What a title for this topic!
When I was a young, married woman, around my early thirties, I would of read this and thought, "Are you crazy? How?"
The non-drinker lives in denial as much as the substance abuser. We use excuses on why we can't do something, instead of looking at the fact that every person walking this earth has "choices." Taking action against something that is harming you, or your family, is a step closer to resolving the situation. Fear comes from the thought of doing something, but once you take the first step, your cycle completely starts to change. I call it "Getting off the Merry-Go-Round." Someone has to stop it. That is why I titled my first memoir Someone Stop This Merry-Go-Round: An Alcoholic Family in Crisis.
The abuser during their drinking, will start to see that you are no longer excepting the fear, confusion and abuse from their actions going through every member of the family. Because you love them, doesn't mean you have to give your safety and life up to save them. They have to save themselves. The more you take from them, the more they will use you as their punching bag; mentally and physically. Once you show them that you can't stand up to them, the control your every move.
Run as fast as you can to professional counseling. If your life has turned into fright or abuse from them coming home after a night, or all day drinking, get a restraining order and get them out until they get help. Have a police officer there while you do it. Have a locksmith at your home the same day you do, because that night, the drinker will become more intoxicated knowing what you had done to them. If they try to come in, call the police and have them arrested. Believe me, you are doing them more good than allowing them to know you won't do a thing to stop them.
If you want out, don't tell them until you have a place, or go directly to a home of protection for women or men. Again, have an officer at the house while you get your things out. Take abuse very serious because I didn't. I am lucky to be alive today. My once shy, loving husband and devoted father to our children, turned our lives into complete fear, along with my poor innocent girls watching and listening with no control to stop it, with the yelling and fighting when my husband arrived home in blackouts. I have had my head smashed into an arm of a chair, causing a concussion keeping me on the couch for three days. I didn't go to the doctors or hospital because he would be arrested. I had been chocked in bed almost to the point of passing out, because he wanted to kill me, and had a threat of him getting ready to throw me through the living room bay window. Now, Who was more sick?!
Why do we allow someone, anyone, to treat us this way? Let friends and family know your living situation with alcohol abuse. Our parents didn't bring us into the world with their love and protection, to be abused by another person. If family is not aware of this, the drinker has no one to answer to for their actions. You help hide it, giving them strength to not stop. The more you allow someone to over-rule your every move or thought, the deeper you bring that person into their addiction from not having to make any choices with changes. Innocently, our enabling keeps the actions going with no results. Tough love is not just an expression. It is a sign of love.
"A new World Health Organization report shows that 3.3 million people die each year from alcohol use. Here is a look at annual alcohol intake around the world in liters per person over the age of 14:"
Russia: 15.1 Australia 12.2 South Africa 11 United States 9.2 China 6.7
This report was taken from the May 16, 2014 Time Magazine on page 8.
The aids epidemic had a loss of 20 million people in twenty years. If you took 3.3 million with alcohol abuse (and that is not including drugs), you would have 60 million deaths in 20 years.
I wonder if this count of deaths was from a disease epidemic, how long it would take for our country and others, to do something dramatic about this situation?
HOTLINE for Domestic Violence: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
How I wish I had been aware of Intervention shows with alcoholics on television. But we are talking about the eighties and I was in denial with my daughter, Lori, having a problem with drinking. "After all, it must be a stage and when she gets out of her senior year in high school, and away from her friends, she will straighten-out." An ungodly belief after her father, Richard Lopes, died in 1985 at forty-five years of age from the same disease.
Yes, I was so foolish, uneducated and blind to addiction. Lori did give up drinking, or so I thought, once she got married and had two beautiful children. It wasn't until she was thirty-seven years old that she admitted herself into the Gosnold Rehabilitation Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts that family came to realize that she was an alcoholic. How did she hide it so well? Her children were fifteen and sixteen when they were told by family that their mother was battling alcohol abuse. They lived with her day in and day out and had no idea. Lori was a closet-drinker and never stopped drinking since she was a teenager. When she drank at parties, she never got drunk.
When Lori died in 2006 at thirty-nine, I hit upon the Intervention show on television by accident. I was hitting on one show to the next trying to find something to take my mind off the horrible reality of her death. Al would go upstairs to bed and I'd be drowning in my sorrow that life stopped for me. My daughter was no longer breathing. I would never again in my days left of earth hold her, see her smile, hear her contagious laugh, run my fingers through her black, curly, long hair, my eyes would not see her love for her children, Joey and Meagan, or witness her coming through the door yelling, "Hello, I'm here!"
