Times of Smithtown

Denise Peters

Denise Mary Peters, 69, of Alamo, California, died Sept. 4.

Denise graduated from Christ the King High School in Middle Village in 1967 and then attended Katharine Gibbs Secretarial School, graduating early and with honors. She could type 140-plus words per minute and was a skilled wordsmith. Denise was a former lead reporter and managing editor for The Port Times and The Village Beacon in the early ’90s.

Denise stayed in contact with friends from grade school in Middle Village where she attended St. Margaret’s School along with her five brothers. She moved out to California in 1996 where she married her beloved husband, C. Larry Peters, June 19, 1999. She was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Denise was an avid reader, an extraordinarily talented writer, a connoisseur of music, a fanatic pet protector and the most caring person you could ever meet. She was always thinking and worrying about others and never about herself.  If you called her and needed help for any reason, she would drop everything she was doing to be there with you.

Denise was a true angel.  She never met a person who didn’t become a devoted friend, whether she knew it or not. Her stories and enthusiasm were endless, and so were the laughs.  Denise always found herself in the funniest of situations.  Whether she was traveling around the country or traveling around the block, she would come back with the most unbelievable stories. Denise had a gift of making everyone feel like they were the most important person in the world.  She had a heart as big as Texas. She is missed beyond words and will never be forgotten.

Denise was preceded in death by her parents, Thomas Francis McDonnell and Mary Collette McDonnell, and her brother, James Charles McDonnell. She is survived by her loving husband, C. Larry Peters, 75, of Alamo, California; her son, Vincent Thomas Alfieri, 43; and his wife, Jordana of Hastings-on-Hudson; her daughter, Maria Lynn Alfieri-Vongphakdy, 40, and her husband, Boualay, of Danville, California; her brothers, John McDonnell, 58, and his wife, Patty of Lyndhurst; Thomas McDonnell, 63, and his wife, Janice of Elmhurst; Daniel McDonnell, 65, and his wife, Marcia of Tolland, Connecticut; Kevin McDonnell, 71, of Lakewood, Colorado; and her aunt, Katherine McCauley, of St. James. She is also survived by her sons, Marc Peters and his wife, Liz; Sean Peters and his wife, Julie; and Jonathan Peters; her grandchildren Covin, Sage, Jordan, Peyton, Hayden, Allyson, Kelsey K, Connor, Cole and Claire; dozens of cousins and scores of nieces and nephews from all over the country.

Visit www.oakparkhillschapel.com for the online guest book.

Stock Photo

The Suffolk County Department of Health announced 11 more mosquito samples have tested positive for West Nile Virus, with two samples collected in Rocky Point, one sample from Northport, one from Melville and one from Greenlawn.

Other samples were collected in Holtsville, Mattituck and Greenlawn.

New York State’s health department informed Suffolk County health officials Sept. 13 the new samples bring the total reports of West Nile Virus amongst mosquitos to 68. Four birds have tested positive for West Nile so far, but no humans or horses have tested positive in Suffolk County.

“While there is no cause for alarm, we advise residents to cooperate with us in our efforts to reduce their exposure to the virus, which can be debilitating to humans,” said

Dr. James Tomarken, the county commissioner of health, reiterated the need for people to report dead birds or look for other symptoms of the virus.

“The confirmation of West Nile virus in mosquito samples or birds indicates the presence of West Nile virus in the area,” he said.

Last month, 10 other mosquito samples tested positive for the virus. Three samples had been found in Rocky Point, with others located in Commack and Huntington Station, among others.

West Nile virus may cause a range of symptoms, from mild to severe, including fever, headache, vomiting, muscle aches, joint pain and fatigue. There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus. Patients are treated with supportive therapy as needed.

The best way to handle local mosquito populations is for residents to eliminate standing or stagnant water pools in their local areas.

People are also encouraged to use long sleeves and socks and use mosquito repellent.

The virus came to New York nearly 20 years ago, and samples are usually found in summertime when the mosquito population is most active. Cases, in the intervening years, have become relatively rare.

Dead birds may indicate the presence of West Nile virus in the area. To report dead birds, call the Public Health Information Line in Suffolk County at 631-787-2200 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Residents are encouraged to take a photograph of any bird in question.

To report mosquito problems or stagnant pools of water, call the Department of Public Works’ Vector Control Division at 631-852-4270.

Treatment centers often recommend that a reformed user preserves their identity in the press. Their stories are more important than ever and one young woman wants people to know that, yes, it is possible to recover from opioid and alcohol addiction. Photo by Anonymous

I’m writing today to share some hope. In November, I will miraculously have been six years sober. I say it is a miracle because for the longest time I believed I was hopeless, and I thought I would never find any peace until I was dead. It sounds very harsh but that’s exactly where my addiction lead me. 

