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Aired August 30, 2012 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST (voice-over): Almost 1 million people without power, blistering heat as Isaac, now a tropical depression, continues to bear down. Some are saying, well, it`s not as bad as hurricane Katrina, but to the people suffering through this tragedy, it is a nightmare.
So, tonight, I`m saying to the victims, we hear you, you`re not alone. And if you were able to reach out, I want to hear from you right now, 855- DRDREW5.
And later, a woman relives the nightmares of being raised by a loving mother who turned into a monster every night when she started drinking. Seven and one-half million kids are living right now with an alcoholic parent, but I`m hopeful that this woman`s story will make a difference in someone`s life tonight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Tonight, joining me to discuss, legal analyst for Avvo.com, Lisa Bloom, along with the New Orleans health commissioner, Dr. Karen DeSalvo, and HLN meteorologist Bob Van Dillen.
Bob, what is the scene right there now in New Orleans?
BOB VAN DILLEN, HLN METEOROLOGIST: New Orleans, finally, Dr. Drew, seeing some dry air come in. It is a little breezy, the winds are nowhere as strong as they were about two nights ago, last night as well, gusting to about 20 miles per hour, that`s about it.
The bulk of the heavy rain, Dr. Drew, has moved all the way into northern parts of Louisiana, into Arkansas and the National Hurricane Center issued their last advisory on Isaac at 5:00. They are no longer looking that the thing as a tropical system. It`s just a heavy rainmaker as it moves into the lower part of the Mississippi Valley and mid- Mississippi Valley area.
PINSKY: And what`s the mood right now like in new Orleans? Are people feeling secure that the new system of pumps and levees held up?
VAN DILLEN: In the city itself, everybody else. I haven`t heard one single person talk about the levee system at all. What they are talking about is the curfew lifted for tonight, so people are back out on the streets again. In fact, I just came up before this eating dinner in the middle of town and there were all kinds of people walking around.
The only problem is about half the restaurants are still closed but the mood here, much better and it is much drier. That`s the big thing.
PINSKY: Thank you, Bob.
Dr. DeSalvo, as days go by, are there risks to the public health in terms of having say water-borne illness or insect-borne illness?
DR. KAREN DESALVO, NEW ORLEANS HEALTH COMMISSIONER: Our top priority is to make sure those at the highest risk medically have access to the services they need whether that`s oxygen, electricity, ICU. So, we have been working this very day to recover the health system to make sure that it has the power around the right services available. It`s really done marvelous you especially compared to what happened to us seven years ago, the hospitals and our homes are working. In fact, some outpatient clinics were already opened today.
PINSKY: Is it because of the lessons of Katrina that things went so well?
DESALVO: Absolutely is. I can see having been here that there`s a big difference in how well we communicate. We are working together at the local, state and federal level. The private sector and public sector are communicating extremely very well.
We are leaning forward. We knew the high-risk people in our community. We have registry of hospice, nursing home, dialysis, the hospitals knew how to prepare and have the right staffing.
So, things were much more prepared in advance and now the recovery is even going more smoothly.
PINSKY: Lisa, curfew lifted, good thing, bad thing?
LISA BLOOM, ATTORNEY: Probably good thing. You have know, I`ve often thought about mandatory evacuation orders and curfews because we live in a country where generally we don`t want the government telling us what to do for our own good.
But local governments and governors, they have the right do this to tell everybody, look, you have to go inside, we can`t protect you. Or you have to leave your home and if you don`t, frankly, you`re going to be assessed the cost of your rescue. Some states do that.
So I think it`s a good thing. I think people do need to abide by whatever the local government is telling them to do because local government has a lot more information about what`s safe.
PINSKY: Let`s talk about these mandatory evacuations. The government, we know, has the right to tell you to leave.
PINSKY: The question is what happens to people who ignore that?
PINSKY: And what liabilities do they incur beyond their own safety?
BLOOM: Right. So, it varies from locality and state, but I can tell you this I am not aware of anyone being criminally prosecuted for staying - -
PINSKY: Could they be?
BLOOM: I think they could be technically but also raise some pretty good civil liberties arguments. This is my home. This is a free country. I want to stay in my home.
And I think people are loathe to prosecute people like that. But there are other remedies, like I said. For example, some places like South Carolina, you don`t leave your home and then we have to come rescue you, you`re going to get a bill for that rescue, so, incur financial penalties.
PINSKY: Let me ask you this, can you say we are not going to come rescue you because we told to you evacuate? Do they have an obligation if you get your butt in a sling?
BLOOM: Go back to legal term, right?
BLOOM: Generally, the local government does have an obligation to protect you, if it`s safe do that without risk to the rescuers.
PINSKY: But let`s say somebody dies in the rescue attempt, is that now the responsibility of the person that ignored the evacuation?
