My Name Was Bette Alcoholic


Original Source:

Runtime: 59 minutes
Director: Sherri L
Studio: EYE Film Releasing


A documentary about women’s alcoholism chronicles the progression of the disease in Bette VandenAkker-a nurse, wife, and mother-who died in the fall of 2007.

Superb documentary of alcoholic woman

At the conclusion of this powerful documentary chronicling her mother’slife and alcoholism, filmmaker Sherri VandenAkker calls her an”accidental feminist.” The film truthfully, even relentlessly, detailsthe physical and mental toll drink took on the once beautiful Bette, anaccomplished nurse who loved her work. Nevertheless, viewers are leftwith the portrait of a hard-working, courageous woman who succumbed toa disease rather than a pitiful, weak addict who chose indulgence overdiscipline. This dual vision–the struggling, lovable human being whobecame a recluse living in “an animal’s den,” as her daughter KrystynWhite describes her mother’s home–makes the film a lesson in both thedangers of alcoholism and the challenges women faced as workers, wives,and mothers in the late twentieth century.

VandenAkker provides solid evidence of how women’s alcoholism differsfrom men’s in devastating ways: why women are less likely to seekrehabilitation; the link between drinking and depression in women; andthe greater stigma attached to alcoholic women. Throughout, sheskillfully interposes folk art drawings by Parker Lanier, a recoveringalcoholic whose pictures movingly illustrate the loneliness inherent inhopeless alcoholism and the spirituality and hope provided by AlcholicsAnonymous’s 12-step program. Bette never recovered, and VandenAkkerdoes not shrink from the isolation and squalor of her mother’s finalyears. Still, the determination and joy of her two daughters–both ofwhom speak with sorrow and love about their mother–and their beliefthat their mother’s life had beauty and purpose despite its pain, willbring solace to those living with alcoholism and enlighten others aboutthis family disease.

Highly recommended for academic and personal use.

Such a wonderful film

As a clinician who works on a daily basis with addicts struggling tostay in recovery, I found this film incredibly informative and moving.All of my clients have watched this film and it seems that they havelearned a lot about alcoholism but also about the struggles thatfamilies endure while watching their addicted family member in the middle of their substance use.

For me personally this film hit me head first. My own mother is a severalcoholic and as I watched this film it was if I was watching thedecline of my own mother.

Thank you for sharing the story of your mother and the life she lived.Thank you for allowing yourself to feel that pain all over again andTHANK YOU for allowing us, the viewers, be witness to your healingthrough the process. You are strong and so many can learn from you andthis film.

Excellent and powerful documentary

This film is brilliant and vital to all, but particularly topractitioners, addiction counselors, family members who love andsupport an alcoholic, and to those who are struggling to overcome thisaddiction. The film hit very close to home for me, as my mothersuccumbed to the disease this year. Watching the trajectory of Bettewas very much like witnessing the struggle of my mother, particularlyin the final years of her life. The film is definitely heart-rending,but the detailed exposition of how alcoholism impacts and slowlydestroys the female body is extremely informative and powerful. Bette’slife is shown in important detail in this documentary, and the memoriesshared by film maker Sherri VandenAkker, her sister, and other familyand friends of Bette are poignant and extremely touching in so manyways. The film also highlights the need for more education onalcoholism by practitioners and the court system, which is often tooquick to sentence offenders with incarceration instead ofrehabilitation services which would be of true assistance to thosestruggling to overcome this illness. The same way that someone wouldensure that a family member receives the best care to overcome cancer,heart disease, and other illnesses, so should they work to find thebest care for the addict. Thanks to Sherri for shedding light on thisdisease in such a powerful way.

Women, alcoholism, and daughters–Spoiler Alert (watch film before reading)

If you are the daughter of an alcoholic mother, you need to watch thisfilm. The details may differ but our story is the same. Half waythrough, Sherri says something like: One of the hardest feelings wasknowing alcohol meant more to her than we did. I feel the exact sameway about my own mother and hearing Sherri say that made me feel not soalone. My mom drank herself to death 2 years ago. She drank as far backas I remember and it went from bad to worse after my dad died in 1994.Just like Bette, she died home alone living in squalor. I too had tohire a biohazard company to clean the human waste and remains. Sinceher insurance company wouldn’t pay to clean the animal waste and buginfestation, my husband and I had to take care of it ourselves. Thesmell was horrific.

After my mom died, I was very angry at her, at the mess she left me toclean up, for loving alcohol more than me. I was so angry I went home,got drunk, woke up with the worst hangover and then it hit me! She gaveme gift. She showed me how I would live and die if I didn’t stopdrinking. So I did. I also gave pictures of her house to a friend in AAwho shares them with alcoholics he visits in prison to show them howthis story ends for too many of us.

Thank you to Bette’s daughters for sharing your very personal story. Itgave me great comfort and hopefully it will do the same for others too.Bette is at peace now. No more demons to battle. Hopefully, you willfind peace as well.

