05 Apr April Is Alcoholism Awareness Month: Help, Education, Hope, Recovery
April is Alcoholism Awareness Month—a month dedicated to reflection on the impact of alcohol abuse on our families and communities, and a time of strategizing, constructive campaigning, and educational initiatives to help identify and heal the disease of alcoholism. During the 27th anniversary of Alcoholism Awareness Month , we focus on two of the most fundamental needs surrounding alcoholism: help and hope. Alcoholism never affects the alcohol-addicted individual exclusively. The impact of the disease radiates outward into the lives of loved ones and into the fabric of our communities. As a consequence, help and hope are needed by all.
To underscore the importance of alcohol awareness within the community, the manner in which I received this assignment is rather – for lack of a better word – ironic. It was because of the actions of a drunk driver.
I am a freelance writer who works with a team of writers. All of us have in one way or another been directly affected by alcohol, which allows us to write from personal experience vs. relying solely on research from the Internet.
One of my colleagues was about to sit down to write this article when she heard something that made her gasp: screeching tires, a car crashing loudly into something, followed by a blaring and continuous horn. Before she let out her breath, she heard a sound she described as a “zzzzzzzzt,” and the power in her house went out. No power, no computer, so she passed this writing assignment about Alcohol Awareness Month on to me.
By the time my colleague got outside, a crowd had begun to form. The car had slammed into an electric pole, which was now bent at a 10-15 degree angle. In the driver’s seat was a man who appeared to be in his 20s, slumped over the steering wheel. It was an older-model car with no air bag and my colleague feared the worst. The bystanders wandered over, but no one seemed to know what to do. Somebody identified the man as the son of one of their neighbors. My colleague felt for a pulse – faint, but there. She bent over to listen to his breathing– also faint, but there. On the seat next to the driver were several empty liquor bottles. She called 911.
Alcoholism: An All too Common Problem
Help for alcoholics and their families often begins with eliminating the stigma and misunderstanding surrounding alcoholism. Not only are many alcoholics unaware that their drinking has reached dangerous levels, but they are reticent to seek help, fearing ostracism from a culture that is simultaneously obsessed with alcohol overconsumption and averse to the admission of alcohol abuse or misuse. Thus the month focuses on helping addicts and their families work past the perceived cultural stigmas or negative social pressures that may prevent them from seeking the help they need.
As the media and alcohol marketing campaigns continue to present alcohol use, and even abuse, as a marker of “the good life,” we seek to show the dangerous, progressive nature of alcoholism and its potentially destructive impact on families. American society, though often glamorizing excessive drinking, fails to understand the drastic consequences of alcohol abuse, and does not provide the help that an alcoholic and his or her family must have in order to recover from this disease. Alcohol Awareness Month is an opportunity for communities to understand the dangers of alcoholism, learn how to recognize problem drinking, and endeavor to find or create resources that will aid alcoholics and their families in the recovery process.
Forefront this month is the prevention of underage drinking. Campaigns that seek to help alcoholics and their families must extend further in the service of prevention. From a public health perspective, underage drinking presents a threat to the health and future of our youth. As we help current alcoholics and their families, we must also focus on preventing future alcoholics. The following statistics, taken from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, emphasize the need for community education and action around underage alcohol use and abuse:
- Alcohol is the No.1 drug of choice for America’s youth and is more likely to kill young people than all illegal drugs combined.
- Each day, 7,000 youths in the United States under the age of 16 take their first drink.
- Those who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcoholism than those who begin at age 21.
- More than 1,700 college students in the U.S. are killed each year as a result of alcohol-related injuries.
Underage alcohol abuse is overwhelmingly the product of alcohol abuse by adults in the home and community. When alcoholics and their families seek help, they not only preserve their own lives, but the lives of the next generation.
There is hope. Though alcoholism is a disease—one that is progressive and often genetically influenced—it is not a death sentence. Millions of alcoholics and their families do get the help they need and do know the blessing and relief of recovery.
Though the statistics and realities of alcoholism are unsettling, we know that individuals and communities have the power to change these uncomfortable present realities. Through honest reflection and focused efforts, each of us has the opportunity to effect positive change in the battle against alcoholism.
Make this month a time of observation and reflection. Pay attention to the alcohol-related issues you observe in yourself, your family and your community. Perhaps you live near a high school or college campus where underage and/or binge drinking have become a community concern. Likely you see alcohol abuse in your workplace or among your neighbors. When, as a community, we identify the problematic areas and become willing to look at them, we open the discussion for solutions.
The problem of alcoholism appears overwhelming, but each individual that achieves sobriety, each family that is assisted in their struggle, each member of the community that learns the truth about alcoholism, each teen that is prevented from drinking, is a victory and a motivator to continue working for the eradication of untreated alcoholism in our families and communities.
Find relief in recovery. Life gets better with addiction treatment.
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