Ask The Pharmacist: My brother was a secret

Suzy Cohen

My oldest brother just passed away. He was an alcoholic for decades. He smoked, too. He died with his Chihuahua and wife beside him. It was colon cancer that had metastasized everywhere.


So with a heavy heart I beg you to try one more time, to taper off and stop drinking. This is the best way to honor Danny’s lifelong struggles. I want him to have a legacy.

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By a million miles, he was my favorite brother of the two. In his twenties, Danny was handsome and charming, witty, intelligent and strong. He always had a joke to share, and he loved music. He played it very loud on the vintage hi-fi console, which especially annoyed my my ‘book face mom’ who would holler at him as if she could obtain higher decibels than "Stairway to Heaven" – "Daniel, turn the noise off!”

Growing up, he was like most guys: had a job, a girlfriend and many skills. He was a very hard worker. Then he fell on hard times in his 30’s and began drinking heavily. He became withdrawn, pessimistic and more irriitable with time. I still loved him, but more from a distance.

I spoke to him last week. He said to me, “Suzy, I don’t want to die.”

Confused, I did not ask him this question out loud, but wondered, “Then why did you slowly commit suicide all these years?”

Because alcohol is encouraged in our society, we get the idea that it isn’t dangerous, but it is. It’s psychoactive, addictive and potentially lethal when misused.

My brother was a secret.

Not because we made him one. He simply felt shame. Today, I want him to stand for something far greater than what he could conceive during his life. Maybe you’ll be inspired to heal yourself. Here are considerations for when you’re ready to taper:

  • Denial. Looking in our mirror and accepting who you see is difficult, if not painful.
  • Supplements. These can bridge you from addiction to recovery. Gotu kola, L-theanine and magnesium help balance glutamate to GABA.
  • Withdrawal. Quitting cold-turkey is dangerous. A slow taper is best because it allows for GABA receptor down-regulation in the brain to correct itself.
  • Cheerleader. There needs to be at least one person rooting for you, if only by phone, text or physical presence. These people are scared, alone, afraid and in pain; they just need seeds of hope. Be that for someone.
  • Recovery Centers. Becoming and staying sober is difficult, so look to established clinics and organizations that can help, as long as they are not too eager to medicate you with some other drug and boot you out the door. AA sets the standard: (800) 615-3851.

Recovery is the bridge between you were and who you are. I believe you can, and yes I know it’s hard. It’s hell, but if you’re going through hell, do not stop!

Danny Gurvich is no longer a secret. He gave me an incredible 23-year-old nephew. Today I am celebrating the life of a very good man…and mourning his passing with you.

With love…November 29, 1958 to July 10, 2017.