The disease of alcoholism affects not only the alcoholic, but every member of the family.
Many times family members tend to protect the alcoholic from suffering the consequences of their own alcoholic behavior. They blame incidents of bad behavior on account of that person just having a little too much to drink the night before.
As time goes on, the behavior is accepted as the norm. The family tends to cover up and keep secrets no matter how bad the chaos becomes.
Meanwhile the alcoholic lives in a state of denial, blaming everyone else or circumstances for their dilemmas. Usually it isn't until a serious crisis arises before the alcoholic realizes they need help. It may take hitting an absolute bottom before they are ready to reach out.
These are the stories of two Ottawa County families who have made it past the turmoil, past the taint of alcoholism.
Lori’s loved ones: “I knew one day I was going to get a call”
“My mom didn’t understand alcoholism and never understood why I couldn’t stop drinking since I was an over-achiever as a child,” Lori Joseph-Shaw said. “But my parents never turned me away, never stopped loving me.”
She is grateful that her mother was able to see her daughter living a clean and sober life before she passed away.
Shaw’s oldest brother, Mike Joseph, was 16 years older and more like a second father. Joseph never had issues with drugs or alcohol and acted like the middleman between Shaw and their parents as he constantly reassured the couple that their daughter was going to be fine and would eventually turn her life around.
"I had to explain to my parents that what happened to Lori is unfortunate, but the reality is that alcoholism is like any other disease and you have to deal with it. People get cancer and have to deal with it. It doesn't mean she loves you any less; it's not her fault," Joseph said. "Even though we like to think our family is unique, we're not special. This disease can attack anybody. I'm happy Lori can talk about it. I’m proud of her and all she has accomplished."
Carlton Shaw suspected Lori had a drinking problem back when they were dating.
“I started finding empty liquor bottles in cabinets and closets at her house,” he said. “I told her she had a drinking problem and suggested she stop for a week and test herself.”
He knew if she couldn’t stop, she had a problem. She didn’t pass the test.
Carlton lost his father to alcoholism when he was in his early teens, so he knew about the destructive disease.
“My dad was a functioning alcoholic,” he said. “He ended up with a fatty liver from drinking.”
As a child, Carlton’s mother took him to Al-Anon meetings, which helped him remain cautious when it came to alcohol.
Carlton said Shaw’s alcoholism affected him the most when night after night he went to bed and she left the house to go drink.
“I knew one day I was going to get a call that she was dead, or in an accident, or going to kill somebody,” he said.
To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune. Read Part 1 in Monday's Tribune and Part 3 in Wednesday's Tribune.