For Some Families, Addiction Comes to Light Only in Death

An autopsy showed Schuler had marijuana and the equivalent of 10 drinks in her system, a revelation that shocked her family, which disputed the findings.

Schuler's family reacted angrily, saying she never drank and suggested she must have had some kind of seizure or other medical emergency.

"It really brought back a lot of memories, of myself when I was drinking and driving, with my little girl in my car, that by the grace of God I could have been the person who killed everybody and killed my daughter. I had a physical reaction to it, it was terrible," White said.

White's daughter Shelly shudders to think about what must have been going through the minds of the children in the moments before the crash. She remembers how afraid she was to be in the car with her mother after she'd been drinking.

"You know, you can't drive a car. Just helplessness. I just -- thought about the kid that survived, the little boy that survived. I thought man, what he has to deal with now with his memories," she said.

Can You Keep Serious Addiction Under Wraps?

The Taconic tragedy raises bigger questions. Was Schuler hiding an addiction? Did anyone know about it? And, perhaps most heart-wrenching to consider, could they have stopped her?

Ann Scott, the campground owner who was one of the last people to see Schuler alive says she's knew her for years and never detected a problem.

"If you ask me, did I think she was drinking, I don't think I ever saw her sway. I've had an experience years ago in my life with an alcoholic, so if she were in the store and alcohol on her breath, I sure didn't smell it," Scott said.

Schuler's husband Daniel told the same story.

"Listen to this...I go to bed every night knowing my heart is clear, she did not drink she was not an alcoholic," he said. "She was the perfect wife outstanding mother, hard worker, reliable person trustworthy."

For many, it's hard to even believe that someone could keep a serious addiction under wraps from those closest to them.

Former addict White doesn't believe it's possible.

"I think someone always knows. I think the addict is the last one to know how bad it is. Because we lie to ourselves so deeply, because there's so much shame and guilt involved in it, especially as a woman. But people know. Come on, they smell it on you, they see you," she said.

Addicts and Many Families Alike in Denial

Whether Schuler had an addiction or not remains to be seen. But White, who finally recovered from her alcoholism in the mid-70's, says many families are simply in denial.

Today she runs the Realization Center in New York City, where she's helped thousands of people heal from their addictions. White says she's seen all walks of life come through her doors, hiding their addictions.

"You got soccer moms that are having a little drink and picking up their kids -- everyone. Whether it's your husband, his family, your family, doesn't make a difference- your uncle, your grandfather, somebody you work with, really. There's always someone who has addiction," she said.

Drinking in Secrecy Common, Expert Says

Dr. Petros Levounis, a psychiatrist and director of the Addiction Institute of New York at St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital, agrees it's not uncommon for people to cover up their need for drugs and alcohol.

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