Posts Tagged ‘alcohol’

A 12-Step Program for Republicans

Monday, January 29th, 2024

By Bob Gaydos

38E746B5-A254-42AA-9A6F-7683C3D4A74CThis column is updated from three years ago because it’s election time again and, well, denial is the first, big obstacle. Until and unless they can admit they were/are powerless over Donald Trump, Republicans have no hope of recovering. They will be forever known as Trumpaholics, people addicted to avoiding reality and destined for a life that is, by any reasonable measure, unmanageable. I cite the last eight years as evidence.

  But, as they say, there is a solution, one that has changed lives for the better for millions of people worldwide — a 12-Step program. It has worked miracles for alcoholics; it can work for Trumpaholics.

 

       I’ve written on addiction and recovery for more than 15 years. One of the recurring stories I’ve heard over that time is that the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are not just a proven way to stop drinking, but also an excellent formula for living a good life. Getting rid of the booze — or in this case, the Donald — is only the beginning. Republicans can reap these rewards, individually or as a party … but only if they really want to change.

 

        So, with a deep bow to Bill Wilson, Dr. Bob and A.A. and adapted in all humility, here are the 12 Steps of Recovery for Republicans:

 

  1. We admitted we were powerless over Trump, that our party had become unmanageable.  This state of affairs is usually evident to non-addicts of the individual’s acquaintance well before that aha! moment arrives, if it does. Members of A.A. say this is the only step they have to get perfect, for obvious reasons. If a Republican can’t admit — still — that Trump dominates his or her every political thought or action, there’s no sense going on to Step 2. Denial. However, if Republicans can look at the past eight years of saying yes to virtually everything Trump did or said and acknowledge the trouble that this blind obedience, this dependence, has caused in Republicans’ lives (broken relationships, lost jobs and opportunities, ruined reputations, trouble with the law) as well as the pain it inflicted on the lives of many others, there is hope.
  2. Came to believe that a power greater than Trump or Mitch McConnell could restore us to sanity. (No one said this was easy.) No, this does not mean everyone becoming Evangelical Christians. Quite the opposite. That would simply be swapping blind faith in Trump for blind faith in other con men and women. Give me your money and you will be saved. For a party that professes a belief in strong family values and makes a public display of respecting religious (well, Christian) teachings, this should not be a problem. Theoretically. However, I think it could be challenging to many Republicans who have become used to giving lip service to their professed religious beliefs. Skeptical alcoholics are sometimes advised to pick a higher power of their own choosing or at least to believe that someone whose sobriety they admire has such a belief. Instead of putting their hands on some charlatan’s shoulders and bowing their heads, supposedly in prayer, Republicans should look within the ranks (or without) for a source of strength, hope and faith and emulate that person. It should be someone with a sincere, demonstrated, spiritual footing. Hint: it’s not Ted Cruz. Not a Koch brother or Rupert Murdoch either. Keep looking. Someone more like Lincoln, remember? It may take a little time. That’s OK.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will, our money and our platform over to the care of whatever power we came up with in Step 2.  A key step. Last time out, Republicans did this almost accidentally with Trump. That was blind, misplaced faith in the flashy guy. No willpower, true, but no sense of shared responsibility to the greater good. This time, they need to decide to follow the lead of someone with sound moral principles and then lead their political lives accordingly. That is, decide to do the rest of the steps.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. This step could be a problem for a lot of Republicans because it requires honesty. But if they want to change, they need a list of the things they want to change. For example, lying that the presidential election was stolen while knowing there was never any proof of this would be something to put high on the list. Lying is bad, even in politics. Hypocrisy is just a fancy word for lying. Also, stealing and harming others so as to benefit yourself. Breaking the law, too. Insurrection. All Trump’s pardons did not remove the guilt, they merely freed the guilty.
  5. Shared with that higher power from step two, with ourselves and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. In other words, look in the mirror and say, “I have been a self-serving, lying, backstabbing, selfish, hypocritical, cowardly son-of-a-bitch for the past four years,“ and then release a statement to that affect — in detail — on social media. Get Liz Cheney to pose in the picture with you. Piece of cake.
  6. Were entirely ready to have my higher power (with the help of a new party leader of sound moral standing) remove these defects of character. Basically, Republicans must resign themselves to the fact that they have been a group of self-serving, lying, cowardly, etc. since they chose Trump as their leader. This is the truth, the real news. When and if they accept it, they can move on to Step 7.
  7. Humbly asked him or her to remove our shortcomings. Harder than it sounds. First of all, shortcomings seldom ever really go away. They find new hiding places. Republicans will have to become aware of them and try to avoid them. Stop lying about the deficit, That’s a lifetime of work and will require humility. Good luck finding someone to explain that concept to Republicans. Again, not Ted Cruz, who confuses humiliation with humility.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. Really. You don’t get to totally screw up a country and just walk away like nothing happened. Not if you want to change.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible except when to do so would injure them or others. That last part lets Republicans stay out of jail and not hurt their own family by admitting how they routinely cheated minority voters with sketchy redistricting plans and harsh voter registration laws.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when wrong promptly admitted it. This is the new way of living part of it. “I’m sorry; I was wrong.” Try not to abuse this step. Match your words with action.
  11. Sought through regular meetings and work sessions, at which an honest exchange of ideas is encouraged and welcomed, to maintain contact with our new party leader, seeking only to learn what the new Republican Party stands for and the power and courage to carry that out. Prayer and meditation wouldn’t hurt either.
  12. Having had a major reprieve and possibly a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry the new Republican Party message to Trumpaholics and others and to practice its new principles in all our affairs. One day at a time.

