When it comes to Lady Gaga, I’d say I’ve been lukewarm in the past. Although she’s extremely talented, there was something about her unconventional demeanor that just didn’t connect with me. Until last weekend. I went to see “A Star Is Born.” Now, I adore her.

“A Star Is Born,” which co-stars Bradley Cooper (who I’ve always adored) is the third remake of the original 1937 film produced by David O. Selznick (best known for producing “Gone With The Wind”). I have to say, the movie, which Cooper also directed, co-wrote and co-produced, did it for me big time. I had tears in my eyes — both happy and sad — from 10 minutes into it until the credits rolled at the end.

The story of a famous but faltering musician (played by Cooper) who falls in love with a struggling singer (played by Gaga) and then launches her career to stardom, “A Star Is Born” offered inspiration, humor, and a chemistry between Gaga and Cooper that was remarkably engrossing and so darn cute. I was rooting for them the whole time.

But there’s a theme in the movie that made a happy ending almost impossible: alcoholism. “A Star Is Born” brought attention to this hideous and heartbreaking disease that can destroy people and their families, so I thought I’d address it.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, more than 15 million people struggle with an alcohol use disorder in the United States, but less than 8 percent of those receive treatment. Additionally, more than 80,000 people die from alcohol-related deaths each year in the U.S.

Molly Champagne is a North Shore-based therapist and certified alcohol and drug counselor, who has been in practice since 2013. When asked how to identify if either you or a spouse has a problem with alcohol, Champagne cited the following signs:

1. The drinking starts to impact multiple areas of someone’s life, which can include work, relationships, health, driving, or emotional stability.

2. The person continues drinking despite negative consequences, such as after a DUI, or getting put on notice at work for poor performance.

3. The amount of time someone drinks or prepares to drink increases. They start to spend more time planning where they are going to buy it, how they are going to pay for it, or how they will manage the hangover the next day.

4. The person comes up with justifications. They drink because they are celebrating, or upset, or stressed. They always find a reason to drink.

5. The quantity of drinks starts to go up. It’s not just one or two beers, now it’s a six-pack every day after work or a bottle of wine, when it used to be one glass.

6. The person doesn’t have the ability to say no. They never turn down a drink.

7. The person begins lying, and might have changes in personality or emotional stability.

Once you see some signs, what should you do? Do you sit your partner down and talk about it?

“Sometimes the best way to approach your spouse is to talk about the changes you are seeing in them, not necessarily the drinking,” said Champagne, who in the past has worked as a counselor at alcohol and drug rehabilitation centers. “Come at it from a place of concern as opposed to accusation.”

Champagne also said never to approach someone while he or she is drinking, make sure there are no children around when having the talk, and do it in a private space.

As portrayed in “A Star Is Born,” it’s easy to get angry with a spouse or loved one for having a drinking problem.

“Alcoholism is a disease, similar to medical ailments like diabetes or cancer, and so we can’t be mad at someone from struggling with an addiction,” Champagne said. “That said, it’s OK to be frustrated if someone isn’t doing what he or she needs to be doing to help themselves.”

It’s also key for a spouse to realize and always remember two things: it’s not their fault, and they don’t have control over the addict’s behavior.

“It’s very difficult to watch someone continue to harm themselves and feel hopeless on a daily basis,” Champagne said. “We can want someone to get sober and see all the reasons they should, but ultimately it has to be them who puts in the work and make the decisions toward sobriety.”

No spoiler alert for “A Star Is Born,” only to say that things did not end well. But when it comes to addiction, there is hope. There are many, many success stories.

“The first step is educating yourself and understanding the disease of addiction,” Champagne said. “You can do that via a physician, a therapist, a support group, an AA meeting or an Al Anon meeting. There are many people who learn how to manage their addiction and more importantly learn how to manage the underlying causes of the addiction. They learn to live a life where they can be happy being present, consciously aware and alert, and no longer feel the need to be in an altered state.”

• Jackie Pilossoph is a freelance columnist for Chicago Tribune Media Group. She is also the creator of her divorce support website, Divorced Girl Smiling. Pilossoph lives in Chicago with her two children.



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