicide from it as I had tried, twice. I will celebrate my 13th-year, maintaining recovery come Jan. 2020. When most people talk about addiction, they often focus on substance abuse. In truth, there are people addicted to behaviors and habits that can cause just as much damage to their lives as drugs or alcohol.


“Catherine Townsend-Lyon understands this all too well. For years, she was addicted to gambling and what she calls “a silent addiction.”

ADIVA Magazine Feature


Catherine shares her story of how she freed herself from this crippling addiction and how she uses this experience to help others get on the path to recovery, even when all hope seems lost. From an addiction that is now the #1 addiction taking lives by suicide…

My disease is called addicted gambling, a silent addiction.

 “How did a good girl go bad? By crossing a fine line from a “once in a while gambler to a full-blown addicted one.”  Well, I began gambling with money. In the end, I was gambling with my life.

This addiction is progressive in nature, so I began pawning or selling valuables. Finally, I ended up committing a crime because the money ran out. Toward the end and before treatment, I began to abuse alcohol as just gambling alone wasn’t “doing it for me,” as I was stuck in a cunning sick cycle. I was sick, broke, broken, spiritually lost. Then, hopelessness and darkness took over.


As statistics now show, more then 2.9% of our population are problem gamblers, and one in every five addicted gambler’s attempting suicide as I did, twice, these numbers will continue to rise as the expansion of for-profit gambling options, including online legalized online internet gambling like sports betting in many states, just as state lotteries are expanding. It seems gambling is just about everywhere from my experiences. 

So, it is no wonder I became addicted to it. I became one of the 1 in 5 who tried suicide while still residing in Southern Oregon for over 26+years and where my gambling addiction journey began. I, too, had two failed suicide attempts before I knew there was help available. 

I was gambling two to four times a day playing the Oregon lottery video poker/slot machines introduced in the early 90s. By 1998, the Oregon Lottery had licensed more than 9,000 video gambling machines in some 1,800 outlets, and I got hooked! Gambling on slot and poker machines has now become the second-biggest revenue raiser for the Oregon government, behind income taxes. 

My recovery journey started in 2002 after my first suicide attempt. But again, in April 2006, I woke up in a hospital for a second time due to another failed suicide attempt and again admitted into an addiction and mental health crisis center for another 30-day stay. The problem wasn’t that I gambled again and relapsed; it was due to not taking my psych medications for my mental health. I thought I didn’t need nor want to take them any longer and thinking I could be normal like everyone else around me, but as you read my story, you’ll see that didn’t work out too well. 

Hell, being normal is a bit overrated (Lol).

No excuses as we faced a few severe financial crises simultaneously as I stopped taking my medications for my mental health. My husband and I had worked through all of our savings; I panicked and chose to steal from someone. What a mess! They pressed charges, I was arrested, went through the court process, and was sentenced to many community service hours, two years of probation, and paid restitution that I am still paying on today. If I don’t? I will most likely die a felon.
 

My Point and Wisdom From an Older Diva 

You have to do all the recovery work in all areas that include your finances (financial inventory). I had not done the work in this area and necessary for a steady recovery. Even though I was not gambling, my financial and legal troubles told me I still needed to work and maybe with a gambling addiction specialist. After my problems occurred, I did choose to work with a specialist for over a year while I went through the legal mess I created. 

Why am I sharing?

Our recovery stories and experiences are powerful tools to help others and to give them hope! Even after my second suicide attempt and crisis center stay from the hospital, I learned I did not have a well-rounded recovery plan and had a lot more work to do. I also knew that God, my higher power, had bigger plans for me, a purpose for me that involves helping those reaching out for recovery from the cunning illness of addicted compulsive gambling.

After I was released from the crisis center in 2006, I began working with a gambling addiction specialist and got my mental health under control; I began to see the enormous stigma around those who maintain recovery and those who may have a mental illness. And since I am a dual-diagnosed person, this can make obtaining recovery a bit more work, as I discovered. The habits, behaviors, and diseased thinking we use within our addiction needed more correcting. 