BLOOM: Probably not. And here`s the real kind of problem. A lot of people don`t watch the media, don`t listen to the radio don`t go online, there`s a huge population like that. So they are not even aware of these orders n many cases, law enforcement goes door to door, banging on doors, telling people you got to get out, it`s not safe, but I think the default position is really if people choose to stay in their own home, I would be surprised to see a local prosecutor go after them.]
PINSKY: Now, I`ve got Rafael Delgadillo, he saved his wife and 8- year-old daughter and their family dog as well from the storm. I guess he elected to stay. Take a look at this tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RESCUER: It`s OK love. Yes, we`re coming. Look, I`m going to give you. Head first, OK/
All right. He`s going to a life vest on you, OK, love?
RAFAEL DELGADILLO: Good girl, baby.
RESCUER: All right, baby, you`re good.
DELGADILLO: Good girl. All right, cool.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: Rafael, what is that tape we were just looking at? Rafael, are you there? I don`t think I have him.
You know, one of the big problems has been power and phone in this whole thing. Let me go back out to doctor to -- I`m sorry, the --
BLOOM: Let me jump in about people who do want to stay in their homes, a lot of people, like Rafael, say that I want to stay behind with my wife with my child, with my dog, I want to be the hero. Local government generally does not like stories like this because it encourages people to stay behind.
But of course, we look -- we look back and say, you know, this is what he did.
PINSKY: That`s what I want to know. Looks like he had to cut through the roof. Up in the attic.
I want to know if that was -- first of all, I think what I`m looking at. Secondly, the question is that the result of having ignored an evacuation?
BLOOM: And people don`t realize the danger from rising water, how very lethal it can be. Sounds like it is no big deal earthquake the water comes up an inch or two keeps rising, how dangerous is it? So many people die.
PINSKY: Not only that, a lot of people don`t know how to swim. You got to remember that.
Two nights ago, Isaac hit and we were Skyping with an CNN iReporter Gerard Braud who was determined to ride the storm and his home. He was in the lakes above New Orleans, we`re going to find out how he is doing and give us a firsthand account as well. Be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GERARD BRAUD, CNN IREPORTER: Out this way, would you see Lake Pontchartrain, if you had daylight. The lake on our side, 30 miles north of New Orleans, is calm as glass right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: Plaquemines Parish has been especially hard hit by Isaac. And one things that confuse me, I was hearing reports from parishes down there. Apparently a parish is what they call their county, not like some sort of church.
BLOOM: They do a little differently in Louisiana.
PINSKY: A little differently in Louisiana. That`s parish is a county. I got that through my head.
The parish president, Billy Nungesser, is on the phone with me now.
Billy, I think I have seen you on the news all day, on various programs, going around rescuing people in the flood zone. What`s it like there tonight?
Oh, I don`t have Billy either. Oh, shoot.
BLOOM: Tough times for the people down there. I mean, look, they are rescuing people. They are trying to talk to you.
PINSKY: Of course. Listen, that`s the whole dicey part of talking to people in a flood zone and in a storm.
PINSKY: Becky in Louisiana. Are you there?
BECKY, CALLER FROM LOUISIANA: I`m here.
PINSKY: Hey, what do you got?
BECKY: Hey, well, I`m in Tangipahoa Parish right now, which is where the dam was being breached. I`m Tangipahoa, so I drove over here to help out, they are opening shelter. You know, they have to evacuate like 50,000 people because of this new problem. And this caused a lot of stress among resident.
One lady I talked to just now has already evacuated from New Orleans here and now she has to evacuate -- she went to Kentwood. Kentwood is one of the places they evacuated from. Now, she has evacuated here. She says she has been in the car for hours and hours.
PINSKY: Becky, I`m hearing from people, my understanding is Mr. Nungesser, who is the parish president down there in Plaquemines, he was saying that for him, this was worse than Katrina. How has this been for you, relative to Katrina?
BECKEY: Yes, I`m hearing, for me it`s -- the duration of the wind and the heaviness of the rain and just went on and on and or for like two days, still raining here now, nasty you can the rain is heavy and where I`m at and the people, my friends said it was worse than Katrina because the it caused some of the trees to land on their houses and I guess the duration wore the poor trees and things down.
PINSKY: Thanks, Becky, for that report. Am I right in the control room we have Rafael back, the gentleman whose tape -- let`s go to Rafael? Rafael, are you there?
DELGADILLO (via telephone): Yes, sir.
PINSKY: There you are. Now, we were watching some footage of you helping your family escape, I think from your attic. Here it is again. Can you explain to us what we are looking at here?
DELGADILLO: Yes. Basically what it was, when we evacuated to the attic, my neighbor had called us to find out if we were OK and I said yes. He pretty much said just hang on tight, because in the morning, his grandson was going to come with a boat and he had a chainsaw with him and he just cut a home in the roof and we got out.
PINSKY: That sounds nerve-racking to me. Hang on in the attic with water rising beneath you. (INAUDIBLE) chainsaw in the morning.
