The Courage to Change: A Recovery Podcast

Renée Siegel: Married to a Gay Man and Then a Gambling Addict, She Found a Way Out Through the Enneagram

Episode Summary

Originally educated as a Marriage and Family Therapist in 1980 in Detroit, Michigan, Renée Siegel has worked in the therapeutic field for 41 years. She is the daughter and spouse of family members impacted by addiction. Her father was addicted to drugs, and she later married a man who had a devastating addiction to gambling. Renée understands firsthand the impact that addiction has on the family, and she shares incredibly intimate details of her story around what it means to recover from the effects of a spouse’s gambling addiction that took everything she owned and more. In private practice now, Renée uses a pivotal tool she discovered many years ago called the Enneagram. After using it with hundreds of people impacted by addiction, it is clear to her that it increases self-awareness and tolerance, reduces shame, and applies to all stages of recovery.

Episode Notes

Originally educated as a Marriage and Family Therapist in 1980 in Detroit, Michigan, Renée Siegel has worked in the therapeutic field for 41 years. She is the daughter and spouse of family members impacted by addiction. Her father was addicted to drugs, and she later married a man who had a devastating addiction to gambling.

Renée understands firsthand the impact that addiction has on the family, and she shares incredibly intimate details of her story around what it means to recover from the effects of a spouse’s gambling addiction that took everything she owned and more. 

In private practice now, Renée uses a pivotal tool she discovered many years ago called the Enneagram. After using it with hundreds of people impacted by addiction, it is clear to her that it increases self-awareness and tolerance, reduces shame, and applies to all stages of recovery.

 

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Episode Transcription

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Hello, beautiful people. Welcome to The Courage to Change: A Recovery Podcast. My name is Ashley Loeb Blassingame and I am your host. Today we have Renee Siegel. Oh my gosh, she's so awesome. Renee originally educated as a marriage and family therapist in 1980 in Detroit, Michigan, has worked in the therapeutic field for 41 years. She's the daughter and spouse of family members impacted by addiction. Her father was addicted to drugs and she later married a man who had a devastating addiction to gambling. Renee understands firsthand the impact addiction has on the family and she shares incredibly intimate details of her story, around what it means to recover from the effects of a spouse's gambling addiction that took everything she owned and more. In private practice now, Renee uses a pivotal tool she discovered many years ago called the Enneagram. After using it with hundreds of people impacted by addiction, it is clear to her that it increases self-awareness and tolerance, reduces shame, and applies to all stages of recovery.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

We believe it is important to talk about the effects of addiction on the family here at The Courage to Change podcast. Gambling is one of the more insidious problems that people face. And this podcast and this story were incredibly eyeopening to hear from a woman who literally lost everything. Her husband was an attorney who put every debt he ever had in Renee's name. So, when they divorced, she stood in bankruptcy court facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt that she knew nothing about. Can you even imagine? Oh my gosh.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Well, she lived through it and came out the other side better than she started. The episode is really amazing. I am definitely going to have to have Renee come back because she is just that amazing, folks. So, we started this episode by dropping into the conversation that I was having with Renee. We've never started an episode like that before, but it felt like the right thing to do here. And I hope that this little change is enjoyable and doesn't throw you for a loop. So, without further ado, episode 42, let's do this.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

... experienced. Have you ever experienced anything like coronavirus? And most people say no. I mean, most people, there's nothing really that even comes close.

Renée Siegel:

No, no. Nope. I was in the stadium during the San Francisco earthquake. That was nothing compared to this. No.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

You were in the stadium?

Renée Siegel:

I was in the stadium when the game was getting ready to be played during the San Francisco earthquake in 1989, yeah. Or '80, yeah, '89.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, '89.

Renée Siegel:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh my gosh. What was that like?

Renée Siegel:

It was really traumatic, actually, because when I came home ... Well, it was a lot of things that were traumatic about it. One of the things was that everybody in the world knew what was going on in San Francisco, but we didn't because the only power we had was through transistor radios and also through a generator, that you could see one generator at the San Francisco General Hospital, in the middle of San Francisco, that was the only light on in the entire city after the game was played, I mean, it was canceled and it got dark and we got back to our hotel. People were looting stores everywhere and at the same time, very young people were helping really old people with things ... You saw humanity, the best of humanity and the worst of humanity at the same time. But today, even today when I go to a stadium and people are putting their feet on the ground and making noise-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Sure.

Renée Siegel:

It just does something to me.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

You know what's interesting about that? I, having grown up in the day and age of ... I was very aware during the Columbine shooting. I was young, but I was definitely paying attention by that time. And in this day and age, for me, going to any concerts and stadiums, and when I went to go see Hamilton and all of that, I am extremely aware of exits for shooters. When I hear noises or your equivalent of the stadium rumbling is my active shooter sensation of time to go.

Renée Siegel:

Yeah. Yeah. And that was something that you just heard about and experienced in your lifetime. Not something that we were there. Trauma is amazing, it's seriously amazing. It's been probably the gateway for us to understand the mind/body experience too. So, that's-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Absolutely, absolutely. Well, I'm really grateful to have you on the podcast and thank you so much for sticking with it. I appreciate it.

Renée Siegel:

You're very welcome.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So, you're in Scottsdale right now, we'll just jump into it. You're in Scottsdale, and how long have you been in Arizona?

Renée Siegel:

32 years.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, wow. Okay. And where were you before that?

Renée Siegel:

Well, I was born in Michigan and spent a few years after that in Kentucky while my dad was in the service, moved back to Michigan, and I went to school in North Carolina, came back to Michigan for my graduate work and then moved to North Carolina.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Okay.

Renée Siegel:

I mean, sorry, the Arizona.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Okay. And what was your family growing up in Michigan like, what was your family of origin like?

Renée Siegel:

Well, my family, my parents were first generation American, Eastern European Jews and so it was kind of interesting because my grandparents didn't English well, one of them didn't, and one spoke English very well. And the ones who kind of came in and out of our house. And then on the other side, both of my grandparents spoke English very well, but none of them were ... One was born in this country, came here when she was really little, but the other three were not. So, for all intents and purposes my parents were first generation Americans and that influence was really, really strong in our household.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right. When you say influence, for people who don't know, what does that look like?

Renée Siegel:

Well, I think every culture brings in influence and in this particular area of the world it's, you always respect your elders. Children are to be seen and not heard. Some of the things that were probably true of the generation at hand, but more value on women keeping house and really having the strong domain in the household and supporting men silently. And if you want to ask a question of someone, you ask it of their spouse because it's not appropriate to directly communicate, which is a real issue in terms of transitioning into American culture.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Wow, yeah.

Renée Siegel:

So, even, my father's deceased, but my mom's still alive. But when they were both alive and I would call my folks, I would ask my mom how my dad was doing and I would ask my dad how my mom was doing because that was the appropriate cultural way to engage in conversation. So, that's probably the most distinct about that Eastern European piece, and certainly a lot of other cultural stuff too. But my father was an addict and he was a professional, and he was a dentist, and he was writing scripts and prescriptions in all of our names. And so, when I was growing up, I just thought he was a rage-aholic. I knew nothing about addictions. People were drinking responsibly in the house and at that point in time there wasn't even a conversation about the differences between prescription drugs and alcohol.

Renée Siegel:

You had drug addicts, which were not taking prescription drugs, they were using street drugs. And then you had substance abuse addicts, which were alcoholics, mostly, and there wasn't even a conversation at that point in time happening between the two of them. And I didn't see any of that, I just saw a lot of rage. And my dad was writing scripts for benzodiazepines to the tune of our entire family, like all the members of our family and taking them, the equivalent of that prescription for eight people, was for himself, a month.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Did you have any idea that he was writing those scripts or that was something you found out later on?

Renée Siegel:

Something I found out later on.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. So, you said that you thought he just had a lot of rage. What did his rage look like? What's the difference between anger and rage?

Renée Siegel:

Well, that's probably another cultural influence too, because anger probably isn't even allowed. But rage is clearly a much more intense experience of anger and it's far more out of control and irrational. And so, even though anger wasn't allowed, rage was clearly an intense experience. So, anger wasn't allowed for us to express, women couldn't express anger. Men, it was very okay for men to express anger, in fact, kind of a very acceptable rite of passage, I think.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Interesting. Okay.

Renée Siegel:

Unfortunate but true. And he would come home and it was just like we never had any idea what his mood would be like. And most of the time, because of his other addictions, he had a behavioral addiction too, he had a sexual addiction. Sometimes even come home while we were awake. But if we were awake or it's his day off, Wednesday was a day off, so he was generally there after golf or bowling or whatever he did on Wednesday, and when we came home from school and then on Sundays he was always there. He was the designated person to pick us up from Sunday school. And there was just always his wrath to deal with. And if we were awake when he was done with work, there was this wrath as well, and it was always physical. He screamed a bit, but my mom was more of the screamer and my father was very, very physically abusive.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So, the rage was violent?

Renée Siegel:

It was very physically violent. Yes.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Towards you?

Renée Siegel:

Towards three of my four brothers and sisters, my youngest brother, he seems to have grown up ... So many people say that every sibling has a different experience, right?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So true. Yeah.

Renée Siegel:

But he seems to have grown up in little, Leave it to Beaver land.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Wow.

Renée Siegel:

I mean, he didn't have the same experience that the first three of us did.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That's often the case with the youngest. It's interesting. And so, you said that your mom was often screaming, when she was expressing anger, was that considered inappropriate?

Renée Siegel:

She just couldn't ... I mean, I think, well for myself, I can only speak for myself, and I think my sister may have the same experience, maybe not my brother, my older brother that experienced the rage. I think my mom was just ... She didn't drive when we were really small and she had four kids, three of us within three and a half years. I think she just really felt out of control. And he was never there, so it was always, "Wait till your father gets home." So, her only outlet, or her pent up experience and stress and everything was to tell him, and then she was terrified of what he would do. But she would still tell him.

Renée Siegel:

So, I don't think I've put all of that together in the way that an adult puts information like this together until I was much older. She didn't protect us either, at all. And I don't think she felt like she had a way out. She was a homemaker and she was fine with us when we are really well behaved. I mean, she didn't rage until things felt really out of control, but she certainly didn't protect us either.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. What brought you to the understanding, you said that you didn't find this out till later, when did you realize that dad had a drug addiction and not just rage and sex addiction?