I come from a small town in Suffolk County. Growing up there was a lot of chaos to say the least. I always felt out of place, like something was missing, or that I just didn’t belong here. I was filled with so much fear, pain and anxiety that I could physically feel this emptiness inside of me. Like a pit in my stomach that never went away. I was left to my own devices and with no way to cope at 13 years old I found drugs and alcohol worked well for me. The second I put a substance in my body things changed. I was OK, I could breathe, I could go to school, I could have a conversation, I could do all the things my anxiety stopped me from doing. Most of all I felt peace, something that was foreign to me, but of course I wanted more. 

More, more, more. There were never enough drugs for me, I was like a bottomless pit. I would drink until I was throwing up and then drink some more. I wasn’t one of those dainty girls you would see holding a cute mixed drink, I was the one sniffing lines in the bathroom and chasing it with a bottle. It was always very clear to me that I partied harder than my friends. Getting high was my only real goal and nothing else mattered. At 15 I stumbled upon Vicodin. My friend had a prescription after getting her tooth extracted and shared it with me. From that moment on I didn’t want anything else, just that feeling one more time. 

After two days, between the both of us, the script was gone. Painkillers were my hero. No waiting for alcohol to kick in, no getting sloppy and not being able to walk or speak. No smell. I had finally found what I had been looking for, a way to conceal the fact that I was high all the time. From then on, I found a drug dealer with OC 80s [OxyContin 80 mg] and my happiness relied on him answering the phone. One day before school — I think ninth grade — I could not get out of bed. My entire body ached, I was sweating, had the chills and I was throwing up. I had no idea what was going on. I called my friend. She asked if I was coming out and I said, “What?! I am so sick I can’t even move.” She replied, “You’re dope sick.” No one told me about this. So, I went outside, sniffed an OC 80 and, voilà, in two minutes I was fine. I had only been taking the pills for about one week before I became physically dependent. Now, I was not only emotionally and mentally dependent, but now my body relied on the pills physically. 

People think that using drugs and alcohol is a choice, and it may have been a choice the first time I used them, but after that I had no choice in the matter. Drugs were like oxygen. It wasn’t a want, it was a need. The truth is that this was the case for me even when I wasn’t sick. After a couple of attempts at getting sober, I found that even when my body wasn’t screaming at me for more, my mind was. I went to my first inpatient rehab at 15. Wanting to do the right thing wasn’t enough. My mother would beg and plead. My brother would cry, my sister would try to fight me physically every time I walked out the door. My boyfriend would break up with me. Nothing mattered. Nothing could stop me. I stopped going to school, I couldn’t hold a job, I couldn’t be in any relationship. My life completely evolved around getting high. 

Pills were expensive and at 16 it’s hard to make enough money to support a drug habit, especially when you’re dope sick half of the time. I learned that heroin was cheaper. What’s funny to me is when you say the word heroin, and everyone goes “oh,” the same people that drink until they can’t walk and sniff lines in dirty bathrooms look at you crazy when you mention the word heroin. I wasn’t afraid of it. Not even for a second. I had my friend teach me how to mix it, filter it and shoot it. Less money and a quicker delivery. My life was already spiraling at a rapid rate so I thought, “How bad can this be?” 

I was not allowed in or near my family’s house, dropped out of school and my old friends wanted nothing to do with me. My life was a cycle of get money, get high, get sick, repeat. 

From ages 15 to 20, I had been to 10 inpatient facilities and had a couple of stays in the psych ward. Some inpatient stays were 21 days long; some were two months, some were three. The longest stay was six months. 

On my 18th birthday, I got on the methadone clinic program, thinking it would solve all my problems and it did for a little bit. My dad allowed me to live with him, I got my GED certificate, I got a job. But the thing is they wanted me to stop using other drugs in combination with the methadone and I wasn’t capable of that. Back to rehab I went — it was the worst detox ever. 

My life was out of control. I was a mess internally and externally. The drugs stopped working. I was restless, irritable and discontent with and without them. For two years, I lived my life thinking I was better off dead. I was done. There are no other words than “done.” I figured since I didn’t want to live anymore and I knew other people had gotten sober, I would go to rehab one last time. So off I went. The funny thing about me: Once I’m detoxed and feeling better, I think I don’t need to take anyone’s suggestions and that I know what’s best for me. I guess I like to learn things the hard way. So, I ignored the suggestion of going to a sober house, went home with the best intentions of being a good person of society and before I knew it, I was calling the drug dealer. 

