Many of us enjoy a drink after work, I love having a drink on the weekends, but at what point does our relationship with alcohol become problematic? Our guest this week on A Voice and Beyond is Andrew Culkin, author of Amanda: A Cautionary Tale of Alcoholism, which speaks the truth about alcoholism not only from the perspective of the person who has the addiction but also describes the suffering of those around the alcoholic.

On February 21st, 2020, Andrew’s wife of twenty-five years, Amanda, passed away from alcoholism. During her nearly two decades of decline, Amanda had attended seven rehabs, received four DUI convictions, and had several accidents. The stigma and shame attached to the disease only made her situation more difficult, as it drove her into isolation and depression.

Andrew describes alcoholism as a health disease that is no different from cancer or heart disease because alcoholics have no desire to be alcoholics any more than a cancer patient wishes to have cancer. Therefore, he has made it his mission to promote a different perspective on how we observe a struggling alcoholic. He tells us that the shame and embarrassment of the alcoholic needs to be met with empathy, care, and knowing they have support instead of condemnation and embarrassment.

During this interview, Andrew explains the 4 stages of alcoholism, why some people are more susceptible to succumbing to the disease, and his own traumatizing and exhausting experiences throughout Amanda’s alcoholic career. This interview is surely thought-provoking, and at times, very triggering for me. Whatever you do you don’t want to miss Andrew Culkin’s story.

In This Episode
00:00 – Introduction and Overview
02:36 – The Problem with Alcohol
05:36 – Andrew Culkin’s Personal Story
25:01 – Impact on Family and Realization
34:43 – Seeking Help and Rehabilitation
43:36 – Final Days and Reflections

Find Andrew Online


Putting yourself first is important because it allows you to prioritize your own needs and well-being, which in turn can help you be more productive, creative, and fulfilled in all areas of your life. By taking care of yourself first, you are better equipped to care for others and contribute positively to the world around you.



Visit the A Voice and Beyond Youtube channel to watch back the video replay of this guest interview or to see my welcome video.

Episode Transcription

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  00:00

Hey, it’s Marisa Lee here and I have some really exciting news to share with you. Just recently, I launched my performance mastery coaching programme, which has been designed to help a forming artists and other creatives just like you to take centre stage in their lives. Whether you’re mid career and simply feeling stuck, or you’re someone who is just about to embark on your career journey, and need help getting started, my unique coaching programme is for you. To celebrate the launch. I’m currently offering a free 30 minute discovery session, so you can learn more about the programme and how I can help you go to the next level in your life. My first intake is already seeing incredible results. So don’t miss out, go visit Dr Marisa Lee forward slash coaching, or just send me a direct message and let’s get chatting. Remember, there’s no time like now to take centre stage in your life.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  01:25

It’s Marisa Lee here, and I’m so excited to be sharing today’s interview round episode with you. In these episodes, our brilliant lineup of guests will include healthcare practitioners, voice educators, and other professionals who will share their stories, knowledge and experiences within their specialised fields to empower you to live your best life. Whether you’re a member of the voice, community, or beyond your voice is your unique gift. It’s time now to share your gift with others develop a positive mindset and become the best and most authentic version of yourself to create greater impact. Ultimately, you can take charge, it’s time for you to live your best life. It’s time now for a voice and beyond. So without further ado, let’s go to today’s episode.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  02:36

Many of us enjoy a drink after work. And for me, I love having a drink on the weekends. But at what point does our relationship with alcohol become problematic? Our guest this week on a voice and beyond is Andrew Kalkan, author of Amanda, a cautionary tale of alcoholism, which speaks to the truth about alcoholism, not only from the perspective of the person who has the addiction, but it also describes the suffering of those around the alcoholic. On February 21, of 2020 Andrew’s wife of 25 years, Amanda passed away from alcoholism. During her nearly two decades of decline, Amanda had attended seven rehabs received four DUI convictions, and had several accidents. The stigma and the shame attached to the disease only made her situation more difficult, as it drove her into isolation and depression. Andrew describes alcoholism as a health disease, which is no different than cancer or heart disease because alcoholics have no desire to be alcoholics, any more than a cancer patient wishes to have cancer. Therefore, he has made it his mission to promote a different perspective on how we observe a struggling alcoholic. He tells us that the shame and embarrassment of the alcoholic needs to be met with empathy, care, and they must know that they have support instead of condemnation and embarrassment. During this interview, Andrew explains the four stages of alcoholism. Why some people are more susceptible to succumbing to the disease, and he shares with us his own traumatic and eggs sourcing experiences, not only for himself, but for his son throughout Amanda’s alcoholic career. This is a thought provoking interview with Andrew Kalkan. And I can admit that at times, it was very triggering for me. So, without further ado, let’s go to today’s episode

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  05:36

Welcome to a voice and Beyond Today, we have Andrew Culkin, welcome to the show.

Andrew Culkin  05:44

Thank you. It’s good, glad to be here.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  05:47

Yes, today we are going to talk about something that affects more people than what we realise. Because a lot of people keep this issue quiet, they don’t reveal that they have a problem, they probably don’t know they have a problem themselves. And it’s probably something that is very significant in the performing arts industry as well. So this, this will be very relevant to our community and beyond. So Andrew, we’re going to be talking about alcoholism. And I’m going to say that, at this point in my life, I have someone that’s close to me, who I’m very concerned about, who I see is having way too much to drink on a very regular basis. But we’ll go into that in a second. At present you you have a job in insurance, but you also have a coaching programme. And you’re the author of Amanda, a cautionary tale of alcoholism, which speaks the truth about alcoholism, not only for the person who has the addiction, but what the journey is like and the suffering of those around the alcoholic?

