Ann’s Story

Her Son’s Sobriety Chips are Worth a Million Bucks … and Then Some

There’s certainly nothing wrong with a million dollars, but if Ann Curley ever had to choose between that and one of her son, Patrick’s, sobriety chips, it’s no contest.

“I’ll take one of his chips every time, hands down,” Ann says with conviction. “Those yearly sobriety chips he gives me are worth more than a million dollars to me.”

She waited an agonizingly long time for Patrick to earn them, and when he finally decided for himself to seek treatment for his battle with alcohol and cocaine addiction, he turned to the Hoag Addiction Treatment Centers.

For many years, Ann watched with profound sadness as Patrick suffered with alcoholism — a disease her late husband also battled before he became sober during the last 19 years of his life.

‘When You’re a Mother, You are the Last to Give Up’

“I was married to an alcoholic, but it was so much harder to go through this disease with a child,” says Ann, who is 85. “When you’re a mother, you are the last to give up. Patrick had a beautiful wife and children and one day I finally looked at his wife and said, ‘I’m with you.’ She wanted a divorce, and I didn’t blame her.”

Today, Patrick has been sober for 15 years, and he and Ann credit the Hoag Addiction Treatment Centers for the critical turning point in his fight to beat alcoholism. His marriage is stronger than it’s ever been, and since 2001, mother and son have volunteered together at Hoag’s aftercare program on a weekly basis.

‘I Didn’t Know There Was a Place Like Hoag’

“I didn’t know there was a place like Hoag where people did such wonderful things,” Ann says, a broad smile spreading across her face.

Like her three words to her daughter-in-law, that smile was years in the making and was possible only after she had endured tremendous emotional anguish and despair.

“Patrick’s illness was mentally exhausting. It took me a long time, but I finally reached the point where I realized I was helpless,” Ann says softly. “It was heartbreaking. I would stay awake at night wondering if Patrick’s beautiful wife would leave him.”

The Most Important Thing She Did? Help Herself

Ann recalls that, like so many others who struggle with substance abuse and addiction, Patrick kept saying he would seek help, but never followed through. “As a mom you want to believe your child. I was the last to give up, but what I really needed to do was to help myself,” she explains. “Once I took my eyes off of Patrick and put them on myself — when I stopped nagging him to go to rehab – that is when he finally got help.

“It is counterintuitive – moms are used to taking care of their children, but I finally realized I needed to take care of myself first. Moms need to start working on themselves first and then the person with addiction has a fighting chance to seek help.”

In fact, that is exactly what Patrick needed to finally spur him to action. One day in 2001, Ann went to Patrick’s house and sternly confronted her son, who also was her lackluster employee in the family business. “As the codependent, I finally checked out,” she says. “I told him, ‘You’re fired. I’m done.’ I finally meant it. And, in the same week, his wife asked him for a divorce.”

All of a sudden, Ann says, Patrick went to rehab. She was shocked and elated at the same time.

‘There’s Just Something Different About Hoag’

“When I went to visit him at Hoag, I was so impressed,” Ann recalls. “There’s just something different about Hoag. The people there are so genuine. If you are doing the work they will help you. I love Hoag.”

Ann says she felt that, at Hoag, Patrick was finally safe. For the first time in a very long time, she got a good night’s sleep.

Patrick took the Hoag program very seriously, but still, Ann was uneasy about her son’s progress. “When he first came out of the program, I was worried. But then I saw how hard he had worked the program, and one day led to two …” she says, her words trailing off, the smile returning.

For the past 15 years, Ann has been a facilitator in Hoag’s aftercare program — at 85, she is its oldest volunteer. She says she is thrilled to have the opportunity to give back — alongside her son — to the program and those like her son who have turned to Hoag in their hour of need. “I’ve seen so many miracles over the years,” Ann says. “Recovery is a beautiful thing and I’ve met the most wonderful people.

“Aftercare has given me a whole new family.”

Most important, Ann says, Hoag helped give her son a new life.

“I’m so thrilled that we have the old Patrick back – the loving husband and father, son and brother. He is reliable. Seeing him work the program is a miracle, and so is seeing all the people he helps.”

‘Dirty Rats’ and Their Funny Stories

The group Ann volunteers with comprises both alcoholics and codependents. It’s been a fascinating, eye-opening experience, she says. “Some codependents are so angry when they arrive. They listen to the alcoholics tell their funny stories and think, ‘You dirty rats, how can you laugh and tell funny stories when you caused so much pain?’”

But, she adds, “The longer you’re in the program the more beautiful the recovery. The aftercare meetings help people understand both sides of the coin. The alcoholics learn and realize how much pain they caused their loved ones, while their co-dependents gain a deeper understanding of addiction and their unique roles in the ongoing recovery process.”

Ann says she is forever thankful that Patrick finally chose to seek help — and she demonstrates her gratitude in part by volunteering with him at Hoag. “By the grace of God I got the strength to take my eyes off him and put them on myself,” spurring him into finally seeking help, she says.

“God and faith carried me through, and here he is at 15 years of sobriety. I feel like he is born again. It’s so wonderful to see Patrick with his children, my grandchildren, and to see him with his wife, brother and sisters. I have so much respect for him.”