Coming to … I was constantly coming to. “How in the world did I get here?” I would think over and over. That’s where the powerlessness comes in. I didn’t want to do what I was doing, but I didn’t know how not to. If it was as easy as “just stop” using my “willpower” I would have stopped a long time ago. No one wants to break the hearts of everyone who loves them. No one wants to steal, and lie, and manipulate. It’s like being in survival mode. So, I learned the hard way for about a year, ignoring suggestions and thinking, “I know what’s best,” and falling on my face over and over. 

It was November of 2013. Everything I owned, including my cat, was in the car of someone I was using with. Talk about wanting to die. So, for the 100th time, I was done. This time wasn’t really any different than any other time. I said I was done. I didn’t really think this time would be different. I just remember I prayed. Something really honest. Every rehab I called was full, no beds. For six days, I prayed to get a bed. I couldn’t go on. I prayed for God to help. I prayed to forget everything I thought I knew, I prayed for relief from this obsession, I prayed to be guided, I prayed to be really done this time, I prayed and said if this doesn’t work, please just let me die. On the sixth day, the rehab called me back and told me that they had a detox bed. When I went to the rehab, I was done thinking I knew what was best for me. I made it very clear numerous times that I obviously had no idea. I was listening to someone in recovery speak one day and she said, “I’m here to give you a message of hope and a promise of freedom.”

If you could see inside my head, you would see the light bulb. It finally hit me. I needed to listen to other recovered people and rely on their guidance. 

Today I pray to live, I am thankful I get to live this life. Today I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, a wife, a mother, an employee. Today I show up when life is good and when life is bad. Today I get to be present. Today life is a gift. I’m writing this article on my son’s fourth birthday. I’m getting it to the editor the day before the due date because even though I’m sober, I’m not perfect and I do procrastinate. But it just so happened that the day I finally got it done is my son’s birthday and I’m reminded again that every day is a gift. 

I am grateful that I took the suggestions that were given to me at the rehab: I went to the sober house, I went to the meetings, I listened to the people who came before me that have maintained their sobriety, and I prayed. Every day I get to work with people like myself and today my life is about helping other people and giving back what was freely given to me. I’m writing today to tell you that we do recover, and there is hope. No one is hopeless. If you are struggling, please reach out for help because help is available, and miracles are real! 

Sincerely,

Someone who believes in you

 

Addiction recovery resources

Narcotics Anonymous Hotline

 631-689-6262

St. Charles Hospital Chemical Dependency Program

631-474-6233

Long Island Center for Recovery

 631-728-3100

Phoenix House

888-671-9392

Addiction Campuses

 631-461-1807

Nassau University Medical Center

516-572-0123

Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence

 631-979-1700

Eastern Long Island Hospital:

631-477-1000

Villa Veritas Foundation

845-626-3555

St Christopher’s Inn

845-335-1000

Seafield

800-448-4808

Hope House Ministries

631-928-2377

Family Service League

631-656-1020

Central Nassau Guidance and Counseling Services

516-396-2778

Talbot House

631-589-4144

Alcoholics Anonymous helpline

631-669-1124

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

800-273-8255

Local Link Wellness

631-909-4300

By Rita J. Egan

From now through Oct. 27, the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts is celebrating a change that has nothing to do with the seasons but more with hot flashes, weight gain, hot flashes, restlessness, mood swings, hot flashes, memory loss, night sweats and did I mention hot flashes? The theater closes out its 17th season with the hilarious  “Menopause The Musical.”

Amy Burgmaier

With book and lyrics by Jeanie Linders, the story follows four strangers who get acquainted during a lingerie sale at New York City’s Bloomingdale’s. Despite different personalities and backgrounds, they find out they have something in common — the change of life. Bonding over the symptoms of menopause, the play has appealed to women in their 40s, 50s and beyond since it first debuted in Orlando in 2001. With clever remakes of classic songs from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, the show can be an entertaining production for men but is probably best enjoyed as a ladies’ night out.

Seth Greenleaf skillfully directs a talented cast of four women, Monica Palmer, Nancy Slusser, Jenny McGlinchey and Amy Baugmaier, who display immense comedic ability and singing voices to match.

Monica J. Palmer

Palmer approaches her role as the businesswoman with the right amount of confidence and attitude, while Slusser is a sassy Soap Star. McGlinchey is the perfect choice for Earth Mother as she easily and hysterically transforms from zen hippie trying to manage her symptoms to an imperfect woman just waiting for a symptom to pass. Baugmaier, as the housewife, is sweet and endearing. All four also show enough vulnerability for the audience to believe that their characters would befriend three strangers in the middle of the Big Apple.

The audience will quickly identify with songs such as “Change, Change, Change,” a hilarious take on Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools,” and “Stayin’ Awake/Night Sweatin,” a twist on the hits “Stayin’ Alive” and “Night Fever” from the movie “Saturday Night Fever.” Like most songs in the musical, they detail the changes women go through with a healthy dose of humor.