Andrew Culkin  07:10

Absolutely. All right, well, yeah, because when someone’s an alcoholic, and no one’s an alcoholic, all by themselves, if you’re an alcoholic, your whole family is and everybody that’s around you, is suffering with the same issue in one way or the other. And that’s why it needs to be talked about. And there’s so much shame involved with alcoholism, that everybody wants to sweep it underneath the rug and not talk about it. And that’s the exact opposite of what we should be doing. We should be able to understand it as a disease. And we need to talk about it more and more and more. It’s the only way we’re ever going to help people solve this issue. Yes.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  07:48

Okay, let’s get straight into the topic of alcoholism. And then we’re going to talk about your particular story, which is really tragic. So how do we know if someone is an alcoholic? What are the signs we should be looking out for?


Well, consistency is the biggest sign of someone who’s consistently drinking on a regular basis. And if they’re drinking in isolation, that’s that’s a huge, huge red flag if someone is drinking alone, and they don’t want anybody to know about it, because they already realise subconsciously that they have a problem. The other big red flag that I found with not just my wife, but with other people is that they hide their alcohol. So when they finish their bottles and cans, rather than throw them out where they can be discovered, they’ll hide them under things underneath the couch, underneath the bed, behind books in the flower bed, they will hide them. It’s a very weird thing. And it’s hard to conceive of that unless you’re involved with someone who’s an alcoholic, but it’s very common. It’s very weird to hide all your stuff.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  09:00

Wow. And the thing is, you don’t know exactly how much they’re drinking.


No, you can never know. You know. And and the other thing is, you know, one of the big myths about alcohol is that people think, you know, I only drink beer or I only drink wine. I’m not drinking hard stuff. Well, you know, alcohol is alcohol. It’s the one of the biggest myths some people say, well, like my wife. She used to drink Chardonnay by the gallon. And then she switched to beer, saying, well, beers not as bad. It doesn’t have as much alcohol content. What difference does it make if you drink in 30 of them? What difference 200%

Andrew Culkin  09:35

Alcohol is alcohol no matter what you’re drinking?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  09:38

100% and that’s one of the things that I hear. But this doesn’t have much alcohol in it. So they go ahead and drink double the amount,

Andrew Culkin  09:48

right? I’m not drinking bourbon tonight that has 80% by volume. I’m only going to have 25 beers. It doesn’t matter you you’re still doing the same thing. Yes,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  10:00

yeah. Now you, you’ve told me that there are four stages to alcoholism, what are they? And when does it become a boundary violation that someone’s just drinking recreationally to that point where they are full on alcohol. Yeah, this

Andrew Culkin  10:18

is really the biggest point that I want to do to stage one isn’t necessarily an alcoholic, you’re big, you have alcoholic tendencies, it means and usually, most people start their alcoholic career between the ages of 13 and 20. So usually it’s high school, college aged kids is when they begin, you know, some people are introverted, or it’s a way to socially fit in, or to get through their shyness, you know, or to be able to become something that they’re not, or to be cool, or whatever the reason, that’s generally where it starts. And those are the people I want to get to, because if you can explain to people what stage one that you’re identify that you’re starting a habit, they’re not going to get to stage two. And stage three is when you become a chronic, alcoholic. And, you know, stage two is basically your life is kind of centred around alcohol, you have become an alcoholic, at this point, you’re drinking three, four or five days a week, your weekend starts on Thursday, and you’re getting over the hangover, the following Wednesday, you know, it’s just, it’s five o’clock somewhere, that stage two is when you’ve created a very physical dependency on alcohol.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  11:33

So that person too, is looking for a situation that they can create, where they can sit down and have a drink at some stage during the day. For example, let’s go out to lunch. It’s a beautiful day, let’s go out to lunch. And then the alcohol arrives on the table.

Andrew Culkin  11:52

Exactly. That make any excuse to find any reason to drink. Near the end. I mean, just to bring it out, I used to hate going to dinner, or to lunch with my wife, because it would take her 45 minutes to decide what to eat. And she would have three glasses of wine before she even thought it was really just about going to get something to drink.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  12:11

What about when someone has about a dozen drinks before they’ve even left the house?

Andrew Culkin  12:17

Well, that’s they probably shouldn’t be leaving the house at that point. Because it’s just going to be an embarrassment, it’s going to be very awkward and very difficult. And it’s going to be all about them when you get there.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  12:30

Okay, let’s continue. Let’s continue. So, stage three, this, this is going from bad to worse.

Andrew Culkin  12:38

stage stage three, you know, your whole life is centred around alcohol, you get up in the morning, and you have a glass of something, just you know, in lieu of food you’re drinking every day, your your life centres around getting alcohol, finding it. You want to be able to have your alcohol set up for the whole day. You know, you don’t want anybody to interfere with that. That’s your priority in your life. And it’s physically affecting you. You’re having a lot of physical problems, it can affect your, your liver, your heart, you’ve gained weight, you’re having blurry vision, it can affect you can physically fetch your mind, forgetfulness that dopamine in your brain is no longer you’re no longer getting the dopamine fix from alcohol. You’re beyond that at this point where you’re just drinking alcohol because it’s become a chemical dependent. Okay. When

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  13:35

when you talked about the mind? Is the person becoming forgetful?

