Al-Anon tries to convince the non-alcoholic to go about their family life normally; continue doing your everyday events and don’t allow the alcoholic to control you. Life for family members is not, and will not be, normal with an active addict in the home.
Each member lives in constant fear, looking at the clock the closer it gets to the alcoholic’s time of arrival. You can actually feel the unhealthy knot in our stomach that reaches your throat and the racing of your heart begins from the stress. If it’s extremely late, you lie in bed tossing and turning with anticipation. If it’s your teenager, you are going from window to window waiting for the car to pull into the driveway. The later it gets, the worry of them getting into a car accident overwhelms you. Your heart stops hearing a police or ambulance siren.
Suppers get cold and usually get thrown out. The kids question over and over again where daddy is and if he is coming home, but they’re not stupid. They have an alarm go off in their tiny heads when the dishes are done, the baths are taken, and mommy is pushing to get them into bed that this might be another night daddy is coming home drunk.
The non-drinker has pushed their wants and desires in life under the rug because you spend every waking moment worrying about the alcoholic. Meanwhile, you and the family are last on their lists. The drinks and friends are first to fill their life.
Once they’re home in blackouts, you become their enemy. They suddenly want to talk about topics you wanted to settle months ago, they question why you didn’t do the smallest thing, they question why the kids aren’t waiting up for them, or maybe their supper was thrown out by the time they got home at 2am and that upset them. Deep down you know they’re looking for any reason to fight even if you move the wrong way.
Maybe it’s a battle ground with abuse before they pass out. The non-alcoholic and the children don’t discuss the event the next morning. We want to forget it happened, which is what we call enabling. The alcoholic doesn’t have to take any responsibility for their actions.
For alcoholics who have no control over their own life from drinking, it’s amazing how we allow them to control ours. It’s all about letting these situations go on for too long and not making demands on the drinker. Not following through on demands can cause violent crimes in the family including death from blackouts.
We go years without demanding they get professional counseling, don’t bring up admitting them in a substance abuse rehabilitation center, get restraining orders….only to break them and continue making excuses for the addict. The longer you do nothing, the deeper the alcoholic goes into their addiction.
I hope to God this is not considered “a normal life!”
“Why is everyone making so much with my drinking?”
“All my friends are doing it.”
“I can give it up anytime.”
“I only drink beer.”
“I don’t need rehab.”
“I don’t have a problem.”
“I drink because she/he/parents won’t leave me alone.”
“I left my recovery program because they dug too deep into my private life.”
“I drink to fit into the crowd.”
“It makes me feel good.”
“I cut down on my drinks.”
“It helps me handle my shyness.”
“I’m not hurting anyone.”
“I don’t miss work so it’s not a problem.”
All the remarks that lead to denial and death!
If only we could go back and change our mistakes! How many of us wish that same thing? The wrong direction we took or the wrong decision. Depending on the circumstances, some mistakes can be corrected from our bad outcome and start over again.
Choices are lost when we lose a loved one. We go over and over with why didn’t I, if I had, why didn’t I see the signs, why didn’t I do more? The list can go on and on. We had no control if we lost them fast and unexpectedly.
The wrong choices or not doing enough to help a loved one that had battled their alcohol addiction or drugs is a lifetime of regrets.
Too many times I’d go over; why did we think putting Lori out on her own would have helped her see how sick she had been? Why did I believe people who said, ‘She has to reach rock bottom,’ when her rock bottom had been her death like her father. Why didn’t I sit and explain to her our out-of-control alcoholic family life when she was young so she’d understand why she had been frightened all her life not knowing why. Things counselors didn’t know because she couldn’t open up about her past tragedies. I had those answers. Why did I let her struggle with her addiction so many times alone instead of spending time with her? She lost her job, her home; her car was repossessed and she and her two children moved in with her sister’s family. With all this, we learned she had been bulimic.