Jenny McGlinchey

As the show progresses, each scene and number garners more laughter, whether it’s  Earth Mother singing “My Husband Sleeps Tonight” to the tune of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” to share her woes about insomnia, or all the actresses performing “Sane and Normal Girls”/“Thank You Doctor” (“California Girls”/“Help Me Rhonda”) as each of the women professes her gratefulness for the prescriptions prescribed by her doctor.

During the reprise of “I’m Flashing,” a spin on the song “I’m Sorry,” Palmer’s character apologizes for her hot flashes. Slusser also has some fun flirting with the audience during the reprise of “Hot Flash” (“Hot Stuff”) where her singing talent is front and center.

One of the funniest scenes takes place when Baugmaier tries on lingerie in the store’s dressing room and Palmer suddenly appears dressed like Tina Turner singing “What’s Love Got to Do With It.” The laughs kept coming as Baugmaier sings a beautiful version of “Only You” to her newfound friend — a vibrator. From beginning to end, the cast keeps the audience in stitches.

Nancy Slusser

Set designer Bud Clark and costume designer Sue Hill also deserve a round of applause. Clark has built a set that is simple yet incorporates pieces that easily create the feel of a department store, while Hill’s costumes fit the characters perfectly (Palmer’s Tina Turner outfit is sensational). Musical director Melissa Coyle and her orchestra as always navigate the hits seamlessly the entire show.

By the end of the night, it’s impossible not to have a new attitude about this season of life as the audience is invited to join the actors on stage for a celebratory dance.

The theater is now in the midst of a fundraising campaign to restore its light bulb marquee, and it’s no surprise that they want to highlight their offerings with quality productions such as “Menopause The Musical.”

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 East Main St. Smithtown, will present “Menopause The Musical” through Oct. 27. Running time is 90 minutes with no intermission. Performances are 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets range from $36 to $40. For more information, visit www.smithtownpac.org or call 631-724-3700.

Marilyn Tunney

By Elizabeth Tunney

Marilyn Tunney, 86, a longtime resident of Setauket died peacefully Sept. 2.

Marilyn Tunney

Marilyn was born to the late Helen Ekenberg and Joseph Talbot Nov. 13, 1932. She and her late brother John Talbot were raised in Cedarhurst. Marilyn attended St. Joseph’s boarding school in Brentwood where her faith, Christian spirit and the friendships she made would last her a lifetime.

She met her beloved husband, John Tunney, in 1949, and in 1956 they married and spent the next 60 years together calling Setauket their home. Marilyn was a devoted and selfless mother to John (Mimosa), Beth (Charlie), Peter (Amy) and David (Christine). She was also the proud and loving grandmother of Olivia, David Jr., John IV, Duke, Arthur and Sonnet.

Family was everything to her and she devoted herself entirely to their happiness.

Marilyn spent 25 years working at The Village Times newspaper in the classifieds department where she found great joy in her work but more importantly cherished her friendships.

The family is very grateful for all the loving and thoughtful care of all those at Jefferson’s Ferry who cared for her over the past few years. She led her life with grace, thoughtfulness and honesty and was loved by all that knew her sweet soul. 

A funeral Mass will be celebrated at St. James R.C. Church in Setauket Sept. 13 at 10:45 a.m. 

Fire departments from Wading River to Mount Sinai came to the 9/11 Community Memorial in Shoreham Sept. 11, 2019 to commemorate that fateful day. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Rich Acritelli

Sitting down to write this story about 9/11, there is the constant reminder of how beautiful this day was with brilliant sunshine, warm weather and the buzz in the air of people going about their daily responsibilities.  It seems like yesterday that this same sort of memory that was some 18 years ago completely changed the course of American history. As people were handling their daily routines of putting their children on the bus and going to work, people in Manhattan and Washington, D.C., endured harrowing terrorism that shook the foundations of those cities. In the rural area of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the wreckage and the remains of Flight 93 were found.

Fire departments from Wading River to Mount Sinai came to the 9/11 Community Memorial in Shoreham Sept. 11, 2019 to commemorate that fateful day. Photo by Kyle Barr

Some 18 years later, families and friends still struggle with getting through this particular day. While there are students in our local schools who were not yet born when these attacks occurred, this terrible moment is still with us. As many of our students did not see the constant news coverage about the attacks waged on our nation by Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, 9/11 essentially became one of the longest days ever in our country. It remained with us for months and years, as our mind flashed images of the two planes that destroyed the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and Flight 93 that would have been used to target the Capitol or the White House.  

