I’ll admit that I was shaken after my conversation with 19-year-old Liv Wolf. If the Wolf name sounds familiar, think of Chuck Wolf’s camera empire and ex-wife, Missi Wolf, the owner of BLAST – Elevate Your Workout studios.
You’d think with such success, everything in their world would be peaches and cream. Not exactly. The Wolfs found themselves dealing with a very young daughter’s addiction, deceitful behavior, ups and downs, rehabs, valiant attempts, fake attempts, and more failures. Liv could be anyone’s child: a student at The Weber School, Woodward Academy, a “princess” with a Barbie doll- house, a granddaughter.
For that reason, Liv shares her story to help others and as a way to look back over this dark past and turn it into a lasting opportunity for light and meaning. She speaks here with thoughtfulness and without hesitation.
Marcia: Set the stage. Was your parent’s divorce a factor?
Liv: I was 12, a student at The Davis Academy. The divorce may have initially been weird; but it was civil, and I got used to it. So, no. I remember first feeling alone when I wanted to go to Weber, but was pushed to ninth grade at Woodward. During that winter break, I went to a concert and tried a psychedelic. Then weed and alcohol. I felt somewhat better. I was actually not using at school, just recreational use; but I had a toxic boyfriend.
Marcia: Were you a good student?
Liv: I had a C average, at best. Mother caught me and started drug-testing my hair. I changed to pills to beat the test. One or two Xanax made me feel the best. I built up a tolerance then took five at a time.
Marcia: You were still able to function at school?
Liv: My parents knew I was drinking. I smelled like a brewery. I tried OxyContin, but it was too hard to get. In 10th grade the boyfriend broke up with me for my best friend. That made me upset a lot and I got drunk all the time and vomited in class. The dean was called in for my suspension. I expected
my parents to yell at me, but they didn’t.
Marcia: There was what action at that point?
Liv: Family members staged an intervention; and I was sent to rehab in Pennsylvania for three months. I basically knew how to lie and faked my way through it.
On my 16th birthday, I declared myself, “fine.” I was sober for 16 months. I wanted my privileges back: car and phone. I did a nine-month intensive outpatient program at a program called Sober Solutions in Atlanta while attending AA meetings to help me stay on track.
Marcia: Sounds like the road to recovery.
Liv: I wanted to recover, but in all honesty, didn’t truly desire it. I was scared and ran away. A low point here was doing self-harm and cutting myself. More action taken: I was sent to Utah for more rehab to deal with my emotions. They would not let me continue with my AA program. I was out of control, using anything I could find: Sharpie, glue, Wite-Out, nail polish remover. Up to 40 Benadryl a day! I stole pills and had a two-day blackout. Off I went to a hospital. My parents came and sent me back to Pennsylvania for another three months.
Marcia: This was the turning point?
Liv: Yes, I had a new mindset. I had been sober two years when a few months ago, the “love of my life,” a guy I met in AA, overdosed and died. I didn’t see it coming. This loss was the hardest.
Marcia: So, life now?
Liv: I got my high school degree, work full-time and go to Georgia Perimeter. I go to AA five times a week and am able to go to parties and socialize with my support network of sober friends.
Marcia: What can we learn from you?
Liv: This can happen to anyone – Jewish, sheltered kids. You can’t blame parents. They tried everything. I was very manipulative. Also, my grandfather died of alcoholism. We cannot downplay the effect of this genetic component.
Marcia: Last word?
Liv: I want to make an impact on others. I spoke to 50 Weber students. Based on their feedback, they found me relatable. That is one definition of success and recovery.
And this from her mom:
Missi: My daughter is in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction at 19. She has already seen and experienced more in her life than any parent would want for their child. I share her story with her permission often. I share my story of being the parent of a child with a disease that has no cure. I share it because those who shared their stories with me helped me survive, to find a path and to keep going. Like everything in life, the more you know, the deeper you dive into a subject, the better you are at understanding it and finding tools to get through the days, the hours, sometimes the minutes. Addiction is a family disease.
Parents, if your child is struggling with addiction, get educated. Get support. Nothing in my life has ever brought me to my knees like Liv’s addiction. Nothing has ever made me grow more, made me a better version of myself and taught me more lessons than her addiction.
I love my daughter fiercely and completely. She is a force and a light.
For help with addiction, Missi Wolf recommends these resources:
Families Anonymous Meetings: Monday 7:15 to 8:30 p.m. at Temple Beth Tikvah, 9955 Coleman Road, Roswell, 30075 and Thursday 7 to 8:00 p.m. at Peachtree Presbyterian Church, 3434 Roswell Road, Atlanta, room 2311.
Caron Parent Support: www.caron.org/support-after-treatment/ support-groups/caron-parent-and-family.