BLOOM: Why stay in the first place? That would be my question.
PINSKY: That`s my question as well. Why, Rafael?
DELGADILLO: The whole reason I decided to stay is because this was a level 1 hurricane. And obviously you the house that I lived in ask did not take any water during Katrina. In fact, my house sits very high on the east bank of Plaquemines Parish. So, when a lot of people were evacuating, they came and left, their vehicles, their four-wheelers, their lawn mowers, their tractors, they just came over to my house and put on the property because they figured my property was safe.
And like I said, during Katrina, my property didn`t take any water, so I figured I was pretty safe being this was a level 1.
BLOOM: You know, it`s a very primal human instinct, isn`t it to want to stay and protect your home?
PINSKY: Absolutely. I understand that 1,000 percent. We have fire insurance in southern California. It`s also important that each of us consider what the natural disasters are in our particular area. I thought I would stay in my house.
BLOOM: Really? I evacuate. They tell to go I go. I grab the photo album, the kids, the dogs and go.
PINSKY: I send everybody else out. I would have a tough time leaving. So, Rafael did they, in fact, tell you to evacuate?
DELGADILLO: No one told me to. But I mean, I`m not dumb. I knew there was a mandatory evacuation and yes, it was my decision to stay. Ironic, because it was the citizens of east bank that saved me, it was my next door neighbor and his grandson and some other people that live there in the east bank. We all kind of just rally around and I have to throw a big shout-out to the Schaffers (ph), Jesse Schaffer and his son, little Jesse, Brandon Lyons, Randy --
PINSKY: These are the folks that showed up with the chainsaws? Oops -- we saw him again.
BLOOM: It wasn`t rescuers that came for him.
BLOOM: Sounds like what you`re hearing from everybody, the storm itself was worse than Katrina.
PINSKY: Water. Right.
BLOOM: The response of local law enforcement is much better, that the planning and prepared as soon as much better.
PINSKY: Yes, very much.
Judy in California, did you have a comment for us? Judy?
JUDY, CALLER FROM CALIFORNIA: Yes. I was a Katrina volunteer. I did volunteer work about two years afterward around got to know a lot of the people there, have a lot of trends in now who went through the storm.
And one of the points I really wanted to get through, I`m hearing lot of comments about why didn`t you evacuate, kind of a lot of blame the victim judgment. And what`s frustrating to me about it is people who aren`t from the area don`t understand that a hurricane level 1 in that area isn`t considered a really big threat normally. This was a very unusual category 1. It doesn`t usually last for three days and doesn`t usually have that level of water.
So the people who live there, its` -- I would compare it to being from California. If we were able to predict earthquakes and we were told that we were going to have a category -- I mean, a level 4 earthquake, most of us wouldn`t evacuate because we have been through them before and they are not that bad.
And especially if the previous day they were saying it might just be a 3. None of us would evacuate because we eat hurricane 3s for breakfast. So, we wouldn`t leave. That is basically what happened here in Louisiana.
Most of the people I know there only know one couple that evacuated for this. And all of them evacuated for Katrina, because Katrina was a category 5 out in the Gulf.
PINSKY: Listen, I know that it is burdensome, that it`s expensive, you have to have the fuel, you have to go stay in hotel -- I understand that, but there was a mandatory evacuation. It`s not just like a 4.0 earthquake. They would not mandatorily evacuate for a 4.0. They would say it is a 4.0 now but wore trade could be a 7.
BLOOM: Well, Judy raises an interesting question, category 1 doesn`t sound like that big of a deal. And yet, look at this devastation.
PINSKY: The point is somebody tipped them off and said we should evacuate.
PINSKY: They didn`t listen.
BLOOM: Maybe the problem are these classifications because level 1 doesn`t sound like much, yet look at the outcome. Maybe we need a little revision so people can understand how serious a level 1 hurricane can be.
PINSKY: Judy, thanks for that call.
Next, we will check back with the CNN iReporter Gerard Braud, who was determined to stick out the storm at his home. He gave us some Skype view of what was going on that night. he was going to show us what`s going on now. Be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRAUD: I`m standing under my house you can in the water from Isaac. The house upstairs, everything is safe and sound, down here, storage lockers got washed out from the constant waves over the past 36 hours. With it, it took out utilities, so I`m now without water as well as without electricity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: Two nights ago, as the storm approached, Gerard Braud near Lake Pontchartrain called us via Skype as Isaac roared ashore.
Gerry, we saw some footage of how you are doing now. I guess your house is still standing but it`s under -- well, partly under water?
BRAUD: The house isn`t under water at all. There is water underneath the house. The house that you saw earlier is raised 15 feet above the ground, so, there`s -- technically I live in what would be the second floor. You`re looking at a ground floor carport right there in that image. So, that`s what has water. Everything I own for the most part is safe and sound upstairs in the living quarters.
