Coming into Medjugorje (Memoir)
And then it came into view….Medjugorje. The chartered bus with thirty-five enthusiastic pilgrims moved slowly down the narrow dirt road. Multiple private stone homes bordered one another on the side streets. Contrary to what I expected, the village was silent and peaceful. I thought the area would be noisy with crowds of pilgrims.
From the right of the bus, Cross Mountain, often called Krizevac, (which means Mount of the Cross) faced me. This wasn’t any ordinary mountain. The huge, sixteen ton concrete cross on its ridge was the famous landmark where so many miracles were said to have happened.
Cross Mountain tower is 520 meter-high avow Medjugorje. On March 15, 1934 local parishioners constructed the cross 8.56 m (nearly 30 feet) high. On the cross is written: To Jesus Christ, Redeemer of the Human Race, as a sign of their faith, love and hope, in remembrance of the 1900 years since the death of Jesus.
That location was supposed to be the highlight of my pilgrimage, along with a climb to the top before my trip was over. The peak seemed so far off, yet, the plateau stood out so magnificently.
It was May of 1998 and I tried to grasp the reality of being here. Months ago, I never would have imagined that my own miracles would bring me to this tiny, remote village of Bosnia. I didn’t expect that my life would be changed forever after my experience witnessing the visionaries having apparitions with Our Blessed Mother Mary, Queen of Peace.
Selling anything is really hard work for sales people. I went to the Lakeville Art’s Festival, and I swear that date brings rain. It’s a small event in town, but everyone likes a sunny day to spend time walking their dogs and looking at the crafts. The sun was nowhere to be seen bringing a day of clouds and dampness. You know, that cold raw feeling in the air. Selling books at crafts shows is a tough business. Selling books on alcohol abuse is even harder. So many people say the topic is too close to home, or it brings back bad memories. As for the alcoholics and drug users, I believe my new book, What is and isn’t Working for the Alcoholic and Addict is starting to move. Here is a book that helps take the pressure off the non-drinker trying to help their loved one, gets the message out to doctors, counselors and society on what they believe has to change to help them. How?
For the Family: Let the 34 alcoholic and drug contributors of the book do the work for you. That is why they are telling the world their lives with addiction to help others. All of us for some unknown reason hate getting advice from family members, yet we listen to strangers. I gave a talk a few weeks ago at the UMass University in Boston, Massachusetts, and two women were frustrated trying to help the alcoholic. I told them to buy the book, read it, and once they were done, bring it to the home of the person they are trying to help and put it on their table, and just say, “I read this and thought you would find it interesting. Give it back when you are done,” and walk away. No more talk on it. Sooner or later, I’m sure the alcoholic will want to read what the others have to say fighting their same battle.
They also tell family members what they believe we should do to help them during their recovery. What are we doing wrong? What do they need from us? The number one thing they say we do wrong is with our innocent enabling which only brings them deeper into their addiction. They answer 23 questions that I was left with when Richie and Lori died from their addiction. I need the answers from no one better than the addicted themselves.
For the Addicted: What can be more powerful than one addict helping another? It’s unique! Who understands you more than someone with the same struggles trying to recover? With 34 short stories, there has to be one person you can relate to and say, “That me” or “That’s our family.” They are honest telling you how they started, why, who in the family in the past was an alcohol or died from it, what made them get the strength to fight the battle and come out winning.
Learn that you are not alone, have anything to be ashamed of, fear comes from thinking of taking the steps, but they diminish when you start going forward toward your goal, and how to develop the desire and strength to recover.
Go to Amazon and buy the book in paperback or Kindle. This link will bring you to all my books or just key in my name Alberta Sequeira: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=alberta+sequeira
Thirty-four alcoholics and drug addicts from all walks of life from the United States and Canada tell their personal stories on what did and hasn’t worked in their recovery programs to doctors, counselors, family members and society.
