Louisiana Association of Compulsive Gambling offers free programs for addicts

Monique and Joey Cangiamilla (Source: WAFB)
Monique and Joey Cangiamilla (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Most recovering addicts will tell you that it can't be done alone, but also that support and help can often be hard to find.

The state of Louisiana wants to make sure gambling addicts know they can get help and it's free through the Center of Recovery, which is operated by the Louisiana Association on Compulsive Gambling.

While it's hard to know how many gambling addicts there are in the state, some are getting help in what they know will be a lifelong fight. We spoke with one man who said he got that help and it saved his life.

"Anything I could gamble on, I gambled on," said Joey Cangiamilla, a recovering gambling addict. "From fishing Calcutta to golfing to casinos, cards, lotteries, dice - whatever it was."

Cangiamilla was a gambling addict for 42 years, but he is now among a small percentage of gambling addicts who have reached out for help. Some experts say while concrete numbers are hard to come by, they feel as many as 50,000 people statewide may be addicts like Joey and need to know there are resources available.

Program director for the Louisiana Problem Gambling Helpline, Robyn Filler, said there is a counselor in every region and "roughly 700 people were treated in the state for problem gambling."

Administrators want that number to increase, which means addicts need to overcome more than just the compulsion to gamble.

"There is hope in a future and you will have dreams again, but you have to start by seeking help," Cangiamilla explained.

Cangiamilla added that gambling is an adrenaline rush.

"A lot of people say, 'It must've been a rush when you were winning,' but for me, the rush is as big when you're losing as when winning because it's the desperation of getting back," Cangiamilla said.

His recovery started more than two years ago and the counseling will never stop. He said he and his wife, Monique, are now a team and the CORE program helped them get to the bottom of the problem.

"It's a lifestyle change, like anything you try to overcome," said Monique Cangiamilla. "If you keep doing the same thing, you're going to get the same results. So, if you want a different life, you have to do things differently. You have to retrain your brain and retrain your actions."

The Cangiamillas want addicts to forget the stigma, get help and know they're not alone. There's still a chance to have a brighter future.

"He's being honest and I'm being honest and we're living life in reality and not in denial," Monique Cangiamilla added.