PINSKY: I got to tell you, Lisa and I are shaking our heads it is rather calm when the water`s rising to the level of where -- of your living space and your carport completely flooded, that to me is rather phenomenal.
BRAUD: Well, you guys were having a great discussion about evacuations. I`m actually a proponent of evacuating and had this been a storm where I was ordered to evacuate under mandatory evacuation, I absolutely would have done that and just like she says, we already have a packing list. We grabbed the photo albums, the wedding album, all of the mementos and you leave everything else behind. So, I am actually a strong advocate.
In this case, I knew from all of the forecasts that water is only going to come to a certain level in my house and that this house is constructed with the sole purpose of surviving most storms so that I don`t have the cost of rebuilding over and over.
Plus, I have -- recover from that, because it`s just minor storage things. And those areas are actually constructed in a way that they are designed to wash away. It is done like that on purpose. It`s just an inconvenience for me. I`m different than most people in the way my house is built.
PINSKY: Let`s take a quick call from Tara in Mississippi. Are you there?
TARA, CALLER FROM MISSISSIPPI: Yes, Dr. Drew. I`m here.
PINSKY: What do you got for us?
TARA: I just want to make it known that the Mississippi Gulf Coast had, you know, we got hit pretty hard, too and a lot of concern, of course, is in Louisiana right now, but I just want it to be known that the Mississippi Gulf Coast did take a good hit with hurricane -- well, hurricane Isaac. We were without power almost 40 hours --
TARA: -- where we were located. We were, like, 60 miles inland. You know, it was a serious storm. The wind and everything was worse than Katrina.
PINSKY: What is he saying behind you there?
Tara, by the way, thank you for saying so. A shout-out to Mississippi. Because Mississippi lets lost in the shadow of New Orleans many times.
As I sort of look at what happened with Katrina, Mississippi just got clobbered. People forget about that. You guys sometimes get the hardest hit but don`t get all the press. Why is that?
TARA: I really don`t know. I have heard that someone called us land Mississippians, I guess we are just a land mass. No one really discusses that side of the hurricane. But we are -- the fact of the matter is we have no levees, we have none of that protection. It`s straight hurricane force from the gate off the beach.
BLOOM: These people are tough.
PINSKY: You are tough, Mississippi. A shout-out to you guys.
Our thoughts are with you guys tonight. We`re going to talk to more Isaac survivors after this.
PINSKY: All right. I have a still got Bob Van Dillen on the ground in New Orleans.
Bob, are you there right now? Bob? OK. Good.
VAN DILLEN: Yes, I`m here.
PINSKY: First of all: (a), I want to thank you for coming us to during the storm. I think you`re on virtually the same spot you were that night. You look a little more comfortable tonight.
VAN DILLEN: Yes.
PINSKY: Thank you for having come to us then and thank you for giving us an on-the-ground view now. I also want to remind our viewers that I believe you will be reporting again tomorrow morning starting at 6:00 a.m. with Robin Meade on "MORNING EXPRESS." Is that accurate?
VAN DILLEN: That`s right, with dry pants.
PINSKY: I trust. I hope so. At least you show up in some of the shows with dry pants. On mine, your pants are wet. I`ll figure out what that means later.
But be that as it may, is there anything else to be said for what`s going on this evening, Bob?
VAN DILLEN: Yes, yes. I think you can safely say this -- the waters are riding high we have two types of flooding, Dr. Drew, we have fresh water flooding, pure rain that comes in and you also have the tidal flooding, which is the tidal surge. It`s actually the storm surge that comes up that`s salt water in the Gulf, Lake Pontchartrain, too you know, looking that the water staying out there.
The winds are out of the south now, at this moment, southwest that is keeping that storm surge elevated to about five feet on the northern shore of Lake Pontchartrain. So that storm surge hasn`t totally gone down and totally hasn`t gone down in Plaquemines Parish either, their storm surge riding roughly five to eight feet above the normal tide.
I just looked behind me, a full moon out tonight, makes the high tides even higher. That`s more of a problem, Dr. Drew.
PINSKY: Interesting, looking at all that Washington, I was concerned when I spoke to the New Orleans health commissioner that she was going to be concerned about water water-borne illnesses or insect-borne illnesses, which I think again it`s worth the warning.
Make sure you use clean water and make sure you do watch out for mosquitoes, they carry all kinds of illness. Obviously, on the news, people heard West Nile but there`s plenty of other things down there with mosquitoes carry as well.
So, Bob, thank you, we will look for you on "MORNING EXPRESS", all right?
VAN DILLEN: Yes, good to talk to you.
PINSKY: Yes, sir.
Now I`ve got Billy Nungesser. He`s the president of Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. He joins us by phone. Earlier, Bill, I introduced you, we lost your phone. I know people are struggling with power and phone connections. Let me just ask this. First of all, do I have you?
