Journey's blog

2014: A New Year With Changes

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.

Alberta

How Far Does Family Play in the Addict's Recovery?

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.  

Get out of Denial and Get Healthy

It has to be a lost feeling for a substance abusers who wants to give up their habit and you reach what they call the "dry" point. You may act like you are happy and fine when you are actually miserable. You're waiting for the day you face temptation.

After being off alcohol or drugs for awhile, you may start to see that your problem was not from either. Now it's time to face the reasons you started using in the first place. You need new tools to succeed. You need to start a clean and have a new relationship with yourself.

How do you go back to not lying when the action made it easy to use as excuses on what you were doing and why. Here is where you start with one day at a time! Giving any action up that overwhelmed your thinking and actions is not easy. Any habit is hard to break.

Start with today, don't worry about tomorrow. Take something out of your life that was unhealthy and bring in the new you.

You have to believe and have faith in God. The hardest part is knowing you are the one who has to make and want the change for a better life. You were the problem, now you have to find the solution. You have all the questions on how to do it but also have the answers. Deep down you know what they are. Don't struggle with this alone. Reach out for professional and family help. 

Veteran's Day: A Time to Remember the Best!

  Excerpt from A Spiritual Renewal: A Journey to Medjugorje

When I was young, I took my father’s past history with fighting during WWII as just an event. After all, I was around three years old. I watched him through my growing years dressed in his army uniform go to the National Guard meetings when we lived in West Springfield, Massachusetts.

He had been one of the commanding officers for the 26th Yankee Division and fought in the famous Battle of the Bulge, Lorraine and Metz. God blessed us by bringing him home while others never returned. In 1953, he retired as a One Star Brigadier General in Army.

I remember being around twelve when my father took just me to a Memorial Day parade in Rhode Island. We had arrived early to reserve a spot on the street so no one would block our view of the parade going by us. As the different organizations, floats, and school bands marched in front of us, an Army unit that was out of range approached. I didn’t know that the soldiers were from the 101st Infantry of the 26th Yankee Infantry Division or that Dad had been one of their commanding officers during WWII. They marched directly in front of us. Dad stood tall with a salute while they passed.

The Army’s military band followed right behind them. The marching troops were ahead of the band, just far enough so the instrumental sounds from the company were at a distance. Their boots hit the blacktop with a loud shuffling rhythm. They marched in perfect unison and every step was in sequence with each other’s. They stood proud and tall with their eyes straight ahead. The soldiers’ demeanor exemplified their pride in wearing their uniforms with honor.

As the Army band came closer, the drums and horns vibrated deep in my chest and ears as well as under my feet as I stood on the sidewalk.

The whole atmosphere gave me a sense of distinguished military men. Seeing them was a wonderful experience as I witnessed a branch of the armed forces trying to show civilians how proud they were to protect this country. Even at a young age, I understood this.

I looked up at Dad to say something to him, while the group still proceeded by us. I saw something I’d never forget. There was my father, in his plain, weekend clothes, standing tall saluting the unit going by, while tears rolled down his checks. He stood as proud as the men who marched by him.

Back then, being immature and not knowing the pain of war, I thought Dad was being sentimental, remembering when he was in the service. Now, as an adult, I understand more clearly the suffering my father probably felt with the recollections of his fallen comrades. He had been in charge of making serious decisions for the servicemen in his unit.

It had been the first time, as a child, that I saw my father cry. Seeing him in such an uncontrollable state scared me. I had grown up feeling secure because Dad had been so strong in any situation. He never showed any weakness. Now I had seen a different side of him. To this day, when I hear a military band, it chokes me up.

Read about Albert L. Gramm’s life in A Spiritual Renewal. It is not just a book for women. Read about his military status and the letters and emails from soldiers from the 26th Yankee Division talking about the war.

You can order it at Amazon.com.  It’s not too early to put a book aside to place in a stocking or add to a gift for Christmas.

Whose Life is it Anyway?

