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Abuse+ Alcohol+Jail= A New Life

We hear a lot about the problems people have - like alcoholism, drug dependency and obesity - but the truth is, people are turning their lives around every day.

Here is The Early Show weatherman Dave Price's latest story in his series, My New Life - as well as resources you can use to change your own life.

Joan Lovett was great at what she did. Her work won awards. An article in a 1991 edition of Mademoiselle magazine pegged Joan as a rising star. But that star had a dark side. Almost from the moment she was born, Joan's life was an uphill fight.

"We lived with an alcoholic father. Our lives were generally very chaotic. Money problems. A lot of utilities turned off. Evictions. Food stamps, that sort of thing. A lot of abuse. My father was sexually abusive to me, physically abusive to my brothers. My mom had to hold down two jobs to try and keep us together."

But Joan's troubles seemed to end when she left for college, and after graduation, she got a series of jobs which eventually led her to the anchor desk at CBS in the Windy City.

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Her personal life seemed to be a success, too. She met a coworker who turned out to be her soul mate. In 1987, Joan Lovett became Mrs. Jeff Abrams. She had two kids. Her past kept intruding on her life. Joan's father, who she says had abused her as a child, became increasingly ill and became dependent on her. Joan found herself caught in an emotional minefield, between pity and rage.

He told her over the phone he was moving into a nursing home and needed a substantial amount of money to get in there. She became overwhelmed with emotion and said, "I remember everything you did. I feel like you used me. I'm tired of giving you anything. I want you out of my life."

Not long after she spoke those words, Joan's father died. That angry outburst would be the last thing she ever said to him and her feelings of guilt began to tear her apart.

"I turned to drinking. And I kept my job. I did my job," she says.

Her performance veered from a wreck to top notch.

"I won my Emmys, I was functional but I knew I had to have a drink to make the pain go away," she says.

In the late 1990s, there was a big shake-up at the station and, eventually, Joan was let go. She looked for a job and Jeff looked for a job. Eventually, he found something in Baltimore, and the whole family relocated. But that change of scenery didn't do Joan any good. In fact, it made things worse.

"I thought that I would stay home and help the kids with the transition, and started drinking more and more. I drank in the morning. I drank while they were at school. Terrible things happened. Some days, they would come home, I would be passed out."

Joan' addiction to alcohol led to a series of drunk-driving arrests and that last offense in August 2002 landed her in jail.

"I thought that life could never be worse than that. It was hideously, incomprehensibly demoralizing," she says.

With Joan locked up, Jeff took on the job of raising the two kids alone.

"Jeff would have to make dinner. Jeff had to take them to practices. Jeff took over."

Somehow, Jeff managed to hold the family together, until the morning of Oct. 10, 2002.

His routine was to go for a jog at 5 a.m., come home, cool down, and get the kids up for school.

One morning, Jeff collapsed on his morning run, just a few feet from his house.

"My daughter called a neighbor and said, 'Daddy didn't come home from his jog.' And the neighbor came over and at that point, a police officer finally showed up and said, 'Your daddy is dead.'"

Twenty-three miles away inside the county detention center, prison officials told Joan Lovett that she was a widow. She asked to attend the funeral but her request was denied.

"When I got that news in jail, I collapsed onto the floor and then I got on to my knees and I prayed for my kids and then I said, "God, please help me find a way to live."

Before long, her prayer would be answered.

Click here for Part Two, which tells how Joan's life has come full circle.
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