VOICE OF BILLY NUNGESSER, PRESIDENT, PLAQUEMINES PARISH: Yes, you do.
PINSKY: There you go. OK. Good.
NUNGESSER: You have me.
PINSKY: I have you.
NUNGESSER: Yes, sir.
PINSKY: And I`ve seen you on various programs all day long, on those -- what do you call that boat with the fan behind it?
NUNGESSER: Air boat. It`s an air boat.
PINSKY: Fan boat. You`ve been running around rescuing people all over the parish. Tell me what you`ve seen today.
NUNGESSER: I tell you, it`s been some incredible thing. This water came up so fast. a gentleman left his house with his wife. He made it about six blocks until water killed his engine. Before they could get out of the vehicle, the water was up around their waist. They had to bust out the window, climb onto the roof. He pulled his wife up there. The vehicle started to float off.
He dove into the water, pulled her in, tied her to a telephone pole, and he ended up making his way back to my house, which is up on a mound of mud. And one of the guys staying there went and took a boat and went to get his wife who was about six inches from her head going underwater and drowning and brought her to my house.
By the time we got down there from my EOC, we were able to get a coast guard chopper and airlift her and keep her alive. But that`s just one of the many stories, just an incredible rescue and heroes of this storm (INAUDIBLE) throughout this parish. It`s just -- it`s been incredible.
PINSKY: And Billy, I want to point out to our viewers. I actually heard you speaking of that story earlier today and this notion of him tying his wife to a telephone pole. Lisa, I don`t want your feminist ire to come up.
LISA BLOOM, ATTORNEY: It was to save her.
PINSKY: She had dementia and was chronically ill and he had to save her. He had to lift her out of the water and put her on a pole and then tied into pole and had the resources to go get Billy. I mean, --
BLOOM: All right. I`m going to give him the benefit of the doubt then. OK. For now.
PINSKY: -- tying his wife to a telephone pole. Sitting next to Lisa, I knew it could be misconstrued. And Billy, I also heard you saying that for this, your parish, this was worse than Katrina.
NUNGESSER: Absolutely. There`s more water. I rode out Katrina at my house, and I`ve had much more damage, my structure, a four-foot hole in my ceiling, just incredible damage and debris everywhere. The debris on a highway is eight foot deep where the water is going down in some sections.
And it`s probably twice the water that we`re going to have to -- we`re actually going to cut the levees and let the water go out. That`s the only way -- we`d never pump this much water out.
PINSKY: Let me ask the control room, do we have calls for Billy. Is that -- OK. Let`s go to Pat in Georgia. Pat, do you have something for us?
PAT, GEORGIA: Yes. I was wondering why the French Quarter in New Orleans, which is bordered by the Mississippi River, never suffers the same damage as residential areas.
PINSKY: Billy, do you know that? The answer to that?
NUNGESSER: Well, I can tell you this. These portions of the levee that were over top were not in the federal system. Now, I was not parish president right after Katrina. I ran for office because, like Mississippi, I heard you earlier, during Katrina, you never heard of Plaquemines Parish. We`re 100 miles long. We run both sides of the Mississippi River.
We`re the finger that sticks out in the gulf. And Katrina actually made landfall in Plaquemines Parish first, but yet, nobody came to save anybody. I rescued 30 people. As a matter of fact, the people I rescued when I lived down there for Katrina, ironically, flooded yesterday.
And when I went to my house today, the same seven were able to get out of their trailer and make their way down the highway, and my house is up on a mound of mud and with the same seven people same day seven years later are at my house living there once again. But it`s incredible. You`re right.
These levees were private levees, parish levees that we will (INAUDIBLE) from the federal system, but they weren`t constructed.
PINSKY: But Billy, I think your point is well taken though that the media focuses on the urban centers and New Orleans where we`re accustomed to seeing these iconic images, but the shorelines along Louisiana, Mississippi, that`s where some just harrowing stories occurred. Lisa, did you want to comment
BLOOM: Yes, I have a question for you Billy. As you`re talking, we`re looking at images and some of them have animals, horses, dogs, I can remember from Katrina, some harrowing stories about dogs left behind. What`s being done to save and protect the animals in your area?
PINSKY: And Billy, I`m going to ask you to answer in about 30 seconds because I`ve got to go to break. Go ahead.
NUNGESSER: OK. I`ve got about 40 dogs at my house.
PINSKY: Forty dogs?
NUNGESSER: We`re bringing water down to the horses. I`m an animal lover. I`ve got dogs that I rescued from Katrina that sleep in the bed with me.
BLOOM: Oh, bless you.
NUNGESSER: We save life first, but then, we go after the animals.
BLOOM: Billy, my friend, thank you for joining us and thank you for all the hard work. I don`t think anyone in your parish will ever forget it and it`s a story I really appreciate you sharing with my viewers tonight.
