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Gambling Addiction: It’s Not About The Money

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The National Council of Problem Gambling recently reported that approximately 6 million adults and half a million teenagers in America engage in problematic gambling, or have what one may call gambling addiction. Gambling addiction refers to a pattern of making risky monetary bets in a way that impairs a person’s social, psychological, emotional, physical, or financial functioning. The rate of occurrence in youth is about two to three times that of adults, with almost half of those with the problem as adults having started before age 17 years.  Moreover, men tend to develop problematic gambling habits more than women do, and develop such habits earlier than women, as well.

At first glance, it seems as though gambling addiction is driven by a desire to accumulate money.  After all, gambling often involves making high wagers with the hope of receiving significant monetary returns in a short period of time.  When those with gambling addictions talk about their gambling history, they usually glamorize circumstances where they might have instantly won large sums of money and describe it with euphoric nostalgia.  With such focus given to the money, it is easy to think that gambling addiction is all about making money.

However, this addiction is not really about making money.  In fact, when looking more carefully at the process of gambling, specifically at how such habitual gamblers win and lose money with such ease and nonchalance, it becomes clear that they don’t respect money. After all, if they did, many would stop after acquiring significant gains.  But it almost never works that way. Those with gambling addiction usually gamble away considerable money and won’t stop until they have lost almost all of it, or exhausted significant assets. These facts, combined with the relief they feel when losing money, suggests that on some level those with gambling addiction are actively seeking to lose money.  There is a part of them that does not want the money; they want to disconnect from it.  Of course, this begs the question: why would anyone want to lose money?

To understand this phenomenon, it’s important to first appreciate what money is really about.  At the core, money is a sign of power, status, and control.  It is a social marker signaling that the beholder is special and able to perform certain functions, often to the amazement of others.  Money is attractive to people, and everyone wants it because of the convenience it brings and attention it garners. At the same time, society today is very focused on promoting the acquisition of wealth, sending the message that the key to living a happy, successful life is having lots of money.  This social glamorization of money is problematic because the truth is while money may buy convenience and attract attention from others, it is inherently vain and will never leave a person fulfilled.

While people with gambling addiction may not consciously be aware of the shortcomings of money, deep down they understand how futile and empty money actually is. They are arguably stuck between the social messages of money and the truth about money, and in a way are frustrated by this. They are struggling inside and the gambling experience offers a powerful distraction as the thought of making instant riches can become intoxicating.  But in the end, it’s merely a distraction, and a costly one, too. In gambling addiction, the act of gambling seems to represent an ambivalence and insecurity surrounding the concept of “value and worth.”  Money can powerfully mask one’s feelings of personal worthlessness and emptiness with the façade of having social value and worth. The pursuit of money distracts from the truth of how empty one feels, and offers a quick patch to give the illusion that one is valuable because, after all, they have “all this money.” However, inherent in this process is a confusion between social value and one’s true self-value.  By feverishly pursuing money in such a reckless manner, such gamblers are trying to gain social value to mask their personal emptiness.  That’s why they are not satisfied with any amount of money they win, and might even feel relief when they lose it.  Losing the money inches them closer to their truth, which deep down they are probably yearning for.  In a way, they are upset at the money because the money has let them down.  The social promises of money has not filled their internal void, hence the devaluing of money.  In reality, those with gambling addiction are not looking for more money, wealth, or social attention.  Deep down, what they’re looking for is true meaning, honest self-worth, and genuine fulfillment. Ironically, all things money cannot buy.

Any successful gambling addiction treatment regimen must include an open, honest, and truthful look into the root causes of the addiction.  In particular, it’s important to pay special attention to why the person turned to this behavior in the first place, and why he or she continues to engage in it. Once this is clarified, it’s key that the person be offered customized tools that will help him or her successfully cope with triggers in healthier, more effective ways.  While the road of addiction recovery is not necessarily an easy one, the truth is that with the proper drive, motivation, persistence, and help, it’s definitely possible. People who successfully recover from gambling addiction are probably some of the most focused people in life.  They know who they are, they know what they value, and they know what they’re worth.