   That’s it. The formula for recovery for the Republican Party. But there is one thing more. With alcoholics, the drinking is just a symptom of the disease. When the drinking stops, the disease (much of the behavior) doesn’t go away. That’s why recovery is a daily practice. To avoid relapse.

 The real question for Republicans is what made them Trumpaholics in the first place.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

Dry January: Good Luck, be Careful

Tuesday, January 9th, 2024

Addiction and Recovery
By Bob Gaydos

  82177B6B-D6C2-417C-982F-899EE49E1C21  For those looking for a New Year’s resolution that can actually be challenging to keep and potentially beneficial if done the right way, I offer some thoughts I shared last year when I first heard about Dry January and some new ones.

    You hang around with an experienced group of people for any amount of time, with any luck, you learn a few things. 

     I’ve been writing a column on addiction and recovery for more than 15 years. In that time, I have been fortunate to have many conversations with members of Alcoholics Anonymous who have decades of sobriety. They have freely shared some of their experience and wisdom with me.

      One bit of AA wisdom goes like this: “People who don’t have a drinking problem don’t have to control their drinking.”

       Hmmm. So why are social media and news feeds filled daily with stories on “Dry January”? Why the sudden interest in non-alcoholic beer and no-booze cocktails? What’s the big rush all of a sudden for, reportedly, thousands of people to decide to see if they can not partake of alcohol for the month of January? Last year, one poll said 41 percent of respondents planned to partake of Dry January. I couldn’t find a report on how well they did, but clearly, not drinking alcohol for one month at least is suddenly chic. 

  For what it’s worth, alcoholics, or rather, those who insist they are not alcoholics, have been taking the post-holiday challenge forever in valiant efforts to prove to themselves and (mainly) others that they can control their drinking. Often, they’ve failed. Rehab February. Others have attempted to give up drinking for Lent, for the same reason and often with the same results.

     But this is different. This is people, many apparently younger people, supposedly deciding that it might be in their best interest to abstain from or at least reduce their alcohol intake, at least for the month.

     Given recent reports on an upsurge in alcohol consumption (particularly by women) during the pandemic, an increase in alcohol-related deaths and a myth-busting report which concludes that “no amount of alcohol” is ever good for your health, going dry or easing up on alcohol for a month sounds like a reasonable idea for anyone.

      But there are risks involved and if you’re intrigued by the idea of stopping or controlling your drinking there ought to be rules. For starters, what is your purpose? Is it, as previously mentioned, to prove you don’t have a drinking problem? If so, you need to tell other people what you’re doing so there is accountability and, crucially, protection, in case a serious alcohol problem does exist. 

  Going through withdrawal symptoms from avoiding alcohol on one’s own can be painful and dangerous. Be aware of the symptoms and get professional help if they begin. Your effort may have failed, but it might have saved your life.

     If, on the other hand, the purpose is truly to see if life can be just as interesting and fun without alcohol always being involved, again, don’t do it alone. Get some friends involved. Plan alcohol-free activities. Try some of those fancy new alcohol-free “mocktails” the Dry January movement has spawned. If you’re really serious, maybe focus more on exercise. Try to get more sleep. See if you start to feel better physically and emotionally.

     Drawing again on some AA wisdom, the key to succeeding, whatever your goal, is to be honest and realistic. Whether you’re trying to not drink for a specific month or just cut back, if you find yourself drinking or thinking you’d really like to be drinking in spite of your stated goal, by all means start over again. But be aware of any recurring pattern. There may be a problem.

      On a positive note, if Dry January results in a more responsible general approach to alcohol consumption (as brewers and distillers are obliged to promote), it has to be good for society’s overall health. Excessive alcohol consumption contributes to a multitude of societal and health problems as well as highway and other accidents.

    Fad or not, the movement would also go along with the effort by health agencies and providers to remove the stigma and shame often attached to alcoholism by getting rid of the word “alcoholic,” which still conjures up negative images for many people. Today, people are diagnosed with alcohol abuse disorder, mild, moderate or severe. (Sober members of AA still call themselves alcoholics with no shame attached.)

   According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol use disorder “is a medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.”  That’s the “drinking and trouble” connection members of AA often talk about.