All right. Listen, thank you to all my guests. Lisa, thank you for sitting in through me with all this. Thank you to all the guests who participated and those of you who rung in from down south. Please stay safe. We`ll keep checking in with you. I think the worst is over.
I`m going to change gears and focus now on an entirely different sort of a story. This is a woman who says her childhood was ruined, because her mother drank every night. This is something that I know a lot of people out there deal with. Different kind of a stress, shall we say, different kind of trauma. Her story, your calls, after the break. 855-DrDrew5.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY (voice-over): 7.5 million children under the age of 18 live with the parents who abuses alcohol. Susan McMartin was part of that sad and staggering statistics. By day, Susan`s mother was her hero, but at 5:00 p.m., when her mom reached for a scotch bottle, Susan was transformed into a little girl enveloped with hate, and worry, anxiety, for the slurring, staggering woman she no longer recognized.
Decades later, Susan has found forgiveness and healing with her mother, who at age 79, made a commitment to sobriety.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY (on-camera): And Susan is with me now. She shares her journey as the child of an alcoholic mother in a book called "Understanding The Fall." As mentioned in that little piece we just saw, Susan`s mom is now sober. We`re going to talk to her in just a book -- bit. And Susan, just so people can sort of place you. You`re a television writer, is that right?
SUSAN MCMARTIN, RAISED BY ALCOHOLIC MOTHER: Yes.
PINSKY: And what prompted you to -- what made you write this book?
MCMARTIN: Well, you know, I grew up in an alcoholic home, and it affected every aspect of my life. And it wasn`t until I was an adult that I started to kind of peel away the layers and understand what that was. And I realized there are no books out there, really for kids, you know? There are lots of books about the alcoholic and the spouses, but not really about what children are going through.
PINSKY: So, is your book actually a children`s book?
MCMARTIN: You know, I wrote it for children, but it`s turned into -- I`ve done readings of it for 10-year-old and I`ve done readings of it for 80-year-olds. It seems to be, you know, universal.
PINSKY: I`m fascinated. Well, I`m sure, because the experience is so common --
PINSKY: -- especially these days. But, how do 10-year-olds respond? What do you see? What do you hear?
MCMARTIN: Well, you know, for the first time, I think they see that it`s not their fault. That somebody else has been through it, too. There`s, you know?
PINSKY: You`re looking emotional. Is it emotional for you when these kids come to you?
MCMARTIN: Yes. I mean, I`ve done readings in juvenile hall with, you know, gangbangers and --
PINSKY: So, the viewers understand this, here you are, television writer, and yet, you share a common experience with the kids in juvenile hall?
MCMARTIN: Yes. And when I would read to them, you know, by the end of the last page, they -- they -- I would look up and suddenly, I`m not seeing a room of criminals, I`m seeing a room of boys who -- and I would say, you know, how many of you grew up in an alcoholic or drug addicted home and every single one of them would raise their hand.
And we`d start a dialogue. And so, I just wanted something out there that was from the point of view of a child. And in this story starts as a child and you see the journey of her growing up. So, it`s in five parts.
PINSKY: For people who`ve not had to deal with this, how would you, in a simple sort of overview, describe what that experience is like?
MCMARTIN: It`s confusing. It`s shameful. It`s -- there`s enormous amount of rage and, you know? My mom by day was my hero and I worshipped her, but the minute she drank, she became a different person and trying to juggle those two personalities. And, you know, still love the person. It was very confusing.
PINSKY: Did it affect your relationships?
MCMARTIN: Oh, my god!
MCMARTIN: Everything in my life, from --
PINSKY: Particularly the relationships --
MCMARTIN: Relationship with people. You know, it made me -- I grew up to be very controlling, because you become very controlling when you can`t control the alcoholic. You control everything around you.
PINSKY: Let me give the viewers a little bit of a premier on this. What you do is you suppress your own feelings, because if you have feelings that are upsetting to the alcoholic, that motivates drinking. So, you hide your own feelings and you focus on the alcoholic.
PINSKY: And that`s the way you approach all relationships --
PINSKY: -- making everybody happy, keeping them under control.
MCMARTIN: Yes. And then one day, you wake up and you`re 22 and you go, who am I? Because I`ve been focusing on this other person my whole life and I don`t know who I am.
PINSKY: How did you get through that?
MCMARTIN: I went to Al-Anon, and that saved my life. You know, this program for family and friends of alcoholics. And I walked in. I was at a very low point. I was in a severe depression and had a lot of rage. And I went to my first meeting, and for the first time, heard people sharing my story and the healing began.
PINSKY: The extraordinary thing, though, is although it saved your life, it may have saved your mom`s as well. I`m usually advocating on behalf of the addict, and when I tell family members to go to Al-Anon, I`m telling them they must go for the addict, alcoholic, and for themselves, of course.
MCMARTIN: Yes, because you spend your life thinking it`s your job to save the addict and you actually find out when you let go and let them have their bottom of whatever that`s going to be.
