Vanderlip uses drama and dance to teach coping skills

By Stan Bindell
Polacca, Arizona (NFIC) November 2010

  Spanish teacher Javier
Linarte teaches Susi
Vanderlip to salsa.
Susie Vanderlip uses drama and dance to teach students about the ills of drug and alcohol abuse including teaching students coping skills when they have family members who are alcoholics.

Vanderlip was at Hopi Jr/Sr High School Oct. 25-26 as part of Red Ribbon Week. She gave performances for Hopi Junior High during the day and an evening performance for the community Oct. 25 at Hopi Jr/Sr High School. She was interviewed on the Hopi High Teen Show by radio student Darin Johnson and spoke to a Hopi High government class Oct. 26.

During Vanderlip’s performances, she gave a one-person show playing eight different characters who were using drugs or alcohol. This role playing showed the harm that drugs and alcohol can bring to families and individuals. She has been giving these performances and motivational speeches for 18 years.

  Hopi High government class
poses with Susie Vanderlio
Aside from addressing junior high and high school students, she also talks to parents and serves as a keynote speaker at conferences. As a youth and family expert, she gives pointers to psychologists and law enforcement about how to deal with those abusing substances.

Vanderlip, who lives in California, tells those who abuse substances about resources that are available to help them.
“I feel like I have a unique special life mission,” she said.

Vanderlip learned a lot about the issue when her first husband was an alcoholic. In high school, they drank and smoked pot. As time went on, she stopped using but her husband not only kept using, but increased his usage.

She kept working harder to please him, but he would ignore her and would constantly be angry. She heard a commercial about the qualities of alcoholics and realized that she was living with one.

“I’ve been going to those meetings for 28 years and they saved my life,” she said. “Alcoholism ravages the self-esteem of families.”

Vanderlip learned that she didn’t cause the alcoholism, couldn’t cure the alcoholism and couldn’t control the alcoholism.

“I also learned that he wasn’t bad or immoral, but sick. I didn’t have to hate him. Would you hate somebody who has cancer?” she asked.

On the other hand, she also knew she had to remove herself from the situation because he was verbally abusive and neglected her. Then her husband started using cocaine and “it felt like a nightmare” so she had to leave.

After 18 years of marriage, she filed for divorce and moved out. Shortly after that, he died of an overdose. That was 25 years ago and she has remarried. She did not feel responsible, but she grieved for her former husband.

“Feelings are valid. They are important because if there are no feelings then there is no hope or drive,” she said.

Neither Vanderlip or her husband Ken drink because they see the damage it has done to families. She said teens relate to her comments.

“I’m blessed to talk in front of millions of teens. Teens come up and say ‘I understand,’” she said.

Vanderlip said too often teens or older people drink because they are hanging out with the wrong people.

Vanderlip has used jazz, hip hop and other forms of dance to stay physically fit.

Vanderlip is in the Speaker’s Hall of Fame.

To learn more about Vanderlip’s program, you can contact here at  800-707-1977 and/or email her at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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