Sharron's Lifelong Struggle with Alcohol: A Family Demon

Finding qualified, clinical help for alcohol addiction

A group of Scripps professionals and patients gather to discuss alcohol rehabilitation issues.

Alcoholism often runs in families. Studies show there may even be a genetic predisposition towards this disease. For Sharron Miller, alcoholism has been a challenge that she has been battling most of her life.

Sharron began drinking in her teens, married a man who became an alcoholic and then had a son who began to abuse alcohol. Both of her parents were also alcoholics. She consumed, on average, half a dozen drinks a day. At a party, she’d have six to eight drinks and a couple before arriving — her tolerance for drinking was high. In her 30s, however, Sharron became extremely ill and learned she had pancreatitis and cirrhosis of the liver.

For the next three decades, Sharron alternated between periods of sobriety and relapse.

“I couldn’t stay sober for more than 18 months throughout my life,” she explained.

And in her 50s, while living in Sun Valley, Idaho, Sharron experienced tragedy that would turn her life upside down — six members of her family died within four years. She had a major relapse and knew she had to seek help.

Overcoming alcoholism with rehabilitation

In January 2000, Sharron checked herself into the Scripps McDonald Center, where her son and had gone through the 28-day residential program.

“When I entered the McDonald Center, I had given up,” she said.

Like her son and later her husband, Sharron entered the 28-day program, which is based on the 12-step abstinence model.

“We learn 12 principles that we try to practice and apply to our daily lives,” Sharron explained. “It’s essential that we uncover, discover and discard old behaviors. We learn to do what’s right.”

After completing the 28 days, Sharron entered the aftercare program for a year and then lived in an all-female facility for six months. Following this, she took a class focused on preventing relapses. At age 63, Sharron is now a Scripps McDonald Center volunteer, facilitating the aftercare program. All the center volunteers are alcoholics in recovery.

For Sharron, being among fellow recovering addicts has been invaluable.

“We speak the same language and this strengthens you,” she said. “It’s very compelling to listen to someone who you know is telling the truth.”

Sharron believes that in order to conquer alcoholism, people must trust a power higher than themselves. She says she’s in excellent health right now, except for having Type 2 Diabetes. Her advice for people with alcohol problems is to seek information about alcoholism, educate themselves and talk to people with the experience to help them.

“Get a complete physical and blood work,” she added.

Supporting families of alcoholics

Sharron has made tremendous progress — so much so that the Scripps McDonald Center has asked her to give presentations to families of alcoholics. She is more than happy to give back to the place that has put her life back on track.

“It’s like you’re on a cruise ship that sinks and someone throws you a life raft,” she said.