Renée Siegel:

Well, I was actually, I was trained as a marriage and family psychologist in Michigan, and went on to work in a substance abuse treatment center as my practicum, it was the only paid practicum and I needed that because I was putting myself through my master's program. And so, the paid practicums were in really undesirable areas. So, I saw I was working in downtown inner city Detroit. I mean, it was pretty, pretty rough, where the pimps would call their ladies from one building to another. I mean, it was just, it was really, really crazy. But it was a great way to be a student of what was going on in substance abuse, and a real reality check-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right. I'm sure.

Renée Siegel:

... for somebody who was raised in a suburb, in a relatively privileged situation to watch this and really experience some of the depravity of humanity. It was just really kind of hard.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And not just read it.

Renée Siegel:

So, after that ... No, not just read it in a textbook. No, no. I was trained, I had some of the hardiest training to do what I have done, of anybody on the planet I know. And so, I left my practicum and went to my first paid job at Henry Ford Hospital, teaching hospital in Detroit, a big hospital. And they had a ton of different programs for substance abuse and mental health, very, very progressive in their work back then. And I was in the program, and they placed me in a substance abuse program for my first job. And I thought, I wonder why I'm working in substance abuse? I don't get, I mean, nobody in our family has a drinking problem, people have had the five o'clock cocktail, but nobody goes to bed drunk. Nobody seems apparently wasted via substance abuse. I had absolutely no clue what was going on until I went to pick up some prescriptions that my father had written and I found that he had written prescriptions in each one of our names. He had-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So, this is years later?

Renée Siegel:

Way later. I am now 25 years old.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Wow. Okay, so this one, I mean [crosstalk 00:14:16].

Renée Siegel:

Never put this together. Because again, I think, the difference between someone taking a prescription drug in the 1970s, somebody using heroin or cocaine, they were just not even seen as similar. Today we understand the concept of chemical dependency. We understand substance abuse as meaning alcohol and substances. We understand addictions as process and behavioral and substance as well, but that conversation wasn't even a conversation back then. It was just not even in, I think in most people's awareness, and benzos, which he was taking abusively, even today it's a very under-discussed addiction. And the rebound effect of it and difficulty getting off of benzos, is again a very under discussed problem with a very over-used ... I mean, we may be currently responding to an opiate crisis, but we are not responding to the Xanax and Valium and Librium and benzo crisis.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It's a lot of ben-

Renée Siegel:

Absolutely.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, a couple of comments on that. Number one, even when I was using, that this was the case regarding prescriptions. I mean, it feels very recent that we're even starting to say, okay, prescription is just a piece of paper written by someone who doesn't have all the information, giving you drugs. We're not convinced by this. But even so, I mean, it has not been that long since we have recognized the severity of that.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And I do totally agree with you with the benzodiazepines. It's funny when I think of, people remember Stevie Nicks and her bout with benzodiazepines, and I feel like that's the one famous person that we talk about in terms of benzos and the severity of it. I don't feel like we really have addressed and that people really understand how serious it is, and how you ... As particularly the combination between alcohol and benzodiazepines, and how that's a deadly combination to detox from. And I see people getting Klonopin, for sleep, all the time, just take this to see how it goes, not understanding the long-term effects and doctors prescribing it as a long-term solution.

Renée Siegel:

Yeah. And there's another aspect of this argument that I think is kind of an important piece and that is that most benzos have a very, very long half-life. They have a very long half-life and they are actually used to detox people from alcohol, because alcohol, unlike most other drugs, crosses three barriers and is the most fatal detox when somebody is in late stage addiction. [Detainees 00:17:22] and seizures can be averted or avoided or diminished through the use of these long half-life benzos. And that's where they gained, I think, some significant popularity in terms of being used kind of in a medical model, other than just for an acute stressful, or even chronic stressful situation. So, there's value, just like there's value in so many medications, if they're for that purpose-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right, responsibly.

Renée Siegel:

... responsibly, as a medication. But clearly we have a fear-based society that's growing right now with this whole coronavirus piece and we have a lot of people who don't understand the drug interactions. I mean, there's just so much we don't know.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. I'm at Johns Hopkins right now finishing my MBA and I am in a lot of courses with various doctors of various specialties and I was talking to a doctor who's a pain medicine specialist in one of my residencies and asking him questions regarding what he does, basically just, "How do you think about working with pain management clients? How do you think about giving Suboxone?" And all these different things. And he basically had no formal ... Seriously, he's a pain management doctor with a practice in New Jersey, no formal training on it. And it was one of those things that was so shocking to me that I had to kind of end the conversation because there was just nowhere to go with it. And he was just handing out various Suboxone, various things which work well if you understand all the different aspects of it. But he just didn't, it was like he had just landed in that specialty. And he was on some board, and I've heard that story, that similar story, like I had one day of training or whatever it was.

Renée Siegel:

Exactly.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And then they're handing out ... Changing the course of hundreds of people's lives.

Renée Siegel:

So, interesting, and when I was back at Henry Ford, so this is again in the early 1980s, the statistics at the time, and I can't imagine they're not either the same or higher today, were that seven out of every 10 people have been either using themselves or are impacted by addictions. And if that is a statistic, and that is true, that 70% of all people are impacted in some way by some sort of addiction. You would think that medical training might pay some attention to how addictions work or affect, even a family practice, let alone, I mean, we know that about 3%, one to 3% are actually addicts. But you take that and you multiply that by all the people that have been impacted, for every person who has an addiction, and that's not a surprising statistic at all. And yet our medical community gets very, very, very few hours in their entire medical school of addiction training. It's sad.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It's really sad. And I think that's why we often seek out, in our field, we seek out people who have a lot of training and who have ... We always laugh about how many letters we all have after our names, and in part because the basics really don't give you the training that you need. The basics of, if we just took your marriage and family therapy training just on its face without your experience in downtown Detroit and all of the other things that you've done, it's not enough to really understand this particular problem. And I really, I always tell people, find someone who knows about addiction. If that's what you're working on, find someone who knows about that because it's not just a day long course. It's a complex issue.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And it's funny, when you were talking about the effect, not just the people who are using, but the amount of people it affects, I was thinking of all the maps and graphics and models that we're seeing come out about coronavirus and how many people it's affecting, and even just the numbers. And if you look at that and you apply that to addiction, I mean, you could probably put it right on top and it would be quite the same. I mean, obviously it's, I don't know that ... I'm not going to speak to the numbers on deadliness or the effects, because I can't speak with any intelligence to that. But I can say that looking at those models, it's very similar to what we're dealing with with addiction in terms of how many people it affects.

Renée Siegel:

Yes. And you're speaking to my journey in terms of all those initials. I mean, I went on to become a holistic healthcare practitioner and a licensed massage therapist, and a coach, and then the certification of a coach, and to understand gambling because of another part of my story that we'll probably get into. And also a licensed substance abuse therapist and a master's addictions counselor because substance abuse was not all the addictions. And I mean, all of it was really to answer one question, is why can't people get well and stay well? And that's been the big, big focus of my journey.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I love that you mentioned, stay well, because I talk to a lot of people about that. There's a lot of, it's like I can stop but I can't stay stopped, get well, stay stopped, all that. So, tell us, okay, so you go and you realize ... Now are you picking up a prescription for yourself and then you realize your dad has written a prescription in your name?

Renée Siegel:

I'm picking up prescriptions at a store and I find out that the prescriptions that I'm there to pick up are actually ... I don't remember if there were six or, I think there were six prescriptions for the exact same drug written in each one of our family members' names.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Wow. So, what do you do with that information? Where did you go from there?

Renée Siegel:

Well, I did a couple of things. I went to the owner of the store and had a conversation with him, which fell on deaf ears. And then I went to my father who was filled with rage.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, I'm sure.

Renée Siegel:

And accused me of just a bunch of stuff. And then I went to the psychiatrist on our unit and had a conversation with him, which was probably the most helpful conversation of all, because he himself was a doctor, and he himself had his own personal story of recovery. And he really helped me to have another and a deeper level of understanding of a series of things about addictions. But more than anything, I think he was probably the first person that opened my eyes to, maybe that's why you're here on the scene. And maybe that's why you are here to create family programs.

Renée Siegel:

And it was almost like that portal became opened to understand things in a way that has continued to unfold for me, all the way to how do I take personal responsibility for my own recovery? I mean, it's almost like I got tagged, you're it, because of the addiction being in the family. But that anger is, my father was buried with his own rage, and yet that's the consequences and residue of that have lived on in our family in a lot of ways. And if I'm not aware of that and I'm not willing to take personal responsibility for my own responses to that and engagement around that ... And I'm not just talking about professionally because I serve tons of people impacted by addictions, but I'm talking about in terms of my own day-to-day life, then I'm falling short.

Renée Siegel:

And family programs started out initially to be a support system for the person in recovery and they have, wonderfully, they've morphed into, evolved into a place where it's a combination, finally, of how do I support the person in recovery? But that really comes second to, how do I really take care of myself as the addiction has entered this area of our family? Something that was really never paid attention to in the '80s at all. It was either run the other way.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right. Abandon ship.

Renée Siegel:

Abandon ship, especially if you're a male and you have a female addict in your family. That was clearly the message, abandon ship. Or what do you do to continue to play the martyr and support and engage and enable, we didn't even understand codependency in the way that we do today. So, yeah, things have come a long way.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. It's interesting that you talk about, with the family, because it's one of my favorite parts of working in recovery, is seeing the family get well. Because the family comes in and their hair's on fire because they're trying to manage the addict and they think they're there with no other problems other than my loved one is using. And then they get well, and I saw it happen in my own family, and it was just the people who needed to help me took me in, and then my parents, and my family, and my sisters, and now we have a common language together that is invaluable in every other scenario of our lives. And my sobriety is my responsibility, but we have this family dynamic. We healed these family wounds that we're hurting everyone, not just what I was doing. So, I love the family work that goes on in our industry.

Renée Siegel:

Yeah. And without it the likelihood of somebody making it is pretty low.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. It's so true. It's so true. So, what happens after you realize, okay, I'm here for a reason, you uncover your family of origin story?

