Dear Chancellor Carmen Fariña:
My name is Kari. My brother's name was Jeff Feldman. I write “was” because on December 21, 2012, my mother came home from work to find Jeff lying on the bathroom floor, in a pool of his own blood, dead. An autopsy later confirmed what we already suspected. Jeff died of acute pancreatitis as a result of 20+ years of alcoholism and addiction. He was 36.
It breaks my heart when I recall Jeff approaching my parents and I, at age 15, to admit, for the first time, that he suspected that he had “a problem with drinking.” He, like I, like our mother, grew up in Carle Place, New York, a Long Island town of one square mile, home of what was the second smallest public high school on Long Island. I suppose there were perks to graduating in a class of 98 students, as I did in 1991, but there were also many drawbacks, one of which was the inability to reinvent oneself. Once you were pegged a “burnout”, as my brother was in high school, it was virtually impossible to escape that classification. You know the type, the kid who could often be found under the bleachers on the athletic field, drinking or smoking cigarettes or pot. Yeah, Jeff was that kid, as were many others.
At 15, there was still time. I shudder to think that a sober high school could have saved my brother's life. At 15, he wanted to get help, was ready and willing to work a program. The only thing was, there was only so much he could do in such a sheltered and small (in many ways) environment. Despite his best efforts and MANY attempts to detox and get rehab over the years (especially with my parents' limited resources and the very limited resources offered to him by the state of New York), he could not be saved. A sober high school could have made ALL the difference. The problem is, New York doesn't have any.
A school like SLAM could have saved Jeff Feldman. It could have saved his father, Doug, deceased since 1999, the heartbreak of seeing his son struggle for so many years. It could have spared his mother, Kathy, the devastation of finding her dead son in a pool of blood, despite all of her attempts to save him over the course of 20 years. It could have saved his sister, Kari, me, the pain of writing this letter to you right now, the years of guilt and misery caused by “would have, could have, should haves” and the ultimate realization that there was NOTHING I could have done differently that would have saved my only brother, my only sibling. A school like SLAM WILL save countless lives, not only those of the addicts themselves but their families, friends and loved ones. A school like SLAM MUST be a reality.
Thank you for your time and consideration. On behalf of all addict's families, I offer my heartfelt plea that this school becomes a priority for you like it is for so many others, like myself, dedicated to seeing this plague of addiction stop stealing away so many souls desperate for help.
Jeff's sister, Kari Murphy
If you are an addict/alcoholic, love one or even know one (which you do if you are reading this post, my brother, Jeff), please help. Send your letter to:
332 Bleecker Street
New York, NY, 10014
** att: "SLAM letter campaign" on envelope***
Address the letter to either Ms. Carmen Fariña, the brand new Chancellor, or simply to NYC's Board Of Education.
Letters MUST be received by SLAM no later than February 1.
For more information about SLAM, please click HERE to visit their website.
From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for reading this and thank you for taking part. Please pass this message on to your friends and family.