Working with the specialist was eye-opening. He made me revisit and helped me break down ‘the cycle’ of addiction, and we also worked with tools and skills for dealing with financial problems that may arise while maintaining recovery. I found a relapse prevention workbook that helped and was a game-changer for me. Although I never did relapse into gambling, this workbook had helped me develop a plan for any financial or life event crisis that may arise during my recovery journey. 

Another tool was journaling each day. I’ve enjoyed writing at a young age and kept a journal, but my specialist showed me how to relieve stress and learn more from my journaling. I later used my writings to write my book, a memoir titled ‘Addicted To Dimes: Confessions of a Liar and a Cheat.’ It is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many fine book stores and online. It is written in memoir form and is not how to recover, but the Why and the roots to how I became addicted to this cunning addiction…
https://www.amazon.com/Addicted-Dimes-Confessions-Liar-Cheat-ebook/dp/B00CSUJI3A/

Addicted to Dimes (Confessions of a LIAR & a CHEAT) Kindle Edition
Memoir By Catherine Townsend-Lyon
Author, Advocate, Columnist


I didn’t start writing and journaling for a book; that was all God’s intervention and came later on. Writing down my story and experiences in notebooks for a year toward the end of 2010 was a very healing process for me. I shared in the book my gambling addiction, my past childhood abuse, and sexual trauma, and what it is like living with mental illness. 


I needed to see on paper and in between the lines what gambling addiction had taken from me”…


Today I never dreamed I would be a published author and recovery advocate. That began my recovery advocacy of writing for many publications like formerly InRecovery magazine, now a columnist for “Keys To Recovery” newspaper, recovery blogging, many radio shows, podcasts, and speaking. These are only a few of my recovery blessings I have received within my path thus far. By writing my book and sharing it with the world, I hope to shatter the stigma around gambling addiction, those maintaining recovery, and those with mental and emotional health challenges. 


2019 Addiction & Recovery Speaking
Event AZ State Capitol

I have also, recently began to share my voice and story as one who also suffered childhood sexual abuse and trauma with others as well. Why? Because I learned these are the underlying issues and roots that had me turn to addiction came from that pain from my to overcome it and not use gambling to escape, cope, or hide from all those haunting memories. 

Through my book, I have chosen not to be anonymous. I want others to know how devastating compulsive gambling addiction is and how easily one can become addicted. It truly is a real silent disease and illness that requires no substances, is just as destructive as any other addiction, and still #1 in claiming lives by suicide than any other addiction. Through my advocacy work, I help others be informed and educated as I raise awareness and prove the impacts problem gambling has on your communities’ as it shatters families. The expansion of casinos, state lottery, and online gambling contributes to more accessibility as it now is touching our youth. 

I’m often asked what I do to keep my long-term recovery. Work a steady recovery that encompasses mind, body, spirit, finances, and personal inventory. There are many ways and choices to recover, including inpatient or outpatient treatment, 12-Step meetings, addiction specialists, and more. Anything and everything you can find? Just do it. Only one option may not be enough to reach success in long-term recovery. 

Today it is my recovery duty to share hope to those reaching out to recover and need support. I continue my advocacy work as an article writer and columnist for ‘Keys To Recovery newspaper’ out of Southern California. I run and write a blog called https://BetFreeRecoveryNow.wordpress.com  and share my experiences and recovery throughout media and social media. Have done so on in many publications, podcasts, radio shows, and in a global ADIVA Mag.



My husband Tom and I just celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary as we live outside Phoenix, Arizona.
We live a quiet life with our three kitty fur babies.
Soon, I will celebrate my 14th year maintaining recovery on Jan. 29th, 2021… It has been a long road to get to where I am today.
The rest our/my amazing life has been GOD GIVEN and I am blessed and humbled with a life that has been beyond a one I could have ever hoped for in so many ways.


I have gained wisdom, have learned life lessons, and the best part? I get to help others who may still be suffering in silence like I had for many year’s from gambling and into recovery. Everyone deserves a second chance as I did when God showed my my real true purpose in life.


“The cruelest lies are often told in silence”… ~Robert Louis Stevenson

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” … ~Maya Angelou


My Loving Husband, Tom Lyon


Havng Fun Rasng $$ 4 Big Jim Foundation!
Addiction Awareness Speaking Event Phoenix, AZ!



