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Recovering addict has been helping other addicts in our community for more than a decade

March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month.
A recovering gambling addict got help, then a master's degree, and became the Manager of Gambling Treatment and Prevention at the Zepf Center.
Published: Mar. 14, 2022 at 6:30 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month. Gambling addiction is a problem thousands of people in our region are facing.

There’s a recovering addict who has spent more than a decade helping others in our community facing the same challenges.

Steve Kapela was an addict for more than 30 years. He says he became hooked on morphine at the age of 13 after a canoeing accident, and that was just the start.

“By the time I was in my teens, I was a full blown alcoholic. I went on to use all the drugs of the 70s and 80s and 90s,” Kapela said.

His list of addictions eventually went on to include gambling. He played the slots at casinos.

“I couldn’t leave. I would go to the ATM and get out another hundred bucks and another hundred bucks. Sometimes I would be in there for days. The only reason I gave up gambling early is because it was affecting my ability to buy alcohol and cocaine.”

Steve was in his late 40s when he decided to get help.

“At the age of 47, I made the decision to change. It was the hardest thing I ever did, but it came with rewards I could not have imagined. You know what is more addictive than drugs, alcohol and gambling? Success.”

He went to get a college degree, a master’s degree, and came to work at The Zepf Center. He is now the Manager of Gambling Treatment and Prevention at Zepf.

“If you’re living secret lives or borrowing money to gamble, your relationships are suffering or you walk away from your responsibilities, you have a problem. The good news is that problem gambling treatment is possible.”

Steve says treatment at Zepf focuses on every aspect of your life.

“We have the ability to treat all pieces of a human. Mental health, substance abuse, housing and employment.”

Experts say the vast majority of people can gamble responsibly, but it does become a problem for 1 in 10 people during their lifetime.

“In Lucas County alone about 3,700 people meet the criteria for a gambling disorder at some point in their life.”

And just like Steve, many people who come to Zepf have multiple addictions.

“One in five substance abusers treated at Zepf are likely to also have a gambling disorder.”

Steve says its never too late to rewrite your life story -- and he’s proof of that.

“It’s about being the person you were meant to be, and not the person you became because of drinking, drugging and gambling.”

With sports betting becoming legal in Ohio in 2023, experts believe problem gambling could become even more prevalent.

You can call Zepf at (419) 841-7701, or click here for the website. If you need help now, call the Problem Gambling Helpline at (800) 589-9966.

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