We come in this world alone and we go out the same way. We should take the time to stop and recognize these precious moments God has given us. How do we? Stop and think how luck you are to have friends, family and total strangers who love and want to support you. Are you the one who is stopping this special gift to come to you?

Who you interact with is who is leading you in the decision you are traveling toward. Holding off from taking that first step toward recovery is a choice, an opportunity you are missing that will bring you back to enjoying the life God intended for you to have and live. How you use this chance is up to you. We will all have to account for our choices in life. Don't waste them on fear, not having hope or because you have lost the confidence.

By Alberta Sequeira

Tools to Change

How do alcoholics and drug addicts change?  Change, is not an easy thing to do when we are automatically tuned into our daily habits, especially bad ones.  One factor that keeps people away from change is fear, fear that we won’t be able to do it.  Just the thought of doing something new with unknown results or putting ourselves in an unfamiliar direction with a new way of life may keep us on the same path.

I have also feared things, especially talking in public.  Who would think?  In my high school senior year, we had to write an article on a certain history topic. Not knowing what to write, I turned to my sister who received nothing under an A in class to write it for me. Wow! I came away with an A+.

God has a sense of humor, because the teacher picked four people with the highest score to talk at our graduation…..without any paper to look at in our hands. Guess who was one of them. Right, me. Just before it was my turn, we sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” and my mind went blank on the very first sentence.  I had to memorize four pages. I was so sick to my stomach, I was ready to run off the stage.

Somehow, by the grace of God, the manuscript came to me, but I talked non-stop without breathing and there was no easy flow for people to enjoy my speech.  My father would be shocked if he was alive to know I give speaking engagements to halfway homes, rehabs, court-ordered programs, to the family of addicts and to the public.  After hearing me talk, he told me that I was the worse speaker he had ever heard. That was enough to put me deeper into my fear of speaking.

How do I handle facing people?  I tell myself to worry about the talk when I start, because I put my fear into God’s hands to help me through it.  The biggest problem with change is thinking about making them.

Fear can bring on physical reactions that make us think we are having a heart attack; sweats, anxiety, nervousness, chills, weak knees, the throat closing, nausea, butterflies, the shakes, cold feet, nightmares, panic attacks, or cause our heart to pound out of our chest. The list can go on and on. Who wants to experience this?

But taking one baby step at a time each day toward that direction of getting healthy will be worth the healing.  Once you get to where you want to be, you will realize those physical feelings paralyzed you from moving forward.

There is nothing wrong with saying, “I need help.”  It takes more strength to say it and realize you are not strong enough to do it on your own and reach out to professionals to help you. Pray each day getting up and going to bed to get through the fear.  You will never be alone with God next to you.

Change for an alcoholic or drug attack is uncovering deeply rooted feelings and pain, especially with counselors and doctors.  Many, like my daughter, Lori, can’t do that and instead bury it deep within them.

You heal by getting the garbage out of you. Talk about “what” caused you to turn to using drugs and alcohol. Something triggered you to get into that world. A world that turned everything upside down.  You changed into a stranger to yourself, family and friends.  You lost your marriage, children, job, cars being repossessed, and respect from others, especially those who have no idea what Alcoholism is all about.

Write down what you want to change about yourself.  Underneath all this, is the good person you once were until you mixed with the wrong crowd or did things that you thought were fun.  Write a journal on each day’s activities and what made you use that day.   Where did you go, who were you with, what was your mood, did someone do something to you, were you depressed and why?

Be honest with yourself and get out of denial.  Don’t blame others for your drinking or using drugs. No one can make you do those actions but you.  You control your mind with your wants.   Needs are different because you will see the difference writing your journal.  You don’t “need” what you are doing, you want it.

Allowing yourself to go deeper into your actions and habit will turn you to not wanting the drugs but needing them. That is where the danger starts.  Get honest with yourself and develop the desire to want change.  Don’t try it on your own, don’t try to drop the drugs and alcohol cold turkey, because doing so may put you in a coma or death.  Get professional help.
 