I think back to all the things I didn’t do when in reality; I had reached out to Lori many times while she stayed in denial. Being a mother, I felt I had missed many opportunities to help her more. I’m not alone with these feelings. Parents, siblings or mates, who lost an alcoholic abuser, have to be feeling the same. It was their battle but we can’t understand why they lived like this without developing the desire to recover.
How do we handle the pain and mistakes? We can stay stuck and blame God or come to reality that it was the addict’s choice not to get help. It’s not easy to live with but it’s a healthy way of thinking to stay sane. What about our mistakes? We have to stop tormenting ourselves and ask what we can do to make their life worth something with the time God gave us with them.
One day in 2007, a year after Lori’s death, I just picked up the phone and called the Gosnold Rehabilitation Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts and asked to give a speaking engagement to the patients at the women’s section at the Emerson House. Lori had been a patient there twice and had no desire to take the professional help offered to recover. We lost Lori November 22, 2006, two days before Thanksgiving at thirty-nine years of age.
I talked for an hour to over thirty women and teenage girls with moments of breaking down from the pain of loss. I could see Lori in every room from our past visit to see her. After speaking, many patients came up to me and thanked me for talking to them, and I could feel their sincerity. I closed my eyes with their hugs, feeling Lori in my arms.
From then on, I have become an Awareness Coach for substance abusers and their families in private or public events. This is what I’m doing with my pain from loss. I wrote Someone Stop This Merry-Go-Round; A Family in Crisis and its sequel Please, God, Not Two; This Killer Called Alcoholism. They are books with many lessons on my mistakes with enabling and my private talks to patients at halfway homes, court-ordered programs and substance abuse rehabilitation centers. The books could be titled “What not to Do!”
I am honored when I get called to talk at a function or at private events. If I can reach one, than I’ve done God’s work. At the end of the day, think of these lost souls controlled by addiction and pray for them.
How many family members are slowly watching their loved one killing themselves from alcohol abuse or drug use? The addict can be admitted numerous times to detox centers and will sometimes go directly into a substance abuse rehabilitation stay for ten to ninety days.
They come out and go right back to their usage. As the non-drinker we can see they are shortening their life, and sadly, we know there is help for them if they would only grab onto the services; but they don’t.
We hear the statement, “They have to reach rock bottom.” Don’t believe it or wait for that to happen. I listened to people say that to me and lost both my husband and daughter from their addiction while they lived in denial. Their rock bottom was their death.
There is no need to wait for alcoholics or drug addicts to go so deep into their addiction that they can’t pull themselves out of their habit and die.
Families go crazy with mental and physical stress trying to find ways to help. I want to let you know of an action that can be taken. It may seem like you are being mean or fear the alcoholic will hate you. I didn’t take this step for Lori because of the same fear.
The procedure is to go to court and file what is called Section 35 and it’s a civil commitment of a person that is having alcohol abuse or drug issues. A family member, police officer, guardian or a court officer petitions the court to section the individual, which means detain and send the substance abuser to a treatment center.
The judge needs to find that the abuser’s drugs or alcohol use is substantially harmful to the abuser’s health, and their social or economic functioning or their loss of power with self-control over the use of drugs or alcohol.
After hearing the lawyer and doctor’s testimony on the individual’s heath situation, the judge decides if their condition is life-threatening as a result of their addiction. If the judge finds that their action is, they will be ordered to be committed for a period not to exceed thirty days. The abuser may be encouraged to stay voluntarily after the thirty days for additional treatment.
This action is something every individual family has to decide. It’s a suggestion to what is available. I had the chance to file one on Lori and didn’t; something I will always regret. Once the alcoholic reaches the stage of being too sick to help themselves, we have to step in to help them survive.
Someone Stop This Merry-Go-Round; An Alcoholic Family in Crisis
Sequel: Please, God, Not Two; This Killer Called Alcoholism
My daughter, Lori Lopes (Cahill), was born July 29, 1967 at Morton Hospital in Taunton, Massachusetts. She was my second daughter coming into the world four years after the birth of her sister, Debbie Lopes (Dutra), on May 14, 1963.
