Thursday, April 22, 2010

Road to recovery leads to degree

Lindsey Treffry | The Communicator

Like other Chemical Dependency trainees, JoAnn Price is finishing SFCC requirements and is ready to graduate this spring.

The difference between Price and the average Chemical Dependency major is the fact that she is a 75-year-old recovering alcoholic.

Price, an avid Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) attendee, came to SFCC when she was seven months sober, and has now been sober for 2 years. Price said she began drinking because she was shy and wanted to be more talkative. She said this is a common reason among women in AA. Once her drinking began, she struggled with sobriety, and continually tried to challenge her “drinking thinking.”

“All I know is today I’m sober, today I’m not drinking, and right now I don’t want to drink,” Price said.

Her last drinking experience almost resulted in a suicide, when she finally decided to get help. One of Price’s daughters was not as lucky in escaping an alcohol-related death. Although Price was aware of her daughter’s drinking, she didn’t think it was as bad as it was.

“(My granddaughter) and I were on vacation in Victoria when we got the call,” Price said. “We flew down to California.

“It’s not a pretty death to watch.”

According to, alcoholism can be hereditary. Price had other family members that had struggled with alcoholism during their lifetime.

Price was not only inspired to become a Chemical Dependency counselor by her daughter’s death. She was told by a counselor in treatment that she would make a great counselor herself. Other in-treatment counselors also believed because of Price’s age, the now-retiring baby boomer generation could relate to her more easily than a counselor of a younger generation.

“I think that JoAnn is a model for aging in our society,” said Carla Dvoracek, SFCC Chemical Dependency instructor. “It is never too late to have goals to reach and these can certainly include education.”

Price said she also wants people to see alcoholism as a disease that can be treated with help and should not be looked down upon, just like diabetes, with those who have to take insulin.

“(Diabetics) can’t eat a lot of sweets,” Price said. “We can’t drink alcohol.”

Alcoholism isn’t a disease that just goes away Price believes, and can be a lifelong struggle. According to Price, if someone starts drinking again, it’s not like that person has been sober for the years they weren’t drinking. A previous drinker’s body starts where it left off, and that is where the damage can continue.

For anyone struggling with alcoholism, or any type of addiction, Price suggests attending an AA meeting, and talking to people who understand the struggles of addiction.

AA doesn’t require a membership or a fee to join, and their Web site states the only thing needed is “a desire to quit drinking.”

“Just pick up the phone,” Price said.

Now a Chemical Dependency trainee, Price hopes to attend Whitworth and obtain her bachelor’s degree to become a counselor if financial aid allows.

“When I look back on my life entirely, I would say that everything that has happened to me has had a purpose behind it,” Price said. “If I didn’t have those experiences I wouldn’t be sitting here today, as sad as they are.

“But in some ways they’re good.”

As seen in Issue 41.9 of The Communicator
Also as heard in the podcast Storytellers

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