Not in dollar amounts.

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Dr. Raymond Nourmand is a Licensed Psychologist and Psychology Lecturer, specializing in treating children, teenagers, and adults with a wide range of mental health issues. For more information, please visit, www.raymondnourmand.com

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Nothing Matters More Than This

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We live in a world where FOCUS is even MORE important than your INTELLIGENCE.

From our never-ending Facebook feed, to our freshly-updated YouTube subscription page, to our email inbox, we live in an abundant world of information.

However, is it really necessary to consume all of this general information?

Will it ever be useful? Will it ever make any difference in your life?

No. Most likely not.

Learning a little about a lot of different things doesn’t really amount to much.

Instead, you should FOCUS.

Focus on learning and applying ONE skill as intensely and deeply as possible.

Focus is where mastery kicks in.

Kobe Bryant wasn’t the best basketball player that ever played because he was the best all-around person.

Kobe Bryant was world-class because he was absolutely great at ONE thing and one thing only: playing basketball.

So instead of consuming as much general information as you possibly can… instead FOCUS.

FOCUS on one topic. FOCUS on one task. FOCUS on one goal.

Because today, more than ever, focus is way more important than your intelligence.

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New Initiative Launched to Restore Memories and a Legacy

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On Tuesday January 30th, Thirty Years After (30 YA) hosted the Legacy Launch, one of their largest, most innovative and interactive projects to date, at the Ahyra Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills.

Sam Yebri, President of Thirty Years After, explains the Legacy Project, “The Project is a grassroots initiative that will help preserve and honor the Iranian  Jewish experience through video for future generations,  and provide an opportunity for every family to capture their parents’  and grandparents’ most compelling memories and anecdotes before it is  too late.”

Doors opened to guest at 7:00 pm where they were greeted with smiles from 30 YA volunteers and staff members. The lobby was packed with guests who were treated to wonderful Iranian street food not often seen or eaten in the United States. The delicious cuisine included Labu (beets baked in their own juice, and typically served steaming hot in a street cart during the dead of winter), Baghali (beans topped with spices, typically served the same way as Labu), Dizi (a meat mash/stew– usually made with lamb, but made with beef and chickpeas at our event), Shohleh Zard (saffron rice pudding), Chos-e-fil (otherwise known as popcorn) and Mahi-Cheh Polo (herbed rice with beef shanks).

The large number of attendees was a testament to the genuine and unprecedented support for the new generation of leaders of the Los Angeles Iranian-American Jewish community.  The printed program for the event listed over 25 generous families and businesses that supported the Legacy Launch and congratulated 30 YA on celebrating their 10 year anniversary.

This event was magical because of the broad range of emotions experienced just by being shoulder to shoulder with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins born in Tehran. Sadness is one emotion that could have been felt while standing in the room, because of all of the untold stories that were not recorded, told or heard. How many stories have we “missed out” on because family members have passed away, younger generations have gone off to college, or simply because we took time for granted? At the Legacy Launch, time stood still for a few hours for the sake of a community recording the past, but very aware of time, embracing beloved memories on video, but also progressively moving toward the future.

Yebri explained, “Our history informs our present and powers our future. This is especially true when our families and community have such a rich legacy of inspiring memories and experiences in Iran and during our exodus to America.  30 Years After  is thrilled to launch ‘The Legacy Project’ as part of the organization’s 10th anniversary celebration.”

Bobby Zolekhian, former President of Nessah Young Professionals expressed, “It was one of the most inspirational events I have been to. I am recruiting people to share their stories. This is something extraordinary!”

Featured guest speakers during the screening included Mrs. Susan Azizzadeh, President of the Iranian American Jewish Federation, Dr. Saba Soomekh, Assistant Director of Interreligious and Intercommunity Affairs at AJC, Megan Nemandoust, Margalit Rosenthal, Liora Simozar and 30 YA President, Sam Yebri.