Lori had a personality once she started to walk and discovered the world and the people in it. By two years old, she delighted in any comical gesture of hers to make people laugh. She continued this wonderful habit throughout her life. Our house filled with her friends since Lori seemed to be the leader of the pack. I enjoyed each moment my daughter's girlfriends, and at times the boys in the gang, come over to our house. I knew where they were and loved all the neighborhood kids.
Debbie seemed to always have things go right in her life. She was the first born and became an adult too fast living in an alcoholic family. My daughters had their childhood robbed from them growing up and listening to parents fighting and waiting in fear that their father would be coming home late at night in a drunken state.
Lori’s life had been a struggle with two broken marriages, raising two children alone while she battled addiction and her secret of being bulimic.
On the outside, Lori made everyone think that she had no problems, but she hid her pain deep down inside, including away from her family. At the age of seventeen, Lori and Debbie at the age of twenty-one, lost their father when he was only forty-five years of age from cirrhosis of the liver.
It wasn't until Lori's was thirty-seven years old that the family came to realize that she had been following the same path as her dad. She had deeper problems that kept her frightened all her life and made her lose confidence in herself. Instead of talking about her pain, she turned to alcohol abuse and prescription drugs to numb her secrets.
How does a parent miss the signs, especially after losing a husband nineteen years earlier? Easily. Lori never came and told her family that she had been hurting or had been mentally upset with past traumas in her life.
On November 22, 2006 after three alcoholic rehabilitation stays, Lori died at thirty-nine years of age at the Charlton Memorial Hospital in Fall River, Massachusetts. She was laid to rest with her father at the St. Patrick Cemetery in Somerset.
Please, God, Not Two; This Killer Called Alcoholism is the sequel after I self-published Someone Stop This Merry-Go-Round; An Alcoholic Family in Crisis.
The memoirs are very honest, painful and emotional stories of losing a husband and child to a demon that became their killer. People say authors write to heal. We don’t. We have to figure out how we will go on living them never being in our life again. It's what we do with our time left on Earth that counts.
I became an Awareness Coach speaking to alcoholics, addicts and their families on the effect of alcoholism on the whole family. God has a way of putting an unknown path in front of us. We have to decide if we want to travel down it, and if we open our hearts to Him, the decision is easy.
My books are more on lessons for families to learn what I did wrong instead of being memoirs. They can be purchased on at www.albertasequeira.com or in Amazon.
My husband, Richard Lopes, was born on January 2, 1937 and came into a family who had been fighting alcohol abuse; a disease that had been passed down from generations of family members. His mother and sister battled their addiction leaving Richie and his siblings with little security or happy times in his younger years.
By the time I had met Richie, I was at eighteen, and he was already drinking. Being a young girl coming from a happy family life, I had no knowledge, education or awareness on what alcohol abuse was all about or what it could do to a person. It wasn't until we got married and had two daughters, Debbie and Lori, that I came to see how alcoholics can't stop at one drink. They drink until they slur their words, get into argument, and can't remember a thing the next day.
Slowly, I became an enabler without realizing it. In the late sixties and up, I kept silent to our problems with our family. Small arguments turned into abusive moments with the girls witnessing things they shouldn't have in their lives. I should have protected them more than Richie.
Our once happy, family life turned to fear, confusion and abuse. While I thought I was protecting our children and foolishly thinking they needed their father, I innocently damaged our daughter's emotionally. I brought fear into Lori's life that continued up until her death.
It took a lot of strength for me to open up about our lives that I had kept behind closed door for over seventeen years to write Someone Stop This Merry-Go-Round; An Alcoholic Family in Crisis. I watched a loving husband and father turn into someone I didn't know. This man who hated the family drinking and the life he swore never to bring into ours became the same person with abusive behavior.
After many times of suffering physical abuse and being lucky not to have been killed, I left a man that I once loved to survive. By then, my daughters had seen too much and lived without knowing love in a family. The horrible, sufficing disease passed down to Lori.
