Seabrook House was founded by Jerry and Peg Diehl in 1974. Jerry passed away in 1989 but Peg and their son Ed, continues their mission today. This is their story.
After years of pain, confusion and fear, Jerry Diehl came reluctantly to Alcoholics Anonymous. He had reached a bottom that only a few short years before could not have been imagined. The year was 1968, his wife Peg was making heartbreaking plans to take the four boys and leave Ocean City, NJ and return to the support of family in Philadelphia. Conflict reigned supreme. Jerry loved Peg and the kids, but love alone wouldn’t make him stop drinking.
Peg loved an alcoholic. She didn’t know the man she married would become one, though. There were times early on when drinking seemed normal, even fun. As the years passed, Jerry’s drinking increased, along with a number of missed opportunities. Hopes were replaced with fear and uncertainty. The crisis all around the Diehl family peaked with the discovery that a fifth child was to be born. What for couples without alcoholism would be joyous news was met with despair.
Peg walked the beach alone, praying for some answer, for some way to go. An answer came: Peg remembered her cousin George (decades before) had entered Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and lived a long, happy, sober life. She went home and discussed the idea with Jerry and he agreed to try. Although a relapse would follow, Jerry’s recovery began to take hold. Peg learned that there was help for family members too, and together they began a journey of healing. Their fifth child was born that first year, never to see his dad take a drink in his lifetime.
How Seabrook House Came to Be
In those first years of recovery, Jerry and Peg made many friends who were joined in a common struggle to restore their lives. Amidst the shared support of their newfound friends was the discovery of so many for whom sobriety just wouldn’t come so easily. Some seemed to sincerely try, but just could not resist that first drink or drug long enough to hear the message. Others would get a foothold, only to relapse repeatedly. Many would drift away, marriages would break up, children would scatter, and still more would die of the disease.
The Diehls came to know a few sober friends who shared a different experience. A fortunate few had gone to rehabilitation centers in Pennsylvania. Treatment helped these folks get a foothold on sobriety and return to AA where they built a stronger foundation. Around their kitchen table, they began to explore ways to bring a treatment center to southern New Jersey. Jerry knew Senator Harrison Williams, whose own recovery from alcoholism began that same year. The senator suggested the group reach out to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The NIAAA sought new ideas to advance the battle against the disease.
Peg identified a missing ingredient. At that time, little was done to help the alcoholic’s family. A proposal was written to NIAAA, including the unique feature of a treatment plan for family members. Confident, those faithful early founders searched for a location and were led to the vacant estate of frozen foods pioneer Charles F. Seabrook. Nestled within forty landscaped acres stood the Seabrook mansion, a perfect, peaceful place. Seabrook House received notice that startup funds would be available. Jerry and Peg, their six year-old son, and so many recovering friends arrived to spruce up the old mansion and make it ready for that first call for help. In June of 1974, Seabrook House opened its doors, embracing a vision to make recovery possible for every family who needs it.
Seabrook House Today
Built upon the bedrock of helping others, Seabrook House has assisted thousands in their search for a new beginning. The residential campus has expanded tremendously to meet the educational, medical and counseling needs of patients. In 2008, a new Transitional Living Facility was opened in Westfield, Pennsylvania. Great care is taken to preserve the warm, friendly atmosphere for which Seabrook House has become known.
As an internationally recognized organization, Seabrook House has earned a reputation for excellence in the treatment of adults, teenagers and its specialized work with mothers and their children. Now, more than thirty five years old, Seabrook House remains inspired by the beliefs and integrity of its founders.