Renée Siegel:

So, my dad and I actually open up a bit of a dialogue, because although he's unwilling to discuss substance abuse concerns, he's very willing to triangulate me, and I don't understand that at this point, with my mom and their marital concerns.

PART 1 OF 4 ENDS [00:28:04]

Renée Siegel:

... at this point with my mom and their marital concerns. And I move into a state of being the secret keeper, knowing what's going on with each of them individually. And wanting them to collectively heal their experience, but not really knowing what to do. Even trained as a marriage and family therapist probably, it's just you don't have the objectivity to look at your own life. And plus my dad is screaming out, and I'm not talking about literally now, internally, because he's willing to acknowledge that he's depressed. Depressed and anxious. So I figure, well at least he's willing to open a conversation with me around depression and anxiety. I work in a hospital where there's amazing mental health services, "Can I take you in to see somebody?"

Renée Siegel:

He goes, "Well, maybe." So he reluctantly agrees to go see somebody and he starts doing some work around his depression and anxiety. And they attempt to slowly titrate him off of his benzos. He's been using them for so long that he has a rebound effect, which I'm sure nobody really understood at the time.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Talk about that.

Renée Siegel:

Well, the rebound effect is that. So he'll titrate down, or attempt to slowly diminish the dosage, and come off of it. And as he does more fear shows up, more anxiety, more panic attacks.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

The symptoms that the medications or the rebound effect right, the symptoms that the medication is trying to treat-

Renée Siegel:

... to treat they actually come back screaming.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

... they come back that much worse. That's the rebound effect.

Renée Siegel:

It's the same with pain meds too. So you get the same thing with pain meds. So they attempt to then create a cocktail of medications for him with antidepressants and try to titrate him off. I still hold out with, particularly with my interest in physical and medical issues, underlying medical issues. About the effects of my metals, heavy metals in one's body, and how all of this is working together. Because part of my interest in holistic health has been to investigate a lot of different things. And so I would send him articles, well documented articles from medical journals about certain things. And he would tell me to mind my own business because I wasn't a physician. And he made some progress in talking therapy. He made a little bit of progress in therapy with medication, the medication cocktail, but something took a turn for the worst and all of a sudden he became very suicidal. And I'm not living at home anymore. I'm married so I'm not in the house seeing all of what's going on.

Renée Siegel:

And so we take them back into the hospital and he's there for, I don't remember if he was there for observation for a day or two, but not much longer. And they send them home with another mixture of medications. And what I come to find out is that although he's being titrated off of the benzos, and he's got this cocktail, he's now supplementing with alcohol. So now we have this mixture that becomes really potentiated, really deadly, and really out of control. And because nobody's asking him about his drinking, and only paying attention to the prescribed medications. Nobody is really getting the dangerous situation that he's in. And the only way I found out about this, that his alcohol intake had gone up is, we had a boat and that we all went to the boat every, we have very short season on the boat in Detroit. Put the boat in on Memorial day, take the boat out on labor day.

Renée Siegel:

So you're there for three or four months. And so consequently, because this very, very small window of time is available for the family together, we're all there every weekend. And I watch his drinking and go, "Wow, I've never seen my father drink like this." I'm always the bearer of the bad news.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yes, I do know.

Renée Siegel:

So I go, "Dad do you think that you're drinking it's like these Manhattans used to be like one a night, and now they're like five a night. You think something's wrong here." "Just mind your own business." So I'm just minding my own business. And, ultimately, I ended up just pulling away. I suggested things like Al-Anon to my mom. I suggested AA to my dad. I talked to my father about meeting with other doctors in recovery. And then I just really began my own journey of taking care of myself because what I realized was that I was just really a mess, a hot mess, a hot mess. My own marriage had some very, very interesting twists and turns. I ended up going through a divorce, and remarrying very shortly after, and moved out to Arizona.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So I want to touch on your first marriage because I actually know some people who have been through this. And it's not something that's talked about, and there's not a lot of support. And particularly, I don't know if you had this experience, but particularly in first-generation families it seems to be difficult. So your first husband ended up being gay, is that correct?

Renée Siegel:

That's correct. My father was a womanizer, and I wanted nothing to do with anybody who had interest in other women. Talk about, watch out what you wish for.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right. Right. Did the first generation experience, I should back up and say, one of the things that I have seen in the people where this happened and it was first-generation, was that the family blames the woman for the husband being gay.

Renée Siegel:

Oh, there's no doubt. It's interesting my ex husband's family was one of... His mother was not even a first generation American. She was actually born in Germany. His father had been in this country for I think a couple of generations, maybe several generations, but he was really very reserved. Both of them were very reserved. One was German heritage, one was English heritage, and they just really didn't emote very much at all. And when I divorced Jim, my first husband, after finding out that he was gay. My parents who absolutely loved my husband were very disappointed in me, and his family never disclosed the reason that we divorced. And so all of his cousins, we lived in a small suburb outside of Detroit at the time and all of his cousins assumed it was because I had an affair. And until about three or four years because I was really outgoing and he was kind of reserved, and probably quite flirtatious.

Renée Siegel:

And so it wasn't until he came to an event about five years after our divorce with his personal partner that they started contacting me and going, "Oh my God, we made this assumption that you were stepping out in your marriage." Because I never shared anything with anybody other than my own parents about what was going on. I was devastated. I had my second child, I had a four year old and my newborn daughter who was three months old they were my preoccupation when I went through my first divorce. I was devastated.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So you had two children with him?

Renée Siegel:

Yes.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And how did you find out that he was... How did this unfold?

Renée Siegel:

Well, we were in marriage counseling because I was far more interested in being sexually active with him than he was with me. And I couldn't figure out why that was. All my girlfriends were saying, "God, I wish my husband would leave me alone." And my husband wouldn't touch me and I thought, there's got to be something wrong with me. So I actually went to therapy and then my therapist asked to see both of us. And he went in maybe once, and wouldn't go back. And so I'm in therapy trying to figure out what's going on, and trying all these things. And doing exactly what the therapist suggests and backing off, and providing space, and moving in, and trying to engage, and open a dialogue, and nothing's happening. And then my husband decides even though he's not interested in going into marriage counseling, he decides to join a men's group. I'll explore all my issues alone in a men's group.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Okay. Oh, boy.

Renée Siegel:

And we were part of a interdenominational spiritual group. Really lovely group that really entertained holding space for people to have their own spiritual experiences in the '80s. That's how he came up with this men's group because we were part of this community, I thought, "Well, this is perfect... He doesn't want to talk to my rabbi. He doesn't want to talk to his priest. He's actually decided to convert to Judaism, and now he's going to join this men's group." So I thought whatever he's willing to do, at least it's a step in the right direction. And so he's out of this men's group, and I overhear a conversation, and what I hear him sharing with somebody that he's had some emotional feelings for this other man. It's so odd.

Renée Siegel:

You're frozen in time when you have an experience like this. I step out of the shower. I remember dripping wet. I remember putting a towel on my body.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Wait, so you heard him on the phone?

Renée Siegel:

Right.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Okay. Okay. Okay.

Renée Siegel:

And I walk out of the bathroom and into the family room where he's talking, and I said, called his full name, and I said, "Are you gay?" It was almost like the light bulb went on in my head.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right. Right. Right.

Renée Siegel:

He turns to me and we have a three month old baby now, and a almost four year old son, just under four years old. And he says to me, I would prefer to call myself a homosexual.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh dear Lord. Could you remember the feeling in your body or like-

Renée Siegel:

I went and there's a series of things that I can talk about without a lot of recollection. That day and then three months from then I can give you some description. Things that happened between a week after that, and the next three months it was like I was in a blackout, or brownout. I have absolutely no idea what happened. So that day it was July 2nd or 3rd, it was right before the 4th of July and I got on the phone to call my gal squad. I called every gal pal I could think of on the planet, and only one of them was in town because it was a 4th of July weekend.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Landline.

Renée Siegel:

Absolutely, landlines. Absolutely, no cell phones then. And she was just as surprised as I was, and was going away for a family gathering. But today we're she's one of my besties, and we've had lots, and lots, and lots of conversations about what that was like. And she said, "I have never heard you that devastated in my life." It was almost like it was surreal. I was going to say it's like the coronavirus except that's kind of surreal too.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Gay coronavirus.

Renée Siegel:

I don't know how to describe it. It was like I was living in an alternate universe. It was like my life that was going on out here. And then there was my life that I was hearing about in here, and I really didn't know what to do with it. I thought, "Oh my God, I'm sleeping with you. I've just had a baby." When I came to my senses in that first week, what I do remember is, "He could have given me HIV. This is the HIV era. He could have given my daughter HIV. Who is he sleeping with?" There are just all of these kinds of things. And then what unfolded over the next week was even more devastating because I found out that he was actually engaged with a man sexually who his wife was also pregnant. They both agreed that we would name our daughters the same names. So we have each of our daughters have the same name, and this man has an agreement with his wife of being in an open marriage. So she knows about all this, and I'm the only one that's in the dark here.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Does she know you?

Renée Siegel:

She's met me. We've had two or three dinners together.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

She knows you don't know.

Renée Siegel:

I don't know if she knew that I didn't. I don't know that to this day, I don't know that. I just remember his name was Ralph, and we all agreed to name our daughter Sarah, and we both have daughters named Sarah right now. And I'm just in information fact finding. I don't want specifics of their engagement sexually with each other as much as I want dates and times. And I'm freaked out. So I'm working in a hospital, and working with a person who ultimately went to work for the Center of Disease Control nationally. So she was like the best contact in the entire world. And I went in there every week for an AIDS test, and finally she looked at me and she said, "You cannot have anymore AIDS tests. You are fine, and you just need to go on with your life."

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Not funny is that I did that my one of my treatment centers, I was cut off from HIV tests because I would go weekly. And they're like, "That's not how this works." I'm like, "No, no, no. We just going to check. I know there's something wrong, like I can't..." They were like, "You don't have it. Okay, you're good. You have a lot of mental problems, but no HIV get back to the treatment center."

Renée Siegel:

Pretty much what this person said-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It's upstairs.

