By Jamie Sotonoff
When Chelsea Laliberte’s parents broke the news that her brother, Alex, had died of a heroin overdose, she angrily screamed “I told you so!”
Laliberte spent months warning her parents that Alex’s drinking and pot smoking had escalated to harder drugs. Their mother, Jody Daitchman, admits she didn’t believe her daughter, and was blindsided when she found her son dead in their Buffalo Grove home in 2008.
Alex’s death devastated the entire family, but as his sister and friend, Laliberte, then 23, had different emotional issues to deal with than her parents did, including her anger toward them combined with her own guilt and grief.
“That’s a lot to carry with me. And after he died, I was expected to support my parents, which I tried to do,” said Laliberte, 27, who now lives in Chicago. “There was no support for siblings. I tried to go to a support group, but I remember feeling like I was the only sibling there, and the only person under the age of 40.”
Now, both nationally and locally, there is a growing focus on the emotional needs of the non-addicted siblings in families dealing with substance abuse. Addiction treatment centers are offering more sibling support, including a program at Highland Park Hospital, as are national groups with suburban chapters, such as Compassionate Friends, Nar-Anon and GRASP (Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing).
Laliberte is toying with the idea of starting a sibling support group, offering herself up as someone to talk to who’s been down this terrible and difficult road. She’s currently working on a book about being a grieving sibling, and finds comfort running Live4Lali, a charity she created in her brother’s memory. The nonprofit will host its 4th annual drug awareness-raising fundraiser, “Lalipalooza,” Saturday at the Par King in Lincolnshire.
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