PINSKY: Only then --
PINSKY: Only then can they get better.
PINSKY: Well, Susan, stay with me.
PINSKY: We`re going to talk to your mom in just a couple of minutes here. She`s been listening to our conversation. She will weigh in. I`m also going to have you -- there are some pictures of you guys. Give us maybe an excerpt from your book so people can understand what it is that you`re trying -- what you`re using here to try to reach children. Stay with us.
PINSKY: Joining me now, Stefanie Wilder Taylor. She is a mom, a recovering alcoholic herself and author of "Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay." Thank you for joining us.
PINSKY: And Susan McMartin chronicled her life with an alcoholic mother in the book "Understanding The Fall," and finally, Susan`s mother, Cynthia is on the phone. Now, Cynthia, you`ve been listening in on my conversation with your daughter. My understanding is that you`ve given your daughter your blessing for this book and for this public conversation?
VOICE OF CYNTHIA BAER, SUSAN`S MOTHER, RECOVERING ALCOHOLIC: Absolutely.
PINSKY: Is that right?
BAER: Absolutely. I gave her my blessing for the book when she first wrote it and doubly so now, and, of course, the conversation.
PINSKY: Cynthia, you sound fantastic. How is your recovery going?
BAER: Well, you know, I`m a child in recovery. Two years as a child in recovery. I have still so much to learn and so much to go through and you never recover. You`re always in recovery. But I`m still a baby in recovery, really, even though I`m 81 years old.
PINSKY: And Stephanie, I mean, that is -- truer words were never spoken, were they?
STEFANIE WILDER TAYLOR, MOM, RECOVERING ALCOHOLIC: That`s true.
PINSKY: I mean, that is really a statement on Cynthia`s part.
TAYLOR: It is.
PINSKY: To be 81 and be a baby in recovery.
TAYLOR: I know. I said she`s probably really popular in the community.
PINSKY: In the program?
MCMARTIN: Yes. Right.
PINSKY: She probably is, right?
MCMARTIN: She is, you know --
TAYLOR: They love it.
MCMARTIN: -- inspiration. It`s -- you know, usually, by this point, they`re thinking, well, now is the time I can really drink because I`m on my way to the end, you know?
MCMARTIN: -- and for her to be sober and, you know?
PINSKY: It`s not usual, I must tell you.
BAER: I`ve never been more at peace. And yet, I`ve never worked harder.
PINSKY: Well, it`s the miracle of that program. It`s a miracle. And I must tell you, you`re an inspiration to me, because often families do come to me with 75, 80-year-olds, and I kind of not sure that they can make that kind of change. But, Cynthia, you are an inspiration. I`m going to put you on hold, Cynthia, if you don`t mind, and take calls for Susan. This is Meg in New York -- Meg.
MEG, NEW YORK: Hi.
PINSKY: Hi, Meg.
MEG: So, Susan, I just want to say that I totally understand where you`re coming from and everything. I grew up with an alcoholic father. So, when you talk about, you know, feeling like you need to control everything, I totally understand where you`re coming from. I`m 22 right now, and I`m having trouble finding myself. Thank you so much for your book.
MCMARTIN: Thank you.
PINSKY: That`s very nice to say that. One of the challenging aspects of being in a relationship with an alcoholic who`s a family member is, sometimes, you inherit that gene yourself --
PINSKY: -- which is even more challenging. Did you have the same co- dependency and alcoholic?
TAYLOR: I had one parent that was an addict, yes. But it was easy for me to separate myself from, because I didn`t -- wasn`t actually raised with it.
TAYLOR: So, I had to come out of myself.
PINSKY: What happens to the co-dependent is that they see features of the person they`ve been struggling with in themselves. It`s extra confusing.
PINSKY: Oh, now, I`ve got this thing. I hate it the most. Now, I`ve got it.
MCMARTIN: Right. Well, I actually, you know, don`t drink either. I got sober. I -- my drinking was nothing like my mom`s. I was more of a periodic drinker.
PINSKY: Those are tougher to treat sometimes.
MCMARTIN: And so, I, for years, didn`t think -- I don`t have this. But you know, I -- I do. And when I became a mom, I knew I did not want my daughter to be raised with a mother who drank. And I felt like this disease has taken enough from this family. It doesn`t get -- you know? I don`t get to give it anymore. So --
PINSKY: I`ve got about a minute left. Why don`t you towards the end read something from the book for us.
PINSKY: Something you feel would maybe reach some of the kids out there or parents can share with their children.
PINSKY: And I want to remind people also, she calls her mom "the fall" in this book. So, if you hear the fall, that`s mom.
MCMARTIN: The fall appears after dark when dinner`s called and the dogs don`t bark. The fall is mean with ugly face, the fall is sloppy. It has no grace. It slurs its words. It can`t see straight. It zaps my love. It makes me hate.