Renée Siegel:

She says it's upstairs. She goes, "You just need to go out." And she said, "You need to have some fun. You need to go out, and allow yourself to have some fun. You need to get sexual again. You need to allow all of this to unfold and grow." I was so terrified, and more terrified, and I would have night terrors. Where I'd wake up and I couldn't move at night and my head was working, but my body wouldn't move at all. And it was another awful experience.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Did you ever think to yourself, or did you have the nagging question around, "Was it me? Was it something I said? Was it something I did?" One of my friends who went through this I say to her, I actually tease her about it at this point, but I say, "Listen, you could go up to any straight man and you could be, as a powerful feminist woman you want, I don't think he's going to be turned gay because of it." That's not how that works. But I do know that women in that situation there's this nagging question of like, "Did I do something? Did I trigger it?" Did you experience any of that?

Renée Siegel:

I don't think I felt like I caused it.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Well, that's good.

Renée Siegel:

I think I felt less than enough to shift it. I don't think I really understood. You've got to remember, this is the 1980s we didn't understand sexual preference, sexual identity in the way that we do today.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Did that make it worse or better.

Renée Siegel:

I don't know. I don't know. I can only say that as we get into my story, as I understand my Enneagram type, which we'll talk a lot more about. I understand that my particular type would have interpreted in that way. Like there might've been something that I could do to make it different although not necessarily with today's understanding of sexuality the way that we did.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Not with that.

Renée Siegel:

And I think it was colored more by my family experience. My father was such a womanizer, why would my husband turn away from me and choose men? And that was the environment that I was in. So my cultural breeding, and understanding, and foundation was all around women's support men. And they make men and they make them look good, and they make them better and they take care of things, and things like that. And what was it that I couldn't do to bring him back, or make myself desirable in his eyes? Make him want me. And the understanding that grew from just understanding how sexuality works, not just sexual preference, but sexual identity. We know so much more about sexual identity today than we did back then. Back in those days, in the '80s we talked a lot more about sexual identity being the first sexual marker, sexual preference being the second marker.

Renée Siegel:

Today we know that they're really independent markers. Your sexual identity can be as much on a continuum as your sexual preference can be on a continuum. Back then it was your sexual identity was here or here. One or the other. But your sexual preference could be on a continuum.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right, right, right, right.

Renée Siegel:

Today everything's on a continuum. Right. So if you identified as either a male or female, then if you identify as female, there were a whole set of attributes related to being a female that you needed to carry out. That were very stereotypical, that might appeal, and assist, or hurt, or harm. And the same thing with masculinity. And that's just not true. There's so many more aspects of that. So I don't think I thought of it in that way the way that you described. I think I thought of it more of, "God, what could I have done to bring him back to being... Making myself more desirable. What was wrong with me?" That was my [inaudible 00:45:32] what was wrong with me. How to fix what was wrong with me.

Renée Siegel:

Which at least the question was a great question in terms of encouraging my continued self discovering self-awareness.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right. So you have very young children, and you got married quickly again.

Renée Siegel:

To another man I went to high school with both of these gentlemen were in the same graduating class two years ahead of me in high school.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It was a good class. What can you say.

Renée Siegel:

Small pool.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Small pool. So did you end amicably with the first husband? Was he in the picture at all, or were you friends or?

Renée Siegel:

Totally. Totally. He was in the picture. We were friends. He actually did die 10 years after our divorce from complications of AIDS. And his lover at his eulogy said, "I've only been jealous of one woman in my entire life. And that was Jim's ex wife Renée, because I've never seen two people love each other more in my entire life." And then the way that they engaged with each other. And my husband who ex husband, who was an attorney decided to specialize in paternity rights for men. And I really supported him in his cause because I felt like he was a really good dad, and I didn't understand why dads were never engaged in their children's lives. And having had a father that was really pretty absent in my growing up years, I thought, why would you ever want to keep a child from having a loving father involved in their life period.

Renée Siegel:

That just didn't make sense. So Jim, I was angry with him for a while. I remember he was the first person, and the only person I've ever attempted to hit in my life. I remember when he told me and we were in our kitchen talking. I remember sticking my hands up and I was just going to go, I don't know what I was going to do, pound his chest. But he grabbed both of my wrists and he looked at me, he goes, "You don't really want to hit anybody do you." And I went, "No, I don't really, I just started crying." And yes, we were really, really good friends. I actually was the person that he asked to plan his funeral when he had AIDS. We were really, really, really, really good friends.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. Because at a certain point you realize, "There's nothing I could've done. I love this person."

Renée Siegel:

Well, when I realized that exactly when I realized sex was off the table, and I could just have that friendship that we'd had. I met him two weeks after my 16th birthday and we got married when I was 20, so he grew up together. He taught me how to drive a car, and taught me a lot of things. When I realized that that friendship had never gone anywhere, and there was just some self-deceit that had turned into deceit in our relationship. And we had a lot of conversations around that. It was very healing.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. You marry another man, and he ends up being a narcissist and a compulsive gambler.

Renée Siegel:

That's correct.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Okay. How long in, what was that? How did you get there, and what was that? How did you get out of that?

Renée Siegel:

So I met my second husband about, I want to say six months after my separation, not divorce but separation. Okay. And so my first husband who had been a city planner he had an Master's in Public Administration, and then went to law school. And he had just finished law school when we went through our divorce. And so he was looking for a job, and so he approached a bunch of attorneys in the area. So we lived in a little teeny suburb, but because it was a small microcosm of Jewish people in the city. He applied for a job from this my second husband as an attorney because my second husband was also an attorney. So we went there and applied for this job. And then when my second husband realized we were going through a divorce, he contacted me because we'd all gone to high school together. And he goes, "I've always thought you were a cute, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Would you like to go out?"

Renée Siegel:

And so we went out. And his first name and my maiden name were the same. And I remember on our first or second date, he said to me, "You know, if I marry you, if I married your father my name would be Warren Warren." I just thought it was pretty funny. That was maiden name.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That's so funny.

Renée Siegel:

He was very funny. He was very bright. He was very gregarious, he had a lot of boldness. And I had in my head and without any real work, real inner work at all, I had just said to myself, "Well, I'm going to choose somebody who is exactly the opposite of my husband." So instead of finding somebody who was just straight and a version of my husband, which would have been a really smart choice because we have a wonderful friendship. And we conducted the business of our marriage in a really responsible, respectful, loving way. I chose somebody who didn't look like him, act like him. It was in no way like him. And he was very narcissistic, and very cruel and also very bright and didn't have any substance abuse issues at all. In fact, he told me he didn't drink, and that was good because I knew my dad's story at that time.

Renée Siegel:

So I thought, "Wow, this is all good." He seemed to have a lot of money. So I knew the kids and I would be okay. And turns out that the money that he was getting wasn't just from his law career. It was from a series of illegal gambling activities. A whole host... Had no clue about them other than the fact that I was being wined and dined. And so I would come home from a date, and there would be a big box in my hallway. And there was a full length fox coat in the inside of the box. And I would come home, and there'd be a new car in the driveway, or a new sofa in my house.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Definitely, I would have done it, married him too.

Renée Siegel:

I remember being told, "I want you to pack, and I've hired a sitter for the kids." Because he had two children of his own too. My step kids who I'm very, very close with today. He said, "I've hired a sitter for your kids and my ex has got the kids tonight. And we're going to dinner somewhere, but we're not going anywhere close. We need an overnight bag. And we'd go to New York City and just have dinner, and see a show and come home."

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Magical.

Renée Siegel:

It was magical. And I was in so much pain, and it was such a distraction from the pain. And his gambling even though I didn't understand it, or whatever, left me when he was gone for these periods of time. Doing what I thought it was law business, I had all this special time with my kids, alone. So I had time with my kids. I felt special. I felt like a princess. He clearly was very straight and very sexual. So I felt really desired, desirable, and I don't know. When I say I could have done a lot of self-growth work, this, that, and the other. I don't know that, obviously, this is all part of the plan.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right, right.

Renée Siegel:

Yeah. It's all part of the plan.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It's all part of the plan it's so true.

Renée Siegel:

So that went on and about a year into it, I realized there was gambling going on. And I didn't know how to get out at all. I had a child within first year of our marriage, we were in this San Francisco earthquake, like I told you. And at the stadium we decide to fly there last minute, and we had a nanny taking care of our kids, and we're already in Arizona. And as we're going through the turnstile and handing the gentleman the tickets for the game, the guy says taking the tickets, he goes, "You're in the nosebleed section." He goes, "You're only about two miles from God in these seats." And I was so happy we were in the nosebleed section because when that stadium came down, and people were carrying out bits of it. I don't think anybody was killed in the stadium, but being on top of the crowd instead of underneath with pieces coming down. It was awful.

Renée Siegel:

And when I realized when we went back, nine days later and the game was played, he had $30,000 bet on the game. And that's when I knew what I thought might be a problem was a problem.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So you were seeing, or hearing things that were like, "That's a lot of money."

Renée Siegel:

Yes, I didn't understand. He played in a high stakes poker game twice a week. He flew back and forth to Las Vegas a whole bunch of times because we were living in Phoenix now. He went to the horse races. We owned a business at the race track, but I knew nothing about gambling addictions. Nobody gambled in my family ever. My dad was the most responsible businessman and would always say, "Is this tax deductible." And he would call somebody and would never cheat on his taxes. He never saw money as a drug in any way, I remember him saying, "We have to live within our means." There was never a bill collector after us. There was no signs of any fiscal irresponsibility, or any gambling activity in my life at all. The only time I ever remember my father engaging in gambling was once a year he had a stock club, and once a year these guys would come with their smelly cigars, and smell up our house and play poker, and talk about stocks. And that was the only experience I ever had with gambling that I could recall until I met my husband.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Stay tuned to hear more in just a moment. Hi, it's Ashley, your beloved host. When I'm not hosting The Courage to Change: A Recovery Podcast, I'm running the recruiting department at Lionrock Recovery. We are always looking for amazing licensed mental health counselors along with various other sales, and operations positions that pop up from time to time. The Lionrock culture is one of collaboration, support and flexibility. Our employees work from home offices all over the country utilizing technology to connect to one another. We are always hiring. So if you want to have the best job ever, check out our open positions and apply at www.lionrockrecovery.com\about\careers.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So what are some of the signs? I guess there's a couple of questions I have because I've been working on getting someone who's struggles with gambling on here. I had a roommate who was a gambling addict and it was crazy, a crazy experience. But I still, it wasn't my life and it wasn't my relationship. It was my roommate. What are some of the thing-

PART 2 OF 4 ENDS [00:56:04]

Renée Siegel:

... relationship was my roommate. What are some of the things, like were there ways you could have seen what was going on before you got married? Are there things that you can see without being deeply involved, and what's the difference between someone who likes to gamble here and there and where it's a ... People always say like it's only a problem if you're losing, but how do you decipher those two different things?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Well, that could be a week long episode.