ME & My Buddy Former NFL Pro
Randy Grimes of Tampa Bay Bucs.



GOD IS GOOD!

A Guest Spotlight On A Successful Gambling Addiction Recovery Story. You May Know Arnie Already!

Hello Recovery Friends and Welcome All,

I thought I would share a story of a very good friend of mine. You may have seen him on TV, or read an article of his as he has written many. I love calling him my “Grandfather of Recovery,” because he has many, many years of recovery time from addicted gambling. He has seen, done, and heard it all when it comes to this cunning addiction. Meet Arnie and Sheila Wexler!

Arnie Wexler is a Certified Compulsive Gambling Counselor (CCGC), and was the Executive Director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey for eight years.

Arnie is one of the foremost experts on compulsive gambling in this country, and has been involved in helping compulsive gamblers for over 30 years. He has appeared on many of America’s top television shows, including 60 minutes, Oprah, Night-Line, and 48 Hours. He has been quoted and profiled in hundreds of magazines and newspapers.

Arnie has presented workshops and training seminars nationally and internationally. He has spoken to many gaming industry executives, Fortune 500 corporations, legislative bodies, and on college campuses across the nation. He has also done trainings for the National Football League (NFL).

Since 1994 both Arnie and Sheila have trained hundreds of professionals working in Addiction Treatment Centers including Sierra Tuscon and Betty Ford Center. They trained US Army Addiction Counselors at Camp Zama, Japan. In addition, they have provided extensive training to casino personnel and have written Responsible Gaming Policies for major gaming companies. His new book just released titled, “All Bets Are Off”

Sheila Wexler is a Licensed,Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LCADC), and a Certified Compulsive Gambling Counselor (CCGC). She has worked in the field of addictions since 1977.

Sheila has worked in residential treatment, out-patient services and private practice. She has had extensive experience in counseling the addicted person and their families. Sheila is one of the pioneers in the treatment of compulsive gambling.

In 1987, she developed and implemented a compulsive gambling in-patient treatment program at New Hope Foundation in Marlboro, New Jersey. Sheila is the author of a chart on the effects of compulsive gambling on the family. She has instructed Addiction Education classes throughout the country. She has also done extensive training on expanding addiction services to include compulsive gambling treatment.

Since 1994 both Arnie and Sheila have trained hundreds of professionals working in Addiction Treatment Centers including Sierra Tuscon and Betty Ford Center. They trained US Army Addiction Counselors at Camp Zama, Japan. In addition, they have provided extensive training to casino personnel and have written Responsible Gaming Policies for major gaming companies.

Arnie’s Story:

Arnie & Sheila Wexler Associates

If you need help with a gambling problem,

call 1-888-LAST-BET

Arnie Wexler,

“I am a recovering Compulsive Gambler who placed my last bet April 10,1968.”

I started gambling at about age 7 or 8 as a kid in Brooklyn, NY. It started with flipping baseball cards, pitching pennies, shooting marbles and playing pinball machines. That kind of gambling continued until about age 14. At that point I started to bet on sporting events with a bookmaker and I got into the stock market.

As a young kid, growing up, I always felt that everyone was better than me. The only time I felt okay about myself was after I had a win, whether it was marbles or baseball cards or pennies. Then at 14 I went to the racetrack for the first time (that was Memorial Day, 1951 Roosevelt Raceway). At that time in my life I was making $.50 an hour after school, working about 15-20 hours a week. That night at Roosevelt Raceway I had my first big win and walked out of the track with $54. Looking back today, I think it was that night that changed my life. Even though it was only $54, it was about 5 weeks salary to me at that time. That night gave me the belief that I could be a winner from gambling and eventually become a millionaire. I can still recall that high feeling walking out of the racetrack that night.