      On the basic issue of stopping drinking and trying to keep things simple, AA’s Third Tradition states that “the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.”

     Adding that touch of reality necessary to recovery, an AA friend asked, “Who would have a desire to stop drinking other than someone who drank too much and got in trouble over it?”

     With sincere hope for the success and good intentions of anyone participating in this year’s Dry January, that’s a question to keep in mind for anyone planning on a just plain February.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

Celebrating the Holidays in Recovery

Wednesday, December 13th, 2023

Addiction and Recovery

By Bob Gaydos  

“No, “is an acceptable answer at holiday parties.

“No, thank you“ is an acceptable answer at holiday parties.

It’s time for the annual reminder. The holiday party season is always a potential source of bah humbug, what with the flu (and now Covid) potentially lurking around, but it is an especially treacherous time of year for people in early recovery from addiction.

People who have found their way to recovery, be it via a 12-step program or otherwise, have been given suggestions on how to survive the season of temptation without relapse. If they use these tools, with practice, they can even enjoy the season.

It’s the rest of you I’m mainly talking to here. You hosts, family members, well-meaning friends who want to be supportive and do the right thing, but aren’t sure what that is. And yes, to those who don’t get the concept of addiction at all, but can still avoid harming a relationship by following a few basic suggestions. So, herewith, some coping tools for the non-addicted, if you will:

  • “No thank you” is a complete sentence and perfectly acceptable answer. It should not require any further explanation. “One drink won’t hurt you” is a dangerously ill-informed reply. The same goes for, “A few butter cookies won’t hurt. C’mon, it’s Christmas.” Or, “Get the dress, Put it on your credit card. You’ll feel better.” Not really.
  • By the way, “No thank you” is an acceptable answer even for people not in recovery. Not everyone who turns down a second helping of stuffing or a piece of pumpkin pie is a member of Overeaters Anonymous. Not everyone who prefers a ginger ale rather than a beer is a member of AA. Not everyone who won’t go into hock for an expensive New Year’s Eve party is a compulsive debtor. But some of them may be.
  •  If you’re hosting a party to which people in recovery have been invited, have some non-alcoholic beverages available. Not just water. There are plenty of new ones available. Don’t make a big deal about having them, just let your guests know they are available. The same goes for food. Have some appetizing low-calorie dishes and healthful desserts on hand. Don’t point out that they’re there because so-and-so is watching his weight. Just serve them. You’ll be surprised how many guests enjoy them and comment on what a good host you are.
  • If you’re honestly concerned about how the person in recovery is doing, approach him or her privately. He or she might not feel comfortable discussing it in front of other guests. If you’re just curious, keep it to yourself.

Honoring a guest’s wishes is a sign of respect. Anticipating them in advance is even better. Encouraging someone to eat, drink or spend money when they don’t want to is, at the very least, not gracious. Pressuring someone to partake of something when you know he or she is trying hard to avoid it is a good way to lose a friend. Addictions are not trivial matters. “No, thank you,” is a perfectly good answer. Members of AA, OA and DA will be especially appreciative if you remember that. And maybe have a couple of spare masks around for guests who may feel a bit vulnerable.

Enjoy your party.

                                             ***

For recovering addicts, the tools should be familiar, but always bear repeating:

  •  Bring a recovery friend to a party.
  •  Have phone numbers and your own transportation available if you want to leave an uncomfortable situation.
  •  If you’re uncomfortable about attending a party because of who will be there, be it family or friends who are not supportive, don’t go. Politely decline. 
  •  Keep track of your drink. If you’re not sure, get a new one.
  •  When shopping, deal in cash; forget about credit cards.
  •  Don’t feel obliged to try every dish on the table. 
  • And, again, “No, thank you,” is a complete sentence. Don’t worry about hurting your host’s feelings at the expense of your recovery. There’s always next year.

Enjoy your recovery.

For more information:

Alcoholics Anonymous: www.aa.org

Overeaters Anonymous: www.oa.org

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Is Alcohol a Problem for You? A Test

Sunday, December 3rd, 2023

Addiction and Recovery

By Bob Gaydos

no bar


Thanksgiving ushered in the triple-threat season, so-called by many people in recovery because of the heavy emphasis on celebration … and drinking. It’s a time for extra caution and heightened awareness of the easy access and, sometimes, emphasis on alcohol in order to protect one’s recovery.

    But it’s also a time when people not in recovery often find out, often from friends or family, that their drinking is not normal. It’s problematic. Possibly dangerous. 

   With Christmas and New Year’s revelry still to come, it may be a good time for anyone wondering about his or her drinking behavior to take a self-assessment.

There are a few tests available and I’ve offered a couple previously in this column, but in the interests of time I’m presenting the shortest one here. It’s the AUDIT, offered by The World Health Organization and is the most widely used alcohol use assessment tool in the world. AUDIT stands for alcohol use disorders identification test. As always, be honest for the best result.

