The recovering addict has been helping other addicts in our community for over a decade

TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) – March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month. Gambling addiction is a problem faced by thousands of people in our region.

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

Steve Kapela had been a drug addict for over 30 years. He says he became addicted to morphine at the age of 13 after a canoeing accident, and that was just the beginning.

“By the time I was a teenager, I was a full-fledged alcoholic. I kept doing all the drugs of the 70s, 80s and 90s,” Kapela said.

His list of addictions eventually included gambling. He played slot machines in casinos.

“I couldn’t leave. I would go to the ATM and take out another hundred dollars and another hundred dollars. Sometimes I stayed in there for days. The only reason I quit gambling early was because it affected my ability to afford alcohol and cocaine.

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

“At 47, I made the decision to change. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it came with rewards I couldn’t have imagined. You know what’s more addictive than drugs, alcohol and gambling? Success.”

He went to get a university degree, a master’s degree and came to work at the Zepf Center. He is now responsible for the treatment and prevention of gambling at Zepf.

“If you’re living secret lives or borrowing money to gamble, if your relationships are hurting, or if you’re shirking your responsibilities, you’ve got a problem. The good news is that treatment for problem gambling is possible.

Steve says treatment at Zepf focuses on all aspects of your life.

“We have the ability to treat all parts of a human being. Mental health, addictions, housing and employment.

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

“In Lucas County alone, approximately 3,700 people meet the criteria for a gaming disorder at some point in their lives.”

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

“One in five drug addicts treated with Zepf is likely to also have a gambling disorder.”

Steve says it’s never too late to rewrite his life story – and he’s proof of that.

“It’s about being the person you were meant to be, not the person you became because of alcohol, drugs 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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