I was glued to the Intervention show nightly because I wanted to learn what Lori had been feeling and needed when I was blind to her slowly dying from her liver, kidneys and other organs shutting down. She never opened up to me or anyone. I punished myself for my ignorance with her actions that I had ignored or never had been aware of at the time. Someone had to blamed, so it had to be me. I was uninformed that it had been Lori's decision to desire the help to recover.
I watched one girl's life on the show who was in her early twenties with two children. Two children that she loved, and yet, had no strength to give up her drinking even for them; like Lori. This woman was in the hospital dying and her family had been warned of the terrible event ready to unfold. Their hearts would be ripped out of them. Somehow by the Power of God, she survived and went back to her counseling. Her counselor asked her how she came out of death.
She replied, "My family. No matter where I was or what bad state I was in, someone, whether my parents, aunts, siblings or others, made a call to me everyday saying they loved me and were there if I needed them. They took turns to help stop the stress on one person. It was their love that made me survive."
It goes to show that it is easy to "tell" someone we love them, but it's "showing" them that gets results. Go to their meetings, counseling or doctor appointments. Give them the hugs and don't be afraid to say you fear losing them. Let them know it's the disease you hate and not them.
Family can form their own interventions at home. Intervention is an event, hopefully, to make the addicted become aware how much we love them and want to give support. So many alcoholics and drug addicts want help but can't take the first step. We need to reach out and take their hands. Something I wish I had done more often with Lori before she died. It's the thinking about giving up their habit that scares them, but once they take that one, tiny step, they are closer to recovery, and it gets easier.
It's painful and sad the we have to lose someone or something that we love to come to terms on what we could have done to achieve better results. Addicts have to be helped to see they don't have to be alone or frightened. They have to see that we love them no matter how many bad falls or turns they take. We'll help dust them off so they can get up and start again toward the goal of sobriety. They have to feel that they are worth something and have many talents to give to their families and society.
The struggle with alcoholics is not with quitting their habit, it's with staying sober. My daughter was told by a doctor that they do not recommend that alcoholics quit drinking on their own. Quitting cold turkey can be dangerous to ones health. The addicted can go into a seizures and not come out of one. Quitting alcohol abuse doesn't mean to switch to another drug like marijuana, cocaine or beer.
Alcoholics need a great support system in their fight for recovery. I don't believe they can do it on their own, although, I'm sure others have been blessed to accomplish the task.
John Daubney, an Author, Mentor and Retreat Leader, who was one out of the thirty-four addicts to contribute to my new book What is and isn't Working for the Alcoholic and Addict stated:
"Negotiating the ups and downs of the first few years of recovery contain numerous pitfalls which those in recovery must have the right kind of help with. The best-intention of friends, family, lovers, and co-workers can be healthy supports or obstacles to long-term sobriety. Having the addicts tell their story of what worked for them and what didn't or doesn't work would be a most helpful addiction to the literature on the subject of addiction and recovery.
Addicts sharing their experience, strength and hope with others is something that only a recovering addict or alcoholic can do. It is a unique gift."
We, as non-drinkers, can't understand how addicts suffer. I wanted to learn what Lori suffered mentally and physically because she would not open up to me. That's why I wrote the book.
Another contributor, CW, stated: "I was tired of getting sick, my hands shaking, my vision deteriorating, my nose bleeding, my bowls moving sporadically, not sleeping and feeling safe, along with the violence and running from many situations becoming paranoid to the point of staying home all day."
Do the doctors and counselors really listen to the addicted? Or do they keep giving pills to combat their mental state?
Here is another statement from someone who wanted to stay anonymous in the book, "I would tell doctors and counselors to listen to us. We are drinking for a reason, but can't stop on our own. Help us identify the reason we are drinking. What are we afraid of? What are we trying to hide, our insecurities, our short-comings? Maybe we just don't like who we are sober and truly believe we are better people when we are drinking or using drugs. Most of all, treat us as humans, not a disease."
To what I had seen losing my husband, Richard Lopes, and my daughter, Lori Cahill, with their mental state, I believe that doctors and counselors should study more why a person is drinking or using drugs more than the disease.
How easy it is to go back to things that are familiar and to do what addicts were once comfortable doing in your lives. Some of these behaviors can be destructive, yet you keep going back to them.
You convince yourselves that it won't be that bad if you do back to the ways that almost killed you and believe you can stop if the habit goes too deep. You think, I'm not hurting anyone. You know it is wrong because it's not working, and you know that it's not only hurting you but hurting the people who love you.
You have to accept you are an alcoholic and addicted, but sometimes that is not enough to get the strength to stay away from using. You miss, who you think are friends. They are doing the same so you think why is it bad for me and not them? But it is bad for them. You are thinking this way because you are slowly starting to get the desire to recover and get your life back on track to being healthy. You are looking at not only what you are doing to your body and mind, but seeing what your addicted friends are heading.
