Kevin Conlon had it all – a career on Bay Street, a wife and family, and a house in an upscale neighbourhood.
But he was struggling with a then undiagnosed mood disorder. And before long, he was caught in the grip of problem gambling.
In the throes of his addiction, he lost his home, his job and his family. With $38 in his pocket, Kevin walked from coffee shop to coffee shop to keep warm; broke, both financially and spiritually, and with nowhere to turn.
Through CAMH, Kevin sought shelter at Transition House, a residence for men recovering from addictions. Within six months he was volunteering at the non-profit, and was eventually appointed Chair of the Board of Directors. At Transition House, they say, Kevin was the first to make it from “resident to President.”
But this story doesn’t end so neatly.
Kevin’s bipolar disorder was still not diagnosed. He experienced another manic episode, leading to a gambling relapse. He lost the career he had spent 10 years rebuilding, and the trust restored by his loved ones was once again shattered.
This time, accurate diagnosis and treatment of his mood disorder helped Kevin to find balance in his life and made him more determined than ever to offer support and hope for others trapped in the cycle of problem gambling. “I’m lucky,” he says. “I got another chance.”
Kevin continues to work on his recovery with individual and group therapy. Through the years, he has been a passionate and sought-after speaker for the United Way, forging a genuine and emotional connection with his audience. He knows that giving back is an integral part of his own recovery: “I’m not a victim. There’s more for me to do.”
Problem gambling, particularly when accompanied by mental illness, is potentially devastating in its impact on individuals and their families. Approximately 455,000 lives in Ontario are shattered by a gambling addiction – and only a small percentage of those affected seek treatment, partly due to stigma and inadequate public awareness.
As the first recipient of a Transforming Lives Award in recovery from a gambling addiction, Kevin is honoured to help shed light on this complex and poorly understood condition. Having come back twice from the brink, he’s determined to show that recovery from gambling addiction can, and does, happen. He’s living proof.