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A Son's Sobering Story

August 12, 2011, 10:30 PM by Don Jorgensen

A Son's Sobering Story
SIOUX FALLS, SD - Alcoholism is a disease not many people admit having or like talking about.  But a well-known family in Sioux Falls is going public with their story with hopes of helping others.

Whether it's budget talks or teacher contracts, this is the public side we see of Sioux Falls school board president Kent Alberty.  But recently, he went public with what some would see as a private matter.

Alberty and his wife, Luanne, and their 26-year-old son, Kyle, appeared in a commercial together talking about a disease that affects millions of people: alcoholism.

"They came and approached us about doing a spot for Face It Together and we said, before we would agree to do that, we would talk to Kyle and our main concern was for our child," Kent said.

Kyle is a recovering alcoholic.

The Albertys first learned of Kyle's disease five years ago after he went off to college. 

"The year that we figured it out, he was living in what I called Animal House; it was a real party house in college and they had many, many parties and that was kind of the tipping point," Luanne said. 

"We were concerned about some of the behaviors we were seeing and it wasn't all that we just saw him getting drunk.  That wasn't it; there was a change in his behavior," Kent said.

Kyle got a DUI. It was at that point they decided as a family that Kyle needed help.

Four and a half years later, Kyle is still sober. But when the ad first started airing, were the Albertys worried about public perception? Were they worried about what the school district would say? 

"To be honest with you, I didn't ask the district or tell the district we were doing it," Kent said. 

"Well, I suppose it probably did cross our minds of what will people think, but it didn't matter.  This is our family and we live the way we live and people can accept the way it is and if we can help somebody along the way, fine.  And somebody else finds out about it and can help us that's a good thing also," Luanne said.

But make no mistake about it, it wasn't easy for the Albertys.

"Probably one of the hardest drives that I have ever made was when Luanne and I and Kyle's brother took him to the treatment center and left him there," Kent said.

Experts say 75 percent of the people who have drinking or substance abuse problems don't seek help. Mary Hitzmann, executive director of Face It Together Sioux Falls, says alcoholism is a disease that isn't mentioned in public often; that's because of the label that's attached to it: alcoholic. 

"If there are individuals who have problems with drugs or alcohol, they can very quickly be stigmatized or made to feel ashamed or fearful that they may have a problem," Hitzmann said.

The Albertys aren't ashamed of Kyle.  In fact, they are proud of him for realizing he had a problem and asked for help. Now they're hoping their TV spot will inspire others in similar situations to do the same. 

"I think once it came out, you find out how many people have some of the same problems," Luanne said. 

"If us going more public with what's gone on in our family can help one other family to not have to struggle so much, we fee like we are doing our jobs," Kent said.

We asked Kyle for an interview for this story, he declined. He's currently working as a counselor at Southeastern Behavioral Health Care.

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