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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, April 8, 2013

April awareness...

April is Alcohol Awareness Month according to several different governmental organizations. That’s good. We should all be aware that alcohol is out there. I was thinking maybe someone might have missed the fact that alcohol exists.

Maybe it should be Alcoholism Awareness Month. That would make more sense to me. But, even then, doesn’t everyone know that alcoholism exists? Unless you’ve lived on a desert island or in a bubble, how can a person not be aware of alcoholism?
I know that for some people alcoholism is something that happens to someone else. It is in someone else’s family; ruins someone else’s life; kills other people’s loved ones – but for some people alcoholism just doesn’t seem to have much of a meaning to them. The belief that alcoholism has no effect on people who do not drink is just a fantasy.

We are all, in some way or another, affected by alcohol abuse. Here are some facts that non-drinkers may not have ever considered.
According to the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. Costs of Underage Drinking (Updated edition. Prepared for the Office for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Enforcing the Underage Drinking Laws Program under contract no. 98-AH-F8-0114. Rockville, MD: Author, 1999) the total cost attributed to underage drinking (which includes the cost of traffic accidents, violent crime, injuries and treatment) is over $52 million per year.

If you are thinking that is not a cost borne by the everyday person, think again. When these expenses are not met by the families of underage drinkers, they are picked up by social service organizations like Medicaid which in turn translates in higher taxes and higher medical expense for those able to pay.
In 1992, the estimated productivity loss for employees with past or current alcoholism was $66.7 billion. (Harwood, H., et al. The Economic Costs of Alcohol and Drug Abuse in the United States, 1992. Rockville, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1998.) Again, you may be thinking that would be the employers’ problem and not yours. Those losses have to be made up somewhere. The end result is an increase in the consumer cost of whatever that employer produces.

Here’s another thing to be aware of: When alcoholism results in crimes for which the alcoholic becomes incarcerated who pays for their cell, clothing, food, health care, etc? The answer is that we all do. Our taxes pay for our prison system which is full of drug and alcohol addicted persons.
The above is just some of the economic costs forced upon society by this thing called alcoholism. There is also an emotional toll to pay. Let’s take a hypothetical here:

A man (we’ll call him Sober Driver) is driving home from work and gets hit by a drunk driver (we’ll call him Drunk Driver). Sober Driver dies instantly. Drunk Driver walks away without a scratch. How ironic is that? But wait, it doesn’t end there.
Sober Driver had in his car a very valuable silver cup which he planned on giving his daughter as a shower gift for his unborn grandson. The silver cup is destroyed in the accident which is a monetary loss if you don’t consider it was only gift he would have been able to give his only grandchild. Now the cost is not just the cost of the cup, but the memory it would have held which makes the cup priceless.

Sober Driver leaves behind his wife, who must now go back to work because after years of being a “stay at home wife and Mom”, she now has to pay the bills. She won’t make as much money as her husband because she doesn’t have a college degree. She may need to sell the home and move to smaller quarters. Not only is this another financial burden, but the loss of the family home creates a feeling of displacement. She becomes depressed over the loss of both her husband and her home. Someone else’s alcoholism has taken them both away.
The depression doesn’t end with Mrs. Sober Driver because her daughter and son, as well as any other family members, will mourn the loss of their beloved Mr. Sober Driver. The unborn grandson will never know his grandfather’s laughter and delight at holding the infant in his arms.

The expense continues when we find out that Mr. Sober Driver was an engineer who was working on a project that would make attaining fresh water a reality for third world citizens. Someone else will pick up the project, but it will take quite a bit of time for the new person to get up to speed which delays the project completion by as much as a year.
There are a number of scenarios that could be read into the expense of alcoholism as it relates to non-alcoholics. In my opinion the awareness that we must have is that alcoholism doesn’t just cause problems for the alcoholic or the alcoholic’s family. Alcoholism causes problems for everyone.


Marie said...

your last sentence is SO true. my alcoholic father lives on the west coast with my non drinking mother and I recently moved to Tennessee. I still suffer because of my father being such a total ass to my mom. I suffer from depression and anxiety disorder and im positive that living with the chaos,craziness shame and fear all those years before I moved out while I was a senior in high school have changed my biological wiring that I am always scared or depressed to the point of having to take anti depressant and anti anxiety medication for life. gee thanks Dad.

Furtheron said...

Your last sentence says it all.

When I drank I never considered the issues I was causing. for my wife, my kids, my colleagues, for the person in the car I hit once, my Mum, my in-laws, the people I berated in my drunken rages in bars and pubs, etc. etc. etc. A catalogue of damage left in a trail like a tornado behind me but I never looked in the mirror to consider it.

Also 8,748 people dead in the UK from alcohol - those where the cause of death is directly attributable to alcohol, so how many others with "just" a stroke, heart attack, accident etc. Double? Triple? Then all the family and friends around them hurt and effected and the money the country spends on those deaths alone.

Zowie said...

I have some stories to tell also about the toll of alcoholism on families. I was born into a family of several generations of alcoholics. Fortunately for me I could never stand the stuff, but I did see the toll it took on family members.

Alcoholics are the most selfish people on the Earth and I detest them.

Antoine Lockhart said...

Since the time of Jesus, there are already alcoholic drinks and people who are addicted to them. However, it has never been that big problem as it is now. I believe that even that was already the case that time, people still find the importance of having a sober life that is why they are able to recover.

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