Launch Day/Monday, October 7, 2013

What is and isn't Working for the Alcoholic and Addict paperback is finally available through www.amazon.com.  I'm having a Launch Day for Monday, October 7, 2013.  If enough people purchase the book on that date, it may make the Best Sellers list. 

I am hoping you can spread the date Monday, October 7, 2013 to your family, friends and social media groups,  The notice below can be copied and pasted into your emails.

Do you ever wonder why 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?

These questions, and the author’s tragedy to losing her husband and daughter from their alcohol abuse, encouraged this writing. Here is a book, not only for the substance abusers, but for family members, society, doctors, and counselors to learn, not only what the addict is looking for with support to help them through with their recovery, but new ways to help the addicted. You will learn that childhood emotional wounds mold us into what we become in adulthood.

What is and isn’t Working for the Alcoholic and Addict is a book of personal stories by thirty-four alcoholics and drug users from all walks of life. The first few years of recovery in substance abuse contain numerous pitfalls which addicts 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. 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.

This book contains the testimonies of individuals who were or are actively in a recovery program and wanted to share their habit and actions with their struggles trying to overcome their own addiction. Their main goal is to help others who are fighting with their recovery and sobriety. These are their own stories on how their addiction led to the devastation of losing control of their life, family, friends and the death of other family members from this disease we call Alcoholism. Their desire is to lift other substances abusers, especially young people, in learning the reality that it’s not that drinking and taking drugs may, could or would kill. It will.

Hopefully, the heartfelt honesty from the participants will help doctors and counselors to use their stories for their own study on what may be missing in the treatment methods. The personal testaments within What is and isn’t Working for the Alcoholic and Addict is an added tool as to how people are affected, and how they suffer long-term drinking habits from living in an active alcoholic family.

As one contributor wrote, “I was tired of getting sick, my hands shaking, my vision deteriorating, my nose bleeding, my bowels moving sporadically, the violence and running from many situations being paranoid to the point of staying home all day (I had a job, a husband, family), not sleeping and not feeling safe.” What alcoholic or addict is not going to relate to these emotions?

Are You Covering up the Truth?

Here are some questions for the non-drinker in the family to ask themselves with honesty to see if you are becoming an enabler because of the drinker, which will only bring them deeper into their addiction.

1. Are you counting how often the person is drinking?
2. Is there becoming a money problem meeting bills because of the drinking?
3. Are you constantly telling lies to cover up the person’s actions?
4. Do you honestly believe if the drinker loved you that they would stop?
5. Are you blaming the drinking of your loved one on their friends?
6. Are your plans for events being canceled numerous times?
7. Do you make threats to the person drinking and find you don’t follow through?
8. Do you find yourself smelling the air or their breath to see if they have drank?
9. Are you afraid to bring the topic up to only cause a fight?
10. Does the drinker embarrass you when you go to gatherings?
11. Do you dread the holidays because of their actions from drinking?
12. Have you had to call the police because of their behavior?
13. Have you backed out of invitations because of the fear of them over-drinking.
14. Do you hate yourself from the lengths you go through to lie for them?
15. Do you believe their drinking is the only problem in the family?
16. Is your daily life consumed with fear, anger, confusion, depression, hopelessness or abuse, physically or emotionally?
17. Are you afraid to open up to a professional or family member to reach out for help?

These are questions Al-Anon may ask you. Be honest with yourself and reach out for the help. The sooner you do, the faster the problem might be solved.  

What are the "Rewards" of Enabling

As a parent, family member or sibling, we all want the alcoholic or drug addict in our lives to give up their habit and survive. Is our enabling bringing them deeper into their addiction?

Our pain is in the fear of death of the substance abuser which causes us in many ways and times to do the wrong things out of love to save them. Family members go through difficult emotions. Our enabling gets stronger as the disease progresses. Emotionally, we get drained.