The AUDIT questionnaire:

Please circle the answer that is correct for you

  1. How often do you have a drink containing alcohol?
  • Never
  • Monthly or less
  • 2-4 times a month
  • 2-3 times a week
  • 4 or more times a week
  1. How many standard drinks containing alcohol do you have on a typical day when drinking?
  • 1or2
  • 3or4
  • 5or6
  • 7to9
  • 10 or more
  1. How often do you have six or more drinks on one occasion?
  • Never
  • Less than monthly
  • Monthly
  • Weekly
  • Daily or almost daily
  1. During the past year, how often have you found that you were not able to stop drinking once you had started?
  • Never
  • Less than monthly
  • Monthly
  • Weekly
  • Daily or almost daily
  1. During the past year, how often have you failed to do what was normally expected of you because of drinking?
  • Never
  • Less than monthly
  • Monthly
  • Weekly
  • Daily or almost daily
  1. During the past year, how often have you needed a drink in the morning to get yourself going after a heavy drinking session?
  • Never
  • Less than monthly
  • Monthly
  • Weekly
  • Daily or almost daily
  1. During the past year, how often have you had a feeling of guilt or remorse after drinking?
  • Never
  • Less than monthly
  • Monthly
  • Weekly
  • Daily or almost daily
  1. During the past year, have you been unable to remember what happened the night before because you had been drinking?
  • Never
  • Less than monthly
  • Monthly
  • Weekly
  • Daily or almost daily
  1. Have you or someone else been injured as a result of your drinking?
  • No
  • Yes, but not in the past year
  • Yes, during the past year
  1. Has a relative or friend, doctor or other health worker been concerned about your drinking or suggested you cut down?
  • No
  • Yes, but not in the past year
  • Yes, during the past year

Scoring the audit

Scores for each question range from 0 to 4, with the first response for each question (eg never) scoring 0, the second (eg less than monthly) scoring 1, the third (eg monthly) scoring 2, the fourth (eg weekly) scoring 3, and the last response (eg. daily or almost daily) scoring 4. For questions 9 and 10, which only have three responses, the scoring is 0, 2 and 4.

Scoring the AUDIT

The range of possible scores is from 0 to 40, with 0 indicating an abstainer who has never had any problems from alcohol. A score of 1 to 7 suggests low-risk consumptions, according to World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. Scores from 8 to 14 suggest hazardous or harmful alcohol consumption and a score of 15 or more indicates the likelihood of alcohol dependence (moderate-severe alcohol use disorder).

If your score concerns you, there is help available. Talk with your primary care doctor. Call an Alcoholics Anonymous hotline in your area. Call a mental health crisis hotline if one is available.

Excessive alcohol use is now classified as a mental disorder by health officials, somewhat in response to the stigma attached to the word “alcoholic.”  However, most recovering members of Alcoholics Anonymous have no problem with identifying as such. In any case, it is not a moral failing. It can be treated. First, it has to be acknowledged.

Again, be honest. And have a safe and sober holiday season.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Is Alcohol a Problem? A Test for Teens

Friday, April 7th, 2023

Addiction and Recovery

By Bob Gaydos

Summertime and alcohol — a risky combination for teens.

Summertime and alcohol — a risky combination for teens.

Although alcohol abuse is a daily issue in this country, April has been specifically designated as Alcohol Awareness Month by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence to put special emphasis on the problem, especially as it relates to under-age drinkers.

The legal drinking age may be 21, but underage drinking is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as “a major public health problem.”

According to the CDC, according to several surveys, although use is down a bit in the past year, alcohol is still the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the United States and is responsible for some 4,000 annual deaths among underage youth. According to the CDC, even though drinking by persons under the age of 21 is illegal, people aged 12 to 20 years drink 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States. Much of that is binge drinking (five or more drinks on one occasion for males, four for females). And of course, drinking alcohol often leads to use of other mood-altering substances.

The government conducts regular surveys of teenagers to gauge alcohol use and other risky behavior. The CDC notes that the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (the most recent available one) found that among high school students, during the past 30 days:

— 29 percent drank alcohol

— 14 percent binge drank

— 5 percent of drivers drove after drinking alcohol.

— 17 percent rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.

Along with those deaths, there are tens of thousands of alcohol-related emergency room visits by teenagers each year. Perhaps not surprisingly, but worth pointing out, the CDC notes that “studies show a relationship between underage drinking behaviors and the drinking behaviors of adult relatives, adults in the same household, and adults in the same community and state.” One example cited: “A 5 percent increase in binge drinking among adults in a community is associated with a 12 percent increase in the chance of underage drinking.” Something for communities concerned about underage drinking to consider.

But it’s not all on the adults. Parental indifference to their children’s behavior and the friends they choose or ignorance of the harm alcohol can do to young minds and bodies are certainly key factors in the way many teenagers spend their free time. But teens aren’t wholly clueless about their behavior. In fact, it’s not unthinkable that a teenager whose social life revolves around alcohol has asked himself or herself if, just maybe, drinking is becoming a problem.

