Skip to content

“Just Stop Digging” An Introduction to Treatment

Published: March 17, 2022

March means something different to everyone—to you it might mean the beginning of spring, or the onset of Daylight Savings Time, or maybe even the beginning of March Madness. But at Ohio for Responsible Gambling, March means it’s Problem Gambling Awareness Month.

Problem gambling is one of the most invisible addictions, and the month of March is a time dedicated to bringing the addiction and the journey to recovery surrounding it into the light.

Steven Kapela is a recovering problem gambler and Manager of Problem Gambling Treatment and Prevention at the Zepf Center in Toledo, Ohio. His department serves 40 active clients at any one time through individual therapy and group sessions, both in-person and online.

Being in recovery himself, Steven has a unique understanding of what his clients go through during treatment, and what they went through prior to seeking it. For many, treatment comes after the realization that they can’t quit—when the money is gone, when all the relationships are damaged, when there is no hope—when they have hit their bottom.

“For me personally, I thought I could control it and I felt I could quit whenever I wanted. And then I got to a point where I had to quit and I discovered I couldn’t,” Steven said. “I think hitting bottom is different for everybody. But the interesting thing about bottoms is that the real bottom, the true bottom, is where you stop digging. You don’t have to ride an elevator all the way to the base. You can get off on three if you want to.”

When someone makes the decision to seek help, the next step is often entering a treatment program. For Steven and his clients, the focus of the treatment is not just on coping mechanisms. The emphasis is more so on what a client will gain—not what they will lose.

“If you’re going to give something up, you have to create something to replace it with. As gambling gets smaller life gets bigger,” Steven said. “We don’t try and fight gambling. We try and replace it with things that have few or no negative consequences.”

And recovery doesn’t just end. It requires a constant effort towards a better life, and unlike other addictions, family and friends often do not even realize if their loved one is struggling. The month of March is a time to educate yourself on the signs, the resources, and the addiction itself.

“Gambling is a really fascinating addiction because it’s the hidden addiction. I’ve had people in my office in tears, telling me how they lost $60,000 in an afternoon. And they didn’t smell like gambling. They didn’t slur their words. They didn’t stumble. They didn’t wreck their car. They didn’t get in a fistfight. They’re just a nice, normal person,” Steven said. “And that’s what makes it so dangerous. But particularly, it’s what makes it so hard on families. They never see it coming.”

Know the signs. Become familiar with the facts surrounding problem gambling. And know that Ohio for Responsible Gambling is here to help.

If you or someone you know may have an issue with problem gambling, please explore our website,, for free resources and information. You can also call the Problem Gambling Helpline (1-800-589-9966), or text “4hope” to 741741 to find free, confidential resources in your area.

Back to News