Welcome To The New RPGC Blog!
Hello Readers, I appreciate you giving our new RPGC blog a look! Here’s what you’ll get:
- the ramblings and perspective of 30 years in the field of helping people
- a boutique of outpatient services: how RPGC and our community rocks together
- clinical snapshots, birds-eye view of the field, and helpful hints.
On July 15, 2021 I began a new chapter and shifted from CEO to Founder, handing the administrative reins of our beloved 15-year-old non-profit Reno Problem Gambling Center (RPGC) to our Executive Director just promoted from part-time executive assistant (and wife of Thom our counselor, and long time friend), Teri Baltisberger. If you have something in your hand, raise it in a toast to Teri, who has taken the administrative duties of this growing teenager of a business! Wisely, she’s going to be at RPGC 20 hours a week and spend more time with her family since her recent retirement from the DMV. It’s an auspicious occasion, and I’m beyond grateful for Teri, Thom, Donna, and all the Board members, Advisory Board, volunteers, and donors and especially the clients who have made the RPGC a consistently growing and flourishing reality in Reno.
I told Teri it felt like I lost fifty pounds that day. In truth, it felt weird. A mixture of relief and gratitude with curiosity and mild anxiety about what’s next…semi-retirement! I’ll remain the Clinical Director, happily doing what I love best about being a therapist: meeting with people. It’s all about the people, isn’t it? I’m blessed to have colleagues, employees, and clients who are truly incredible. Every day is hard work, joy, intense sadness, frustration, and humbling awe. And that takes a great deal of energy, so I must admit it’s unsettling to go home around 5:00pm when it’s traditionally been “until the cows come home.” And too, I’m super excited! This is the next generation of our non-profit serving our great community!
People all around me declutter, pack, move, let go of much, much more than I’ve had to consider letting go. Every day at work I’m listening to dear clients who have faced grief and loss in the range of the loss of trust, dreams, financial security, and health to acceptance of powerlessness that includes a remarkable acceptance and peace. Amazing. In my own family, children and parents are uprooting, downsizing, and continuing the gypsy quest for their own joyful spots. So, I look in the mirror and say, “Oh, my heck! You can do this and a whole lot more!” And I strive to live my affirmation band-aids which I ask all my clients to do at the end of each soul-ripping session. My favorites include, “I am enough.” “There is enough love.” “I am a daughter of God, who loves me.” And my daughter’s favorites include, “there are no emergencies” and “understanding is the booby prize.” (Ask an elder what a “booby prize” is.)
I’d like to close this inaugural blogpost with a few thoughts about being involved in politics. I believe once you embrace your home community you become politically active, in the form of community service. Otherwise, you may be a hermit, and I have some treatment suggestions for those of you who became more isolated during the pandemic…give our Center a call! (775-284-5335, renopgc.org) Until you are ready to embark in therapy, please start in your neighborhood with a fresh attitude about who and how you can serve.
My political persuasion is to serve. Actually, that’s my foundational belief in recovery: service and gratitude keep me happy, joyous, and free. So, I serve on committees, boards, and other cool places. I picked committees relating to my passion: helping professionals and especially families affected by behavioral disorders like gambling.
Recently, the cursed pandemic led our leaders to ask, then institute a strange demand, for Nevadans to become vaccinated. Health, as we all know, is on any day of the week a “life and death” situation. I couldn’t agree more: the pandemic has reminded us of what our grandparents always told us: “wash your hands and don’t pick your nose.” The vaccine lottery was started in Nevada. Sigh. I was very, very disappointed. I said a few things to friends about my multiple negative feelings. I appreciated the emails many recovering friends created as they tried to decide what to do next. Finally, I asked our Board of Directors to assist me in writing a letter to the Governor with our shared thoughts and recommendations, moving forward. It’s too late to change the way the lottery is being administered in Nevada: currently, everyone who is vaccinated is automatically entered. Whether this was considered or not, I’ll never know. The consideration of what being entered into a gambling venture without one’s permission for a person in recovery, or their family members, or their counselors, supporters, etc., can potentially cause harm to them, is not being discussed. When friends called the appropriate state agencies to inquire how to get off the list, or as we say, “excluded,” they were met with polite and confused responses that did not resolve the issue.
So what is the issue? Choice. As astounding as it may sound to someone not affected by gambling disorder, alcohol use disorder, substance use disorder, etc., those of us in the recovery field do not want to win anything. It’s because we don’t want our freedom to choose taken away from us, ever again. We want the option to not go anywhere near the behaviors we chose in our addiction that used to be a plague, a nightmare, and a ball-and-chain of compulsive behavior. You ask a gambler what they worry most about in recovery and many say, “that first bet.” They know they must do everything to avoid it, or they are dragged away again and the addiction won’t let go until the last penny is gone.
The Governor’s vaccine lottery is one example of freedoms and choices being ignored and “the greater good,” that appears to be a “life and death situation,” taking precedence at the cost of many people’s recoveries. There are at least 6% of Nevadans who would be diagnosed with Gambling Disorder if asked, and between four and seven more people around them are severely negatively impacted by that disorder. In my personal opinion, vaccines and health are indeed very important. Let me be clear: I’m not anti-vaccine. I’m not anti-marketing for public health. What I am opposed to is using gambling, and specifically a lottery, which is unconstitutional in Nevada, to swiftly attempt to solve a health problem. There would have been simpler, more effective ways, I think, than using a “big win” as an enticement to be vaccinated. In the future, should leaders want my opinion, a team of recovering experts paired with public relations professionals and researchers could brainstorm ways to reach Nevadans in need and appeal to them in a way that does not potentially trigger, retraumatize, or unintentionally cause relapse.
The pandemic reminded me that trust is needed, and we were given an opportunity to ponder that in the quiet of our homes for many months. A significant number of people have turned to meditation and connecting with the God of their understanding for peace and hope. My call to action is to be the person who is trustworthy. Be the person who your neighbors turn to for kindness and service. Be the person who returns fear with calmness, attentive listening, and reassurance. And ask for help, because there are many who are ready to give you a smile and hope-filled encouraging words.
Clinical Director, Reno Problem Gambling Center