What follows may help answer that question. For teens wondering about their use of alcohol or other drugs, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence has prepared a self-assessment test to help determine if they — or someone they know — is at risk and in need of help.

This test is for teens. Read each question carefully and be honest. Consider your actions over the past 12 months. Answer yes or no and be sure to answer every question.

NCADD Self-Test for Teenagers:

1. Do you use alcohol or other drugs to build self-confidence?
Yes   No
2. Do you ever drink or get high immediately after you have a problem at home or at school?
Yes   No
3. Have you ever missed school due to alcohol or other drugs?
Yes   No
4. Does it bother you if someone says that you use too much alcohol or other drugs?
Yes   No
5. Have you started hanging out with a heavy drinking or drug using crowd?
Yes   No
6. Are alcohol and/or other drugs affecting your reputation?
Yes   No
7. Do you feel guilty or bummed out after using alcohol or other drugs?
Yes   No
8. Do you feel more at ease on a date when drinking or using other drugs?
Yes   No
9. Have you gotten into trouble at home for using alcohol or other drugs?
Yes   No
10. Do you borrow money or “do without” other things to buy alcohol and other drugs?
Yes   No
11. Do you feel a sense of power when you use alcohol or other drugs?
Yes   No
12. Have you lost friends since you started using alcohol or other drugs?
Yes   No
13. Do your friends use “less” alcohol and/or other drugs than you do?
Yes   No
14. Do you drink or use other drugs until your supply is all gone?
Yes   No
15. Do you ever wake up and wonder what happened the night before?
Yes   No
16. Have you ever been busted or hospitalized due to alcohol or use of illicit drugs?
Yes   No
17. Do you “turn off” any studies or lectures about alcohol or illicit drug use?
Yes   No

18. Do you think you have a problem with alcohol or other drugs?                                                                                Yes   No
19. Has there ever been someone in your family with a drinking or other drug problem?                                                                 Yes   No
20. Could you have a problem with alcohol or other drugs?
Yes   No

The results

Number of Yes answers

Zero-2: May not be an immediate problem. Continue to monitor.

3-5: You may be at risk for developing alcoholism and/or drug dependence.  You should consider arranging a personal meeting with a professional who has experience in the evaluation of alcohol and drug problems.

More than 5: You should seek professional help. You may have a serious level of alcohol and/or drug related problems requiring immediate attention and possible treatment.

There are, of course, ongoing efforts to reduce underage drinking, including stricter enforcement of the law, advertising campaigns on the dangers of alcohol abuse by teens and school and community-based informational and educational classes. These are all helpful, but a bit of old-fashioned, honest, self-assessment may be a teenager’s best defense.

More information:

https://ncadd.org

http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/index.htm

A double dose of danger

Energy drinks, beverages that are loaded with caffeine, other plant-based stimulants, simple sugars, and other additives are popular among young people. The CDC says they are regularly consumed by 31 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds and 34 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds. When not abused, they may seem comparatively harmless, but they are also often combined with alcohol, resulting in a cocktail with potentially serious consequences.

According to the CDC: When alcoholic beverages are mixed with energy drinks, the caffeine in these drinks can mask the depressant effects of alcohol. At the same time, caffeine has no effect on the metabolism of alcohol by the liver and thus does not reduce breath alcohol concentrations or reduce the risk of alcohol-attributable harms.
Drinkers who consume alcohol mixed with energy drinks are three times more likely to binge drink (based on breath alcohol levels) than drinkers who do not report mixing alcohol with energy drinks.
Drinkers who consume alcohol with energy drinks are about twice as likely as drinkers who do not report mixing alcohol with energy drinks to report being taken advantage of sexually, to report taking advantage of someone else sexually, and to report riding with a driver who was under the influence of alcohol.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

After Dry January, Dry February?

Wednesday, January 25th, 2023

Addiction and Recovery
By Bob Gaydos

  82177B6B-D6C2-417C-982F-899EE49E1C21  You hang around with an experienced group of people for any amount of time, with any luck, you learn a few things. 

     I’ve been writing a column on addiction and recovery for about 15 years. In that time, I have been fortunate to have many conversations with members of Alcoholics Anonymous who have decades of sobriety. They have freely shared some of their experience and wisdom with me.

      One bit of AA wisdom that I’ve thought about recently goes like this: “People who don’t have a drinking problem don’t have to control their drinking.”

       Hmmm. So why have my social media and news feeds been peppering me daily with stories on “Dry January”? Why the sudden interest in non-alcoholic beer and cocktails? What’s the big rush all of a sudden for, supposedly, thousands of people to decide to see if they can not partake of alcohol for the month of January? It’s suddenly chic?

