Forming Her Activism


Early influences

Marian Perkins was born and grew up in Grand Falls, New Brunswick with loving parents and a brother. They had a large extended family in the Danish colony of New Denmark. Both parents died prematurely. Marian graduated from Mount Allison Commercial College, and then went to work as a secretary for Fraser Companies in Edmundston where she met her future husband.

Married in 1950, she and her husband lived in northern Maine, where they had four children, before moving to Montreal, where she sought help to combat the "dreaded disease that had invaded our family in the form of alcoholism." Without experience of violence or conflict growing up, Marian was unprepared for the changes in personality that accompanied the progression of alcoholism in its victims.

Living with alcoholism at close range, she learned how debilitating alcohol addiction is, not just for the afflicted addict but also for family members forced to witness its progress and cope with the ensuing damage to relationships.

In the early 1960s, ignorance about alcoholism was widespread, even within the medical profession. Treating alcoholics was difficult and there was nowhere to send them for long-term treatment. In her small town, counsel was not available and probably would not have been sought because alcoholism was a taboo subject. The family moved to Montreal where Marian read a notice in the weekly newspaper, "Are You Worried About Someone Else's Drinking?" Finally, she called the number given and found help for the emotional pain and mental torment, and relief from the despair and sense of hopelessness that are experienced by families living with alcoholism.

Through the 12-Step program of family recovery, I learned that I was not responsible for another person's illness, that I did not cause it and could not control or cure it, but I could learn to cope with it. Quickly, I began to recover. It gave me encouragement and hope that things could be better for me and for my children.

It was a change in outlook that prompted Marian to help others similarly affected to access the limited information available on alcoholism and family coping strategies. After moving to Saint John in 1965, Marian "had the temerity" to appear anonymously on a popular Saturday morning phone-in radio program discussing the impact of alcoholism on families. It was this action that catalyzed her long history of public advocacy and education for disadvantaged groups in society.