My memoir shows how we all got on the merry-go-round and kept the abusive action going within the family. Making demands without breaking down would have stopped years of our family's mental and physical suffering.
February 10, 1985 at forty-five years of age, Richie died from this awful disease. Now I waited to see if my daughters would abuse alcohol.
How many of us put our own needs and wants on the back burner while living with a substance abuser? Living under tremendous stress can kill us.
The non-drinker’s normal day consists of being occupied with trying to please the alcoholic, doing anything to keep the peace, spends hours trying to solve every problem within the family, caring for the kid’s needs and worried about keeping them safe, cooking, cleaning, shopping, going to work to pay the bills, checking on where the alcoholic is and investigating what they are doing. The wife/husband stays in the routine of watching the clock and lives in fear the alcoholic will come home drunk. Many live with physical abuse.
So what happens? The non-drinker has stopped all desire or thought of having or making private time for themselves to develop some sort of peace. The more you keep doing this, the more control the alcoholic develops keeping you from having a life of your own.
The answer is to make the time. If not, you could have a stroke, heart attack or a breakdown. Bodies and minds can only absorb so many negative actions.
Get to an Al-Anon meeting and learn how others are handling these problems and be with people who understand your situation. Go to a gym to release tension or buy a video with exercises to do at home. Losing weight will help you feeling good about yourself. Take off on a day trip with the kids instead of looking at the clock. These are ideas for both men and women.
If your living situation at home is dangerous to you or the children, then get serious about getting a restraining order to protect everyone. Remember, your kids can’t fight for themselves. It’s your job as a parent to protect them. Tough love makes the alcoholic look at their behavior. Don’t make threats you can’t keep.
Best advice? Get professional help as soon as there are signs of alcohol abuse in the family. Don’t wait. The enabling only brings the alcoholic deeper into their addiction.
What is Medjugorje and where is it? It’s a tiny, remote village in Bosnia and since 1981, six visionaries have been, and still are, receiving daily apparitions from The Blessed Mother. She has been giving each of them ten secrets that contain events that will happen in the future. These occurrences will affect the Church and the world with chastisements. It hasn’t been said if the secrets are all the same.
As of today, four out of the six visionaries have received all ten secrets. Once they have received all ten, they have daily apparitions with Our Lady once a year. These secrets contain catastrophes that will be told one by one by Franciscan priest Father Petar Ljubicic of Medjugorje. He will fast and pray for seven days. Then, three days before the event, Father Petar will make a public announcement as to what is to happen and where.
Mirjana, one of the visionaries, says that after the events occur, those who are alive will have little time to convert. She insists that the painful events for humanity are very near, and that the important thing is to pray, to pray in the family, to pray for the young and for those who do not believe.
To read and learn more about Medjugorje events, author, Alberta Sequeira, has published her story about her ten day pilgrimage to Bosnia in her memoir A Spiritual Renewal; A Journey to Medjugorje. It’s now available in the Kindle version or can be purchased at Riverhaven Books (www.riverhavenbooks.com) until it’s available through Amazon in paperback. Alberta will autograph the book through PayPal at her website www.albertasequeira.com. She will send it to someone from you as a gift.
I’ve talked a lot about the alcoholic, but what about the family members who are suffering in silence; some behind closed doors. When I tried to deal with alcohol abuse in my family back in the seventies, the problem was hidden. In those years, the drinking had been as bad as being divorced or not being married and pregnant.
It shouldn’t be that way today. There are numerous locations to turn to for help instead of struggling on your own. More families have the problem than not. We all think we can handle substance abuse on our own, but we can’t. We need professionals, not only for our loved one who is battling their habit, but for ourselves. I had a small breakdown from pushing my mind and body beyond what it could take trying to control my husband’s addiction.
I also believe family should never be omitted in an alcoholic’s recovery program or doctor visits, even if the patient is over eighteen years old and has the right under the Patient Privacy Act, which keeps family completely unaware of their treatment or the dangerous stage of their illness.
