A Couple on the Brink

Shellye, her husband, Jake, and their three kids seem to be living the American dream, but behind closed doors, the family is in turmoil.

 

"Jake and I both have drinking problems. There's so much going on that typically, by noon, I'm already starting to think about having a beer," Shellye admits. She interrupts the interview to chug her beer, then continues. "The other night I went to pick up some food from a restaurant. I downed three vodkas while I was waiting for the food, and then I stopped and got some beer on the way home."

Shellye worries that her husband might harm their kids while he's intoxicated. "A lot of times, once [Jake] starts drinking enough, he'll put the kids in the car and then take off," she says. Their oldest son, Jakob, needs a ventilator to breathe, and Jake has been clumsy around the boy when he's drunk. "Jake, on many occasions, has come home very drunk and has stepped on the children, tripped on Jakob's ventilator equipment," she recalls. "He'll come home at two in the morning, usually takes a bath, and he got into the habit of taking the kids with him. The next day I'll say, 'Jake you were asleep in the bathtub, and you had the baby in there with you.'"


Shelly reveals that Jake has gotten aggressive with her. "At one point, he dragged me across the floor by my hair. One time I was talking to somebody on the phone and he hit me in the face with it and broke my cheekbone. We drink, we argue, and then one of us calls the police."

Shellye, her husband, Jake, and their three kids seem to be living the American dream, but behind closed doors, the family is in turmoil.

 

"Jake and I both have drinking problems. There's so much going on that typically, by noon, I'm already starting to think about having a beer," Shellye admits. She interrupts the interview to chug her beer, then continues. "The other night I went to pick up some food from a restaurant. I downed three vodkas while I was waiting for the food, and then I stopped and got some beer on the way home."

Shellye worries that her husband might harm their kids while he's intoxicated. "A lot of times, once [Jake] starts drinking enough, he'll put the kids in the car and then take off," she says. Their oldest son, Jakob, needs a ventilator to breathe, and Jake has been clumsy around the boy when he's drunk. "Jake, on many occasions, has come home very drunk and has stepped on the children, tripped on Jakob's ventilator equipment," she recalls. "He'll come home at two in the morning, usually takes a bath, and he got into the habit of taking the kids with him. The next day I'll say, 'Jake you were asleep in the bathtub, and you had the baby in there with you.'"


Shelly reveals that Jake has gotten aggressive with her. "At one point, he dragged me across the floor by my hair. One time I was talking to somebody on the phone and he hit me in the face with it and broke my cheekbone. We drink, we argue, and then one of us calls the police."

Shellye's oldest son, Jakob, fights for his life every day. He breathes using a trachea tube and a ventilator and can suddenly stop breathing at any time. Shellye feels she didn't have a drinking problem until after Jakob was born. "I went through a really hard delivery, and they had to use forceps. Within 30 seconds, they said, 'He's not breathing. He's turning blue,'" she recalls. 

Recently, Shellye and Jake almost lost their son. The children were asleep, and one of their nannies was baby-sitting, so the couple left to have breakfast. "We were gone about 45 minutes. We came around the corner, and there were ambulances and fire trucks. His heart stopped," Shellye says, tearing up. "We just looked at each other like, 'Our son is dying, and we were at breakfast.' They were pumping on his chest and blood was coming out of his mouth."

 

Jakob's heart stopped seven times, but he lived through the ordeal. Shellye fears the worst could happen to her son when she is inebriated. "What if me, or Jake or both of us are too drunk to save him when something like that happens? I have to get sober. I have to get my life together for Jakob," she says through tears.