It could have ended a lot uglier than it did. Tom Cirignano was piloting his motorboat through Boston Harbor, drinking heavily with a buddy, when they nearly smashed into a rock wall that he said would have been the end of them.
Although several close calls would happen while Cirignano, 62, a Lakeville resident, was under the influence, it was only when writer Alberta Sequeira approached him to write a chapter in her book that he realized he had a problem. As a writer himself he was honored by the offer — but the premise caught him by surprise.
“You don’t have to be a textbook mirror of the description of an alcoholic in the dictionary in order to have a problem with drinking, when your drinking could kill people,” Cirignano said.
Sequeira self-published the book “What is and isn’t Working for the Alcoholic and Addict,” in September 2013. After having lost both her ex-husband (1985) and daughter (2006) to the disease, she was inspired to look into how family members can best help their addicted loved ones.
More specifically, she wanted to know why some addicts manage being sober while others succumb to the disease.
“I really call it a book of lessons,” Sequeira said on a phone call from Florida.
Sequeira had her own lessons to learn — and she wishes now that she would have learned them prior to losing her husband and daughter.
“First of all I would’ve stopped enabling,” she said. “I admire people today who say look, you’ve got a serious problem. Either you get help or you’re going to have to separate.”
Unlike her first two books, the current one consists of 34 individually written stories — based on 23 questions Sequeira prepared — depicting the struggles and triumphs of an array of alcoholics.
One of them is local radio personality Phil Paleologos.
“My ‘help’ was forced upon me,” Paleologos writes, “(either get help or get out!) by my wife who had had enough of the alcoholic behavior, blackouts, embarrassments and promises broken to do something about my drinking.”
The issue of enabling is central to the book. Sequeira is now aware that she enabled her ex-husband’s drinking.
“I think people make choices too much with emotions, instead of looking at something logically,” she said.
“You have to get the tough love with an alcoholic, whether it’s your children or your spouse, and I didn’t realize it back them.”
Despite the most valiant efforts of the addict’s loved ones, Sequeira said she believes “100 percent” that the change must come from within.
She writes, “The most devastating knowledge is realizing that not matter how much you love them, support them, pray for them, yell at them, threaten them or kick them out of the house, nothing will work until they want the help.”
Sequeira’s advocacy doesn’t stop with the publication of her book. She makes herself available to people she doesn’t know, as well as for family and friends with loved ones addicted to alcohol and other drugs.
“I want the phone to ring off the hook, for people to ask me to try and reach out to other addicted (people),” she said.
“I can’t save everybody, but I’d like to give them hope and help them look at their life differently.”
The book is available in paperback and on Kindle. Sequeira’s website is albertasequeira.org.
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