The dynamic presentation of the screening and its intimate interviews clearly validated that the second and third generations of Iranian Jews growing up in the United States are confidently embracing their unspoken responsibility to record the stories of generations before them for a purpose with a greater cause– maintaining their identity, culture, and traditions.

Learn more about preserving your legacy with 30 YA at https://legacy.30yearsafter.org/

 

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The Honorable Mensch’n: Shanel Melamed

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A true essence of Persian grace and humility, this issue’s honorable mensch is Shanel Melamed, Executive Director of the nonprofit organization, 30 Years After. When she’s not bridging the gap between subdivisions of our own community, Melamed travels and trains in Capoeira (a Brazilian martial art) but always makes sure she is home in time for Kabob dinner with her grandparents on Thursday nights.

30 Years After promotes the participation and leadership of Iranian American Jews in American political, civic and Jewish life. In the last decade, they have become the doorway for anyone who wishes to reach out and build a relationship with Persian Jews, from political candidates, to universities or other nonprofit organizations. While the nonprofit often organizes socio-educational events for the community, its flagship program is their six-month long “Maher Fellowship”, which trains young Persian Jewish professionals in developing leadership skills and educates them on their cultural history and Jewish Los Angeles today. Shanel explains that the fellowship’s mission mirrors the Jewish concept of L’dor Vador, instilling a sense of pride upon first generation Iranian American Jews and subsequently creating a ripple effect on the rest of the community. Melamed intends for graduates of the fellowship to embrace their heritage, and as they enter their first stages of their professions and parenthood, feel entitled to pass on their legacy for generations to come. Shanel believes that,

“People of our generation should be knowledgeable and capable of cross-coding, of how to be American in the Persian Jewish world and how to be Persian Jewish in the American world. There’s no need to be only one of the three…it takes education on identity, culture, and history and our work doesn’t always have short-term return on investment. We’re in it for the long run, but that’s the spirit of what we do. My hope is that as our generation starts having kids, and as they educate them at home, it’ll be very similar to how we grew up- in terms of traditions and values, but maybe with an American mentality.”

Shanel works to make sure that the organization is “educating, empowering and connecting a community of like-minded people that can then be multipliers within their contemporaries of embodying what it means to be all three and how to leverage every aspect of that identity.” She advocates that Iranian American Jews cherish their roots as they serve well in the United States.

In the effort to maintain Jewish values in a modernized world, Melamed believes in letting go of certain outdated mentalities; such as not speaking about the things that plague us or seek guidance and support without fear of backlash from the community, deeming us as “unmarriageable” or tarnishing our family name. The Persian Jewish community is not immune to adversities of the human experience. Shanel explains, “It takes time for the community to evolve. It took the Jews 40 years in the desert. Our generation is in a very tough situation, but we need to embody the changes that we want to see. Since Jewish America has been on the decline for a variety of reasons and Persian Jews arrived here only about 40 years ago, we have a lot to give.” She hopes that the organization impacts the Persian Jewish community to eventually feel empowered enough to “open doors within existing institutions to allow those institutions to welcome our voice as well.” Shanel often noticed that Jewish events in Los Angeles are not very inclusive of Persian Jews, despite their large presence. She explains, “We need to be embraced…not to be forced to change in order to feel comfortable somewhere…it is very uncomfortable to go to a Jewish event and words are being thrown around in Yiddish, and you have to ask what they mean. You don’t feel like you fit in.” Melamed finds it unfortunate that Persian Jews have been underserved for so long and that consequently the greater Jewish community has not been able to benefit from the wealth of Jewish connection and “fierce Zionism” that Persian Jews have to offer. This is where her work with 30 Years After comes in, to “teach young Jews what the Jewish landscape is and how they fit in.”

On the topic of Saturday morning synagogue congregations dwindling, Shanel emphasizes the significance of keeping Friday nights holy: “Because the home has been the epicenter of Persian Jewry, I think we keep the community alive through Shabbat dinners.” Melamed reflects on a quote by Ahad Ha’Am, “‘More than the Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews.’ Persian Jews are the epitome of what that means in a modern society, and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of that story.”

 

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june, 2018

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