Americans were shocked at the news reports of the failed attempts of the shoe and underwear bombers to destroy other commercial airlines and anthrax that was sent to noted journalist Tom Brokaw. Today, young adults that like to attend popular concerts at Jones Beach do not remember the military presence in the Atlantic Ocean near the venue. The federal government ordered aircraft carriers that were in view of the amphitheater to fly fighter missions over major cities, including New York, to guard against the potential use of civilian aircraft that could possibly target major buildings and landmarks. In a total sense of shock, Americans were reeling from the earliest moments of terrorism that had clearly impacted our way of life.

Never before had Americans repeatedly watched the news coverage of citizens on American soil desperately running for their lives away from buildings that were collapsing around them. In many cases, they did not stop moving until they were across the Brooklyn Bridge, covered in dust and debris, with looks of despair on their faces. For months, North Shore rescue and demolition workers sifted through the wreckage of lower Manhattan to search for survivors and the remains of lost ones. In the tristate area there were daily reminders of 9/11 through the numerous funerals that were held for many of the 2,977 people that were killed.  And it was almost 19 days after the terrorists hit the U.S. that the military struck the Taliban and its allies in Afghanistan. Just this week alone, as peace talks continued between America and the Taliban, a car bomb derailed the negotiations and our soldiers are still operating to guard against terrorism in Afghanistan. While many local people are concerned that other parts of this country have forgotten about this date, 18 years ago showed the iron spirit of American resolve and willingness to help each other.

The Sound Beach Fire Department held its annual 9/11 ceremony Sept. 11. Photo by Greg Catalano

This was an attack that had never been waged against the U.S. before, but the American people presented an immense amount of comradery; caring for fellow citizens who were struggling from the attacks. At once, there was an outpouring of patriotism. Walmart was unable to keep up with the demand of its customers who wanted to purchase American flags.  People wrapped yellow ribbons around porches and trees and patriotic signs hung in businesses, schools and churches honoring the rescue workers at ground zero. Fire and emergency crews from every corner of this nation and Canada descended on Manhattan to help the New York City Fire Department. Both the New York Yankees and Mets participated in raising the spirits of the recovery workers by having their players meet with them in Lower Manhattan and honoring their tremendous sacrifices when baseball came back to America at Shea Stadium in Flushing, Queens. Huge flags were presented by the military that covered the length of Giants Stadium during the national anthem. When motorists crossed over the George Washington Bridge, it was done under a flag that could be seen for miles.   

President George W. Bush, through a heightened security presence, was at the World Series that had been pushed back due to the 9/11 attacks. He attended the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks game where he stood on the pitcher’s mound, presented a thumbs up to the crowd and threw a strike to the catcher. At this time, former New York Jet’s coach Herm Edwards was asked football questions about an upcoming game and he told the reporters with tears in his eyes that sports is not everything. As the Meadowlands is within sight of the city, the Jets could see the smoke rise from the wreckage. He stated his team’s thoughts and prayers were with the rescue workers at ground zero.  Today, you can visit the National 9/11 Memorial in New York City and see a powerful sports exhibit that is connected to these attacks and how our local teams used athletics to help provide a sense of comfort and distraction during this tragic time.

Fire departments from Wading River to Mount Sinai came to the 9/11 Community Memorial in Shoreham Sept. 11, 2019 to commemorate that fateful day. Photo by Kyle Barr

Just recently, local leaders from the FEAL Good Foundation were in Washington, D.C., to lobby the government to prevent the discontinuation of the Zadroga Bill.  Retired New York City Police Officer Anthony Flammia strenuously worked with other rescue workers to promote the importance of this legislation to congressional members from every part of the U.S. The organization was determined to pass legislation that continued to help rescue workers suffering from 9/11-related health conditions. Longtime comedian Jon Stewart stood next to men and women from the FEAL Good Foundation to place pressure on congressional leaders to put their differences aside and pass this vital bill. Stewart openly wondered how our government was prepared to turn its back on survivors that unflinchingly answered the call on this date. Shortly after speaking to a congressional committee, NYPD Detective Luis Alvarez passed away from the poor health condition that he had gained as a result of his time at and near ground zero.

Over the course of American history, there have been many serious events that our nation has had to rebound from through the will of its citizens. 18 years ago, this dynamic character of our country rose out of the darkest moments of terrorism to show the world that Americans will always stand together. May we always remember our rescue workers, War on Terror veterans and those Americans that are currently struggling with 9/11-related illnesses. 

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.

At Stony Brook University Renaissance School of Medicine, a new generation of doctors and dentists are involved in a novel approach to managing the opioid epidemic. The training includes instruction from reformed narcotic users, who act as teachers.

A 25-year-old woman recently explained to the first-year students how she became addicted to opioids at the age of 15, when a friend came over with Vicodin prescribed by a dentist after a tooth extraction.