Andrew Culkin  13:41

Yes, they’re becoming forgetful. They’re making up stories. Hmm. They make up stories. That never happened. In the later stage three, and then to stage four, they can have a thing called Wet brain, which is really a form of dementia. Were they really showing earlier signs of dementia, my wife seemed like she was starting to become, you know, in the state of dementia in the last couple of years.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  14:11

And a person goes through the stages that present slightly differently because everyone’s different,

Andrew Culkin  14:18

right? There’s no cookie cutter. The thing is, there’s no cookie cutter for any of this. Because Because some people could go through a rehab and maybe they escape it for a few years and then they they relapse. So I mean, there’s no certain cookie cutter. Generally stage one is where you want to identify that someone has created an issue. That’s it’s a habit. Just creating a habit.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  14:44

That would be really hard to identify because if teenagers are drinking, they’re usually doing it behind people’s backs. So therefore parents unless they’ve smelled the alcohol unless they find the Empty bottles, unless they know where their children are all the time. They’re not going to No,

Andrew Culkin  15:07

no, they’re not and children will get away with it. And it’s not just alcohol, obviously, that leads to

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  15:13

other things. Yes, yeah. Other

Andrew Culkin  15:15

other serious drugs. But for the sake of our conversation, we’re just talking about alcohol. You can’t as a parent, there’s no way you’re going to know every minute of every day what your what your child’s doing. There’s no way and

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  15:28

nor can an adult know what another adult is doing? No. And this is where this is so terribly difficult. And then what is the difference? Like is binge drinking a form of alcoholism as well, where someone can go all week without a drink? But then the weekend comes? And they absolutely hammered the alcohol?

Andrew Culkin  15:53

Yeah, that’s again, that’s that’s stage one likely, it just depends on how long it’s been going on. You know, if it’s been going on for five, six years, then no, you’re you, you certainly are beyond alcoholic tendencies. Binge drinking for men is something like eight drinks within three hours. For women, it’s more like five or six. And that’s considered binge drinking.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  16:18

That’s interesting,

Andrew Culkin  16:19

you know, but sometimes it’s double that that’s just, that’s the low end. For for some men, it could be 15, or 20, and a three or four hour period.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  16:31

And this is also very hard to because not only can we do we not truly know how much someone is drinking, but some people can hide it better than others. And they can hold their liquor better than others as well.

Andrew Culkin  16:47

Oh, absolutely say that some of the problem is there’s a lot of calories and alcohol. And so there’s gonna be a lot of weight gain, just mean naturally, you’re gonna gain a lot of weight. A lot of men have big bellies. My wife was certainly overweight. And as a result, unfortunately, is that you can consume a lot more alcohol if you’re heavier. Oh, someone who weighs a, someone who weighs 120 pounds will be drunk after three drinks, somebody weighs 250 won’t get drunk until 10 or more,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  17:16

I don’t hold my liquor very well.

Andrew Culkin  17:19

That’s not a bad thing.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  17:20

No, no, I’m fine with that. I’m happy with that. I’m so fine with that. So what are the lies then that an alcoholic tells themselves? Obviously they’re in denial of their drinking? Or are they truly? And what do they say to people who are close to them? Like, if someone calls them out and says, You have a drinking problem? What is the usual response to that? Well,

Andrew Culkin  17:49

the usual, the knee jerk response from anyone in that position is going to be complete denial. And it’s again, that’s why I always say it’s a gaslighting technique. And I’ve made videos on this. I know you’re the one who has the problem, not me, I don’t have the problem. You’re the one who has the issue. If you think I’m drinking too much, you know, which we’ll try family members crazy, because they’re trying to address a real world problem. And their responses to throw back in their face, you’re the one with the problem. And it’s just another technique of denial. And there’s 100 different techniques that you could go over with that. But you know, I always say denial, my wife was in denial up until the unplug the machines, and they kept her alive, you know, your denial until you have two choices, you’re either going to be in denial, or you’re going to face the problem head on, and you’re going to find solutions to a healthier life. Those are the two choices, you’re either going to be you’re either going to die with this disease, or you’re going to find a way to live with it.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  18:54

And it is a disease and it’s something that you’re always going to be in some sort of recovery. Right. Now you were married to an alcoholic. And this is where a lot of your experience and your knowledge has come from is from a lived experience and your wife. Yes. Was Amanda. And the book is named after your wife. Correct? Yeah. How long were you married for him? When did this start becoming a problem?

Andrew Culkin  19:22

Well, we were together for 27 years, but we were married for 2525 years. She always Yeah, she was always kind of a drinker. I mean, she always drank a bottle of wine. Usually at night, she’d have you know, three or four glasses, because we were both we had our own insurance brokerage. We’d come home at night isn’t it was a stressful job. And also her family was from Canada. And they were kind of French Canadian. So the whole family I’ll drink white wine I’ll drink Chardonnay or red wine. And I came from an Irish family from New York. None of us drink that we hit me up. My dad had a couple of beers. Once a month. You know I I didn’t come from a drinking kind of environment. So part of it, I thought it was part of her cultural background. At least that’s what I told myself.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  20:09

Yes. So you’re in denial as well. Well,

Andrew Culkin  20:12

I wasn’t in denial. I was more I was I say I was just willfully ignorant of what was going on. Just woefully. Yes.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  20:20

Yes. And so when did you realise then, and your alarm bells started to go off that you thought, wow. Like, we really have a problem here.

Andrew Culkin  20:31

It took me way too long. It’s one of the reasons why I’m kind of passionate about this to help families. Because if I was able to address it, 10 years before I was eight, before I finally did, I think Amanda would have had a fighting chance and families are really the frontline to help an alcoholic. I mean, if you truly have people who around you who care about you, those are the people who need to step in. The family really needs to step in and help that person and identify that there’s a problem, the best way to identify the problem is if it’s affecting you, if you’re a family member to someone who’s think that’s drinking, just look in the mirror and say, is this affecting me adversely? And if it is, well, there’s your answer. Okay? If you’re stressed, if you’re angry, if you’re frustrated because of this problem. There’s a problem, too, if you have animosity, if you’re reactionary, if you’re, you know, if you’re just like, angry all the time, yeah,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  21:32

yeah, there’s your answer. Yes. But what if the person what if you speak to the person, but they don’t want to help themselves? They’re not listening. Like, what point do you go, Okay, I’ve got to walk away from this, or where does the crossroad happen? This is making me upset, because this is really close to home.

