Gambling is a tough illness.
It takes a gambler’s money, and pride. It’s got the highest suicide rate of any addiction.
It affects a gambler’s entire family, friends and colleagues.
And gambling impacts not just people with too little money to begin with. Connecticut has 50,000 problem gamblers. Plenty live in places like Westport.
We have neighbors who spend their weekends at casinos, where they’re treated like kings.
We have kids who are addicted to gambling via video games. It starts when they buy treasure chests, with their parents’ credit cards. Some become binge gamers.
Rob Zuckerman knows all that, and much more. He’s a recovering gambling addict.
A 1968 graduate of Staples High School with a BFA in photography from the Rochester Institute of Technology, he took over his father’s business after his death in a 1978 automobile accident.
Rob moved the studio to South Norwalk in 1981 — an early pioneer in the new SoNo real estate venture. He ran it successfully for 20 years, before relocating to Fairfield.
During the 2008 recession, and with the rise of smartphones and other technology, the photography business changed dramatically.
In 2009 his son Ben fell off his bike, and was run over by a UPS driver. In the year it took him to recover, Rob got addicted to online gambling.
He got himself clean, and has not gambled in a decade. Along the way, he learned a lot about the disease — and his own compulsive side.
He credits much of his recovery to Renaissance — a Norwalk-based treatment center — and Gamblers Anonymous in Darien.
To pay it forward, Rob became one of the state’s 5 peer counselor for people with gambling issues. He answers hotline calls, escorts people to GA meetings, and helps with gamblers’ denial, guilt, remorse and anger however he can.
Rob is also a recovery coach at Renaissance.
Now — with plans rolling along for a casino in Bridgeport — Rob wants Westporters to be alert to the dangers of gambling for young people.
Rob is proud that Renaissance is sponsoring a talk on “Youth, Internet Habits and Mental Health.”
Set for Sunday, March 1 (12:30 to 2 p.m., Unitarian Church, 10 Lyons Plains Road), it features Dr. Paul Weigle. An adolescent psychiatrist, he’ll speak about how gaming and screen habits impact physical and mental health of children.
The church’s addictions recovery ministry is a co-sponsor of the event.
He’s seen the effects of gambling first-hand. Rob has seen too the work that can be done — by community organizations and his own church — to help with recovery from addictions.
He’s betting this is an important event, for anyone who lives with or works with young people.