Phil Paleologos, a host to the WBSM Radio show out of Fairhaven, Massachusetts, and one of my contributors to my Narrative Non-Ficton What is and isn't Working for the Alcoholic and Addict stated, "You have to fall in love with the struggle." That is such a strong statement. Another remark that hit me was from a football player, sorry can't remember the name, who had it all; fame and money, until he got into drug and alcohol abuse. He was talking to some teenagers and said, "Show me your friends, and I'll tell you your future." Think for a moment on these two remarks. Think hard and often when you feel you are falling back.
You can achieve the recovery, but you think it's too hard and too much work. Don't think about what you have to do, just start toward that goal. Thinking about something is always worse than starting it.
On December 18, 2013, my husband, Al, and I met with Senator Michael Rodrigues from the Bristol-County District trying to modify the Patient Privacy Act. Here is a new Release.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Laura Oggeri
January 16, 2014 .
Senate to Appoint Special Committee on Section 35
BOSTON – In response to rising levels of drug addiction, the Senate on Thursday will pass an order to create a special committee to study the application of Section 35 and drug addiction treatment options in the Commonwealth.
According to Trust for America’s Health, the number of drug overdose deaths in Massachusetts has increased by 47 percent since 1999.
“Addiction is a very serious and often fatal problem that affects families in every community from every socio-economic background,” Senate President Therese Murray said. “Sadly, Section 35 often serves as a revolving door for drug addicts with many falling back to their old ways because meaningful treatment has not been available. We need to take a look at what treatment options are available in all regions of the state, if there is a need for change and how we fill that need. The costs of drug addiction are high, both to families and the economy, and we have experienced a significant impact on public safety. This special committee has been tasked with bringing together experts from every side of this issue to look at the big picture of drug abuse and I look forward to their recommendations.”
The special committee will be chaired by Senator Jennifer L. Flanagan. Other assigned members include Senate Chair of the Joint Committee of the Judiciary William N. Brownsberger, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government Linda Dorcena Forry, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health John F. Keenan, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse Joan B. Lovely and Ranking Member on the Senate Committee on Ways and Means Senator Richard J. Ross.
Section 35 of Chapter 123 of the General Laws allows the courts to commit an individual whose alcohol or drug addiction puts themselves or others at risk to inpatient substance abuse treatment for a period of up to 90 days. If no beds are available at a licensed treatment facility, men are sent to the correctional facility at Bridgewater and women are sent to the correctional facility in Framingham. The Women’s Addiction Treatment Center in New Bedford and the Men’s Addiction Treatment Center in Brockton also provide treatment for individuals committed under Section 35.
Alberta Sequeira’s speaking engagement at the Lakeville Library in Lakeville, Massachusetts on Thursday evening, February 6th from 6-8 pm went well with close to 50 people attending. It was a night on the effect of alcoholism on the whole family and the addict. Ms. Sequeira introduced her new Narrative Non-Fiction What is and isn’t Working for the Alcoholic and Addict: In Their Own Words.
It was a program for both the addict and their family members. There were 34 alcoholics and drug addicts who contributed their stories in the book who wanted the world to know what they believe hasn’t and is not working in their recovery programs. They also tell family members how they can support and help them get out of denial to want professional help.
Two of the 34 contributors were present to talk about their lives with handling the abuse of alcohol and drugs. Phil Paleologos, host to the WBSM Radio Show out of Fairhaven, Massachusetts talked about his life struggle in a marriage and not getting out of denial with his addiction.
Tom Cirignano, and author and speaker from Lakeville, Massachusetts, spoke about how alcohol abuse effected his life to the point of car and motorcycle accidents after another, all from trying to fit into the crowd. He owned a family gas station in Boston during the era of the mob and crime in South Boston, MA. He had a few moments with Whitey Bolger and spoke about it in his memoir The Constant Outsider.
Host for the evening, Alberta Sequeira, spoke from the family side of alcoholism and drug abuse in families and the effect on all of us. She even took the time to talk directly to the addicts to give them hope.
Have you tried talking to your child or adult on their drinking and had the remark from them, “Why don’t you leave me alone. I have no problem. Besides, who am I hurting?”
Lets see who is affected. I see a lover, spouse, parent, child, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, niece, nephew, friend and co-worker to name a few. The addict keeps their loved ones in fear and confusion on how to deal with and help those who are tearing their lives apart with addiction.