   Alcoholics, or rather, those who insist they are not alcoholics, have been taking the post-holiday challenge forever in valiant efforts to prove to themselves and (mainly) others that they can control their drinking. Often, they’ve failed. Rehab February.

     But this is different, from what I read. This is people, many apparently younger people, supposedly deciding that it might be in their best interest to abstain from or at least reduce their alcohol intake, at least for the month.

     Given recent reports on an upsurge in alcohol consumption (particularly by women) during the pandemic, an increase in alcohol-related deaths and a myth-busting report which concludes that “no amount of alcohol” is ever good for your health, going dry or easing up on alcohol for a month sounds like a reasonable idea.

      But there are risks involved and if you’re intrigued by the idea of stopping or controlling your drinking there ought to be rules. For starters, what is your purpose? Is it, as previously mentioned, to prove you don’t have a drinking problem? If so, you need to tell other people what you’re doing so there is accountability and, crucially, protection, in case a serious alcohol problem does exist. 

  Going through withdrawal symptoms from avoiding alcohol on one’s own can be painful and dangerous. Be aware of the symptoms and get professional help if they begin. Your effort may have failed, but it might have saved your life.

     If, on the other hand, the purpose is truly to see if life can be just as interesting and fun without alcohol always being involved, again, don’t do it alone. Get some friends involved. Plan alcohol-free activities. Try some of those fancy new alcohol-free “mocktails” the Dry January movement has spawned. If you’re really serious, maybe focus more on exercise. Try to get more sleep. See if you start to feel better physically and emotionally.

     Drawing again on some AA wisdom, the key to succeeding, whatever your goal, is to be honest and realistic. Whether you’re trying to not drink for a specific month or just cut back, if you find yourself drinking or thinking you’d really like to be drinking in spite of your stated goal, by all means start over again. But be aware of any recurring pattern. There may be a problem.

      On a positive note, if Dry January results in a more responsible general approach to alcohol consumption (as brewers and distillers like to promote), it has to be good for society’s overall health. Alcohol consumption contributes to a multitude of health problems as well as highway and other accidents. It would also go along with the effort by health agencies and providers to remove the stigma and shame often attached to alcoholism by getting rid of the word “alcoholic,” which still conjures up negative images for many people. 

     Officially today, people are diagnosed with alcohol abuse disorder, mild, moderate or severe.

   According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol use disorder “is a medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.”

     That’s the “drinking and trouble” connection members of AA often talk about.

      On the basic issue of stopping drinking and trying to keep things simple, AA’s Third Tradition states simply that “the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.”

     Adding that touch of reality necessary to recovery, an AA friend asked, “Who would have a desire to stop drinking other than someone who drank too much and got in trouble over it?”

     With sincere hope for the success and good intentions of many a Dry Almost Over January, that’s a question to keep in mind for anyone planning on a dry February or Monday or maybe next Tuesday …

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

Holiday Parties: Celebrating in Sobriety

Tuesday, December 13th, 2022

Addiction and Recovery

By Bob Gaydos
4435B31C-C139-4733-A848-5B49FD50C6EE  I’ve written a column on addiction and recovery for more than a dozen years. A staple of this column has been a sort of  “word to the wise” on how to survive the holidays for those in recovery. It also serves as a guide to party hosts who may not be in recovery.

The past couple of years gave new meaning to “surviving the holidays,” but having moved into a new phase of dealing with Covid, parties are back in fashion. Still,  health precautions remain advisable. Covid, the flu and other viruses are a real threat.

The point of this column is that, whatever else is going on, this is always a treacherous time of year for people in early recovery from addiction. People who have found their way to recovery, be it via a 12-step program or otherwise, have been given suggestions on how to survive the season of temptation without relapse. If they use these tools, with practice, they can even enjoy the season.

It’s the rest of you I’m mainly talking to here. You hosts, family members, well-meaning friends who want to be supportive and do the right thing, but aren’t sure what that is. And yes, to those who don’t get the concept of addiction at all, but can still avoid harming a relationship by following a few basic suggestions.

So, some coping tools for the non-addicted host, if you will: “No thank you” is a complete sentence and perfectly acceptable answer. It should not require any further explanation. “One drink won’t hurt you” is a dangerously ill-informed reply. The same goes for, “A few butter cookies won’t hurt. C’mon, it’s Christmas.” Or, “Get the dress, Put it on your credit card. You’ll feel better.” Not really.

By the way, “No thank you” is an acceptable answer even for people not in recovery. Not everyone who turns down a second helping of stuffing or a piece of pumpkin pie is a member of Overeaters Anonymous. Not everyone who prefers a ginger ale rather than a beer is a member of AA. Not everyone who won’t go into hock for an expensive New Year’s Eve party is a compulsive debtor. But some of them may be.