By 17, I was already stealing to support my gambling. It started with stealing comic books to play cards with from the local candy store. Before long it was stealing money from my family to pay for gambling. By then I was taking the bus to the racetrack, a few nights a week on a regular basis. In those days they closed the track in the winter months, in New York so on weekends, I would take the bus or the train to Maryland to gamble. I was betting sporting events and horses with the bookmaker on a daily basis. In those days each sport had its own season. I remember calling the bookmaker one day and the only thing that was available to gamble on was hockey. I had never seen a hockey game, but bet on it anyway. It wasn’t until months later when I did see my first hockey game, that I realized that hockey was played on ice.

Somewhere between age 17 and 20 I went to the racetrack one night and won $6000. Wow! Another big win. It was the equivalent of 2 years salary. This reinforced my belief that I could be a winner at gambling.

By my early 20’s I was betting big amounts on lots of games that I didn’t really know much about and probably couldn’t name more than a handful of players who played in these events. In some of the college games I bet on, I couldn’t name one player or even tell you where the college was located, but I needed to be in action. By then I was a regular at the old Madison Square Garden, every week. I was watching and betting on college and professional basketball on a regular basis. At this point in my life I was working full-time in a shipping department in the garment center and every Tuesday when we got paid there was a regular crap game out in the hallway. Almost every week I would lose my pay in this game. I began stealing supplies and merchandise on a daily basis to pay for my gambling. By then, I had a bank loan and a loan with a finance company loan. I was also borrowing from coworkers.

At 21 I met my future wife. Our first date was to the movies and most of the rest of our dating was at the racetrack. We had a joint checking account saving for our wedding. She would put money in and I wouldn’t. I needed to use my money for gambling. I was still looking for another big win. I thought the perfect place for our honeymoon would be Las Vegas or Puerto Rico since I knew both places had casinos. My wife to be didn’t think that was a good idea. I guess she understood enough about my gambling already. At 23 we got married and I wanted to stop gambling at that point. I thought that I could. Within a short time I was already back to gambling. Even though I wanted to stop, I realize today that I couldn’t. I needed to gamble like any drug addict needed to stick that needle in their arm, or any alcoholic needed to have that drink.

Four weeks after we got married I went away to the Army Reserves at Fort Dix, NJ for 6 months. During those 6 months, I gambled every day, fast and furious, from placing bets by phone with the bookmaker to shooting crap and playing cards, every waking minute. When I came home in December of 1961, I owed $4000 and didn’t even have a job.

I got a job, eventually, working in the garment center In the showroom that I worked in there were a few compulsive gamblers who I quickly got friendly with. They became my buddies. We would play cards during the day, and go to the racetrack at night and on weekends, together. My wife thought I was at business meetings some of these nights and all of us would lie for each other.

In 1963 my first daughter was born. My wife was in labor 37 hours. During that period I went to the racetrack twice. When the Doctor finally came out and told me that we had a baby, the only question I really was concerned about was “how much did she weigh.” He told me 7lbs.1 oz. You would think that the concern should have been “how is my wife” or “how is the baby”. The first call I made was to the bookmaker. I bet 71 in the daily double. The next day when I picked up the newspaper, the daily double hit. I was convinced that day that God was sending me a message that I was now going to be a winner.

One year later my boss gave me an option to buy 500 shares of stock in the company for $7500. Within a year that stock was worth $38,000. In those days you could buy a car for $2000 and a house for about $10,000. Within 3 years this money would be gone due to my gambling. By now I was a plant supervisor for a Fortune 500 company. My gambling was already so out of control that I was stealing everything I could to stay in action. I set up a room in the factory that we used for playing cards (all day long). I was starting to do illegal acts (manipulating stocks) in the stock market.

Our home life was deteriorating. Gambling was more important than anything else that was going on at home. I was lying about almost everything and I would come home and pick a fight so I could go out to gamble. Nothing else at that point in my life was more important than gambling; not my family or my job. Gambling came first. At this point even though I was doing illegal acts, I was still borrowing money from only legal sources.

My gambling continued to get progressively worse. I was now a plant manager, supervising 300-400 people. My boss worked in New York, and I was in the factory in NJ. Most of the time he didn’t know what I was doing. Besides stealing and borrowing money from coworkers, I now had 3 bank loans and 3 loans to finance companies; I owed a loan shark an amount of money equal to one years salary. I was involved with 3 bookmakers, both working for them and betting with them. I directed a lot of people who gambled in my company, to my bookmaker and got a piece of the action. I even got involved in a numbers operation.