All of us, who have someone in the family battling alcohol and drug abuse are affected. It is not just the addicted. In 1985, my husband, Richard Lopes of North Dighton died at the VA Hospital in Providence, RI at forty-five years of age from his alcohol abuse since he had been a teenager. The disease trickled down from his mother, aunts, uncles, siblings and his niece and his daughter. That illness affected many relatives on Richie’s side. My daughter, Lori Cahill, was thirty-seven when the family found out she was battling alcohol abuse and became bulimic. Her son, Joe, was eighteen, and her daughter, Meagan, was seventeen and neither of them knew she had a drinking problem. She hid it well. She entered the Butler Hospital in Providence, RI once and twice at the Gosnold Rehab in Falmouth. Two years later, Lori lost her battle and died at the Charlton Memorial Hospital In FR from cirrhosis of the liver. We had to take her off life-support. I watched my daughter take her first breath at birth and her last at her death.
After I lost two loved ones from their addiction, I had all the overwhelming questions, what if, I should have, I could have, and the guilt of putting her out on her own to straighten herself out while family kept her children with us. I couldn’t help wondering what I could have done differently to save her. The right side of me looked at things logically but the left side where my heart was never stopped thinking with the emotional part of losing a child.
Last year, I started to wonder, “Why is it that some alcoholics and drug addicts recover and put their lives together while others die from this horrible worldwide problem? What gives them the physical and mental strength to fight this battle and come out winning? Where was I going to get the answers. I decided to go to the best source possible, the substance abusers themselves.
I put an ad on the website Reporter Connection asking for alcoholics and drug addicts who wanted to tell their personal stories about their struggle battling addiction for a book I was writing. I had 34 addicts from the United States and Canada write back. Many had to be turned away. The reason I wanted so many testimonies was from a remark Lori said to my husband, Al, and I when she was in Butler Hospital. Her statement was, “Ma I just listened to a man in his seventies talk for over an hour and could not relate to him.” I prayed for someone else’s life to hit Lori so she would grab onto hope and belief that she could recovery. It wasn’t meant to be for her. After her statement, I knew I needed a book written by multiple addicts telling different stories on how each one recovered. I wanted each reader to connect to one out of 34 and say, “That’s me or that‘s our family life.”
I have written Someone Stop This Merry-Go-Round and its sequel Please, God, Not Two. I feel that the stories are more about lessons than memoirs. I could have titled them What Not to Do with Addiction. I swallowed my pride and opened up about the reality of what actually happened behind closed doors while we all suffered in silently from fear, confusion and abuse.
Now I needed a book with answers to the questions that drove me crazy and kept me in guilt. That’s how I came to write What is and isn’t Working for the Alcoholic and Addict: In Their Own Words. I thought if I had all these questions eating inside me than other parents, siblings and friends of the substance abusers had the same questions. Doctors and counselors from all over the world are trying to find ways to get this illness even at a point to say the death rates are going down with improvement. But each year, the rates go higher.
Here is a book for all of us to learn, not only what the addict is looking for with support to help them through with their recovery, but new ways to help them. You will learn that childhood emotional wounds mold us into what we become in adulthood. It is a book of personal stories from alcoholics and drug users from all walks of life.
I sent the contributors 23 questions and some were; at what age did you start using, are there or have there been others in the family fighting addiction, did they die from drinking, what made you start drinking or using drugs, what gave you the strength or desire to get help, do you think doctors and counselors should look into why you started using more than the actual disease, and what would you have parents, spouses, siblings, and the medial staff members do differently to help you. Some believed in AA, sponsors and others never walked through their doors. I high percentage turned back to God. The contributors main goal is to lift other substances abusers, especially young people, in knowing that they can recover. They also want others to know how substance abuse habits made them lose everything. I wrote the book to save families from going through the stress that caused me to have a small breakdown because I pushed my mind and body beyond what it could take trying to control the alcoholic. Read this book and learn what addicts need. You will come to the reality that that it’s not that drinking and taking drugs may, could or would kill. It will.
My own personal feelings are that the addicted suffer from deep-rooted issues besides drinking and drug use. I failed as a parent in situations that I could have prevented. I was too young with no education or knowledge about this disease to help Richie and Lori. You need professionals.
I want to list some topics that I discussed in my first two memoirs that I felt were handled wrong.
1. Get out of denial with the idea it’s a stage your family member is going through and they‘ll give it up. Stop blaming their friends. They have a choice.
2. Stop the threats with our famous remark: “If you do this one more time, I’ll call the cops, I’ll throw you out, I’ll divorce you, I’ll take the kids off you.” After awhile, it will go in one ear and out the other. Don’t say one thing and then don’t carry through. Taking action is a step toward recovery.