Andrew Culkin  21:55

I understand because I was there too. I think one of the reasons why I stayed because it was culturally, part of my past. My parents were married for 50 years, my grandparents who have been married for 50 years to kind of have a Catholic background. Divorce was just never part of my culture. I was on the verge of doing that. But, you know, for some people, I think I stayed way too long. I think for myself, I probably should have broken it off much earlier. And you had you but that’s that’s a question for the individual. There’s no one that can answer that particular thing. But if it’s gotten to the point where it’s hurting you emotionally, physically, financially, spiritually, maybe it’s time, you know, and if you’re fantasising about not having to deal with this anymore. You’re fantasising about what your life would be without this person. There’s your answer, it’s time. You know, he

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  22:53

said earlier, however, that it is up to the family to help. That is kind of like a contradiction of what you said earlier,

Andrew Culkin  23:04

though, it’s the same thing if the family, because there’s different, it just depends on where you’re at with it. The family needs to step in and do an intervention. We haven’t really talked about that yet. If you’ve done an intervention, and the person has gone to rehab a few times, and it’s still not working, the person is still in denial, the person isn’t growing from this experience, or wholeheartedly trying to help themselves, then it’s time because you’ve done everything that you can as a family member or as a loved one. And if you’ve gone through all those steps, and nothing has changed, then it’s time. I think,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  23:42

what emotions were you going through when you were seeing your wife? I mean, I would imagine, yes, there would be anger, you would be angry at times frustrated, feeling helpless? Did you ever feel any kind of guilt that maybe you were responsible? Or you weren’t doing enough to help?

Andrew Culkin  24:01

No. For me, no, no, I never felt guilt. I felt like I think I did too much, really, to help her. Sometimes she have to look in the mirror and think about enabling, you know, because there are times when I bought alcohol for her, just so that I could have a calm night. And I wouldn’t have to deal with a lot of drama. And that’s, that’s a big, big factor that families have to deal with. Sometimes he just hears, you know, here’s a bottle of Chardonnay so that I can go relax and do something that I want to tonight without being begged and, and hammered and having a big argument over you know, because you don’t have any alcohol in the house, and I’ve taken it all.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  24:48

Huh. How did she change over that period of time from the woman that you met? Over those years? What were the changes you saw in her By

Andrew Culkin  25:00

originally met her she was you know, she’s a pretty blond haired girl and that’s your face there. Yeah, she’s

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  25:05

beautiful. She should beautiful

Andrew Culkin  25:07

blue eyes. Just just, I never would have met her that oh my god, those blue eyes. She was a very good top salesperson, very outgoing person. She could light up a room. She could take over a room. You know, she’s an incredible salesperson. He just wrapped people around her finger. Now, 20 years later, her eyes are bloodshot eyes. Her eyes were bloodshot. She had gained 150 pounds. She had she had health issues that are just unbelievable. He had to have her knees replaced or hips replaced. He had fatty liver. He had a gastric bypass. Oh, my God. Her stomach ruptured a couple times. I thought it eventually killed her. Because she had so much faecal matter and stuff inside her body and the head. She had all this all this stuff going on in there. It’s very complicated. But her liver was shot. Her kidneys were shot. You just name it. She had thyroid issues, and cancer and brain issues too.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  26:09

Yes. Was she aggressive or nasty towards you know,

Andrew Culkin  26:12

she was part of the problems that she was a very nice person. And she was always apologetic. She was aware of the problems that she that she was causing, but she couldn’t stop as you need to. She was chemically dependent and didn’t have the ability to stop.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  26:29

Was this a cultural thing that created this for her? And is that or genetic? Yeah, it

Andrew Culkin  26:36

was she was genetic. Her grant. Her grandmother was a raging alcoholic. She was hospitalised many times and I think she ended up homeless almost in Canada, her grandmother, you know, she had other family close family members that I thought would have passed before she did. But they’re still alive. I don’t want to mention their names, right? No. Yeah. And our close family.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  26:58

Is it usual then? Because I know Yes. I’ve heard that. It can be a genetic problem or a trigger.

Andrew Culkin  27:07

Well, there’s you have a you have a higher susceptibility. There are genes and you that you’re born with that gives you a higher susceptibility in conjunction with cultural things. But there’s also something else so usually there’s some kind of trauma that might have happened in a person’s life. Amanda had some trauma when she was 16 years old, which I think I think it set her off on a trajectory that kind of changed her whole life. I would say, you know, happy, well adjusted people do not become alcoholics. Unfortunately, they might not admit that, but there’s usually some kind of trauma that happened in their life. Did you have children? We have a son who just graduated from college. Oh,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  27:53

amazing. How is this impacting on him?

Andrew Culkin  27:58

Well, he’s you know, we’re we Gryphon and his son, his Gryphon. We are very, very close. So I was the parent. Most of his most of his childhood I was that was the two of us really, for a lot of it. I didn’t realise how much it had affected. When Amanda died, he weighed he was 19. At the time, he weighed almost 300 pounds himself. He’s six foot one, he’s big. Yes. And then within a year after she passed, he had lost 115 pounds. He was down to 185. And he went to college and he grew up and he got rid of all his baby fat and he just made a 180. And I didn’t realise how emotional how much emotionally that affected him. I had no idea. I think I was just too close to it.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  28:49

Yes, well, you probably just trying to survive. You’re just probably just trying to keep your head above water. And you’re probably parenting her as well.