Addiction, she said, is like having a deep itch inside that desperately needs to be scratched.

“There was nothing that could stand between me and getting high,” said the young woman, who wants to remain anonymous. “Most of the time it was my only goal for the day. At $40 a pill, I quickly switched to heroin which costs $10.” 

The university’s Assistant Dean for Clinical Education Dr. Lisa Strano-Paul, who helped coordinate the session, said that “patients as teachers” is widely practiced in medical education. This is the first year reformed narcotic users are participating in the program.

“People’s stories will stick with these medical students for the rest of their lives,” she said. “Seeing such an articulate woman describe her experiences was impactful.”

Gerard Fischer, a doctor of dental surgery candidate from St. James, took part in the patient-as-teacher session on narcotics.

“You learn empathy, a quality people want to see in someone practicing medicine,“ Fischer said. “People don’t choose to become addicted to narcotics. So, you want to understand.”

After working in dental offices over the last several years, he’s noticed that habits for prescribing painkillers are changing.

“Dental pain is notoriously uncomfortable because it’s in your face and head,” he said. “No one wants a patient to suffer.” Pain management, though, requires walking a fine line, he added, saying, “Patient awareness is increasing, so many of them now prefer to take ibuprofen and acetaminophen rather than a prescription narcotic, which could be a reasonable approach.”

Hearing the young woman tell her story, he said, will undoubtedly influence his decision-making when he becomes a practicing dentist. 

An estimated 180 medical and dental students attended the training last month. Overall, Strano-Paul said she’s getting positive feedback from the medical students about the session. 

The woman who overcame addiction and shared her insights with the medical professionals, also found the experience rewarding. 

We respect her request to remain anonymous and are grateful that she has decided to share her story with TBR News Media. For the rest of this article, we shall refer to her as “Claire.” 

Faith, hope and charity

“I told the doctors that recovery has nothing to do with science,” Claire said. “They just looked at me.”

Claire was addicted to drugs and alcohol for seven years and went to rehab 10 times over the course of five years. 

“I did some crazy things, I jumped out of a car while it was moving,” Claire said, shaking her head in profound disbelief.

She leapt from the vehicle, she said, the moment she learned that her family was on their way to a rehab facility. Fortunately, she was unharmed and has now been off pain pills and drugs for close to six years. She no longer drinks alcohol.

“Yes, it is possible to recover from addiction,” Claire said. 

People with addiction issues feel empty inside, Claire explained, while gently planting her fist in her sternum. She said that once her counselor convinced her to pray for help and guidance, she was able to recover.

“Somehow praying opens you up,” she said. 

Claire was raised Catholic and attended Catholic high school but says that she’s not a religious person. 

“I said to my counselor, “How do I pray, if I don’t believe or know if there’s a God?” 

She came to terms with her spirituality by appreciating the awe of nature. She now prays regularly. Recovery, she said, is miraculous.

Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12-step regimen, first published in 1939 in the post-Depression era, outlines coping strategies for better managing life. Claire swears by the “big book,” as it’s commonly called. She carefully read the first 165 pages with a counselor and has highlighted passages that taught her how to overcome addictions to opioids and alcohol. Being honest, foregoing selfishness, praying regularly and finding ways to help others have become reliable sources of her strength.

Spirituality is the common thread Claire finds among the many people she now knows who have recovered from addiction.

Medication-assisted therapy

Personally, Claire recommends abstinence over treating addiction medically with prescription drugs such as buprenorphine. The drug, approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration since 2002, is a slow-release opioid that suppresses symptoms of withdrawal. When combined with behavior therapy, the federal government recommends it as treatment for addiction. Medication alone, though, is not viewed as sufficient. The ultimate goal of medication-assisted therapy, as described on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website on the topic, is a holistic approach to full recovery, which includes the ability to live a self-directed life.

“Medication-assisted therapy should not be discounted,” Strano-Paul said. “It improves the outcome and enables people to hold jobs and addresses criminal behavior tendencies.”

While the assistant dean is not involved with that aspect of the curriculum, the topic is covered somewhat in the clerkship phase of medical education during sessions on pain management and when medical students are involved in more advanced work in the medical training, she said. 

The field, though, is specialized.

The federal government requires additional certification before a medical practitioner can prescribe buprenorphine. Once certified, doctors and their medical offices are further restricted to initially prescribe the medicine to only 30 patients annually. Critics say no other medications have government-mandated patient limits on lifesaving treatment. 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, considers the therapy to be “misunderstood” and “greatly underused.” 

In New York state, 111,391 medical practitioners are registered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to prescribe opioids and narcotics. Only 6,908 New York practitioners to date are permitted to prescribe opioids for addiction treatment as at Aug. 31.