4. Don’t tell them you are leaving until you have a place to stay, have a restraining order if they are abusive, and have a police officer with you when you confront them. If you decide to stay in the house, and want them to leave, follow the same steps.
5. Don’t break the restraining order by taking them back. There is nothing wrong with having them prove they want to be sober by having sobriety for a year. You don’t have to file for divorce. Work your problems and differences out in counseling together and separately in meetings, is a healthy start. When a few weeks or months go by, don’t fall for “Honey, I have changed. I haven’t had a drink in weeks, I miss you, the kids need me.” Kids don’t need that kind of life or love.
6. Protect your children more than substance abusers. Get professional help as soon as you see there is a problem. If something does not seem, feel or look right, find out what‘s wrong.
7. Take time to listen to the person suffering. Saying you love them is easy. Doing something to help them makes them feel the love and bring results. Go to AA meetings, counseling or doctor’s appointments. Show the love! Don’t shut off communications. Don’t become so busy with what you are doing when they come to talk that you want to talk later. Later may not come. It may be the one time they are reaching out. If you can go away with them for a weekend without the other siblings, do it. Make them know they are special. Go where they want and “listen” to them. See how you can help. What do they want from you for support?
8. Don’t believe they have to reach rock bottom and throw them out on their own. It could be their death.
7. Let them know it’s the disease you hate and not them. There is nothing wrong with opening up and saying, “I am scared of losing you with this disease.” Open up on how you feel without pulling them down.
8. Turn back or bring prayer into your family. Prayer is just talking to God. Here is an easy prayer I give to the addicted. Wake up and ask God to help you for the day to stay away from using. At night, even if it was the worse day you had, thank Him. Why? because he is giving you another day to get it right.
My daughter, Debbie and her husband Brian took Lori’s two children in to live with their children Kerri and Michael. Joe got out of the Marines in June of 2013 and Meagan graduated from college and is going for her Master’s degree in Psychology for the addicted. I became an Awareness Coach on Alcoholism.
Lori was buried with her father at the St. Patrick Cemetery in Somerset, MA. I pray this new book helps prevent family members, substance abusers and the professional teams study new ways of handling addiction. There is a huge white statue of The Blessed Mother with her arms opened wide, the one Lori said gave her comfort that She was watching over her father.
On December 18, 2013, Al and I met with Senator Michael Rodrigues of the Bristol County area trying to find ways to modify the Patient Privacy Act for alcoholics, drug addicts and the mentally ill. We want family members to have more authority being involved with addicts over eighteen years of age with counseling and meeting with their doctors, especially if they are at a life-threatening stage with their liver shut-down or if they are admitted multiple times showing no progress or desire to give up their habit. At this stage, we do not feel they can make healthy decisions with their recovery.
For those of you who are here tonight and fighting addiction, I want you to hold your heads up high. You have nothing to be ashamed of because you have a disease. The sad part is if you don’t want the professional help. There are millions of addicts walking this earth who will never have the chance to get into a recovery program or receive any support. Let me give you an example of your disease and fighting it. Say, you got into an accident and woke up with a doctor saying you will never have use of your body from your neck down/or you have been suffering with pain and went for tests. How would you feel having the doctor say you have cancer with a few months to live? They can’t do anything about their lives now. It is over. YOU CAN! You have a choice. You have to fight for your sobriety. You have to want it right here in your heart. You have to push the ones you love aside and put yourself first to recovery. You can’t take care of anyone else if you can’t take care of you. This is your battle.
To me there are three reasons why a person becomes an alcoholic and turns to drugs. 1. alcoholism is hereditary and can be passed down from one family member to another. 2. you got hooked at a young age from wanting to follow the crowd, the wrong ones you thought were cool. You believe drinking and drug use is a stage. All the kids are doing using, but you will find the wanting to use will go to having to because you body is craving it. 3. the person has deep-rooted problems from events in their life and they want to blank them out of their minds. They are too painful to discuss. Lori never talked about the pain losing her father, I forced her into an abortion because the boy did not want to marry her and she hinted eight months before she died that Richie did something to her. All these issues were kept deep within her and she could not share them. She never allowed family or her children to be involved with her treatments.
You have to open up and get the garbage out of you to recover. Forgive people who hurt you. Holding a grudge stops you from moving forward to recovery. Why let someone who was sick abuse you and then allow that person to keep you in denial and feeling sorry for yourself. Get on with life. Let go and put the past in God’s hands.
I am asked if I learned anything from publishing What is and isn’t Working for the Alcoholic ad Addict. I learned that no matter how much I yelled, demanded, threatened, begged, punished or cried, the substance abuser has to want the help to recover. All we can do as a family is show and tell them how much they are loved and get involved in their counseling and doctor’s appointment. Be there for them.
