Monthly Archives: March 2010

Gambling on Life

By Kathy Marks and Jeff Hewitt

Kathy Marks, MFT

When we think of gambling, we think of glamorous Las Vegas, the inviting sound of slot machines pouring out buckets of quarters, or the soft green felt that is so alluring on the high rollers tables. It all seems like a million dollar dream. Then the nightmare that is known as compulsive gambling sets in. Amidst all the flash and luxury of Vegas, Atlantic City, and all the casinos of California, there is an epidemic that is known as problem gambling. When all is said and done it is just like any other addiction, an obsession, an allergy, and a spiritual malady. From the perception we have seen, the people afflicted have hurt, manipulated and wrecked their lives to a place where they had nowhere to turn but to accept some sort of treatment or help.

The good news is we have also seen countless people recover from this addiction as well, however the legal or emotional wreckage they have caused seems to be less understood. For example, when someone gets arrested for drugs or commits a crime under the influence, most likely they will be put under a diversion or drug treatment related program, Society as a whole has a lot more compassion for criminal acts committed under the influence of mind altering substances. When the problem gambler steals to support their habit they are seen as criminals, not as a person who is in the grips of a progressive illness. The failure to realize this is tragic, for the compulsive gambler does not get help and it does not solve the problem. With out help, the pattern of the problem gambler, is bound to repeat their history. The justice system will punish the criminal act but do nothing to stop the problem.

Our proposal is to treat the compulsive gambler for the addiction, thus treating the cause of the problem, which the crime is just a bi-product of. I believe that Media and society as a whole have overlooked this for far too long. Its time for us as a community, to stand up and recognize this compulsion for what it is: a disease that needs treatment.



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Blog Post from Prison

By: Brad from Federal Prison

For some time, prosecutors and judges in all jurisdictions have studied with how to treat addictive behavior as it relates to aberrant conduct. To a large degree, the judicial system is behind the times in its comprehension of gambling and its effects on criminal behavior. As such, defendants have had minimal success in structuring arguments for leniency in sentencing. What’s more, judges imposing incarceration believe that the symptoms or “triggers” an addicted gambler would face are neutralized by the stated objectives of imprisonment. Simply stated, removing the compulsive gambler from society acts as the agent of recovery.

Sadly, and tragically, this belief is regrettable, for an exact opposite outcome is likely. In the four weeks since I entered Federal Prison, the environment is nothing short of a dramatic challenge for the addicted gambler. On any random evening, there are three big card games, a dominoes game and billiards. As, of course, we have no access to currency, inmates play for points against their opponent, all redeemable at the commissary. Furthermore, while there is AA and NA, no 12-Step program (GA) is available for compulsive gamblers, to say nothing of an absence of psychotherapy.

To be sure, incarceration has its benefits: punishment, protecting society, and teaching discipline – all in the interests of negating repeated criminal behavior. Yet for those who argue “rehabilitation,” they are misinformed at best, naïve at worst.


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The Language of the Heart

By Jeff Hewitt

When I came to my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting I was confused to say the least. I picked a seat in the back of the room to avoid any confrontation that might occur. At the time, I wanted to sit in my misery because I felt that I was unique, that my story was different. I scoured the room in judgment of the types of people who attended these meetings. It seemed that everyone was different. All different races, creeds, genders and religions were spread across the room. I thought to myself, “what could I possibly have in common with all these people?” The meeting started and gave way to the first speaker, who was a woman. The thought entered my mind once again, “what could I possibly have in common with this woman?”
Then she began to speak. Though her story was different from mine, she shared about how she had hurt the most important people in her life. About how in the depth of her addiction, she would stare out her bedroom window and wonder why she couldn’t just be a normal member of society. Most important, she shared about when the day finally came where her wreckage had beat her into a state of incomprehensible demoralization.
This woman who I had never met spoke words that had pulled at my heart and finally I related to someone. I didn’t know that drugs had starved my soul, that my spirit was just looking for a way to be fed. Bill W., one of the founders of Alcoholic Anonymous, called this relation ‘The language of the heart.’ I had been told my whole life that the disease of addiction doesn’t discriminate,  what I found that day is that recovery from this hopeless state does not discriminate either. That all the different people in that room had gone through the same pain I had gone through and we all had a common bond. With the help of one another and the program of AA, we could take back our souls and breathe hope and faith into the broken relationships that affected our friends and loved ones. Most important of all, help the stranded spirits that addiction had thrown overboard.


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We have become a society that is so focused on the “other” we don’t look at ourselves.

By: Rabbi Mark Borovitz

In yesterday’s New York Times Week in Review, Frank Rich wrote an article on the Tea Party Phenomenon. It is a very scary period in our history. The Tea Party movement is a coalition of groups dedicated to “free” the American people of government. They are “true” Patriots, according to them. These people, some of them John Birch Society members, preach hate, separation and that it is okay to fly airplanes into the IRS buildings as a statement of protest. They are being courted by members of the Republican Party and hail such politicians as Sarah Palin and Scott Brown.

I am worried. When the John Birch Society is being hailed as a grassroots populist organization, we are in trouble. This is NOT about politics; this is about freedom from hatred and polarization.  In today’s world, the Tea Party represents supposedly disenfranchised people. Yet, who are they? Glenn Beck is certainly not disenfranchised. The John Birch Society and other White Supremacists need to stay disenfranchised. Who is representing the people?

We have a government that is gridlocked. We have a President who is well intentioned and unable to move the agenda of change that he was elected to promote. We have a Congress that is more concerned with how things look than how things should be. They have not stopped taking Lobbyist money. They have not stopped their Pork/Pet projects. Yet, they rail on and on about the “other”. We have become a society that is so focused on the “other” we don’t look at ourselves.

Here is the problem and the solution. When we as a people and as individuals get back to the roots of this country, we will see interesting things. The Declaration of Independence says we are all created equal and all have the “unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. Do you really believe that the John Birch Society adheres to these ideals? Do you really believe that White Supremacists adhere to these ideals? We know that they don’t! Yet, we are hailing them as “real” Americans. Who is the lunatic fringe now?

Going back to the roots of our country means going beyond our own self-interest to advance the greater interests of God and others. It means living a life of Spirituality and decency. It means being serious about not coveting and not murdering the souls of another. It means not worshiping at the feet of idols and not making Golden Calves. It means seeing the intrinsic worth of oneself and another. It means being a nation based on inclusiveness, not exclusivity.

We are inheritors of a country founded on faith, freedom and love. When we listen to people extol hate and hate-mongers, we forfeit our inheritance. When we listen to what is being said and do nothing, we are contributing to the evil in the world. I don’t care about Republican, Democrat, Independent, Etc. I care about preserving our heritage and growing our inheritance from the Founding Fathers. I care about being a “nation of Priests”, not just Jews, but all people. I care about extending and practicing the teachings of the Prophets, Jesus, the Dalai Lama and all other Spiritual leaders and faiths. These teachings are: Love, Justice, Compassion and Truth. Can you say that the Tea Party and John Birch Society are growing this inheritance?


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