PLATTSBURGH — After many years of struggle, Lisa Buppelman has turned her suffering into success.
Last year, she earned her GED certificate, and earlier this year, she was named a Student of the Year by the New York Association for Continuing/Community Education.
It was an eight-year journey for Buppleman, now 37, to earn her high-school equivalency diploma.
But her troubles started long before that.
When she was 3 years old, Buppelman, who is originally from Long Island, was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder that required extended hospital stays, some almost a year long.
She had behavioral problems and was regularly treated for ADHD, manic depression, anxiety disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder, starting medication therapy when she was 7 years old.
Her father wasn’t in her life, and she and her brother lived in fear of their mother, who, Buppelman said, had multiple personality disorder and severe mood swings.
Buppleman didn’t attend school until eighth grade, when her disease went into remission.
“Mentally, I was not prepared (to recover).”
DIDN’T FIT IN
Immersed among her peers, she felt like she didn’t fit in.
“I resorted to drinking,” she said. “I just didn’t know enough to keep myself on track.”
Buppelman fell behind in class.
“I was considered a child that couldn’t learn.”
She often compared herself to her older brother, who always did well in school.
“I envied him so much. I tried so hard to compete with him, but I couldn’t.”
Coupled with the drinking was drug abuse. Buppelman said she would try anything that didn’t involve needles since she had been exposed to them so often as a child for the treatment of her disease.
She cycled in and out of rehab until, following an arrest at age 21, she was placed on probation.
MOVE TO NORTH COUNTRY
In 2003, Buppelman moved to Port Kent with the father of her now 10-year-old son, Jacob Cannon.
The move caused her further stress, and she drank more, she said.
Eventually, she was arrested again, and after she appeared in Drug Court, a judge ordered her to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings five days a week.
After 64 weeks, she was still in phase 1 of the drug-and-alcohol treatment program.
And she lost custody of Cannon.
The dismal reality was all the more tangible to Buppelman when she was sober.
“I could no longer use alcohol to numb myself,” she said.
In the midst of her struggle to stay sober, she learned she was pregnant.
Buppelman gave birth to her youngest son, Kaden Pliscofsky, in Albany, where she had spent a year in rehab.
Then she came back to the Plattsburgh area, where she moved in with a friend.
The two would often get drunk together, she said.
“It became very domestic and abusive.”
The turning point for her was Oct. 8, 2008, when she lost custody of Kaden.
“I say to a lot of recovering addicts (who) are finding it difficult that you just have to get to a point where the pain is greater than the desire to drink.”
‘WASN’T GOING TO GIVE UP’
She started studying for her high-school equivalency diploma at home and later attended classes.
“In the beginning, she would fight what she had to do,” said Judy Dobbs, Buppelman’s adult-literacy teacher.
But, as time went by, her attitude began to change.
“She was finding a level of comfort in the classroom,” Dobbs said. “She wasn’t going to give up.”
“With Judy, she was just so persistent,” Buppelman said. “I needed that authority.”
But Dobbs wasn’t simply a strict teacher.
“She took an interest in loving me when I couldn’t do so for myself.”
Buppelman regained custody of Cannon in May 2011 and got her GED in October that year.
Dobbs called her to read her the test results.
“That was mind-blowing,” Buppelman said.
In January 2012, she started taking classes at Clinton Community College. She also completed her probation term that April.
GIVEN A CAR
In March, Buppelman was named one of 23 Students of the Year by the New York Association for Continuing/Community Education at the 30th-annual awards ceremony and legislative event in Latham.
Dobbs was going to drive her to the ceremony but took a fall and broke her arm. So one of Dobbs’s friends took them there.
And then, Buppelman said, “he just handed me a car. I’m just blessed ... and still in awe.”
She used the 2004 Ford Taurus to visit her youngest son in Vermont — where he lives with his father and grandmother — four times a month, a 400-mile round trip.
Buppelman filed to regain custody of Kaden, who is 6, in March 2011.
A judge will make the decision on Aug. 22, she said.
“I’m scared to death because if they say, ‘You can’t have him back,’ how will I keep going?” Buppelman said.
“I’m only hoping that I can learn to accept what happens and grow.”
Email Felicia Krieg: firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter: @FeliciaKrieg
TO LEARN MORE
The CV-TEC Adult Literacy Program at OneWork Source in Plattsburgh prepares students to earn their general equivalency diploma. Call 561-0430.