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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Woman on a mission...

I learned something interesting this weekend about how others view me. At least how one person sees me anyway… my son-in-law thinks I’m on a crusade to stop alcoholism. He sees me as a one-woman temperance union calling out the evils of alcohol. I don’t know if he sees it as a bad thing or not, but it was interesting to hear how he feels.

I was not offended, but I was surprised. My son-in-law’s statement got me curious. I looked up Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in my electronic version of a Funk & Wagnalls (for those of you too young to remember, it’s an encyclopedia).  I was surprised by what I discovered.

Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was created when a group of women from New York banded together to form a non-sectarian organization which was a primary influence in the crusade for prohibition. Well… we all knew that and how it all turned out.

What I didn’t know was that the organization is still in existence today. They continue to fight for a healthy life-style by focusing on abstinence from alcohol, drugs, tobacco, abortion and gay marriage. They even publish a quarterly journal entitled The Union Signal. They have age-appropriate groups that attempt to instill in young people the virtues of living a substance-abuse free life. The have a website http://www.wctu.org/, just in case you’re interested in getting more info.

OK. I really believe this is a good organization with valid points and a worthwhile cause. But, I would not qualify for membership. I don’t want to ban all alcohol use. A ban on alcoholism would be great – but that’s not realistic. I’m not in favor of punishing the masses for the actions of the few. I know… that’s an over-statement because there are more than just a FEW alcoholics in this world… The problem is not in the liquor – it’s in the abuse of the liquor.

That being said, I really love the idea of educating our young people on the dangers of alcohol and substance abuse. That’s something I can get behind 300%. I’ve always said education is the key to survival. This takes it one step further by educating before the need for “survival” and helps our children make informed choices. I doubt that every child or teen who is provided this education will turn down that beer offered while viewing a sporting event. But the chance that even one will decline is worthwhile. I’ll take one over none any day of the week.

There is an organization that doesn’t mix abortion or gay marriage into the substance abuse issue. During the early inception of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SMAHSA) of our government, one of the goals was to remove the negative stigma of alcoholism. The organization’s focus is on recovery and that recovery is possible. They aren’t concerned with the abortion issue or other people’s sexual preference. They also work to educate the public in general on the dangers of substance abuse. I like this organization even though I don’t share the idea that everyone who is an alcoholic can recover to lead a healthy, productive, alcohol-free life. I’m a realist. I know they CAN, but unfortunately, most do not. If I change the word “alcoholic” to “family member of an alcoholic” then I can absolutely give them a very high “thumb’s up.” You can find them at http://www.samhsa.gov/.

You will notice that I have not mentioned AA or Al-Anon until now. I don’t mean to discount them. They are wonderful organizations that provide support to anyone fighting the hold of alcohol over their lives. But they don’t publicly educate nor do anything that would be counter to maintaining anonymity. They are unlike SAMHSA, who believes that removing the negative stigma would also remove the need for anonymity. With the need for anonymity gone, many high profile people could help with the fight for recovery. It sounds good in theory, but I doubt that the alcoholism stigma will ever be completely changed over.

If I were to design an organization to fit MY ideals, it would look something like this:

1)      Provide support to families who are in the midst of alcoholic insanity with a special focus on end-stage alcoholism;

2)      Provide education as to the physiological and psychological effects of alcohol abuse;

3)      Provide education as to the options when caretaking an end-stage alcoholic;

4)      Provide education to our youngsters as to the dangers of all substance abuse;

5)      Promote the removal of the negative stigma on end-stage caretakers as being enablers;

6)      Promote legislation that dictates every rehab center be legally bound to provide a family program to all patients in their facility. The program must include education, support and therapy.

7)      Promote a healthy lifestyle in all aspects of life.

The only requirement for being a member of this organization would be a desire to help any family who may be struggling with a loved one’s alcoholism. Unfortunately, that organization does not exist. Or, I least, I don’t know of one that exists. If you of any, please pass on the info.

So after careful examination of my intentions, I duly declare I am not a zealot out to destroy the lives of anyone who wants to enjoy a scotch on the rocks after a hard day at the office. Nor do I believe that anyone who goes wine-tasting is an alcoholic. But I am a woman on a mission.  I’m a woman who has been presented with a difficult task and my mission is to help others faced with the same circumstances.


Alice said...

