Spofford Hall
Spofford Hall opened in 1980 and closed its doors within ten years at about the
same time as many other highly respected and accredited alcoholism residential
treatment centers. It is conjectured the closings were insurance-driven; that is,
from the insurers' accounting point of view, the expense of covering alcoholism
treatment was not cost-effective.

Sandra Cohen-Holmes was hired prior to Spofford Hall opening its doors to
create and direct the Family Treatment Program. She hired the personnel,
designed each component of the program, and worked to integrate the treatment
of family members into the larger population of 100 alcoholics.
She trained the
staff, many of whom were recovering alcoholics, to understand that family
patients were there for themselves, to address their own problems and not
there to help their alcoholic.
In the Afterword, she describes how she amassed
the knowledge and experience to become a key member of Spofford's executive
staff.

Afterword by Sandra Cohen-Holmes


I consider my Spofford experience as actually the most exciting and creative
professional work I have done. Reading the Spofford Hall section of
Stark
Raving Sober brought it all back. Donna's description of the Family Residential
Treatment Program is so accurate that I felt as if I were there.

My interest in alcoholism was piqued by a series of experiences. During the
early 1970s while placing under-employed and unemployed clients in job
training situations, I noted that those who were in recovery from alcoholism did
well, but those who were drinking did not. I wanted to understand the reason
for the difference. I attended AA meetings and talked with people at a
Portsmouth, New Hampshire recovery club. I brought an open mind to the
discussions because I had no personal experience with alcoholism. I had a male
friend who was a blackout drinker; I worked part time for him. I learned more
about alcoholism driving a taxi than in graduate school where alcoholism was
never mentioned. At a conference on couples therapy, I had lunch with an
alcoholism therapist and a recovering alcoholic. The pieces of the alcoholism
puzzle began to fall into place.

My fascination with the effect alcohol has on the mind has lasted my entire care
the way it distorts perception, alters and numbs emotional capacity
especially empathy and the role of blackouts in making the data of one's
behavior unavailable to the drinker, and the crazy-making of those around the
drinker. So, too, has the belief that someone with alcoholism is a person first, a
unique person with an illness, no two the same, and that alcoholism is never
deliberate. It happens and it hurts, and the cost and suffering are immeasurable.

My first work in the field of alcoholism was as an educator for arrested drinking
drivers at the Outpatient Alcoholism Clinic (Lawrence, Massachusetts). There I
became a therapist counseling alcoholics. I participated in a series of intensive
training seminars at the Johnson Institute (now Hazelden) and learned about the
impact on families from Sharon Wegsheider Cruse, Vernon Johnson, Claudia
Black and others. I implemented more effective treatment for families. In 1979 I
left the clinic to have a child. When he was six months old, I read a newspaper
ad seeking a Family Treatment Director at Spofford Hall.
I consider myself bilingual: alcoholism is my second language. While I was
conducting an intervention, a twelve-year-old boy said, "I didn't know my father
had a disease. I thought there was something about me that made him unable to
love me." That children and partners take personally the words and actions of
those under the influence keeps them stuck, forever analyzing why the drinker
drinks and why am I not enough? Like a scene in the movie The Raiders of the
Lost Ark, when they are searching for the Lost Ark (or the Holy Grail), leading
man Harrison Ford yells, "They're digging in the wrong place!" It doesn't matter
why a person drinks. What matters is what happens when they drink and how it
affects us.
After 30 years of working in the mental health field, I continue to see an
assembly line of pain people affected, damaged and traumatized by drinking
and drinkers. I have to wonder why alcohol-related problems continue to riddle
our society. The entire criminal justice system (judges, lawyers, police
departments, prisons) and to some extent the medical systems are supported by
alcoholism. The liquor industry is the largest lobbyist against the legalization of
marijuana. I believe the war on drugs is also digging in the wrong place.
Alcoholism, like terrorism, is on our streets and highways maiming and killing
innocent people and it's in our homes where small children hide powerless under
their beds worrying about their parents and learning too well that their own
feelings and needs don't count.
I remember a brave young woman in her early twenties who wanted to
confront her father with the impact his alcoholism had on her childhood., By
then her father had been sober a few years. Before she could speak her piece,
she became frightened and disassociative, regressing to about age ten, cowering
in the office chair. Her father saw her terror and said, "If the sober me knew the
drinking me, I would have killed me."

For the past twenty-three years, Sandra Cohen-Holmes has been in private
practice in Dover, New Hampshire. In addition to treating adults with a broad
spectrum of issues including addiction and co-dependency, for fifteen years she
taught a four credit forty-five hour college course she designed entitled
"Addiction and the Dysfunctional Family" for the College for Lifelong Learning
(now Granite College). She has an M.Ed (with emphasis in counseling) from the
University of New Hampshire.