Andrew Culkin  29:03

Oh, I was it was a complete child parent relationship. Yes, last few years, you’re just all you’re doing is you’re spending all your time trying to protect that person from getting themselves in harm’s way harming themselves or harming others. I mean, the worst thing we can do is get behind the wheel of the car.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  29:24

What about the rest of the family? Could they see what was going on? And would they offering you support in any way? Or were you dealing with this on your own?

Andrew Culkin  29:35

Yeah, it was pretty much on my own. I didn’t really have much to her family lived within an hour like they lived in Orange County and they lived in San Diego County. But her parents pretty much kept them kept themselves out of it or their siblings kept themselves out of it. My family was very upset about the whole thing. You know, I’m originally from New York. To fly to New York, I think the biggest watershed moment, as far as myself with Amanda is one of my mother died, we flew back to New York and she was in my mother was in the hospital for about a month. And we ended up having to stay at my dad’s house for about a month. And every day, we would go to the hospital. And I came home one time, and Amanda had cleaned up my dad’s entire liquor cabinet. And she was passed out in my dad’s living room, and a puddle of urine. You know, I mean, just completely audit just completely, like, I’m dealing with my mother dying. And I have this wife who’s just completely out of control. So I had to take her and I had to send her back. And it was just all this drama, I couldn’t even mourn my mother, because I was dealing with such craziness with my wife. And it was just, it was such narcissistic behaviour. It was just such self absorption, that that was the dividing line. For me. That was it for me, we were never the same after that, ever. That’s

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  31:03

so interesting, that and so sad. Because essentially the time when you needed support, she was emotionally unavailable for you, because she was so caught up in her own life in her own needs. But it seems like to me that it comes a point where you’re no longer married to a person, you’re married to the alcohol and the addiction.

Andrew Culkin  31:32

But that’s really all as left as you’re married to someone who’s a complete chronic alcoholic stage three alcoholic where their entire life is alcohol. And I mean, there’s so many steps to try to separate that person from the alcohol, you can take away car keys, you can take away bank accounts, credit cards, everything you possibly can, and you know, they’ll find a way to get it. They’ll either invite a friend over, can you bring a bottle of wine with you? And now there’s things like, you know, DoorDash, you can call a California you can call a grocery store, and they’ll deliver a case of beer. It’s crazy. Crazy. Yes.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  32:14

Did she seek help?

Andrew Culkin  32:16

If she went to seven rehabilitation facilities?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  32:21

Or did they work for a short time, they

Andrew Culkin  32:23

would work for a very short time, maybe two, three weeks, and she’d be passed out, I’d come home, I’d come home and she’d be passed out. The problem is, and this is the big problem with rehab facilities, I’m sure it’s the same in Australia or anywhere. And when you go to rehab facilities, 3060 90 days, depending on what your insurance covers, or how much money you have, because they’re expensive. But the key thing is you have to do the follow up, you have to get an accountability partner, you have to have someone who’s kind of acts as a mentor. So if you think you’re starting to slip, you have someone to call up. And you have to go to some kind of AAA meeting, and then not necessarily Alcoholics Anonymous, but you have to go to some kind of support group that’s like that. And you have to do that as often as you need to every day maybe in the beginning. And that’s where it fell off. She never did the the work. You got to do the work. Yeah,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  33:14

it’s it’s one thing, having the counselling session, but then you got to do your homework, following the session. It’s not what you do in that one hour, it’s what you do the rest of the week, right? Or, in this case, the 3090 days, however long it is, it’s then okay, when you leave that facility, it’s about the follow up. It’s about doing the work that they tell you to do. It’s about when

Andrew Culkin  33:43

you go back to your life, and then do the real work. Now rehab facilities are good because they you know, you’re around like minded people are in similar situations as yourself. And you’re able to delve into the reason why you drink and you’re doing you do a lot of Inner Inner searching as to why you’re in the situation that you’re in or why you’re drinking. But I mean, you know, you’re in this ecosystem. You’re in this. You’re in a bubble when you’re in a rehab facility. But rehab facilities also helped the family because it gives everybody a break. It gives everybody a break from the disease. I used to put Amanda in a rehab facility so that I could go fly home to New York and see my parents. Yeah. That’s where I was the last I’d say from 2015 to 2020. Every year I put her in a rehab facility so I could go see my ageing parents without

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  34:39

having to worry about what she was doing at home. Or

Andrew Culkin  34:43

there’s no way I could leave her if I left her she’d be dead. She’d drink herself to death. What

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  34:49

happened in the end, Andrew, if you don’t mind sharing the story of how she passed away. Yeah,

Andrew Culkin  34:55

how it ended she I put her in a in her seventh rehab facility. It was a Saturday it was January of 2020. And they called me up the next day and said that she had fallen down a flight of stairs and they were very worried about her and they took her to UCLA Medical Centre. Well, I was like, I don’t care. Just tell me when I’m like, I don’t even care, whatever she Okay, didn’t know, they were very worried. And then I didn’t even think about it. And the last three or four days went by and about three o’clock in the morning, one of us usually, like called me up, said that her heart stopped. In the middle of the night, I didn’t realise it was that serious. So she was in the hospital for two weeks before I even went to see her. I didn’t even want to go see her, really. And when I went, when I went there, I had no idea. I mean, she was she had every machine you could possibly think of she was essentially in a coma at that point. They did 12 different operations he had, they just left her open, and they go in every couple of days and just clean out all the bacteria and all the, whatever was going on in there. But eventually, they had to call it she went into septic shock. And her blood pressure was so low that they just had to call it and it took her about took her 28 days to die after she fell down a flight of stairs. Which, you know, internally just kind of erupted all this. Well.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  36:23