Strano-Paul for instance, pointed out that she can prescribe opioids, but is prohibited from prescribing the opioid-based drug used for addiction therapy. 

The narcotics education program is still evolving, Strano-Paul said. 

New medical student training now also includes certification for Narcan, the nasal spray antidote that revives opioid overdose victims. 

“It saves lives,” Strano-Paul said. 

In Suffolk County in 2017, 424 people died from an opioid overdose, which was 41 percent higher than the state average, according to a study titled “The Staggering Cost of Long Island’s Opioid Crisis.” The county is aware of 238 potentially lifesaving overdose reversals as of June 30 attributed to Narcan this year alone. Since 2012, Narcan has helped to save the lives of 3,864 people in the county. 

As for Claire, now a mother, she delivered her children through C-section. In the hospital, she was offered prescription opioids for pain. 

“No one will ever see me again, if you give me those pills,” she said.                

A child takes part in Book Time with a Dog at Sachem Public Library

Believe it or not, people still read books.

Despite the doom and gloom and often-reiterated refrain that young people today are illiterate, the world and its modern technology has not managed to cripple the long-standing literary institution: the local library. Libraries survive by the manic activity of their employees and the attention of patrons.

But it’s no longer just physical copies. E-books, available on tablets and phones, have become a mainstay in the way people read. People at libraries can rent tablets preloaded with several books. For people on the move, a tablet can be much easier to carry than a stack of 10 books each averaging at 300 pages and weighing a few pounds.

Clearly, it won’t be its patrons that ruin libraries for everyone, but the book publishers themselves.

Macmillan Publishers, one of the top five biggest publishing houses in the U.S., announced its intent to soon limit the number of copies of its published books to one per library for the first eight weeks.

While that seems like the corporation is cutting off its nose to spite its face, for Suffolk County’s library system, which handles all of the area’s e-book rentals, it means patrons will have access to one single copy countywide for rent.

Think about who uses a library. The highest levels of patronage are enjoyed by people living in the North Shore communities, according to Kevin Verbesey, the director of the Suffolk Cooperative Library System. While there are plenty of people who use the library for its many events and other activities, many others use the system to gain insights on world events and better themselves as they enjoy free access to computers and books. They find solace during an escape into literature.

It seems cynical, ludicrous and downright greedy on the part of the publisher to limit access. It suggests the current library system, which has existed for more than a century, is now, all of a sudden, cutting into publisher’s profits. Meanwhile there is good evidence to suggest libraries help create buzz and interest for the publisher’s books. Data from the Library Journal suggests many readers will go out and purchase the same book they borrowed from a library, and even more buy a book by the same author as one they borrowed from the library.

The library system exists and is as natural as the written word itself.

Librarians across the country look at the publisher’s actions and condemn them, but their voices are drowned out by the scale of the overall operation.

While Macmillan may assume people will simply go out and buy the book instead of getting it from the library, this hurts all those who cannot afford a new book, in electronic or physical form. Even worse, other publishers will potentially copy what Macmillan has done, severely limiting access for patrons to their electronic literature.

Libraries are the backbone of culture in a community. We ask all North Shore residents show support for their local library. Start a petition. Other publishers are waiting in the wings to see what happens. Letting Macmillan’s model become the norm will only harm the collective good.

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

There’s just far too much going on personally and professionally to contain it within a singularly focused column. Strap yourselves in, because here we go.

For starters, how awesome is the start of the school year? Kids grumble, shuffle their feet, roll their eyes and sigh. But, come on. It’s a clean slate. It’s a chance to learn new material, make new friends and start anew with teachers who didn’t wonder what was wrong with you when your eyes were almost closed during the days before you got sick. It’s also a chance for parents to breathe a sigh of relief as the chaotic house, which was filled with friends coming and going throughout the summer, establishes a predictable routine.

I spoke with a high school senior recently who was absolutely thrilled with the start of her final year of school. Not only does she want to get her grade point average up, which she was doing with a high average in her weakest subject, but she was also incredibly enthusiastic about the opportunity to apply to her favorite college. Her energy and enthusiasm were
infectious.

Keep up: Here comes another topic. The other day, after I dropped my son off at school, I passed a father who put me and so many other parents to shame. He was pushing a fully loaded double stroller with two children who were between 2 and 4 years old. Anyone who has had to push a double stroller with bigger children knows how heavy that bus on wheels can get. He also sported a younger child in a BabyBjörn carrier. That’s not where it ended. While he was pushing and carrying three children, he was walking an enormous dog. Given the size of the dog, I wondered if he was tempted to strap a saddle on the animal and put one of the kids on top of him. Yes, I know that wouldn’t actually work, but it would distribute all that child weight more evenly and would give “man’s best friend” a job to do, other than getting rid of waste products on other people’s lawns.