Renée Siegel:

Right, yes.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

But I'll give you a couple of pointers or things that-

Renée Siegel:

Okay, yeah. Yeah, a couple of pointers.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, a couple of pointers. So, gambling is invisible. It doesn't smell. It doesn't make people walk wobbly or raise their voice or talk weird, but what it does do is it affects ... When we talked about family members being impacted, it affects way more person per addict than anybody else. When you think of the fiscal impact of banking institutions, employers, families, mortgages, college funds, I mean gambling has a far more profound effect and a larger impact-

Renée Siegel:

Exponential.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Exponential, great word, than substance abuse or other addictions, to even more than sexual addictions or eating disorders, other behavioral addictions.

Renée Siegel:

Wow.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So, categorically just for our listeners, substance abuse are a category of addictions that involve ingesting substances. Behavioral addictions are behavioral in nature, and so eating disorders and sexual addictions and gambling addictions are considered behavioral disorders. So, you can't see it, and you can't smell it.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

The interesting thing about family members impacted is they're not typically just co-dependents. Because you don't know those kinds of things, you're kind of pulled in in ways that you may not know. So, in my particular situation, and I would encourage every female or every partner in a relationship to be fiscally responsible independently. Again, came from a background where you turn your money over to the man, and the man manages money in the house and as long as the bills are paid, that's not ... So, I came out of my first marriage with no money managing skills at all. What I did come out was with a lot of fiscal responsibility in terms of not overspending, but I didn't understand how money worked. So, when my ex would tell me when big money was around the house, "I'm going to do this with this. Then, I'm going to do this with this. We're investing here," I just assumed that he was telling me the truth.

Renée Siegel:

Right.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Why wouldn't he tell me the truth? Nobody had ever lied to me about anything like that in my entire life. I'd never had a history of that happening. We always had, at least initially when we got together, a lot of prosperity and a lot of fun and things like that. So, it just seemed like a good time, and I had no understanding of money. So, being fiscally responsible and understanding finance, how it works, how checking accounts work and stocks, all that stuff is just kind of a sideline.

Renée Siegel:

Because you could have seen that something didn't add up, so that's where-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

[inaudible 00:03:06].

Renée Siegel:

Okay.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yes. I could've gone into ... Today going, I encourage everybody, because I do a lot of premarital counseling and with some very specific areas that we talk about and money is a huge one, but I encourage everybody to understand that sharing passwords, transparency, what your agreements are around autonomy with finances, what your agreements are around your collective use of finances, we had none of it that those understandings, they weren't even on my radar screen as possible things to even have a conversation about because of my background, so that happened. So, when things started to look wacky was when his attention was going more towards a sporting event than it was on the fact that we had a little baby.

Renée Siegel:

Right, right, right. A real, like sweating it out kind of thing.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right. When I was pregnant and getting really close to labor and it was going to be the final basketball tournaments of the year and I'm getting ready to have a baby and he's got a pager now, no cell phone yet, but pagers, and he's accepting pages from somebody that I have no clue about, about getting on a plane and flying to Vegas to place a bet, and I'm in pain or not doing well or need some help with the kids, and all of the attention is being taken away from our activities and going into these gambling activities, that's when it was really, really became apparent because when we married, it was like, "I want to have more children. I'm so excited about having a large family." He seemed really preoccupied with the health and wellbeing of his own children, and his attention was there, and he was really kind and attentive to my kids.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Then, all of a sudden, you could slowly see that shift going where his attention was going somewhere else. All of it was pointing in a direction that something, that all of it had in common various gambling whether it was sports. He would wake up first thing in the morning after about six months of being married, and he'd call a stockbroker. Then, he would call his bookie and then to place bets on sporting events. Then, he would, after work or whatever, would go to a casino and play cards. So, Our vacations began to be modeled around gambling activities. If it was by car, we'd go to Laughlin. If not, we'd go to Vegas or somewhere on the islands or to New York to watch thoroughbred or ... Whoops, sorry, not thoroughbred racing at New York, the harness horses. I mean he was ... Everything that we did really focused around some sort of gambling activity. Initially, again, there was probably ... I don't think I paid as much attention because it was filled with a lot of fun activities for me.

Renée Siegel:

Yeah, yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So, he'd go, "Let's go to this ballpark and watch the game being played, and let's go to this horse race." I'd never been to a horse race in my life. "Let's go to this casino, and if you don't want to be in the casino activity, why don't you just go spend the time at the spa?" which I love to spend a day at the spa.

Renée Siegel:

Right. Gosh.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Then, I'd find myself in first row seats to see Elton John, and the casino hostess would say, "Mrs. S., what can I do for you?" and all these kinds of things, and I'm going, "This is like wonderful, like how wonderful."

Renée Siegel:

Right. Right.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So, the spouse or the family members get pulled in with this notion of this while the winning is going on or even when the losing is being camouflaged and there's still a flood of money and money can come as from your wins, it could come from stealing other people's money, it can come from taking family funds, it can come from taking loans out and a lot of different things, so as long as there's a fresh stash of cash and more access to cash, which is the drug that it takes to gamble, money right, the family members could be in the dark. It might not-

Renée Siegel:

Yeah. I could easily see. I'm so relieved. I mean, I could easily see myself falling right down that rabbit hole, head first.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, I was. I was down that rabbit hole head first, and I would have to say that one of my character defects that I'm really constantly working on is the level of naivete. It's like, where is there some beauty in having fresh eyes walking into a situation and where is there less value having fresh eyes, walking into a situation, right?

Renée Siegel:

Right. Right. Right. Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So, yeah. There was less cash, and then I found out that the house payment was, we're behind in the house payment. Then, we got a notice that the utilities were going to be turned off, and then he started accusing me of overspending, which I absolutely was spending nothing on nothing. We were doing a lot of fun things that he began or suggested, but I mean, I would suggest that we take the kids to McDonald's for dinner. One day, we would be at The Phoenician having a brunch to the tune of probably 500, $600 for our family, and the next, he couldn't give me $20 to go to McDonald's for [inaudible 00:08:12].

Renée Siegel:

Right.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So, this rollercoaster, and I was never in ... Aside from the unpredictability of my father's moods, my life even with my gay husband, our relationship was always pretty status quo. There was not a lot of peaks and valleys, not a lot of moodiness or chaos or drama. This was filled with drama. One day actually, the sheriff, this is actually before we moved to Arizona and I had no clue that this was related to his gambling at the time, but now, hindsight is always 20/20. You're putting things back together, right? The Wayne County sheriffs came to our house in Detroit, in Huntington Woods. We're actually living in Oakland County, but the Wayne County sheriffs from Detroit came to our home with guns and rang the doorbell. He was staying at my home in Huntington Woods before we moved here and wanted to talk to him alone, and I didn't have any clue what that conversation really was all about until we moved here.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So, it was they repossessed his car and took a series of other things that I didn't know about, and that's not what he told me happened when they took the car away. He told me it was part of a legal investigation and that there was some evidence in his car and that we'd have a loaner car the next day, which of course, we did have a loaner car the next day, and I had no clue that was because of a series of things. They were going on related to his gambling.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Then, just a series of legal things started to happen to me because he was an attorney and put everything that was a liability in my name. I signed documents that were either blank or I didn't understand what they meant or he altered them after I'd signed them. I don't even know, bought and sold businesses in my name.

Renée Siegel:

Oh my gosh.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So, when we finally separated and divorced, I was aware, literally aware of being $20,000 in debt when in fact, we were three-quarters of $1 million in debt, and every piece of that liability was in my name, sole and separate as a creditor, and he was off the hook. He had placed every debt in my name. So, when I went to bankruptcy court, I had creditors in line screaming at me, people I had never met, businesses I did not know that I owned, and creditors coming after me. The bankruptcy attorney held me in contempt of bankruptcy court because I didn't offer them a property that was mine.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

He had sold ... He had given me in our divorce a horse that he could no longer feed, and the kids rode horses. So, I kept the horse, and he took the horse from the stables and took it to Ak-Sar-Ben Racing Track in Nebraska, sold the horses illegally. Bankruptcy attorney came after me for the property, which I said, "You can have this horse. I can't feed it. You can have it as part of my debt and loss," and then came to find out that the horse had been sold, so I was held in contempt at the bankruptcy court for fraudulently selling a piece of property that I offered to the bankruptcy court.

Renée Siegel:

My jaw is just-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I mean, I could go on. When I've talked to people about gambling and when I got certified in compulsive gambling and started to help other counselors learn about compulsive gambling and talk to people like celebrities' wives who have had compulsive gambling problems, they've said that my story is every bit as crazy as any one of their stories ever was.

Renée Siegel:

So ... Sorry, I'm processing. So, you-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

You want to call me back tomorrow?

Renée Siegel:

Yes, seriously. God, I thought coronavirus was throwing me for a loop here. Okay, so let me get this straight. Every single debt was in your name, three-quarters of $1 million?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That's correct. Every liability was placed in my name.

Renée Siegel:

How is it that there was no trail or paper trail or no one had ever interacted with you? So, how did they not see that this person had done this? How was that not evident? How is it not evident that your ex-husband or soon-to-be ex-husband sold the horse? You weren't-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

He fraudulently put my name on the paper, so I had to hire a handwriting expert to come into the bankruptcy hearing to confirm that that was not my handwriting on the sale of that horse, nor was my handwriting on many of the tax returns. I mean, he fraudulently put my name on businesses he purchased.

Renée Siegel:

These were transactions that happened without a person present, so there was no way to know who was doing them?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

He was an attorney.