Books: The Constant Outsider and 67 Cents
I must admit, when Alberta contacted me and asked if I would contribute my personal story to her book about alcoholics and addicts, I was quite shocked and immediately became defensive. I told her rather abruptly, “I’ve never had a problem with alcohol or drugs! I have never needed that morning-after drink. In fact, I can’t even stand the smell of alcohol after a night of drinking. I was always able to stay away from drinking without any problem.”
So, feeling offended, I refused her request. But I admired her for the tact she showed in how she handled my initial response. She didn’t try to convince me otherwise, and she dropped the subject immediately in order to put me at ease.
As days passed, I couldn’t stop thinking about our conversation, and I came to the conclusion that she had been right in asking me to tell my story. I was in denial. I realized that a person does not have to mirror the textbook definition of alcoholic in order for drinking to become a big problem and destroy lives. I forgot that she had read my memoir, The Constant Outsider, and thus, she knew of all the near-fatal events of my past. Many of those stupid and dangerous episodes in my life were the direct result of being drunk and could have totally ruined or ended my life as well as the lives of countless people around me.
My family moved from Dorchester, Massachusetts, to the suburban town of Braintree when I was sixteen years old. That’s when I began drinking and smoking pot as a means of fitting-in with a local gang. Determined not to live my life as an outcast, as I had been in Dorchester, I committed to do whatever I needed to do in order to become accepted within my new environment. Drinking and smoking were the common denominator among all the cool guys and gals that hung around near my new home. I had to become one of them, which meant I had to take up drinking.
I began by stealing beer, wine, and whiskey from the substantial stash of booze that my father had accumulated over the years in our cellar. The bottles were mostly Christmas gifts from grateful customers at his shop, and cases of whiskey that he said he “got a good deal on.” Ironically, nobody in my family drank, so he never noticed anything missing. As time passed, I embraced the weekend binge-drinking with my new pals and realized that the drunker I got, the more accepted I became. From the time I was sixteen until my late-twenties, drinking was a weekend obsession you might say. The goal was to get plastered and lose all inhibitions.
When I began working at the family’s South Boston gas station and repair shop, I often enjoyed a few beers in the afternoon, and then I would walk to the tavern down the street for a couple more before heading home. I figured that the same tactic that gained me acceptance in Braintree (drinking) would most certainly work in Southie (Boston) as well, where everyone I knew liked to drink. I was right. I thought nothing of driving home drunk as a skunk, sometimes covering one eye to eliminate the crisscrossing of the white lines on the road.
When I had a fight with a girlfriend, I drank all the more. On one of those occasions, I was both drunk and upset. I went berserk behind the wheel, throwing all caution to the wind. Losing control of my car, I crossed the center line of the road at a tremendous rate of speed and proceeded to take down a telephone pole on the left side of the road. The car had skidded sideways and the pole hit the back edge of the driver’s door, obliterating the back seat and bending the entire car like a horseshoe. I didn’t even know what I hit! What if a car had been coming down the road in the opposite direction on that dark and rainy night? I would have killed every person in that car, and, if I survived, I would have had to live with that fact for the rest of my life, possibly while in prison.
One Sunday afternoon, after another bad experience with a girlfriend, I sped through an intersection, passing three cars that were stopping for the traffic light, which was turning red. Again, I had been drinking and was upset a deadly combination. My Dodge Challenger went into a spin and I took down another telephone pole with the driver’s side of the car. I was damn lucky that nobody had started coming through that intersection. After each of those accidents, I had to be taken out through the shattered driver’s window because none of the doors would open. Miraculously, I suffered no serious injuries.
After a night of drinking, it wasn’t uncommon to find myself blasting down the highway on my motorcycle at well over 100 miles-per-hour or maybe blacking-out in a barroom brawl in Southie, with cue sticks swinging and punches flying. In all of those instances, alcohol had completely taken over my mind and body.
During those years, someone had to be watching over me from above. Finally, I realized, if I continued that lifestyle, it was a certainty that my luck would eventually run out.