Speaking of dogs, yes, my family now has a dog. He’s wonderful, soft and fluffy and is also an enormous pain in the buttocks. He has two modes of walking: He either pulls me really hard — he weighs more than 80 pounds — or he completely stops, pushing his snout into grass that he tries to eat and which upsets his stomach. Look, doggie dog, I know I can’t eat dairy because of the enormous negative consequences. Does it occur to you that eating grass, dirt, plastic foam cups and pencils is bad for your digestion? Of course not because the only cause and effect you care about relates to what goes in your mouth.

So, last weekend we went to a baseball tournament for our son. The day after the tournament, the coach sent a pointed note to the parents, reminding us to contact him if we had a problem or question, rather than going straight to management. In case you were wondering, I don’t miss coaching.

Then there’s National Security Advisor John Bolton. So, he gets fired for being a hawk? Who knew he was a hawk? Oh, wait, just about the whole world. So, that begs the question: If his hawkish views weren’t welcome or wanted, why was he hired in the first place?

One more question: When did the weather or hurricane warnings become political?

Dr. Laura Lindenfeld will be the guest speaker at the 2nd annual Cooks, Books & Corks

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

You are invited on a date. The night is Tuesday, Sept. 24, the time is 6 to 8 p.m., and the place is the Bates House opposite the Emma Clark Library on Main Street in Setauket. On behalf of Times Beacon Record News Media — that’s us! — I am inviting you and your loved ones and friends to a fun community event. This one, the 2nd annual Cooks, Books & Corks, will feed both your body and mind.

Here’s the deal.

Some 18 fine restaurants and caterers are coming together to offer you delicious specialties from their menus, washing it all down with a selection of wines, and a dozen-and-a-half local authors are bringing their latest books for you to peruse and perhaps buy that evening. It’s Dutch treat at $50 a ticket, and the proceeds will go to a summer fellowship for a journalism student. In this way, you can help a young person take a paid step toward his or her ultimate career even as you help yourself to a scrumptious dinner and a literary treat that encourages local authors. And you will be helping us, the hometown news source, staff up a bit at a time when our regular team members tend to take vacations.

Here are some of the details.

The food will be supplied by these generous eateries: The Fifth Season, Old Fields, Pentimento, Elegant Eating, Sweet Mama’s, Zorba the Greek, Fratelli’s Bagel Express, Prohibition Port Jefferson, Toast Coffeehouse, Villa Sorrento, Lauren’s Culinary Creations, Sunrise of East Setauket Senior Living, Southward Ho Country Club, Sunflower Catering & Event Planning. Fishers Island Lemonade and Luneau USA will supply drinks. Desserts will be sweetly taken care of by, among others, Kilwins and Leanne’s Specialty Cakes. I’m salivating just typing the list. Start fasting. Come hungry.

Local authors include Jeannie Moon, Marcia Grace, Jeannine Henvey, Susan Van Scoy, Angela Reich, Ty Gamble, Dina Santorelli, Elizabeth Correll, Suzanne Johnson, Joanne S. Grasso, Rabbi Stephen Karol, Kerriann Flanagan Brosky, Michael Mihaley, Carl Safina, Mark Torres, Michael Hoffner and Linda Springer. People will be able to meet and greet with the authors and request book signings. Why would anyone want to write a book? How does one go about the process? Getting it published? Having it distributed? Would they recommend doing so to would-be authors? This is an awesome assortment of local talent to have in one room at one time.

A few remarks will be shared by Laura Lindenfeld, the interim dean of SBU School of Journalism and executive director of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. Gentle background music will be handled by the talented Three Village Chamber Players. And there will be the usual basket raffles.

A special and huge thank you to Laura Mastriano of L.A. Productions Events.

Now we need you!

To purchase tickets, please visit our website tbrnewsmedia.com or our TBR News Media Facebook page to pay with PayPal.

We also need sponsors who would like to support and be associated with this “high tone” event — as one of the vendors put it last year — to please contact us. Sponsorships may be had starting at $125 and will feature your name and logo in our newspapers, social media and our website, including a major “thank you” ad after the event. First one just in is Andy Polan, talented optician and owner at Stony Brook Vision World. And a big thank you to Camelot Party Rentals for their in kind donation. We would welcome your call at the newspaper office at 631-751-7744 or email events@tbrnewsmedia.com.

So come share in a delightful and satisfying event with lots of good food, good drink and good conversation. We hope you will follow up with visits to the participating eateries and caterers who have given of their time and specialties, and that you will enjoy reading your new books. We think when you leave the beautiful Bates House, you will be proud that you live in the area. And it certainly beats cooking dinner on a Tuesday night.