Renée Siegel:

Right.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So, he was my legal representation, and he signed my name for all these things. When I was in going through the divorce and I couldn't even afford to hire an attorney, I was very, very fortunate there was a gentleman by the name of George Sterling here in Arizona. I don't even know if he's still alive, but he agreed to take my case in very reduced fee and even brought in the handwriting experts. I couldn't afford anything at all, and he said, "This is just too sad. Let me see what I can do to help you out."

Renée Siegel:

Gosh. Well, I'm ... I mean, thank God. So, okay, so that's wild. How does this affect the kids? What's going on with the kids, and what's-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That's a great question. It happens to be my stepson's birthday today, so it's really kind of a sweet, sweet thing to talk about. I think he doesn't believe a lot of what's gone down about his father. It's probably very hard for him, hardest for him to take in all of what's going on because of a dynamic that occurs, I think, that occurred in our marriage, and I think it occurs with several marriages too. So, when I quit going on these gambling junkets and realized there was a problem, one of the ways that I was punished was he took my stepson instead and started to talk to my stepson about just how stupid I was and awful I was and what a fool I was for not wanting to go and how it was going to give them so much time, quality time together.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Now, he was the gambling buddy, and he became his dad's little kind of accomplice and confidant. So, he really became alienated from the rest of the kids because he was now being taken on all these sweet journeys that I refuse to go on. I was left with them to try and make ends meet. This is during our, while the marriage was still happening, and so he would take our son, my stepson off to Vegas, and he would throw me 20 bucks and say, "Here's money for the weekend. Take care of the kids."

Renée Siegel:

This was what year?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

This is 1980 ...

Renée Siegel:

Okay, so in the '80s.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

In the '80s, '88, '89, but that-

Renée Siegel:

How old were the children at this point?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So, I have four children, all of them under the age of 13, to take care of from Thursday to Sunday with 20 bucks.

Renée Siegel:

On a ramen.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That includes gas and food and anything that we could conceivably do. Then, he'd tell me I was a poor money manager when I'd come home and I couldn't take care of it. Yeah. In the meantime, he'd come home with our stepson and they would have had the time of their life, and the rest of the kids would look at me like ... I don't think they had a bad time with me. We would be really creative. We'd go to the park, we'd play games, we'd sing songs, we'd draw on T-shirts. We did a lot of things. I love being a creative mom. It's been one of my ... We'd cook together and bake together and do all sorts of things together, but it was nothing compared to the experience that my stepson had with his father. Every once in a while, my stepdaughter would be in town too.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So, I had five kids most of the time and six kids every once in a while. My stepdaughter, I don't think she believed any of this was real or true until everything really came down because she's the oldest of them all, and I think she really saw things for what was going on, but the kids started to turn, especially the boys, started to turn against each other. So, the two oldest ... So, my eldest biological son and my stepson are 17 months. There's 17 months difference, and the only two boys in the whole equation.

Renée Siegel:

So, you had two with your first husband, two with your second husband?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right, and then he had two.

Renée Siegel:

Then, he had two, a boy and a girl.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right.

Renée Siegel:

Okay.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So, there are four daughters and two sons. So, the boys started to kind of turn against each other. My little ones were really, really little at this time. They were so small that I think my biological, all four of my biological children, I don't think they felt the full ramifications because they had their two little baby sisters to focus on ,and there really was just a ton of stuff that we did. I mean, a ton of stuff. I could tell you some creative things that people can do with no money like you would not believe. I took my kids to every high school Broadway play you could conceivably see. So, they know every song from everything. I went to see them all on Broadway, but my kids went to see them all in high school, and they know every song too.

Renée Siegel:

Wow. Great. You blog about that.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, really? Yeah, I could.

Renée Siegel:

You should. You should. Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I could. Resources. Yeah. There's so many things I could do to help other people in the end, and sometimes, I feel like my heart is just ... wants to do so much. The kids each have their own kind of relationship to money. All of them. All of them.

Renée Siegel:

Yeah. Sure.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

All of them except for my stepson are the most fiscally responsible adults you've ever met in your life.

Renée Siegel:

I'm sure. I'm sure.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

They've all paid for college on their own, paid for their own weddings, paid for their own cars. They're just brilliant, brilliant people. My stepson still struggles at times with what the meaning of money is, how money works. I think he ... I just feel he's been the one that's been the most drastically impacted because he was ... and I feel for that because I know how you can get swept up in that as an adult. I can only imagine without the ability to have a real strong executive functioning, how you could get swept up in that as a kid.

Renée Siegel:

So, when basically, you're losing everything and more and everything and what you don't have as well and you have your four children, what are you telling them, or at least, the two older ... Jim, the first husband's or your older children. How are you explaining to them like, "Oh, we went from this big life to I don't know what we're going to do now?"

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Well, I've told them that there's a gambling problem and that there's something wrong with their dad, and it's not because he doesn't love them. I mean, one of the things about having a strong addictions background was that ... The greater my understanding was of gambling addiction, the greater my ability to share with them that this was a sickness and it was something that could be handled if he was going to get some help and would look at it. So, I divorced him for financial reasons with the understanding that we would reconcile if he got some help. That was our agreement.

Renée Siegel:

Okay.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That didn't happen for a variety of reasons, I think. I don't know. Well, he died before anything else could happen. We could talk more about that in a little bit.

Renée Siegel:

I have two questions. I want to know what happened with him and what happened, how you got through the divorce. Then, I also want to know about ... We have a lot of guests on here, and I talk to a lot of women who get swept up in relationships with narcissist men, that it just completely dissolved their lives. I know that that was a theme for you after your second husband. So, take us through kind of what ... how you got through this bankruptcy, and then what was it in you that engaged with these narcissist men?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

My father was quite narcissistic. I don't think he had a narcissistic personality disorder, but my father had a lot of narcissistic tendencies, and I think it's important to distinguish between narcissism, narcissistic personality traits, narcissistic personality disorders-

Renée Siegel:

Yes, yes.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

... because it's very healthy to have some level of narcissism.

Renée Siegel:

Okay.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

We all need to regard ourselves. We all need to think of ourselves first. With little regard for yourself or concern for how things work in your life, you really can't develop healthy self-esteem.

Renée Siegel:

I have a question about that. So, what is the difference between ... So, when you say healthy narcissism, I think to myself, "Well, isn't that self-esteem, not narcissism? Can narcissism be healthy or when it's healthy, isn't it self-esteem and self-regard, not narcissism?"

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Well, narcissism is a quality. When you look and you see yourself and you regard yourself and you think of yourself, it's almost like the difference between being selfless and selfish and self-focused.

Renée Siegel:

Got it.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

If you're self-focused, self-focused being the medium. So, selfish is you do things without any regard for how it impacts other people. That's a narcissistic personality disorder.

Renée Siegel:

Okay, got it.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Self-focused is I take care of myself self so that I can better focus on other people, and it requires a certain level of narcissism or self-regard in order to be self-focused. Selfless is something that Mother Teresa could talk to us about. I really can't because that's really not considering yourself and having such strong faith that all of your needs will be taken care of and acting in ways where your faith guides you and carries you without any concern. There's probably very little narcissism-

Renée Siegel:

I was going to say-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

... there at all. Yeah.

Renée Siegel:

... and probably very few people who do that because even selfless people often are doing it to be the martyr or like the actual motivations deep down of what appears to be selflessness, right? We can say that there's probably very little pure selflessness, right?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yes, yes. Yeah. It's very hard to function on planet Earth that way.

Renée Siegel:

Yeah, right.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It really is, considering your need for food, shelter and clothing and some other things that we've taken to believe that we need. So, I say that and want to start there because I think that if you've been groomed by and grown up with a caretaker, that's narcissistic especially if it's the parent that's your love object. So, if you're gay, it's the same sex parent. If you're straight, it's the opposite sex parent, but I don't think it really matters. If you've been around caregivers who are narcissistic, it's your norm. It's what you believe to be the normal way that things function in the world, and so you learn very quickly to set your own needs aside and to respond to the needs of other people as being primary and more important than yours. It's just kind of the way things go. Your self-esteem gets hampered in ways that are related to the way that narcissism has showed up in those early caregiving childhood relationships.

Renée Siegel:

The way that it showed up for me was with a very narcissistic dad and a very naive, really, really naive mother who just kind of went along with anything. I look at all the cultural influences as we kind of talked about earlier and the narcissism, and I was just a breeding ground for choosing narcissistic men in my life. So, even my gay husband was somewhat narcissistic but not nearly as narcissistic as my second husband and my father and my primary relationship before my current marriage. I'm sure we'll get to that. So, that's kind of where I wanted to start. Now, your second question again was, so I can respond to that or your first question was?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

My second question was, what happened as ... So, take us through this bankruptcy court. You get these handwriting experts. How do you make it through that?

Renée Siegel:

I decide to ... I'm really good at making lemonade out of lemons.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I can hear that.

Renée Siegel:

Yes, and so I think to myself, Arizona is a community property state. There is no reason after watching this legal battle and have to ... after being exposed to now, two attorney husbands, that any other female should go through this. So, I decide, because Arizona is a community property state, that I want to understand community property law and I want to make sure every other female that's exposed to gambling does not go through what I do. It was a very ripe idea at the time because Prop 202 in the state of Arizona was on the ballot, and it was about treating people impacted by problem gambling and not just problem gamblers. At that time, I sat on the Arizona Lottery Board for gambling issues, and they asked me to come off of that board if I were to be a treatment provider because I had the credentials to accept state funds for people impacted by problem gambling, which meant family members as well as the gamblers themselves.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So, my agency, I decide ... Well, I have to backtrack. I decided to get my license up off the ground again. I had let go of my license because when I moved ... My behavioral health license was no good in Arizona when I moved here in 1988. We were a state that just had certification on that licensure. We had no idea we were moving towards licensure, and so when licensure came in in 2003, I had no clue that I was going to need a license. I had relinquished my state license from Michigan. What was I going to do? It was no good, and I wasn't going back there. So, I got my license as a substance abuse therapist because it was the only thing based on my credentials they would allow reciprocity for. God knows why. That's a whole another huge issue because I was certainly-

Renée Siegel:

[crosstalk 00:01:21:43].