Between this and stealing, I was supporting my gambling. There were times I would bet 40 or 50 games on a weekend, and believe I could win them all. One weekend, just before I hit my bottom, I called a bookmaker and took a shot by betting a round robin which amounted to about 2 years annual salary. At that moment if I lost that bet, there was no way I could pay it. Things were getting so bad, I remember calling a bookmaker one day and being told that if I didn’t bring him the money I owed him he would not take my bet for that night. I went home and sold our car to a neighbor.

By now, I wasn’t going home to pick a fight with my wife. I was doing it over the phone so I wouldn’t waste the trip home. Most of the time I was out gambling, but when I was home we were constantly fighting. We had sex very rarely. When I won I was so high I didn’t need it and if I lost I didn’t want it. But there were times we had sex and my wife would say to me “do you hear a radio.” Of course I would tell her she was crazy, but I had a radio on under the pillow so I could listen to a game. We were trying to have another child, but couldn’t. My wife came to me with the idea of adoption. I didn’t like that idea especially when I was told it would cost money.

I needed that money for gambling. After 3 months of her bothering me, I finally went along with the idea of adoption, as I thought she would be so busy with the 2 kids that she would leave me alone. I borrowed the money we needed from my boss and relatives. On the day we were bringing our son home on a plane, it was the 7th game of the 1967 World Series. My wife was busy looking at this beautiful new baby. I had no interest in him. I had a large bet on the game. The pilot was announcing the score every 15 minutes, or so. I was so upset that we were on this plane. I wished and prayed that the plane would get to the ground so that I could see or hear every minute of this game.

In the next few months the bottom fell out of my world even though I still had my job and still looked okay. There were no track marks on my arm, I wasn’t smelling from my gambling. No one could really tell what was going on. I would come home from gambling and see my wife crying all the time, depressed, sick. Our daughter was 4 years old and I don’t remember her walking or talking. I either wasn’t home or when I was my head was consumed with the gambling. At that point in my life, I owed 32 people, 3 years annual salary. I had a life insurance policy and constantly thought about killing myself and leaving my wife and 2 kids that money. I would do anything to keep gambling.

As long as I could get my hands on some more money to stay in action, I still thought that the big win was just around the corner. I was trying to find out where I could get drugs to sell and looking around at gas stations to rob. I was asking people about making counterfeit money. I was running out of options. My boss came to me one day and told me that a detective was following me and he had a report on my gambling. He knew I was betting more money than I earned and he was sure that I was stealing from the company and that if he found out he would have me arrested.

Three hours later I was stealing from the company again. I needed to go to the racetrack that night. On February 2, 1968 my wife was having a miscarriage and I was taking her to the hospital. I was wishing and praying all the way that she would die. I thought that would solve all my problems (I wouldn’t have to tell her how bad things were). That morning I called my mother to watch my kids, I called my boss and told him I couldn’t come to work because my wife was in the hospital. That afternoon I went to the racetrack. After the track I went to see how my wife was. When I got to the hospital the doctor told me that my wife was in shock and had almost died. I was so deep into my addiction that I really didn’t care about her, the 2 kids or myself. The only important thing was making a bet.

I thought that I was the only one living the way I was living and doing the things that I was doing. I found out that I was not alone and that I could stop gambling with the help of the other people. I had hope for the first time. It’s been almost 47 years since I last gambled. Today I have everything I dreamed about getting from gambling and then some. I have a wonderful family that is still intact and even have been blessed with 4 grandchildren who I love very much. In the last 30 years I have been able to devote my working life to helping others who have this problem and educating people on the disease of Compulsive Gambling. This has been a dream come true.

I highly recommend Arnie’s book titled, All Bets Are Off. I have read it and it is truly an amazing story. It is now available on Amazon.com Books in paperback and E-book formats. You can visit their website and blog at:  Arnie and Sheila Wexler Associates

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Catherine Townsend-Lyon, Author & Recovery Advocate
“Addicted To Dimes”  . . . .