Essential for All Treatment Centers

The movie “My Name Was Bette” is an essential video for treatmentcenters and any health care setting. The genetic information is pulledfrom current research and is more accurate than most “educational”videos available today at double the cost (for institutions). More than20 genes have been linked to alcoholism, though most “treatment” isreceived through the department of corrections – it is not adequatelycovered by health insurance and is largely criminalized in society. Thevideo touches on important features of the disease: (1) prescriptiondrug use, now almost always present in the alcoholism disease processas the result of over-prescribing and widespread availability, (2)failed treatment (likely) influenced by inconsistency in the standardsof care (doctors, pilots, and other professionals receive long-termfollow-up with drug-testing and other supports), (3) the tendency insociety to project hope onto the normal ups-and-downs of life visiblein the life of an alcoholic while the disease continues to progressinexorably from early, to middle, to late-stage symptoms, and (4) therapid progression and gender-specific obstacles for women withalcoholism. The video covers more essential ground in one hour thanmost I’ve seen. Outstanding work. This video is a step in the rightdirection: A must-see for anyone interested in the disease.

One of the best and most poignant documentaries ever made on alcoholism

With a remarkable talent, courage and generosity, Sherri VandenAkkerbecame a first time filmmaker who brings to light a reality that isdismissed by our society. In the United States, the most sociallyacceptable way to cope with stress and depression is the use ofalcohol. Physicians and health care professionals know (or are supposedto know) that alcohol is a CNS depressant. However, when a person isunder alcohol influence, it feels just like the opposite! Women aremuch more vulnerable than men to the destructive effects of alcohol.The shame and guilt of women who drink, is frequently covered by theirdenial, hence the taboo of Female Alcoholism.

Unfortunately, the vicious cycle between depression and alcoholism,like the egg and hen, over a lifetime can snowball into a completedisaster of what was once the life of somebody who, like Bette, askillful nurse had it “all”: A beautiful gifted mother of two adorabledaughters, who was full of life and intelligence.

This one hour documentary is a must see for everybody who like “booze”or has a friend(s) or family member(s) who are “enjoy” it too much.Therefore, a documentary for each one of us.

Written and directed by Sherri Vandenakker, the youngest of Bette’s twodaughters, “MY NAME WAS BETTE” is one of the best and most poignantdocumentaries ever made on alcoholism. Furthermore it specificallyaddresses the taboo topic of female alcoholism. The film confronts theaudience to the indescribable shock that Sherri, a professor ofliterature at the School of Human Services at Spingfield College inBoston, faced the day of her tenth marriage anniversary in 2007.

Informative and Emotional

This film was not only informative, but brought feelings to the surfacefor me regarding my family’s relationship with alcohol. The combinationof statistics, medical facts, and diagrams along with pictures andstories of Bette through the different phases of her addiction were agreat balance of fact and feeling. I still get emotional thinking aboutthis movie weeks after viewing it. My thanks to Bette’s family fortheir strength, honesty, and openness. I heard somewhere that thedisease of alcoholism includes secrecy and shame. There is no secrecyand no shame in this documentary. Every subject is handled with tactand and person is allowed to be as they are, both in their strengthsand weakness. If our society allowed for more support and less shamefor addictions and mental illness, such as depression and anxiety, Ibelieve that all of us could shed embarrassment and become strongereven though our weakness. This documentary is a step in that direction.

A Profound Documentary

With honesty and courage, Sherri VandenAkker offers us a grippingportrait of her mother’s struggle with alcoholism and its effect on herfamily. This film is raw in its portrayal of the disease and thesqualor and sacrificing which accompanied Bette’s battle. It is packedwith the physiological and psychological effects of alcoholism onwomen, and is presented in a frank and easy-to-comprehend manner.

I am grateful I made the decision to watch this with my 12-year-old, aswe have recently started a dialogue about alcohol and drugs. It waseye-opening for him – albeit a bit tough – and it certainly opened up astream of questions. The tenderness in which Ms. VandenAkker circlesback to forgiveness and family made this feel more of a story than adocumentary. I have already recommended this to colleagues and friendsand I can imagine it becoming part of the curriculum at both the highschool and college level.

Very well done with depth, scientific accuracy and emotion

My Name was Bette was incredibly well done. Director Sherri VandenAkkeravoids the temptation of emotionalism and somehow finds a way to tellthis compelling, heart-wrenching story of her mother Bette’s losingbattle with alcoholism in a way that allows the viewer to have theirown experience of a story so personal to her (as well as her sister,who also appears throughout the film.)

The story charts the inevitable decline in a deliberate and honest way,as VandenAkker and her sister add parallel commentary on the impact tothem as small children through adulthood. Often these films can play onthe heart strings, but this film is genuine, raw, as well as confidentin the power of this story to weave itself into the hearts and minds ofthe viewers without a hint of well-intentioned nudging.

As a student of recovery films, and the latest medical and scientificdiscoveries with regard to alcoholism, and I found the descriptions ofthe affects of alcoholism on the body to be accurate, concise andpresented in layman’s terms. I would not hesitate to say it was themost comprehensive and most easily understood presentation I have seenin a film. The film also breaks down many of the roadblocks to recoverypresented by religion and societal prejudices that make recovery evenharder for women.

This film would be of great benefit for a Seminary pastoral care coursefocused on alcoholism and addiction, clergy training as well as forpeople in recovery.

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