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. I was qualified as a psychologist in another state. I was a marriage and family therapist, but they let me sit for the board for addictions work, and I passed that. So, I was a licensed addictions counselor, and they let me treat compulsive gamblers through the state of Arizona. I opened up an agency and with three locations and the help of about 12 other therapists, we treated thousands of people impacted by problem gambling.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I started to talk to legal groups about community property law and the concept of waste and what that meant and how it was different from other addictions and the difference between substance abuse and gambling addictions, and served on the National Council for Problem Gambling and became a board approved clinical consultant to help gambling counselors help understand the difference between substance abuse and problem gambling and how they treated both the gambler and family members, and really, really ... I mean, I was on a mission to make sure that no other woman would go through this. I know that they still do, but I did my best to see that it was at least taught in trainings and things like that.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So, I am divorced. I'm just going to backtrack. This is before now, all of that. I'm divorced now from my second husband, and right after the divorce of my second husband, I find out that my first husband has AIDS and will probably not make it, and so in 1995, September of '95, I went through my second divorce from my gambling husband. In May of 1996, my first husband dies of AIDS, and in August of 1997, my second husband aorta explodes on the way home from a casino, and he dies at a hospital near our home. So, within less than two years, I have gone through my second divorce and buried my first and second husbands.

Renée Siegel:

And the father of your children.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Fathers of my children. I have to share with you, this is a really odd statement, but I think it's an important one in terms of understanding family dynamics. The time between my first husband's death and my second husband's death was really hard because two of my kids had a dad and two did not. When my second husband passed away and all four of the kids were without fathers, actually all six of the kids now without ...

PART 3 OF 4 ENDS [01:24:04]

Renée Siegel:

...of the kids were without fathers. Actually all six of the kids now without fathers. It brought those children together in a way that I could have never brought them together. They are each other's best friends. They rely on each other. They have a family network that is just unbelievably kind and strong and loving with each other.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Wow. Yes, I could see that, because siblings are so close to begin with and to be able to have moved through the process, the first two to support the second two who are younger too is, yes...

Renée Siegel:

Yes, exactly. The older four really did focus their attention on raising their baby sisters.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yes. Wow. Do they think that was stress-related?

Renée Siegel:

Totally stress-related. They found a gun in his belongings when we went to his house. We don't know if he was avoiding bad guys or going after bad guys. He had taken out a $1 million life insurance policy on his mother. His mother who never believed he had a gambling problem and accused me of being just a poor manager of money and I encouraged her to go to Gam-Anon with me, I can't tell you how many times. When she found out that the premium came due for her life insurance and she actually saw in writing what I was telling her to be true, that he had taken out a $1 million dollar life insurance policy on his own mom, finally came to grips with the fact that something's wrong, and many of his creditors just like they came after me in the divorce, remember now, we have been divorced for almost two years. They came after his mother for money now and his children. So they came after our two kids, his two kids for money.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

They came after his children?

Renée Siegel:

Because he had signed off [crosstalk 01:25:47] on his life insurance, giving them liens on his life insurance policy and he had sold his children's college funds and all sorts of things to pay off his gambling debts.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, that makes me want to cry. How heartbreaking. Were your children able to feel that this was desperation and that he loved them, were they able to hold those two things in the same place the way that you eventually did?

Renée Siegel:

I think so. All of them have memories of him being really funny and taking them to sporting events and even trying to teach them new things. And when he was there, very much present to be the fun person. If there was anything serious that had to be dealt with, he was not the person to engage with them. But he still almost up until the very end, he had a lot of positive interaction with them around being what some people might call a Disneyland dad.

Renée Siegel:

He did a lot of scary things that I reacted to. Like he took all of the kids, the two little ones and his biological children, my step kids to California with my consent for three days and came back five days later and I had to file a missing persons report because I had no idea where my daughters were, and dropped them off at one o'clock in the morning by beeping and dropping a four year old and a three year old off at the sidewalk. But they didn't know anything's wrong. They thought it was just lots of great fun.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right.

Renée Siegel:

So here I am taking them in crying and they have no earthly idea why I'm so upset.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

[crosstalk 01:27:28] they like, "Mom, you're just so dramatic. Geez."

Renée Siegel:

Not at three and four.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh yes, they're three.

Renée Siegel:

They don't get it, [crosstalk 01:27:36] and I'm just finally to a place where I don't know that they even heard or understood what was going on. They just thought I was probably crying because I was so happy and I missed them.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right.

Renée Siegel:

That's probably their interpretation of that. Because when I've talked to them, and I've really tried very hard to have open gambling conversations with them if they're at an age appropriate level. But their dad told them, it's so funny, they'll say, "Dad said, don't ever use the G word." And I go, "What's the G word?" And they said, "Gambling." They said, "You can talk about anything else but never talk about the G word. Especially if it's in front of one of my girlfriends or something else that's going on. Don't ever bring it up." And they literally thought for the first five, six years of their life that it was a cuss word to use that word.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, wow.

Renée Siegel:

[crosstalk 01:28:19] G word gambling. Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I mean kind of was. So you pick yourself up, put yourself back together, you house your children, and...

Renée Siegel:

I go through bankruptcy court. I get a mortgage, I actually borrow money from my brother and from my father to get a household loan. I go to the mortgage lender and he says "There's A paper, B paper, C paper and you have toilet paper, but we're going to get you into a house." He said, "You default on this loan and I'm going to be in big trouble." I said, "I will never default on a loan again. I promise as long as I live because I will learn everything there is to understand about money and how it works." My credit score today is 835, I worked really hard to clean everything. I can't even tell you how important that is to me. So I get a house, I've got my four bio kids and I never see my step kids during this time at all.

Renée Siegel:

In the meantime, I guess I have to backtrack a bit. When I finally decide I'm going to leave, I go to my obstetrician because I've got a baby that's relatively young still. She's three years old. And I said, "I'm going to leave." And she said, "You don't have a job, you don't have any way to make money. You tell me your husband's got a gambling problem and how exactly are you going to do this?" So I come up with a way to leave and he decides he wants to take the whole family to Vegas, and I say, "Can we please go to Florida instead to see my family?" And he says, "No, I'm going to Vegas." And I say, "How about if we go and all you have to do is get us there airfare-wise to see my family in Florida and you and your son can go to Vegas?" And the reason I want to go to Florida is because my ex-husband is there and he's an attorney and I know he'll help me file for divorce.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right.

Renée Siegel:

So I get there. The sad part is that I have my stepdaughter with me because she doesn't want to go to Vegas with her dad. So all of this happens in Florida while she's with me, and I have to explain to her that I've filed for divorce from her dad. My ex-husband who is in Orlando has agreed to take the kids and help me out with them in whatever way I need help and help me with all the legal stuff. We were really tight. That's another example of how close we were, and he helps me get through the legal aspects of at least the filing.

Renée Siegel:

Then my children do something unprecedented and that is they tell me that they are absolutely not going back to Michigan. I mean to Arizona, they want to stay in [inaudible 01:30:43] . I mean they don't want to stay in Florida, they want to go back to Arizona, sorry, getting all these states mixed up.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So they say they're not going back to-

Renée Siegel:

They don't want to stay in Florida. They want to go back home. They miss their friends, they miss [inaudible 01:30:56] and they decide they're going to have a mutiny. So Nicole, I know my oldest is going to go back home because she's my stepdaughter and she's going to go be with her mom in a safe place, thank God. And my four bios are just devastated. None of them want to stay there, even though their cousins are there and they're hanging out and they're having a great time. And so I sit down with the kids and I say, "Do you know, if we go back to Arizona, it's going to be a real struggle. I've got no money. I've got nowhere to go. [inaudible 01:31:22] "

Renée Siegel:

They said, "Can't you please just borrow some money and get us a small house? We'll all do whatever we can." And that's what I did. That's when I borrowed the money from my dad and my brother and got this little teeny house and started putting things back together and studied every night to get my license back on board in the state of Arizona. I find out, I can't use my own license, but I get a license as a substance abuse therapist and find out that the state is now looking at compulsive gambling as a problem.

Renée Siegel:

It was like all these opportunities began to drop into my lap. I opened my agency with the help of another gentleman who was like a guardian angel, Michael Brubaker, who used to be the state spokesperson for compulsive gambling here in the '80s. He actually just passed away recently, helped a gazillion people. He talks [inaudible 01:32:11] . I go to him as a counselor. After my third visit, he goes, "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, ma'am." He goes, "We're going to open an agency and treat some compulsive gamblers, because you know more about this than most people have forgotten and you've got a real strong background in addictions." And I go, "Help some gamblers? You want me to help gamblers? I'd like to kill them." And he goes, "No, when you understand this addiction, you'll realize this wasn't done to you. Just like your whole history."

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yes, right.

Renée Siegel:

So I trust him. We open up this agency in Scottsdale. He has to lend me his credit to even turn on the utilities because I've got nothing. Then we open up. After he leaves the agency a few years later and I'm on my own I open up another one in Prescott, another one in Mesa, and we are literally treating hundreds of families every week in this counseling center that have been impacted by gambling. And doing work that's just amazing work. Teaching people not just about the differences between gambling and substance abuse, but how to protect themselves as family members and what they can do and how to heal their relationships and all sorts of things like that.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Another thing just to mention, I lived in Prescott for some time and I lived in Arizona for a while and one of the things that if you haven't been to Arizona or you're not familiar, is that there are a lot of casinos or a lot of Indian casinos in Arizona in particular, and it's right... [inaudible 01:33:32] would drive to Laughlin and you drive to Vegas. In Arizona, those are regular spots that people go to.

Renée Siegel:

Right.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

People go to the casino. Whereas where I live, you can drive to the casino, but it's a drive. They're not regularly around. So I think that's another piece, that you were in one of the epicenters of where this needed to be addressed.

Renée Siegel:

Yes. That's so true.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So you put your life back together, you're starting to help people with gambling and how do you discover the Enneagram and how does that play into your recovery? Just to say this, I had a therapist who had me do it. I know very little. I'm an eight wing seven and between a two and a three.

Renée Siegel:

Eight wing seven. Okay, well you might be an eight with a seven wing that that has a lot of lookalike characteristics with a three but has aligned to two.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Got it, okay.

Renée Siegel:

I could show you an Enneagram map and I would love to offer you a continued conversation [crosstalk 01:34:40] around that if you'd like [crosstalk 01:34:42] thank you for this.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, yes. I would love it.