In that respect, I am lucky once again. I don’t know of any family member who has ever had a problem with drinking. Even at holiday gatherings, a small sample of Grandma’s wine was about it, so I am not genetically predisposed to alcoholism.
I was fearless at the time and didn’t fear any damage to my body. Those thoughts didn’t cross my mind.”
I did go to one AA meeting. It was after I had been living with my future wife for a while. She had tolerated my excessive drinking the entire time we were dating, with hardly a complaint. Then, just as my friends warned me would happen, everything changed as soon as the wedding ring was present. My wife let it be known that it was no longer acceptable to be coming home drunk, and especially, driving drunk. When I asked why she had never complained about my drinking before we were married, her response was,” Things are different now. You’re not living just for yourself anymore. You’re living for us.”
Around that time, I came home from Southie after a long evening of drinking vodka and grapefruit juice and playing pool at my favorite tavern. I went into the only bathroom we had and proceeded to pass out on the floor, sitting up, with my back against the door. My wife couldn’t even get into the room. That was the night I realized that she was right. My drinking was a problem. That incident convinced me to accept a friend’s invitation to an AA meeting. Although I only went to one meeting, what I heard that night had a lasting effect on me.
I thank God that I’m not genetically predisposed to addiction. I don’t ever want to know what that feels like, so I try to live by what probably is the best advice I have ever gotten. That advice came from an old gentleman named Anthony Banna. Tony had hung around the shop for years. I loved and respected him as if he were my adopted grandfather. Even though he was in his nineties, he would enjoy a beer or two with me in my office at the shop in Southie.
In his Greek accent, he repeated this advice a thousand times over the years. He would say to me, ‘When you drink, take two, no more.” Tony passed away at the age of ninety-nine. I keep him in my heart, and I try to live by that wonderful advice, limiting myself to two drinks, and no more. My aging body also helps me stay within that limit. If I drink three or more alcoholic beverages, my stomach rebels, and my head will usually start to ache.
But I have to tell you the truth, I still can’t seem to resist overdoing it with drink, but that’s just once or twice per year. And, on those occasions, I make sure I am safely at home and not behind the wheel of a car. I guess from time to time, I overdo it just to remind myself how stupid drinking makes me act and how absolutely awful it makes me feel the next day. After a day like that, it’s out of my system for a long, long time.
The best advice is usually the hardest to swallow, and I’m sure they’ve heard it before, but here goes.
“Don’t allow others to change the person that you are. When peer-pressure raises its ugly head, turn the other way and remain true to yourself. If someone doesn’t like you the way you are, that’s their problem, not yours. Stick with those friends who share the same beliefs and values that you do. Those friends will stay by your side for a lifetime.”
As for parents, I would tell them, “Open your eyes! Don’t bury your head in the sand. If you notice changes in behavior, find out what’s going on and confront it at its earliest stage before it has time to take hold of your loved one.”
When I think back to when I was sixteen and started coming home drunk, nobody in my household took notice! Afraid of being confronted, I would go straight to my room after uttering a quick “Hi” to my family along my way. Then I would pass out on my bed. I even knocked a large framed painting off the wall as I stumbled up the stairs. It came crashing down those stairs in the middle of the night, but nobody ever questioned me as to how that could have happened.
Everyone wants to believe that their child is perfect, so I’m afraid many parents have blinders on when it comes to their own kids. If my family had taken notice of what was going on with me, I’m sure they would have made it clear that coming home drunk was unacceptable behavior. That probably would have made a difference and made me ask myself, “How far will I allow myself to go, just to fit-in with the gang? Where is this leading me?”
One thing I could never understand was whenever I tried to abstain from or curb my drinking, my drinking buddies, who I thought were good friends, were the total opposite of supportive. I guess misery does like company, so I decided to stay the hell away from those people!
For those who will continue to drink, the best advice I could ever offer is if you are not an alcoholic, but you do get carried away to the point that you regret episodes of drinking where you get out of control, the “take two, no more” rule is a good and helpful commitment to live by, even if you only drink occasionally.
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