If you’re hosting a party to which people in recovery have been invited, have some non-alcoholic beverages available. Not just water. Don’t make a big deal about having them, just let your guests know they are available. The same goes for food. Have some appetizing low-calorie dishes and healthful desserts on hand. Don’t point out that they’re there because so-and-so is watching his weight. Just serve them. You’ll be surprised how many guests enjoy them and comment on what a good host you are.

If you’re honestly concerned about how the person in recovery is doing, approach him or her privately. He or she might not feel comfortable discussing it in front of other guests. If you’re just curious, keep it to yourself.

Honoring a guest’s wishes is a sign of respect. Anticipating them in advance is even better. Encouraging someone to eat, drink or spend money when they don’t want to is, at the very least, not gracious. Pressuring someone to partake of something when you know he or she is trying hard to avoid it is a good way to lose a friend. Addictions are not trivial matters. “No, thank you,” is a perfectly good answer. Members of AA, OA and DA will be especially appreciative if you remember that.

And for those in recovery, remember to bring a phone with plenty of numbers and have a way to leave the party if you become too uncomfortable. There will be other parties, but there may not be another recovery.

Be smart and enjoy. Have a mask handy if need be. Enjoy your sobriety.

Happy holidays.

rjgaydos@gmail.com
Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

Is Alcohol a Problem? A Test for Teens

Friday, May 20th, 2022

Addiction and Recovery

By Bob Gaydos

Summertime and alcohol — a risky combination for teens.

Free time and alcohol — a risky combination for teens.

Summertime is fast approaching. It can be a fun time for teenagers. For starters, there’s no school for most of them. Even if they’ve got a job, and, Covid or no, there’s plenty of time to hang out with friends. Go to the beach. Parties.

But lots of free time and limited responsibilities can also come with risks, especially if the fun often revolves around drinking. The legal drinking age may be 21 in this country, but underage drinking is still defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as “a major public health problem.”

The CDC, monitoring several different surveys, says alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the United States and is responsible for some 4,000 annual deaths among underage youth. According to the CDC, even though drinking by persons under the age of 21 is illegal, people aged 12 to 20 years drink 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States. Much of that is binge drinking (five or more drinks on one occasion for males, four for females).

The government conducts regular surveys of teenagers to gauge alcohol use and other risky behavior. The CDC notes that the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (the most recent one) found that among high school students, during the past 30 days:

— 29 percent drank alcohol 

— 14 percent binge drank 

— 5 percent of drivers drove after drinking alcohol.

— 17 percent rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.

Along with those deaths, there are tens of thousands of alcohol-related emergency room visits by teenagers each year. Perhaps not surprisingly, but worth pointing out, the CDC notes that “studies show a relationship between underage drinking behaviors and the drinking behaviors of adult relatives, adults in the same household, and adults in the same community and state.” One example cited: “A 5 percent increase in binge drinking among adults in a community is associated with a 12 percent increase in the chance of underage drinking.” And drinking often leads to other risky behaviors. Something for communities concerned about underage drinking to consider.

But it’s not all on the adults. Parental indifference to their children’s behavior and the friends they choose or ignorance of the harm alcohol can do to young minds and bodies are certainly key factors in the way many teenagers spend their free time. But teens aren’t wholly clueless about their behavior. In fact, it’s not unthinkable that a teenager whose social life revolves around alcohol has asked himself or herself if, just maybe, drinking is becoming a problem. 

What follows may help answer that question. For teens wondering about their use of alcohol or other drugs, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence has prepared a self-assessment test to help determine if they — or someone they know — is at risk and in need of help.

Remember, this test is for teens. Read each question carefully and be honest. Consider your actions over the past 12 months. Answer yes or no and be sure to answer every question. 

 

A Self-Test for Teenagers

Do you use alcohol or other drugs to feel more self-confident, more sociable, or more powerful?

YES NO

 

Do you ever drink or get high immediately after you have a problem at home or at school?

YES NO

 

Have you lost friends because of your alcohol or drug use, or started hanging out with a heavy drinking or drug-using crowd?

YES NO

 

Do you feel guilty or bummed out after using alcohol or other drugs, or ever wake up and wonder what happened the night before?

YES NO

 

Have you gotten into trouble at home or school, missed school, or been busted or hospitalized because of alcohol or other drugs?

YES NO

 

Do your friends use “less” alcohol and/or other drugs than you, or do you consume alcohol or other drugs until your supply is all gone?

YES NO

 

Do you think you have a problem with alcohol or other drugs?

YES NO

The NCADD states: “The results of this self-test are not intended to constitute a diagnosis of alcohol or drug dependence and should be used solely as a guide to understanding your alcohol and drug use and the potential health issues involved with it. The information provided here cannot substitute for a full evaluation by a health professional.”

That’s their disclaimer. But obviously, the more “yes” answers, the more cause for concern. This is not a test to cheat on.

More information:

https://ncadd.org

http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/index.htm

Bob Gaydos is a freelance writer and retired award-winning journalist.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Jada, Clarence, Ukraine …

Monday, April 4th, 2022

All the news in 500 words or less

By Bob Gaydos

This is not an old coot.