All I hear and read is that alcohol abuse is a Family Disease, and yet, it’s not treated that way. We have AA, Al-Anon and Alateen meeting daily with every family member going their separate ways behind closed doors, grouping together in a clan, keeping everything a secret on what is discussed. We don’t learn what the other one is feeling or needing to help each family member overcome the enabling.
The addicts need to hear that they are loved so they can develop the strength and desire to overcome their habit and actions with their addiction. Instead, some professionals leave out families to work with their loved one as a team, and the substance abuser is left to fight their own battle, even when they’re not in a healthy emotional state to make good choices.
What is a family member taught behind these so-called closed door meetings? “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 normal as you can (even though our life isn’t normal) or Separate yourself” (If we do, we’re not a family). This is actually teaching every family member not to communicate and work together with their loved one who is dying.
The non-drinker and children are taking physical and emotional abuse from the addicted. Most children brought up in homes with an alcoholic are devastated for life and go down the same path. Our children are losing their childhood, innocents, security, love, education, good friendships, mental growth, developing a nourishing healthy body or finding happiness in life.
Our children are committing suicide and violent crimes because of the usage of alcohol and drugs. A high percentage of pregnancies come from substance abuse when the couple involved doesn’t care or think of protection, or sadly, girls are raped.
It starts at home in our children’s early years with what they see, feel, and innocently, get pulled into from a trickle-down effect from others in the family who have a serious addiction without the smallest desire to get help. As parents, we need to protect our children and get the addicted out of the home until they are serious about recovery.
I can’t stress enough that family needs to be pulled into counseling with the patient when we see the addict has reached the point of being too sick physically and emotionally to make healthy decisions with their own treatment, even if they resent it.
Together with a counselor, family members can all learn that the addict’s pain could possibly be from past abuse within the family; things they saw as a child, parents bringing them up thinking that over-drinking was normal, school problems with other students or stress can be the cause of why they turned to alcohol and drugs to erase or numb the memory from occurrences they couldn’t handle.
Try to pull together as a unit and keep up with what is going on in the alcoholic’s counseling and recovery programs.
How many alcoholic abusers get upset that their siblings can drink with no side effects but they’re always getting in trouble from their drinking? Either the disease is hereditary and they don’t have the gene or they just choose not to over-drink.
If it’s not hereditary, I think you need to look into a list of causes making you become an alcoholic. First it’s your choice to drink and take drugs. We all become responsible for our actions. It all begins with your habit. Any habit is hard to break; whether it’s biting your nails, smoking, drinking, taking drugs or having a bad routine that we keep following.
*You need to get another activity that keeps your mind working toward a healthier life. Get a job, go to the gym, work with kids, get into organizations or volunteer your time for a good cause.
Where are your friends who you used to laugh with and share a great friendship with? Remember doing things that were just plain fun without drinking? How many of them have left because of your drinking?
Your new friends are the ones who drink with you and find every excuse that there is that nothing is wrong with it because everyone in your crowd is doing the same thing. That makes it easier to stay in denial and you convince yourself that you have no problem.
*You need to realize that these “so called friends” don’t care what happens to you. They just need someone to follow them or want your money when you need a fix. “Misery loves company.” Once you leave school, these friends will be gone; whether by them walking away from you or their death from their habit.
What location do you keep going to for entertainment? Is it the bar, a place to meet with a drug dealer, wild parties or places that your friends congregate to drink? This is a good way to become brain dead as the years go on in your life. Your body can take this abuse for just so long.
*By this stage, you need to reach out to professionals and get help. Do it for you. If you go to keep people off your back for drinking, you won’t recover. You need to face this problem dead on or you will die from it.
Need strength to get through this? Turn to your Higher Power. You will never be alone. Prayer is just talking to God. I tell alcoholics to say an easy prayer each day. In the morning ask God, “Please help me get through this day without a drink.” At night, thank Him, even if it was the worse day of your life. Why? Because He is giving you another day to get it right.
Get out of denial and get on a road to recovery. It's your battle.