I am available to speak at anyone’s event, privately to substance abusers, at women’s ministries, organizations, businesses, court-ordered program or to the public. Email me at [email protected] for a quote.
What is and isn't Working for the Alcoholic and Addict can be purchased in paperback or Kindle at Amazon.com. If you are a Prime Member of Kindle, it is now free.
Forgiveness is not easy, including with ourselves. How many times have I wished my decisions and choices with my reaction towards Richie and Lori's drinking could be made over again. How differently I would have shown my love, patience, gift of listening to their pain, hugging, kisses, and words of strength to give them hope. Choices...the ones that slipped away because of my head was filled with frustration, anger, fear, and fighting abuse from Richie. Why did I hold on to dear life to keep our silent suffering behind closed doors.
This horrible alcoholic demon had entered our home and family and tore us all apart. I lost two people who loved life and their family. Richie's business with repairing television sets once took off with devoted customers who loved him, came to a time of diminished dreams and him losing it all. The once loving man turned into someone I didn't know. How could he have become so abusive? How could he have let his promise to never be like his mother with drinking become his world? Why did I enable so much and so often that innocently I brought him deeper into his addiction from not making demands? How could I have become such an irresponsible mother to have allowed my two daughters to live in a home with fights and yelling at night with Richie coming home in the early morning hours in blackouts? How did I take the young years from our children that were suppose to be filled with security, fun, love, and growing up to be happy people? I should have been protecting my children instead of Richie. How did I allow him to abuse me to the point of having fear of dying some night to continue for years? How did I not turn to family to help us? Why was I ashamed to talk about this disease that held us in its grip so tightly that we were being smothered?
Why are we afraid to make demands on a drinker or addict for them to get professional help or leave the home? Why do we think threats of leaving them or divorce is the answer that will scare them into giving up their habit? Threats that are said so often with no action that Richie blocked it out of his ears. Doing something about the drinking and getting off the merry-go-round effect is an action towards recovery. Nothing matters to a substance abusers except that drink.....that drug. We can see it is killing them, but they are blind to everything that once mattered to them. Waiting too long to get professional help only brought the desire from Richie to drink to needing the drink. Waiting too long, brought him to his early death at forty-five years old.
After Richie's death, I kept myself in my own denial as I watched Lori in her senior year at Dighton-Rehoboth High School starting to follow the same path as her father. It's a stage, I told myself; not thinking it might be hereditary or following the wrong crowd. I was blind to the fact Lori suffered from a lot of pain after her father's death and my wrong decisions in her with an abortion at seventeen because the boy didn't want to get married. An abortion she didn't want. One that we never spoke about when it was over. In Lori's last year, she hinted her father did something. A statement she never talked about with me and hid deep down inside her.
She stopped drinking after getting married and having two children: Joe and Meagan. Or so we thought. At thirty-seven, Lori admitted to be an alcoholic. She went into Butler Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island once and twice to Gosnold Rehab in Falmouth, Massachusetts. Each time, Lori came out and started the same cycle over again with drinking, the same friend, the same locations. Fear set in when I realized she may die. The reality became a nightmare when she said the doctor gave her two years to live if she continued to drink. The words tore into my heart when she admitted to being bulimic. My poor daughter was more sick mentally and physically than I had realized. I suffered wanting to help her when she refused our family or her children to attend her counseling or doctors appointments.
I watched her slowly give into her alcohol abuse to be taken to the Charlton Memorial Hospital in Fall River, Massachusetts. A place where for three weeks we watched her go into a coma and be put on life-support. Our pain goes deeper taking her off the machine. I watched my daughter take her first breath at birth and her last at her bedside in a hospital.
Writing What is and isn't Working for the Alcoholic and Addict makes me see the 34 alcoholic and addicts try to comfort me saying the addict has to want the help. They have to do it themselves. The right side of me says that I did the best I could at the time with what I knew, but my left side, where my heart is beating, the heart that contains all our love, feels differently as a mother. What gives me the strength to go on without them? The belief that God is all Loving and Merciful. He had His reason to take them home.
The empty gap, the empty chairs during holidays, the empty spot opening Christmas gifts, knowing Easter was her favorite holiday coming to our home with the house full of family, seeing her friends, riding by her home knowing strangers are living there, seeing her children grow up, is very painful for me at times. In the summer of 2013, her son, Joe, came out of the Marines and her daughter, Meagan, graduated from college and is now going for her Master's Degree in Addiction. I became an Awareness Coach with Alcoholism hoping to help someone else develop the strength to recover.