How did you feel at that point? I mean, listening to your story, and I say this with great respect. There must have been a part of you that was relieved. I mean, like credibly sad but also relieved to

Andrew Culkin  36:40

Well, like I was funny because I called my son one day after she died and he was like, he cried a little bit and goes, Well, Dad, at least now you’re gonna have some relief. I mean, that was his response. He didn’t even come theory. I just, I just said Gryphon, just stay in college, you don’t need to come see your mom. There’s nothing you can do anyways. So he never saw her again. The overriding emotion that I had was absolute really. I was just, there was no set. I wasn’t I didn’t think I even thought about missing her. For almost a year. I think about a year later, I cried. Yes. Just because you know, she was no longer there.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  37:16

And how are you doing now?

Andrew Culkin  37:19

Oh, no, I’m fine. I mean, I have another relationship. I’ve been with another girl for over three years now, you know?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  37:28

How do you then step into that relationship? Like? Do you feel that you’re free from all the shackles that you had in the past with Amanda and not being a helicopter partner? Looking at how much he’s drinking observing behaviours? Or do you feel free from all that from your past?

Andrew Culkin  37:50

I feel free from all that. But I think there’s a little bit of PTSD, when it first happens, just just stress, the just decompression, you know, getting over all that stress and that lifestyle. It was it was hard to I mean, the weirdest thing I remember I bought a book two weeks after she died, I went and bought a 12 pack of beer. And this was something I hadn’t been able to do in years, and I put the 12 pack of beer in the refrigerator. When I came home from work. It was still there. I hadn’t bought a I hadn’t bought a beer for myself and probably 10 years. Because I couldn’t there’s no way I couldn’t buy any alcohol just be gone. Yes, that was the weirdest little thing. Yes.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  38:32

I mean, one, you wouldn’t want to be going out to dinner or lunch. So that you start to become very isolated.

Andrew Culkin  38:42

Well, so I I have my own life. I mean, I was very much into bodybuilding. I mean, I used to go to the gym, five, six days a week, I did a lot of heavy lifting, which helped me a lot. Yes, mental mentally and I do a lot of reading. And, you know, I used to just on weekends, I used to just kind of go do my own thing near the end. I could leave for a few hours and be okay. But I think weightlifting help helped me a lot.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  39:11

Well, when that happened in New York, while your mother was in hospital, and Amanda drank all the alcohol at your father’s place. What did your father say to you? What were family members saying to you? Were they saying, okay, Andrew, this is not a good situation. What are you doing? You need to get out of here? Or were they saying to you, you need to do more to help this person? What was the advice, the general advice you were receiving from those around you? Well,

Andrew Culkin  39:46

that you know, I’m very close with my family. So they were very supportive of me. And like anybody, they were kind of reactive. They were very angry with Amanda. So I cleaned it all up before anybody grew. really found out anyways, but they found out the alcohol was gone, obviously. So what I did was, we went on when I just said I had to get her out of the house. So I took her and we went down to Gettysburg, which was a battleground in the Civil War. I used to go there as a kid that week. So I left for about a week, while my mother was that I just had to get Amanda out of the out of the situation. But as far as the family goes, no, they were very supportive of me. They said, maybe she should fly home. After we came back. And I sent her home, I didn’t even care. I knew it was going to be horrible when I got home, but I just couldn’t deal with it anymore. And luckily, my wife died about my wife, my mother died about three days after I sent my wife home. So that I was able to follow, you know, about four days after that. But my family was supportive. I mean it by them, they were well aware of the problem anyways, because they had visited me in California and saw it firsthand anyways.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  40:59

Because that’s part of the shame, too, isn’t it in the embarrassment? You don’t want people to know or to find out? Because

Andrew Culkin  41:07

it just depends on how close you are to the people. You know, I was pretty open with my parents, her family, just the opposite. And I think that’s a big part of the problem. They were very closed. It was shame it was it was to never talk about this. No one’s ever supposed to talk about this, this, this giant elephant in the family, her family? Definitely

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  41:31

has, how do you suggest as family members, we respond to loved ones who are in denial? Are there some creative ways that we can help them when that person with the problem is absolutely denying, or won’t listen to anyone else who is concerned about them?

Andrew Culkin  41:53

Well, then, you know, you gotta, there’s boundaries, that you have to, I think we all have to come to, to agree upon with ourselves, you know what boundaries, and I used to do things, just to give her an illustration, I would find all her bottles that she had hidden in the last couple of weeks. And I would set them on a table and say, I want you to come here and look at all the this is all these bottles that you have consumed in cans that you’ve consumed in the last few days. A lot of times her response was, Oh, they’re old. They’re from last month, they’re from last year. And if I go, Well, maybe we should go to a rehab again, because I think you have a problem. And sometimes she would agree to it. That’s how I approached it is to get into a rehab. Or you needed to go do more counselling. But you have to realise there’s only so much a family member can do, all the family member can do is identify it to the person, they can explain to them how it’s affecting them. But at the end of the day, the alcoholic has to make the decision to get that help. And if they’re not willing to, to get that help, then as family members, you know, especially if it’s the husband’s the healthy, healthier spouse has to make the decision whether or not they want to stay in this. If you’ve if you’ve identified it. You’ve explained how it’s affecting you on and on and on. I mean, not just once but probably 50 times. And you just have to come to the point what what is your boundary? If you’re miserable as a person, it’s not worth it?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  43:36

What are the things that we as a loved one or as a society need to understand in order to help an alcoholics recovery?

