Peter Delbert lives in Camelot, but it’s not a fairytale.
It’s a 45-bed in-patient substance use disorder rehabilitation center on Staten Island. He’s addicted to alcohol and has been in recovery twice — this time for 10 months. His drink of choice is vodka.
“It became my new best friend. It became my family. It became a lot of things for me,” Delbert said.
Peter has been hooked on booze for 45 years. Doctors use the medical diagnosis alcohol use disorder.
Dr. Daniel Suter from the Addiction Institute at Mount Sinai hospital points to three main causes: genetic risks, untreated mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, and social isolation.
At the age of 12, Peter turned to alcohol.
“I finally thought that I could get some relief, you know, from the social misfit stuff, the hole in the soul, the ‘I don’t belong type thing.’ I didn’t know that alcoholism existed,” he said. “I found out later that I had two uncles on my mother’s side of the family that died from this disease,”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, excessive alcohol use caused over 4,200 deaths in New York State in 2019. The estimated average number of years lost from each person’s life is 38.
Though Peter has survived, it’s taken a toll. Being in recovery means that he is not working on his business. He is licensed in the state of New Jersey as a tree expert with his own company. But he still couldn’t manage his life when he was drinking.
Experts say successfully managing the disease often includes rounds of therapy. Medication can also be used, tailored to each patient.
According to Dr. Suter, group therapy in particular can be beneficial because it helps solve the problem of social isolation. Delbert admits that having peers root for his sobriety has made a big difference.
Besides therapy, there are several medications currently on the market that can help people kick the habit by reducing cravings. A new pill in clinical trials is geared toward those with a family history of alcoholism called Ondansetron.
“What this drug is doing is damping down that signal or transmission, such that you don’t recognize the alcohol as quite being alcohol, and therefore you don’t experience it as being quite so reinforcing,” Dr. Bankole Johnson, Chief Medical Officer at Adial Pharmaceuticals said.
Peter’s recovery journey includes preparing for life outside Camelot — that means working a new job. Instead of cutting trees, he cuts meat at the local Stop & Shop, all while focusing on his relationships that were fractured by addiction. Namely, his three daughters.
“One of them is on my side all the way. You know, the other one is just coming along nicely. And one of them is not ready yet. You know, and it’s gonna take time,” he said.
But Delbert is committed to his recovery and giving himself, and his loved ones, the time needed to heal.
“I love the way it made me feel. But I’m learning to love other things in life. I’m learning to love me,” he said.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, you can contact your doctor directly or NYC Well for counseling and referrals. Call 888-NYC-WELL or go to nyc.gov/nycwell.