I will never have a second chance to do it better. I teach forgiveness with my talks, now I have to learn to do the same.
Changes. Oh, how we all hate them. We do so many things from habit. Today, I went to relax and turn on my favorite show Judge Judy. It wasn't on. I had on the right channel, right? Then I realized it was a Saturday. Now what do I do with my hour that entertained me?
Sounds a lot different than a major decision with a substance abuser, but it made me stop and think of how I was going to fill that hour. Imagine an alcoholic who wants to stop their habit that is killing them? The usual hour meeting up with the same friends who drank is now facing them. They're bored. What do they do when their insides are craving that drink, the fun getting high, the laughter with how crazy everyone looked doing stupid things getting drunk, falling all over or the great feeling of going into another world with pushing all your pain and fears with what makes you drink aside for hours?
That pull has to be horrible. That's when you need to call a sponsor and get to meetings. Yes, you may feel, what a way to live, but the gatherings with new sober friends help you live! One more day that goes by without using, is another day closer to recovery. It will be a fight facing you all your life.
I am a heart patient with a second pacemaker and I am diabetic. You say, Not even close to my struggle and suffering. But, it is! I have to watch what I eat and do. My life turned upside down hearing the doctor through the years tell me how I had to change my life with habits with things I love to eat to "survive." Back in 2003, I had two TIA's, which can lead to strokes. Every day I "force" myself, and I mean force, to exercise for an hour, which helps keep my arteries clearer and drops my sugar levels. I have had family members lose toes, legs and have heart attacks from not controlling the the changes. I had to give up eating my wonderful sweets, I have to go once a month, sometimes twice, depending on my blood levels, to get my Coumadin blood drawing. I have to watch how much greenery foods I eat.
I believe we have to look at what we have and how we are going to get to a healthy life that God wanted us to have with loved ones to share it with if we want it bad enough. It's not impossible, but it sure is a struggle to get and stay where we want to be without a world that will end our lives early. Think of the rewards, the chance to watch your children grow up, graduate and get the job we wanted, get friends that really care how you are everyday.
So when you feel weak, run toward the people who will support and help you with your goals, pray for God to give you strength, and stay away from the path that has no future.
Here we go again with the famous saying, "I can't believe another year is ending!"
How true. My father once told me that the older we get, the faster time goes. I didn't believe him. He must be looking down smiling. We look back at all that had happened to us in 2013 and enjoy the good events and some we try to understand "Why Me!"
Another year with the loss of Lori passed making November 22, 2013 seven years since she left us with God's calling. Many of us will look back at losing our loved ones and try to fill the empty gap at Christmas and try to celebrate the New Year 2014!
I still have to hold back tears as I watch Lori's son and daughter open their gifts with her seat empty. I miss Lori's entrance into her sister Debbie's door, struggling to carry all the Christmas gifts yelling, "Hello, I'm here!"
I have to appreciate God's gifts to me through the pain. Lori left Al and I two beautiful grandchildren. Her sister, Debbie and her husband Brian, took them into their home with their son, Michael and their daughter, Kerri, who has since bought a house in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
What a gift Debbie has given those children. Lori's son, Joe, got out of the Marines this past June and Meagan is continuing after graduating from college to get her Master's Degree in Psychology to help other addicts.
As for myself, I have accomplished writing my fifth book on September 25, 2013. The one I call a conclusion to my other two memoirs on our life with Alcoholism in our family so I could share all the mistakes I made and the ones I would change if I could.
What is and isn't Working for the Alcoholic and Addict is a book that gave me answers I wanted from my ex-husband, Richie and daughter, Lori. Thirty-four alcoholics and drug users from the United States and Canada helping others addicted, doctors, counselor and family members to understand what does and hasn't worked in recovery programs. December 18th, Al and I met with Senator Michael Rodrigues to modify the Patient Privacy Act.
What are my goals for 2014? I am ending my serious writing on "Alcohol Abuse" but hope to start a continuous education to every location I can reach, privately and publicly, to help the addicted with my speaking engagements to learn how this disease has many mental issues.
I started having fun writing my first Fictional book called "The Rusty Years." I want my readers to see a lighter side to me. Hopefully, I can complete the writing and publish it by the end of 2014 or the early part of 2015.
It would be such an honor to have a large following of readers and bloggers wanting to reach out to me and for me to get time to become friends with each of you.
To all of you who have supported me and waited time and time again with me going off my blog. I had been sick for the past 3 months and couldn't keep up with my blogs. I hope to do more in 2014. Feel free to contact me on what you want to read.
Have a MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY and HEALTHY New Year for 2014!!!
Most of all, learn what your family members are all about while they are still with you.
