Submitted to My Oregon Blog

What Could Have Saved Laura?

My sister Laura died June 13, 1999 from a perforated ulcer, the result of a quarter century of hard drinking. I never successfully helped her want to conquer or coexist with her disease of alcoholism. We were a team, but Laura chose to fuel her alcohol addiction until it was too late. How could my family or my sister have altered her slow suicidal trajectory? I am convinced there is always hope and help; there are always proactive options. Laura made bad choices, so I had to offer support and lovingly detach simultaneously which was next to impossible.

Joseph A. Califano Jr. in his new book, How to Raise a Drug-Free Kid, offers nine life-saving familial system approaches that had we known may have saved Laura’s life. He calls these The Nine Facets of Parental Engagement. To paraphrase: Be present and involved; Establish open communication channels; Model exemplary behavior … “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t cut it; Set rules and boundaries and enforce them; Monitor children’s whereabouts; Maintain family rituals … the more family dinners, the less substance abuse; Incorporate religious and spiritual practices into family life; Get Dad engaged; Engage the larger family of your children’s friends, teachers, neighbors and community. Children who feel safe in expressing their thoughts and feelings with their parents in a loving supportive family structure are best equipped not to gravitate toward addiction. We also offer hope and help at our website Our mission continues to be making Laura’s memory matter.

Brad Mersereau