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Lady luck can turn into one cruel mistress.

Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Ronda Hatefi For The Register-Guard

My story is about luck. You know, everyone today wishes to be lucky. Lucky enough to win the game, to get the promotion, to not get a speeding ticket when you're late for work, and of course, to win the lottery or just your local poker game.

How much does just plain luck have to do with these things? Are some people just luckier than others? Can you improve your luck by carrying a lucky penny, rabbit's foot or token?

I used to think so. We always said that my brother was the lucky one in our family. As kids we would walk through the store together, and he's the one who found a $20 bill near the register. On a camping trip we all walked along the same log, and he's the one who found the $10 bill.

This did not stop in adulthood. When he turned 18 he bought himself a scratch-off ticket from the Oregon Lottery. Guess what: a $500 winner. How can one guy be this lucky?

My brother continued to buy lottery tickets, winning some, losing some. He bought some Megabucks tickets and keno tickets as well. We heard a lot more about the winning than the losing, so I can't really tell you a percentage of wins to losses.

Then video poker came into Oregon. It was a new challenge for my brother, one that he took on like any other, with 110 percent effort. Again, he started out lucky, with wins, enough for us to all think that he was just lucky.

After some time, it seemed that my brother's luck had started to run out. Things were not going his way any more. He was losing more than he was winning, to the point of having to borrow and sell things to keep gambling, and he was passed up for a promotion at work.

He continued to gamble, more than he had been, to try to get his lost money back - chasing that win, knowing that his luck would turn again. It didn't happen as he had hoped. For a guy who was used to winning, these were some pretty hard facts to face.

My brother became suicidal and spoke about it to only a couple of people; they didn't know what to do, so they did nothing. I am not sure how long he felt this way; I know that he did write a few notes. The last one he wrote was the hardest to read. He spoke of a cruel world; things weren't going his way any more. He felt like a ghost, someone that no one could see, and that he couldn't see anyone else.

You see, Bobby's luck took him places for a long time - but when it ran out, he lost more than his money. Before he lost his life, he lost his self-respect, his self-esteem, his quality of life, his love of life and his desire to live and hope. He wanted it all to stop.

This is way too much to lose. I think gambling with these things is too much to ask.

My point is that you really can't rely on luck. You hear about the good things that gambling does, the big wins; this is the other side. If you can't control it by sticking to time and money limits, or if it controls your thoughts, or it is not fun any more, it is time to get help.

I have learned there are people out there who care - people who really want to help and know how to help. I've learned that it is OK to talk about your gambling problem, or your family member's gambling problem, without feeling the shame and guilt that Bobby felt.

I know that if we continue to educate people on this issue, maybe we can help others not suffer the same pain that Bobby suffered - pain that we are still suffering today. I have always said that the pain that my family and I have felt is sometimes unbearable, but it is nothing compared to what my brother must have been feeling at the moment he decided to end his life.

I can't imagine having that kind of pain over something that is offered as entertainment by our state and country.

Please help us continue to share about the addiction of gambling and the trouble it can cause. Know that help is available. It is free, confidential and it works. Call (877) 2-STOP NOW.

Ronda Hatefi of Eugene is founder of Oregonians for Gambling Awareness.
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Title Annotation:Commentary
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Mar 24, 2006
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