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We are exhausted on reacting to a problem.  The last couple of years have show us that while waiting for an emergency was what we knew, once the emergency happens, it might be too late to effectively curtail the aftermath.  It's been a very trying and extremely difficult stretch of time in every aspect of our lives.  Having to be reactive to anything limits the options in handling what the cause is and how to effectively handle it.  A take away from all that we've been though should be that getting out early in front of an issue to help address the cause should hopefully keep the full effect of the potential consequences.  There's something that's really very new on the grand scheme of things and the effects long term are barely being seen now.  We're talking about the rise in gambling disorders and the proliferation in options presented for this kind of entertainment.

Those last few words.  Entertainment Options.  This is in no way a deterrent to someone who enjoys a trip to a casino, maybe a scratcher or two, a lotto ticket for a chance at easy street or a bet on a game with a buddy.  Like any of the other things we enjoy that come with a little release of endorphins that make ya feel good, that's what they are there for, feeling good.  If it's a win on a slot pull, $10 bucks for a buck on a rub off or a $5 spot from Bill in the cubicle across from you that also comes with bragging rights over the win, all in good fun.  There are those however who get that little blast of excitement and want more.  Some too want more NOW!  Some will get to the point of believing that if they just had one more chance...that one more hand of cards, one more spin of the more is all it's going to take to break even or you just know it's "gonna hit".  These are the first steps into the danger zone.  

We've partnered with the Lakeshore Regional Entity to help start the conversation to "Stay Outta the Dangerzone".  The Lakeshore Regional Entity is a non profit organization that's focus is on behavioral health for children and adults.  Helping with addiction, helping parents have a talk with kids about drugs and the dangers they carry and so much more.  It's a group of community leaders who's goal is to help better our community by making sure that the resources are in the right hands of those who can help.  With the increasing ease of access and the potential damage that can be done with a gambling problem they decided that getting a leg up on the messaging before it's time to react is a great way to start talking about it.

What are the warning signs?  Who are the most vulnerable?  May is Older American's Month.  Are your parents or grandparents pulled in by the online casino on their phone?  If so, how do you notice the warning signs and talk to them before it's too late?  Do you see yourself spending more and more time placing online bets and gaming?  Are you betting to recover losses?  Do you go over your budget for entertainment when it comes to gambling?  If you notice, even the online betting sites and area casino's all have ways to help you stop.  They are even telling you to Stay Outta The Danger Zone, but for some...that idea of "next time" just takes over.  It's the instant gratification reward system.  Followed by the deep shame and guilt that follows then the lies and excuses and excuses and soon, you're missing paying the bills, rent or more. 

In Muskegon we've got 1 specialist who's been trained in helping with gambling addictions.  Her name is Angelita Valdez and not only is she able to identify confidentially and help treat a gambling problem no matter how big or small.   She's bi-lingual and can help in either English or Spanish.  The gambling issue is just one of Angelita's specialties at SERVICIOS DE ESPERANZA, LLC/ SERVICES OF HOPE.  The Lakeshore Regional Entity assisted in her training for this specific area and the very best part of all of this, is that if you think you or someone you care for is developing a problem, the services through Angelita are free.  Angelita is one of a handful of trained therapists in problem gambling disorder across LRE's seven -county service footprint.

Angelita and I sat down for a visit.  We're discussing the tip of the iceberg this time and some of the early warning signs as well as ways to approach the conversation with those who you think might be showing signs of being in the danger zone.  Want to STAY OUTTA THE DANGER ZONE?  Take a listen.


Are we here to stop the fun? Not in the least! But, if there was a way to prevent the day from you saying "I wish I would have known sooner....." we're here for that.  Like any of our other pleasure releases, a little can turn into a lot in a big hurry.  It's SO easy to not see it coming and with a lifetime of experience behind me, let me tell you, being proactive as opposed to reactive is infinitely easier than losing everything.  Sure, my loss came from seeking another pleasure but in the end, self destructive behavior knows no boundaries.  It's up to you to Stay Outta the Danger Zone and the tools and people are in place to help you do just that, right here in Muskegon.  Since we're fortunate enough to have Angelita speaking two languages too, a word for her for those who speak Spanish....

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