Andrew Culkin  43:48

I think society needs to have more empathy for an alcoholic and we need to recognise it that it’s a mental health disease. And I’ve said this before, you know, we don’t ridicule the girl who’s bald because she’s going through chemotherapy. But we’ll ridicule the guy who has fallen down drunk, it dishevelled. And we’ll you know, we’ll throw shame in that direction. When that person is really suffering with a mental health issue and they need they need real world help. We need to recognise that we need to help these people and not ridicule them. That’s not helping anyone. Other than we’re just playing on our own ego and we’re looking at that we’re not helping that person.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  44:29

So not blaming and shaming, right? And

Andrew Culkin  44:33

more empathy. We have to it’s very difficult to show empathy. When you’re full of resentment. It’s very difficult to hit to feel empathy when you’re, you know, frustrated and angry and resentful. But we have to do it we have to mature

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  44:52

what are the most alarming truths about chronic alcoholism and alcoholics? Is there anything more We need to know or understand.

Andrew Culkin  45:03

I think we’ve talked a lot about, you know, the main things, I think, is that it’s a disease, and that person is going to have that disease until the day the day they die. It’s not a disease that goes away. And a lot of people don’t realise that. Also, alcoholics walk amongst us, they’re not always the homeless guy in the corner, that could be a teacher, it could be you know, your friend. There, they walk amongst us. And they’re people just like we are. Anybody could become an alcoholic, potentially, could become an alcoholic. It’s not something, we need to stop blaming the alcoholic as much and have a better understanding of where it’s coming from.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  45:45

I was surprised to hear that there are a lot of pilots who were alcoholics. That’s really scary. was

Andrew Culkin  45:53

one of the one of the last movies I think it is the last movie I saw with Amanda was was flight by Denzel Washington, which is the story of a commercial pilot, who was an alcoholic? Oh my gosh, did you ever see that movie? No,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  46:07

I don’t want to.

Andrew Culkin  46:09

It’s a big movie. Well, he actually, the movie starts is that he’s flying the plane. And he has a he drinks a couple of bottles of vodka and he throws them in the trash later, they find him in the plane crashes, but he actually saves the plane, because the engines go out, even though he was drinking. So he becomes this big hero. And then later they find that he he’s the one that have the vodka in the garbage cans, and there is this big hearing. And then he admits that he’s an alcoholic, which is, I always said it’s a man that had been able to do that and admit that she was an alcoholic. I think it was her third or fourth DUI. And they gave her they gave her 90 days. And I was pleading with the lawyers. Could you please give her at least a year? She needs to be in jail for years the only thing that’s going to save her? And they wouldn’t. They said no, we can only give her 90, we could give her a year that effect. She was should have had a year because it was a third DUI. That’s what saves the main character of Denzel Washington, because he got a couple of years in jail because he admitted that he was an alcoholic as a commercial pilot. And that’s what actually what saved his life. That’s that’s separation. Yes. You

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  47:23

know, things that tough when you actually want your spouse locked up.

Andrew Culkin  47:29

But I knew that’s the only thing I was gonna say her. Oh, my

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  47:33

gosh, with your book? How healing was that for you to write that book? What was the inspiration? Like, who were you trying to help through the book?

Andrew Culkin  47:45

I think initially, I had to rewrite the first 100 pages because there was just just anger. I just I needed to get all this anger out. I was so angry. I think I have a Facebook group. And I had a lot of angry things in there and people’s that maybe you shouldn’t be writing. And I backed off. And I think for me, it was a, you know, a process of healing for me to write the book, definitely. But I’m passionate about helping other people and being able to identify, I think that’s what it’s all about is being able to identify someone who is an alcoholic and get them help before they get in the later stages, especially younger people. How this all started was I’d be I spoke at Amanda’s rehab facility after she passed away, there was a thing called a family weekend. And they asked me to speak and I told her about, you know, how they died and what I went through. And then I went to the Betty Ford Clinic and I spoke there. And I started to do on podcasts and just kind of grew up and kind of grew organically. Yes. Yeah. That’s how the book kind of started and how the coaching programme started. Because I had so many people asking me all these specific questions. I realised I had a lot of real life experience to help other people.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  49:06

The book and the coaching programme, are they targeted for the person with the drinking problem, or for the families of I think

Andrew Culkin  49:18

initially, they’re really targeted for family so that they can identify and not be as ignorant as I was about what was going on and have a better understanding on how to approach the problem with their loved one, and not be so reactive under have a better understanding of their own emotions, so that they can approach it and a much more mature, much more mature way but with a much better chance of a better outcome rather than just anger. Because whatever your action, you’re gonna get the same reaction. If you’re just angry at somebody, they’re just going to be angry back, and that’s not going to help anybody. So you have to come at it. But much more ethically and talk to people and explain to them, how it’s affecting them how it’s affecting yourself, as is the best approach.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  50:10

And what’s your coaching programme? How does that work? Is that like, say, like, so many week programme? Or is it a one on one? On a per needs basis? How have you structured your programme?

