Patrick Witri MA, LLP
Born into an alcoholic family in Detroit in 1954, the disease of addiction began having an effect in my life immediately. With an alcoholic and depressed mother and a “dry drunk” violent father, I learned all the survival techniques a child of addicts learns, primarily those described by noted author Claudia Black – Don’t Talk, Don’t Trust, and Don’t Feel.
I also learned to avoid home as much as possible and stayed out “playing” long after most of my friends had gone home. Fortunately, there were also factors in my life – kind neighbors, good friends, employers that trusted me – that allowed me to grow some measure of self-esteem, competence, and skill in relating to a widely diverse range of people. Still, with too much money and independence than was good for me from starting to work at age 10, I found alcohol and drugs not much later. First cigarettes, then alcohol, then marijuana each helped me feel cool, as though I belonged somewhere and quieted the gnawing anxiety I always felt except when high.
This started a cycle that would last more than 20 years. Do as little as I had to, stay high as much as I could, and somehow pull a rabbit out of my hat at crucial moments. Somehow I graduated high school, moved to Grand Rapids for college, and kept progressing in a career in the hospitality industry. I even married a beautiful young lady that loved me more than I did. But it kept getting harder to pull out the rabbits, I started losing jobs and working my way down in the world, and I left school entirely (having completed only 3 academic years in 10 chronological ones). Finally, in 1980 in a deep depression, drunk and high most waking hours, I admitted I was at the end of my rope and about to hang myself with it. I admitted myself to my first inpatient treatment experience. This began an eight-year process of treatment and relapse and more treatment as I struggled as best I could to cope with life and change the things about me that kept me resorting to drugs and alcohol when I became overwhelmed. I owe a debt of gratitude to the many people who treated me and to a program of recovery whose Traditions don’t allow me to mention it here.
After sobering up for the last time I’ve needed to so far, my journey of joy began. It wasn’t always easy and was far from pain-free. But whose life is? I took humble, honest work to contribute to our financial survival and to help pay for my education which I’d resumed. My wife and I had a son, now a college student himself. I finished graduate school, got licensed as a psychologist, and we had another child, a little girl with Down syndrome. From her, I learned things I’d never have learned otherwise including how to grieve her loss when she died in 2001. One day at a time I haven’t had to drink about her death, or anything else, for some time. I’ve also been blessed with being able to adopt two other little girls, both with Down syndrome.
Today I am a Masters level psychologist. I bring a wealth of professional and personal experience to my work. I specialize in treating addiction including substance abuse, gambling addiction, and other process addictions, but I also treat mental illness including depression and anxiety, and grief and loss. I am privileged to be the past President of the Board of Directors of the Michigan Association on Problem Gambling, and I remain active in treating gambling disorders and advocating for increased treatment to be available for those who struggle with any addiction. With more than 25 years of experience in the recovery and mental health fields, I try to bring a sense of calm and clarity to the chaos and problems posed by the many challenges of recovery.