PINSKY: We`re going to take a quick break, and we are going to come back with my guest, and we`re going to take calls exclusively on this topic after the break.
PINSKY: As promised, I`m going to get right back to calls from my guests. I`m beginning with Anna in Michigan -- Anna.
ANNA, MICHIGAN: Yes. Dr. Drew, both of my parents drank and they beat us kids and everything. And I`m scared. I`m 64 years old and I am really scared that I`m going to turn out like -- like they did. I have kids and grandkids and I`m scared to even have them around me.
PINSKY: OK. So, do you drink now, Anna?
ANNA: No, I have never drank.
PINSKY: OK. So, ladies, it`s unlikely you`re going to be out of control like the parents who were drinking and abusive. Are you physically abusive with your kids?
PINSKY: So --
TAYLOR: What are you afraid of?
TAYLOR: What exactly are you afraid of?
ANNA: I`m afraid that I have a bad temp and when I get mad --
ANNA: I`m scared I`m going to beat them, you know?
MCMARTIN: Yes. I can identify. I had an enormous amount of rage. It`s one of the, you know, things that helped me hit my bottom, you know, the temper. I used to break doors in my house and throw things, and you know, horrible, horrible vicious words would come out of my mouth.
PINSKY: Now, my -- it`s what I`m having an emotional reaction as I hear you say it. It makes me want to hold you and make you feel safe. Is that what you`re really looking for in those moments?
MCMARTIN: Yes. I think you feel -- you know, for me, when I would rage, it was see me, you know?
PINSKY: I`m here.
MCMARTIN: I`m here, you know, and especially when I would get -- I would rage and it would go unpunished was even more painful. I would rage and no consequences for my behavior. And, that made it even worse.
PINSKY: So, Anna, here`s -- just let me just close this out very quickly. Please know, if you feel those sorts of impulses, tell somebody, get help, reach out. And if you have a partner, a husband or somebody in your life, please express all this to them and try to defuse these things before they get out of hand.
Julie in California -- Julie.
JULIE, CALIFORNIA: Hi.
PINSKY: Hi, Julie.
JULIE: Hi. I can relate to so much about what`s been said tonight. I grew up in an alcoholic family, and I felt just lost and ignored and I ended up marrying an addict and alcoholic. I was attracted to the familiarity what felt comfortable.
PINSKY: I think it`s even more the familiarity. I think it`s a repetition, compulsion. I think once you -- it`s how you -- some people call it your love map. You fit with that kind of person and that`s what you`re drawn to. The only way to break that is if you don`t respond to your attractions.
PINSKY: But you`re going to -- that`s the pattern. If you develop the disease or you end up with somebody with the disease. So, Julie, do you have a comment or question now?
JULIE: I`m just -- it was -- well, a comment. It was really good to hear that her mom at her age had gotten sobriety. I have gotten into recovery with my kids in Al-Anon and Alateen and we`re recovery family, but I`m just holding out hope for my mom so that we can have the same kind of healing in our relationship.
PINSKY: Oh, my goodness.
JULIE: So, I`m so glad she shared her story.
PINSKY: Well, that`s very powerful. Thank you for sharing yours. What do you want to say about Al-Anon, Alateen?
MCMARTIN: You know, if -- it saved my life. I think it saves families. You know, for me, the biggest lesson going in Al-Anon was to learn that it wasn`t my job to save my mom. I wasn`t going to be able to fix it and I had to actually let go. And, you know, sometimes, that`s the hardest thing is to let go, but when I did, it actually was a helpful experience for my mom.
PINSKY: Of course. I think the reason she got sobriety is you went to Al-Anon. I really do
TAYLOR: Did she ever tell you why --
PINSKY: What motivated her?
TAYLOR: Yes. What motivated her or did she ever say what didn`t motivate her all those years to get sober?
MCMARTIN: I don`t know. You`d have to ask my mom about what didn`t motivate her, but I think -- I know I think -- you know what`s -- I think for her, she tried get sober for a long time. And I think she just found that this was the time in her life that she was ready to do this. She`s an incredible grandmother. She has the relationship with my daughter that I wish I had had.
TAYLOR: She did try.
PINSKY: She had been trying.
MCMARTIN: She had been trying --
PINSKY: I can talk about this all day. I hope the viewers did learn something. Thank you, ladies, for being here. Remember, a reminder, 7.5 million children live with parents with this condition out there. Susan McMartin -- no. Give me that again, please. No. I`d like to read the whole thing so I -- Susan McMartin, right, (INAUDIBLE) on studio city patch called Studio City Mom.
Go to HLNTV.com/DrDrew for a copy of her book and Stephanie Wilder Taylor, host "Parental Discretion," launching October 1st on Nick Jr. as part of their new Nick mom TV block. Now, I will say, thank you for watching. It`s been interesting program tonight. Thank you for calling. Thank you to my guests. I will see you next time. Nancy Grace starts right now.