Andrew Culkin  50:24

Yeah, initially what it is, it’s really your the first part of it is understanding the four different stages of alcoholism and educating people on what their loved one is going through. Or it could be for an alcoholic to they can go through it and identify their own issues. And then it’s talks about real world solutions, how to identify with it what to do, when you do identify someone, and I get into the different relationships, husband, wife, relationships, the most difficult ones are parents childhood relationships, because you can you can walk away from a spouse, you can’t walk away from your child may not normally, I talk a lot about tough love to, sometimes you got to, you got to show tough love to your kids, you can’t enable them, you can’t enable the alcoholic, and if you are enabling them to identify, you know, that process, understanding your own emotions, there’s a lot of there’s six different sections. And a lot of it goes over you know, what kind of help you can get, understanding rehab facilities, how to set up an intervention, understand the intervention process. And your when you’re intervening with a loved one and all that very, very detailed, specific things that need to be set up and said in that conversation. And the people that need to participate now thinks things like this. And there’s a lot of alternative group therapies understanding the importance of a an accountability partner, you know, you need somebody that that’s kind of in your same position, but can can hold your hand if you’re having a weak moment. Things like that are very vital to, to the success of sobriety, which is your ultimate goal,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  52:14

just with that intervention process, I heard you suggest is in that process, usually,

Andrew Culkin  52:22

everybody, everybody that is affecting, if you you know, if you have a family, it would be the mother or father, it would be the siblings, possibly, depending on the age, the age of everybody should be their spouses, older children, anybody that’s affecting anybody that’s a part of their life, it could be a good friend, could be, you know, important people in your life, anybody that’s in their circle that is affected, should have some say in how it’s affecting them, and relay how the disease is affected them as either a important family member or is it or is a friend.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  53:02

So that’s part of the intervention process is to say, this is how it is impacting me.

Andrew Culkin  53:10

That’s how it’s impacting us. And this is, and that we are worried about you then there’s after you’ve done that, then there’s the ultimatum period, like, if you don’t go to the rehab facility, we are no longer going to provide you with a place to live, we’re not going to provide you with money, we’re not going to provide you with rides to where you want to go, you’re not going to have food, it’s the end of the road, you’re either going to do this or you’re on your own. And you have to get to that point.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  53:38

So interesting. So interesting. Is there anything else that you would like to add to this interview as we start to wind up privacy,

Andrew Culkin  53:47

the biggest thing is with alcoholism is you got to find happiness. And you have to replace alcohol with positive things in your life. If you’re struggling with alcohol, maybe take a walk, go to the gym, read a book, your relationships in your life, maybe build your relationships that are in your life, make them better, or put more effort into your relationships, find something positive that you can do in your life to replace the alcohol. So instead of reaching for a bottle of wine or beer, whatever you’re drinking, deuce do a different activity. And every day is a struggle. But if you make it one day you can make it to and if you can make it two, you can make it four, if you make it four, you can make it six, and it’s you really need to break it down in that greater detail.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  54:38

Can anyone at any stage in those four stages of alcoholism, do that without professional help?

Andrew Culkin  54:48

Now that we’re talking about stage stage one, stage two, when you’re creating habits, when you’re not completely chemical dependent, but you are showing alcoholic signs Stage Three when you’re, and we’ll stay editing and talk about stage four, stage four, you’re basically dead. Like stage four cancer. I mean, you’re, you’re drinking to die. It’s like leaving loss the character and Leaving Las Vegas. You’re trying to kill yourself,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  55:14

essentially. Yes, I saw that movie. Yeah, that’s, that’s

Andrew Culkin  55:18

stage four. If you just want to die. You don’t care about anything or anyone. You’re just you want to die? Yes. Yes. But stage three, you can, you know, stage four, you’ve got about just like cancer, you got about a 5% chance of of survival. Stage three. Yeah, 10 15% chance. But those people need to go to rehab. And then those are the type of people that need to do all the accountability stuff, the accountability partner, they need to do the follow up, they need to go to group counselling almost on a regular basis if they have any chance of survival.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  55:54

Okay, so we’re gonna wrap this up now? Is there any further advice you’d like to give our listeners,

Andrew Culkin  56:03

you know, just have a happy, healthy life. It’s worth it. You know, sobriety is worth it. But life is worth living. You’ve only got one life, why spend it at the bottom of a bottle of something? You know, it’s it’s, you can still have a happy life and make that your goal. And families need to be able to have a happy life too. Yes, yes. That’s that’s the ultimate goal.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  56:29

Yes. Andrew, we’re going to share the links to all your work your book, your coaching programme, to you your social media, because I believe you have some tiktoks that have gone viral. There’s been over a million views to some of those, those little videos, tic

Andrew Culkin  56:51

tac and YouTube, some of YouTube’s been 100,000 I have some tic TOCs. Done. I want us 958,000,005 950,000

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  57:01

What was that one on?

Andrew Culkin  57:02

It was the fourth stage of alcoholism, because it’s brutal. I think people are just interested in the gory details. Oh, yeah, unfortunately.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  57:11

Okay. Yes, yes. All right. Well, Andrew, I really would like to thank you so much for your honesty, and for sharing and your willingness to share your story. It’s, it’s one that’s very tragic. And I wish you all the very best with your work and go forth and spread the word and do the work that you’re doing to help others. It’s brilliant. Thank you.

Andrew Culkin  57:40

Well, thank you. Thank you appreciate and thanks for the time. No,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  57:44

thank you. And good luck with everything.

Andrew Culkin  57:48

Thank you.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  57:49

Thank you. Bye. Bye. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of a voice and beyond. I hope you enjoyed it as now is an important time for you to invest in your own self care, personal growth, and education. Use every day as an opportunity to learn and to grow, so you can show up feeling empowered and ready to live your best life. If you know someone who will also be inspired by this episode, please be sure to copy and paste the link and share it with them. Or share it on social media and use the hashtag a voice and beyond. I promise you I am committed to bringing you more inspiration and conversations just like this one every week. And if you would like to help me please rate and review this podcast and cheer me on by clicking the subscribe button on Apple podcast right now. I would also love to know what it is that you most enjoyed about this episode and what was your biggest takeaway? Please take care and I look forward to your company next time on the next episode of a voice and beyond.