Bob Gaydos

  Maybe it’s just me, but:

— Jada Pinkett Smith could’ve handled Chris Rock’s lame joke very well on her own. And besides, taking cues on appropriate behavior from movie stars is probably not sound social policy.

— Clarence Thomas should be permanently recused from the Supreme Court and his wife should be investigated for promoting an insurrection.

— Warming up to 41° from 23° is not my idea of spring.

— So is there a runner on second base to start the 10th inning this year, and, if so, how did he get there?

— Saying Merrick Garland has been an absolute disappointment as Attorney General pretty much says it all.

— Does anybody even go to the movies movies — where you have to pay for the seats and can’t bring your own popcorn — anymore?

— Alcohol-related deaths increased by 25% in the United States in the first year of Covid. Does that surprise you, trouble you or disturb your serenity in any way?

— Don’t think all those Republican senators who broke bread with Putin a few years back will be visiting Moscow this Fourth of July.

— Having 20/20 vision (thanks to cataract surgery) after nearly 8 decades of being almost legally blind, is a blessing I appreciate every day.

— If Congress makes daylight savings time standard (still doubtful), shouldn’t we then call it standard time? After all, we’re not really “saving“ time, we’re just moving it around to suit our convenience.

— My heart goes out to the brave, proud people of Ukraine. They will pay a tremendous price, but Putin has lost his war.

— It’s difficult to see Andrew Cuomo being elected governor again in New York, even with marijuana being legal.

     That’s it. Remember local newspapers? Yeah, they were cool, huh?

rjgaydos@gmail.com

At parties, even in the age of Covid 19, “No thank you“ is a complete sentence

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020

Addiction and Recovery

By Bob Gaydos
4435B31C-C139-4733-A848-5B49FD50C6EE  I’ve written a column on addiction and recovery for more than a dozen years. A staple of the column has been a sort of “word to the wise“ on how to survive the holidays for those in recovery. It also serves as a guide to party hosts who may not be in recovery.
This year, things are more complicated. For starters, the parties have to be much smaller and confined to people you have good reason to believe are Covid free. Large parties, especially with strangers, are out. Hopefully the vaccines work and we can return to bigger gatherings next year. But even at small gatherings, the risks to those in recovery are real. So listen up.

This is a treacherous time of year for people in early recovery from addiction. People who have found their way to recovery, be it via a 12-step program or otherwise, have been given suggestions on how to survive the season of temptation without relapse. If they use these tools, with practice, they can even enjoy the season.

It’s the rest of you I’m mainly talking to here. You hosts, family members, well-meaning friends who want to be supportive and do the right thing, but aren’t sure what that is. And yes, to those who don’t get the concept of addiction at all, but can still avoid harming a relationship by following a few basic suggestions. So, some coping tools for the non-addicted, if you will:

“No thank you” is a complete sentence and perfectly acceptable answer. It should not require any further explanation. “One drink won’t hurt you” is a dangerously ill-informed reply. The same goes for, “A few butter cookies won’t hurt. C’mon, it’s Christmas.” Or, “Get the dress, Put it on your credit card. You’ll feel better.” Not really.

By the way, “No thank you” is an acceptable answer even for people not in recovery. Not everyone who turns down a second helping of stuffing or a piece of pumpkin pie is a member of Overeaters Anonymous. Not everyone who prefers a ginger ale rather than a beer is a member of AA. Not everyone who won’t go into hock for an expensive New Year’s Eve party is a compulsive debtor. But some of them may be.

If you’re hosting a party to which people in recovery have been invited, have some non-alcoholic beverages available. Not just water. Don’t make a big deal about having them, just let your guests know they are available. The same goes for food. Have some appetizing low-calorie dishes and healthful desserts on hand. Don’t point out that they’re there because so-and-so is watching his weight. Just serve them. You’ll be surprised how many guests enjoy them and comment on what a good host you are.

If you’re honestly concerned about how the person in recovery is doing, approach him or her privately. He or she might not feel comfortable discussing it in front of other guests. If you’re just curious, keep it to yourself.

Honoring a guest’s wishes is a sign of respect. Anticipating them in advance is even better. Encouraging someone to eat, drink or spend money when they don’t want to is, at the very least, not gracious. Pressuring someone to partake of something when you know he or she is trying hard to avoid it is a good way to lose a friend. Addictions are not trivial matters. “No, thank you,” is a perfectly good answer. Members of AA, OA and DA will be especially appreciative if you remember that.

And for those in recovery, remember to bring a phone with plenty of numbers and have a way to leave the party if you become too uncomfortable. There will be other parties, but there may not be another recovery.

Be smart and enjoy. Have a mask handy or, if need be, make a virtual appearance this year. Happy holidays.

rjgaydos@gmail.com
Bob Gaydos is writer in residence at zestoforange.com.