It's pretty hard not to be on a mission when you've seen the damage alcohol can do..

My personal mission as a 32 year old alcoholic woman in recovery is to stop the crazy binge drinking young women embark upon in this country (Australia). Young men do it too, as a rite of passage, but to me it's so much more dangerous for women because we physically can't take as much alcohol, and there's so much potential to be a victim of crime eg sexual assault, when you're a legless woman. I'm so lucky I never had a serious sexual assault when I was drinking.

I met a woman recently whose 17 year old daughter has been taught at school that if a friend is very drunk, you must call their parents and the ambulance. The teachers stress that one big binge can actually kill. Her daughter and friends take this seriously and have called 000 (Australia's 911) and parents on several occasions. This gives me hope.

Alcohol per se is not the problem, I have plenty of friends who can drink safely and responsibly unlike me, and as a strong believer in same sex marriage and pro-choice I would not personally align myself with the temperance movement. But I know alcoholism and binge drinking cause immeasurable harm, it's a wonder I'm not brain damaged (I'm not, thank God), so I will be forever motivated to speak out about that and I see you're the same.

Anonymous said...

sign me up for Your organization..we NEED it in this household...and NEED it now !!haha CHAOS abounds..love your blog..sadly we are not alone in this drama filled care taking of an end stage alcoholic! side note..my mom became nauseous and thought the vodka may be making her vomit..so she drank water for 3 days..some tremors..that was all !! hubby and I were shocked..waiting for the seizures, delusions, high BP like all previous times..wondering if we would call 911..but nothing..HOW ??? cant explain..but she is back on the vodka train now and sleeping 22 hrs a day...thought maybe we had a miracle on our hands...but no..sadly, back to our normal..whats next? thanks, karen

Syd said...

The only requirement part is covered by Al-Anon which states that the only requirement for membership is alcoholism in a relative or friend. Anonymity is important for several reasons--problems with getting insurance, a job, etc. but the main reason is that we may not be the best examples of the program.

Jennifer said...

I so appreciate all the research and work you put into your blog, Linda -- it really is the best resource I've found on the internet. Not only do you inform and lead me in healthier directions, you put my dilemma (caring for an end-stage alcoholic) into perspective to help me recognize that, though it may look like I am alone with no one to confide in or understand, other people (you and those who leave comments on your blog) do. It's eerie sometimes how many details of my own life I find on every page. THANK YOU, Linda and everyone who posts!!! I can't tell you how much it means to finally not be alone.

Karen E. said...

Jennifer: You are not alone!..It is amazing how some of our situations mimic others..stay strong

Linda said...

Syd -- I agree that anonymity is absolutely needed although I feel it is unfortunate that people in recovery are made to feel ashamed to the point of having to hide their identity. We don't punish people with cancer who have recovered. I wish I could wave my magic wand and change society's point of view. On the other hand, active alcoholics who don't show up for work sober or cause chaos in the lives of others and are otherwise irresponsible -- spoils it for people in recovery and trying to do the right thing. Anonymity is absoluetely necessary. I just wish it wasn't so. -- Linda

Anonymous said...

Anonymity in AA is manyfold. It's not about shame, though it behooves some to keep their alcoholism recovery private. Anonymity's a bedrock AA principle bcause without it, AA's might be tempted to take credit for their recovery in vainglorious ways that would turn off potential AA's. Or they might relapse publicly if they're famous, causing potential AA's to think AA doesn't work (it does, but those who relapse aren't working it). And if one were a public "face of AA," potential AA's might judge the whole program based on you (and what if you were an obnoxious person and thus likely to be disliked, or your politics or religion, for instance, were in the minority and perhaps offensive to many -- and thus you were disliked? AA might be tarred with your brush). And humility is an important principle of AA: being a public "face of AA" would tempt one to be less than humble.

tieropasvmii said...

I don't think there is a 'Best example of the program' honestly, my experience with AA is that these people, even in sobriety, remain barely capable and, at all times, extremely psychotic and damaged. Self absorbed and overly sensitive. Not at all balanced people. This was my personal experience, granted, but I think if AA didn't have the anonymity, people would realize what a crock it is.

tieropasvmii said...

If AA is afraid to be painted by the brush of its members, doesn't that also say something about the validity of the program?

I know it's helped many, but right now I am very critical about it.