Renée Siegel:

[crosstalk 01:34:44] I decided that I'm going to do a lot of work on myself and I, for the first time in my life, decide I don't want a personal partner. And so I spend some time-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I cannot imagine why.

Renée Siegel:

Yes. So I date and I have some relationships but I don't want anything permanent. And in this process of five to seven years of being by myself, I do a lot of self-discovery work, go inside, find my own inner territory where things really make a difference and I can make some changes and take a look at what's important to me. A lot of things begin to shift in my life, and as they do, I keep being reintroduced to a gentleman that owns a treatment center in Prescott that is for gamblers. I keep seeing him at conference after conference, after conference, after conference. This is almost 10 years after I've been alone, is that right? Close to it. About eight years after I'd been alone and dated a handful of people, but nothing serious. He and I get into a relationship and one of the things that was the most intriguing thing about the relationship is that he introduces me to the Enneagram.

Renée Siegel:

We're at a conference and he says, "You know," I think he goes, "You are a brilliant clinician." He goes, "But I wonder if you have ever used this ancient tool called the Enneagram." And I think the word may sound familiar, but it doesn't. After the conference and talking to him, I go to Barnes and Noble directly after this conference and I begin to read book after book after book. And I have never, ever, ever been more interested in a topic related to my career or my life than that. The more I learned, the more I realized, I don't know, the more complicated it is. And the reason that I think it holds such great interest amongst many for me is that it is a holistic tool. It helped me to answer my question, "Why don't people get well and why can't they stay well?" We could have another entire podcast on the Enneagram, it's utility for recovery because it is dynamic and I'll give you some resources for that if you'd like.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yes. [crosstalk 01:36:54] may have to have you back [inaudible 01:36:55] talk about it too.

Renée Siegel:

Thank you, but I meet this gentleman, he owns a gambling treatment center and we forge a relationship and we stay in relationship for about eight years. I dive deep into the Enneagram and I meet all these people in recovery all over the world, because one of the things that he loves to do is to travel to every gambling treatment conference, whether they're lay conferences, professional conferences. I meet people in the international gambling conferences and state conferences and teach and train and really understand gambling addictions and the Enneagram at the same time. And actually created a product of each type in recovery that's used the Enneagram for both their substance abuse and problem gambling recovery. So I have a 10 and a half hour video film series with each of the nine types describing how the Enneagram came into their life in recovery, how it helped with looking at their addiction, how it helps in the resilience of their recovery and what they would like other people to know that are considering using the Enneagram in their recovery.

Renée Siegel:

I did that formal filming about five years ago now. It's just a really cool tool. So I have the Enneagram, I've always specialized in wellness, relationships and addictions. Those have been my three areas. If you look at the credentials after my name, the relationship stuff it's the marriage and family stuff and the wellness stuff is the licensed massage therapist and I'm a holistic healthcare practitioner and a ton of other things. The addiction stuff speaks for itself all over my career. The Enneagram works with all of it though because it talks about or addresses these patterns. Neurobiological patterns that we each possess that describe how our executive functioning works, how our limbic functioning works, how our reptilian functioning works, and our reactivity in terms of the somatic experiences in our body, as well as the fact that it came from this very ancient spiritual place that talked about the Enneagram initially used as nine types who had obstacles in their awareness of a larger creator or God and what they would need to do to overcome those obstacles. Way before the birth of psychology, obviously, right? [crosstalk 01:39:13] Spirituality.

Renée Siegel:

The roots were spiritual and now it's got all of this use in business and psychology and it is my mission to bring it into the addictions treatment field, and also with trauma. Dan Siegel, who is an expert in trauma, everybody loves Dan. He's just amazing. He knows the Enneagram. He also knows the neurobiology of type. So I'm hoping that some of his continued work will reveal some of the neurobiology we see of type at birth and how it relates to attachment and perhaps even trauma, resiliency and recovery.

Renée Siegel:

So the Enneagram, I realized that sometimes we don't find out what our purpose is until later in life, but I wake up thinking about the Enneagram. I go to bed thinking about the Enneagram. My kids tease me about the Enneagram. My friends tease me about the Enneagram. I do not think that the Enneagram is to be used as a superficial, "What's your type, baby?" Kind of thing. I just finished a six hour basic training on the Enneagram that's being edited right now for people who want to use the Enneagram as more than just understanding their type and how it's really a self-development tool.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So not like, "I'm a Capricorn." And yes-

Renée Siegel:

Exactly right. Yes. Although there's nothing wrong with astrology when you know [crosstalk 01:40:31] astrology. Right?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh yes, right. So I shouldn't tattoo my Enneagram on-

Renée Siegel:

You could if you wanted. For people who start there, you have to start somewhere, right?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Totally.

Renée Siegel:

And then I just finished an ebook with 35 questions for counselors, coaches, and spiritual directors considering bringing the Enneagram into their practice. That should be available at the end of this month. So the Enneagram is my life's work. I thank my past partner for that experience, and today I am in a loving marriage with a man who is emotionally available, spiritually available, physically available, has 35 years almost of recovery in alcoholism. Lives and works the program of recovery and incorporates the Enneagram into his recovery too.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I love that.

Renée Siegel:

Got certified and trained in the Enneagram because he knew it was important to me initially, and then found out it was an incredible gift in his own path in recovery. So it's been a long journey and I'm sure it's not anywhere near over, but this is the story to date.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It's such an amazing story and it's so... We get forced into these... I was just sort of giggling to myself about how you ended up at all these gambling things and all these gambling conferences. That's what happens is that you get so deeply affected by something, something you never wanted anything to do with, right?

Renée Siegel:

Right.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And you get so deeply affected by it. It's like there's nothing else you can do.

Renée Siegel:

That's right.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It must change your neurochemistry, because it literally becomes like, "I honestly, even if I wanted to do something else, I couldn't. I have to pursue this thing." I just completely understand that and experienced that. I see it happen a lot to other people. With topics where you never wanted to be, you never thought you would and you never wanted to be there, but then you find your own recovery as well through this horrendous experience. I just love that, and I love the hope there. And with the Enneagram. Briefly before we wrap, can you tell people a little bit about... Is there a way to describe what the Enneagram is for people?

Renée Siegel:

Sure.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Just to give it like a, obviously at the very top level...

Renée Siegel:

Yes. So the Enneagram, actually the word refers to a map or an illustration and word ennea any means nine. It's a nine-pointed diagram. The nine-pointed diagram is relatively new. It's probably been in existence about a hundred years. It is a culmination of the work of a lot of people from a long time ago all the way through today, discussing what today would be considered the nine personality types. With a caveat on the nine personality types, because personality is nothing more than a strategy that we use to manage life. We are not our personality. Many people describe themselves by using characteristics of their personality, but we are spiritual beings having a human experience. But as spiritual beings having a human experience, we need to have a strategy to manage life. The way that we incorporate that strategy is to pull in personality.

Renée Siegel:

Personality has to have some way of managing fear, which is the ego's involvement and some way of just moving through life. So we collect these experiences in life. We develop these early childhood beliefs. We have this way of managing fear. We have all sorts of other things that are magical that we don't know. Perhaps the stardust gave us something unique and specific. Then the spiritual aspect of the Enneagram recognizes that in the contraction of becoming a human being from spiritual essence, we each come away with one very important gift from God, one of nine gifts. And that when our ego relaxes, and it can as a human being, we actually have the availability of seeing all of those essential qualities of being godlike or having a spiritual nature. We could go into so much more about the Enneagram, but you can only imagine the value [crosstalk 01:45:11] that this has for recovery.

Renée Siegel:

People who walk in with shame and realize it's nothing but their type that's running the show, and that as they understand the type, their own type, they have a particular journey to recovery that no other type has. That they have resiliency, strengths and gifts that no other type has as well as the challenges that no other type has. They grow tolerant of the fact that there are other types in the world that do not see things the same way. They grow in acceptance. The unity of the program becomes a whole lot easier. Moving through the denial of addiction becomes a whole lot easier, because there's a defense mechanism that's really a preferred defense mechanism by each type. Like I said, I am really giving a very Reader's Digest condensed version [crosstalk 01:45:54] very important subject.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I would love to have you back on to talk about the Enneagram in further detail if that's ever something that's interesting.

Renée Siegel:

I would love to do that and I would love to offer the listeners some other things that they can do too.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yes, that would be awesome.

Renée Siegel:

There are several resources on my website, which is urpurepotential.com. The letter U, the letter R and then purepotential.com and you'll see that there are resources of the ebook that will be coming out, that should be posted soon. For counselors and coaches and spiritual directors, that book has been written. There is a free continuing education credit that you can take whether or not you want the CE or not, it's free, in terms of understanding the Enneagram and its utility in addictions and mental health treatment. Then there's a 20 hour continuing education course for using the Enneagram as a recovery coach or a recovery counselor. I am a NAADAC provider, the national association of alcoholism and drug abuse counselors, so there's a whole protocol.

Renée Siegel:

That is for purchase, that is a pay for a 20 hour CEU, but the others are free. I encourage you to fall in love with the Enneagram in the way that I have. I guarantee you, wherever your journey begins or ends with it, it will awaken self-awareness in a way that you never anticipated.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yes, it's amazing. So urpurepotential.com that's the letter U, the letter R purepotential.com. Renee, you are just absolutely amazing, pure potential. I adore you. I really do. And it's really just been a pleasure talking to you. Thank you for allowing me to go deep with you on your story and I really do mean it when I say I want to have you back on to talk about stuff.

Renée Siegel:

Well, I want to express my appreciation. I tell bits and pieces of my story as it's relevant in terms of teaching and training, but this is the first time I've ever actually told this much of my story at one point in time. So I know that you've given me a gift of just healing other things that have been sitting out there and maybe never making the connectivity to other parts of my story, and I'm very grateful for that.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh. It's been my pleasure. Truly. Thank you so much.

Renée Siegel:

Thank you.

Speaker 2:

This podcast is sponsored by Lionrock Recovery. Lionrock provides online substance abuse counseling where clients can get help from the privacy of their own home. They are accredited by the joint commission and sessions are private, affordable, and user-friendly, call their free helpline at 800 258 6550 or visit www.lionrockrecovery.com for more information.

PART 4 OF 4 ENDS [01:48:54]