Do you think alcohol and drug abuse is a family problem or do you feel that an addict should have complete privacy with their counseling, omitting family completely, which addicts consider to be the most important part of their recovery? This is a topic that can be looked at in many ways for many reasons.
Last week, my husband, Al, and I were interviewed for a half hour by radio host Phil Paleologos from the WBSM Radio Show (1420 AM) from Fairhaven, Massachusetts. Phil did a Book Launch on my new release What is and isn’t Working for the Alcoholic and Addict: In Their Own Words.
There were numerous reasons as to why he wanted to help us give a voice to the addicted. Phil has been sober for over thirty-years and is one of the thirty-four co-authors telling their story in this book on how they started drinking, the struggles to recover, and what hasn’t and doesn’t work in getting help. They also tell family what they need from parents, partners and siblings with giving support to help them by helping them get out of denial. This goes as far as advice to doctors and counselors on what they feel is needed from them as professionals.
One contributor wrote: “I would tell counselors and doctors to listen to us. We are drinking for a reason, but can’t stop on our own. Help us identify the reason we are drinking. What are we afraid of? What are we trying to hide, our insecurities, our short-comings? Maybe we just don’t like who we are sober and truly believe we are better people when we are drinking or using drugs. Most of all, treat us as humans and not a disease.”
The radio show attracted a lot of listeners with call backs. One recovering alcoholic was very firm on secrecy in his counseling. He did not agree with Al and I that family should be involved if that is the addict’s wish. I agreed that privacy to any person suffering with an illness and getting counseling is number one.
I tried to explain the difference when it gets to the point that a doctor has confirmed that your loved one is at a life-threatening situation with their liver and other organs at the point of shutting down and the addict can’t stop their habit. Lori had deep rooted problems as a child, and as her mother who lived through those nightmarish days, I had the answers she was looking for to help put things in perspective. For two years we watched her reach what AA calls “Rock Bottom” but couldn’t pull herself out to survive. Lori died November 22, 2006 at thirty-nine years of age.
“You hear and read that alcohol abuse is a ‘family disease,’ yet it’s not treated that way. We have AA, Al-Anon and Alateen meetings daily, with family members going to their separate gatherings behind closed doors, alcoholics to the AA meeting, the parents and siblings to the Al-Anon meeting, and the teens to the Alateen meetings.
“They group together and keep everything that was discussed to themselves; they don’t share what they’ve learned with each other, or discuss their feelings about what they’ve heard, especially not what each person needs to help them understand how they enable the abuser and what to do to show the addict that he/she is loved and has the support of the family. Some professionals work only with the addict, cutting out the family entirely and leaving the substance abusers to fight their own battle, even when they’re not in enough of a healthy emotional state to make good choices about their lives.
“What is a family member taught behind these so-called closed door meetings? This is what I was told, ‘The alcoholic has to do it on their own. They have to reach rock bottom. Don’t worry about them, take care of yourself. Go on with your life as normally as you can. Separate yourself.’ This belief is actually teaching every family member not to communicate and work together with their loved one who is on a death path.
“This belief, which we’ve been taught for years, that the addicted have to reach rock bottom, is so sad. Lori and Richie’s rock bottoms were their deaths. There is no need to let people get so deep into their addiction that we allow them freely to reach the stage of dying. They suffer emotional and mental pain, which can institutionalize them and lead to suicide, when a family can pull together as a unit to give the love and support from the very moment of the discovery that there is a problem. Alcohol and drugs become a problem when they cause serious disruptions in any form with the substance abusers lives or others around them.”
Parents will always have a divided heart with the right side looking at logic and the left side of carrying the heart trying to deal with the loss. December 18, 2013, Al and I meet with Senator Michael Rodrigues to try to modify the Patient Privacy Act for the substance abusers and the mentally ill. I say modify and not change the Act.
February 6, 2014 on a Thursday evening from 6 pm-8 pm, I will run a speaking engagement on “The Effect of Alcoholism on the Whole Family” at the Lakeville Library at 4 Precinct Street at the corner of Route 18 and Route 105. I want this to be a family event.
My two guest speakers will be WBSM Radio host Phil Paleologos and author Tom Cirignano from Lakeville who are two of the contributors to What is and isn‘t Working for the Alcoholic and Addict. We are aiming at inviting the alcoholic, drug addicts, teenagers, family members, counselors, doctors and anyone with addiction in the family to hear two recovery alcoholic say what they needed to heal from their habit. I will then talk from the family side on what we encounter with our own enabling and allowing the confusion and fear to continue to disrupt our family life and only bring the alcoholic deeper into their addict. Mark your calendars! We hope to meet you.