As a great enabler twice and losing a husband and daughter, I still ask, “What more could I have done.” Professionals would say, “Nothing.”

I have always hated that saying that they have to reach rock bottom, they have to do it on their own, they have to want to recover. Knowing what I know today, after losing them both, I still would say to someone, “Don’t let them get that deep into addiction if you can help it.”

Richie and I had divorced, and I had not seen him every day. As for my daughter, Lori, I would turn the clocks back by keeping in touch with her every moment I could have to reach out. I would have let her know with every conversation that I loved her and wanted to be involved with her recovery instead of yelling at her with her actions and her responsibilities of a mother of two. I would have stopped putting more pressure on a person over-come with addiction and let her feel the open door to come home. I would have shown her compassion and listened to her pain and difficulties with trying to fight this horrible demon.

Would that have saved her and given her the strength to go into the three rehabs with the desire to over-come the illness on top of being bulimic? Maybe not, but I would have been able to live with less pain knowing that I did everything in my power and showed her all the love in my heart without the separation that had developed.

I talk as a parent with mixed emotions of the reality of substance abuse and the mother’s side of wanting to climb into her body and do the work for her so she would have survived. It doesn’t work that way.

Don’t make excuses for them. Talk openly about the path of destruction that they are on with killing themselves. An arm around them, a warm hug, and kisses will work so much better with showing your love, even though you are angry. Remember, you are mad at the disease, not your child, and let them know that. When they wake from a night of drinking or taking drugs, maybe the affection and soft words you spoke will bring them back to you for help.

Don’t ever give up or think that they want to live this way and throw them out to straighten out. Many professionals may not agree with me. As an individual, this is what I would have changed.  

When does it end?

It's a shame that our kids get so caught up with fitting into the crowd that they don't care how they abuse their bodies and minds. Even seeing a close friend suffer from substance abuse and watching them die, still doesn't bring the fear or reality into their souls that they are on the same path.

My heart is breaking hearing that I have a nephew and my cousin's son fighting cocaine and heroin. How dangerous is this? Their addiction didn't just start. They have been battling this disease for over five years.

My daughter, Lori, and her sister, Debbie, stayed by their father's side at the VA Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island while he suffered slowly for a week at forty-five years of age from his young years of alcohol abuse. It was a family disease that just trickled down through his family.

Lori went into rehab three times, and she still didn't grab onto the help and her life. It's so sad to watch history repeat itself. I watched Lori's daughter at seventeen, the same age as her mother had been sitting by her dad's side, now sitting my her mother's bedside while she was in a coma on life-support. We all watched as they pulled the plug after all her organs shut down; no hope. A scene no one wants to ever witness with a loved one. I brought her life and heard her take her first breath. In 2006 at the Charlton Memorial Hospital in Fall River, I had to watch her take her last.

Where and when does it end? Pain and hopelessness goes through the whole family. It seems like such a useless death when substance abusers don't realize they are not going to make it with this demon. No one thinks it will happen to them. They tell us that they have a hold on it. They can stop anytime. Everyone does it. It makes them feel good. They develop confidence with others.

We need to teach our kids at an early age to love themselves for who they are, no matter what they do or don't accomplish in their lives. We need them to not worry about their race, difference in faith, if they are over-weight or not as pretty as the next one. Teach them that they don't have to try to measure up to someone else. Be happy to work with what God gave them. He knew what they needed. He gave them the tools and the path, but too many of our children are turning down the wrong road. Too many are losing their future. Society is losing someone to help our country in our world of medicine. Someone to find answers to serious problems. Someone who was loved by family members no matter what wrong road they took.

How do we show our college kids that the other kids that they are following aren't really cool? They are not seeing a foolish person, who is not only sick, but someone seriously addicted. How do we teach them that a night of binge drinking, sex, or violent acts may seem like fun at the moment, but are things that will lead them to their death? Things that are brought on by over-drinking and taking drugs.
 

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