Guest Column by Jenine Koziolek
I was looking at a book recently to purchase for our child. The book was about truth and lies, and in the description it asks, “Can it really rain cats and dogs?” I don’t know how the book answers this, but it got me thinking about how information is presented to our children and is the information always factual.
Take for instance the frogs that croaked out words that spelled out a special type of beer or the beautiful horses that have a snowball fight, and this somehow wraps us into the special moment, only to have a type of beer announced. It is estimated that the typical American will see 100,000 beer commercials before he or she turns 18. Within this exposure, our children are constantly challenged to decipher the messages about alcohol, not only with the ads they see on television, but in social media, friends, billboards, clothing paraphernalia, the list goes on.
We know one thing for sure — the odds are they are receiving the message about alcohol.
But is the message truth or a lie? Is it the message you want them to have as a child faced with making perhaps one of biggest decisions of their lives — deciding if it is OK for them to partake in an alcoholic beverage?
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Inc., the organization that is in its 28th year of sponsoring Alcohol Awareness Month, the statistics support having these crucial conversations with our children to ensure they are receiving the facts and developing healthy refusal skills when they are faced with the decision.
Here are some facts to review:
• Alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States.
• One in every 12 adults (17.6 million people) suffers from alcohol abuse or dependence.
• More than half of all adults have a family history of alcoholism or problem drinking.
• 100,000 persons die each year from alcohol-related causes: drinking and driving crashes, other accidents, falls, fires, alcohol-related homicides and suicides.
• More than 7 million children live in a household where at least one parent is dependent on or has abused alcohol.
• Alcohol is a primary factor in the four leading causes of death for young persons ages 10-21.
• Young people who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who begin drinking at age 21.
• Alcohol-related problems cost America $224 billion in lost productivity, absenteeism, health care costs, crime and family-related problems .
Caring adults in a child’s life have the power of influence even more than the frogs or whatever catchy animal or item they put in the ad to lure you into the advertisement. Have that conversation with a young person today!
Jenine Koziolek is an outreach specialist at Fountain Centers. Fountain Centers is a Mayo Clinic Health System program for substance abuse and addiction celebrating 40 years of providing services in southern Minnesota. Visit fountaincenters.org or call 800-533-1616 for more resources on how to have positive conversations with youth and to recognize problem use.
How I wish I had been aware of Interventions with alcoholics on television shows. But we are talking about the eighties and I was in denial with my daughter, Lori, having a problem with drinking. “After all, it must be a stage and when she gets out of her senior year in high school, and away from her friends, she will straighten-out.” An ungodly belief after her father, Richard Lopes, died in 1985 at forty-five years of age from the same disease.
Yes, I was so foolish, uneducated and blind to addiction. Lori did give up drinking, or so I thought, once she got married and had two beautiful children. It wasn’t until she was thirty-seven years old that she admitted herself into the Gosnold Rehabilitation Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts that family came to realize that she was an alcoholic. How did she hide it so well? Her children were fifteen and sixteen when they were told by family that she was battling alcohol abuse. They lived with her day in and day out and had no idea. Lori was a closet-drinker and never stopped drinking since she was a teenager.
When Lori died in 2006 at thirty-nine, I hit upon the Intervention show on television by accident. I was hitting on one show to the next trying to find something to take my mind off my horrible reality of her death. Al would go upstairs to bed and I’d be drowning in my sorrow that life stopped for me. My daughter was no longer breathing. I would never again in my days left of earth hold her, see her smile, hear her contagious laugh, run my fingers through her black, curly, long hair, see her love for Joey and Meagan through my eyes, or witness her coming through the door yelling, “Hello, I’m here!”
I was glued to the Intervention show nightly because I wanted to learn what Lori had been feeling and needed when I was blind to her slowly dying from her liver, kidneys and other organs shutting down. I was punishing myself for my ignorance with her actions I had ignored or never was aware of at the time. Someone had to blamed, so it had to be me. I was uninformed that it had been Lori’s decision to desire the help and recover.
I watched one girl’s life on the show who was in her early twenties with two children. Two children that she loved, and yet, had no strength to give up her drinking even for them; like Lori. This woman was in the hospital dying and her family had been warned of the terrible event ready to unfold. Their hearts would be ripped out of them. Somehow by the Power of God, she survived and went back to her counseling. Her counselor asked her how she came out of death.
She replied, “My family. No matter where I was or what bad state I was in, someone, whether my parents, aunts, siblings or others, made a call to me everyday saying they loved me and were there if I needed them. It was their love that made me survive.”
It goes to say, it is easy to “tell” someone we love them, but it’s “showing” them that gets results. Go to their meetings, counseling or doctor appointments. Give them the hugs and don’t be afraid to say you fear losing them. Let them know it’s the disease you hate and not them.
Family can form their own interventions at home. Intervention is an event, hopefully, to make the addicted aware how much we love them and want to give support. So many alcoholics and drug addicts want help but can’t take the first step. We need to reach out and take their hands. Something I wish I had done more often with Lori before she died. It’s the thinking about giving up their habit that scares them, but once they take that one, tiny step, they are closer to recovery, and it gets easier.
It’s painful and sad the we have to lose someone or something that we love to come to terms on what we could have done to achieve better results. Addicts have to be helped to see they don’t have to be alone or frightened. They have to see that we love them no matter how many bad falls or turns they take. We’ll help dust them off so they can get up and start again toward the goal of sobriety. They have to feel that they are worth something and have something to give of themselves to their families and society.
I am working on a new blog for just my talents with writing and speaking. The blog is www.albertasequeira.org through WordPress. It’s under construction but you are all welcome to review it. I welcome comments like I do on this site. Let me know what you want to read. Anything special?
My new email is firstname.lastname@example.org
This blog will remain for the topic of alcohol and drug abuse. The other will be dedicated to writers and authors.
Thank you for the support!
Alberta Sequeira’s speaking engagement at the Lakeville Library in Lakeville, Massachusetts on Thursday evening, February 6th from 6-8 pm went well with close to 50 people attending. It was a night on the effect of alcoholism on the whole family and the addict. Ms. Sequeira introduced her new Narrative Non-Fiction What is and isn’t Working for the Alcoholic and Addict: In Their Own Words.
It was a program for both the addict and their family members. There were 34 alcoholics and drug addicts who contributed their stories in the book who wanted the world to know what they believe hasn’t and is not working in their recovery programs. They also tell family members how they can support and help them get out of denial to want professional help.
Alberta is available to speak at anyone’s event, privately to substance abusers, at women’s ministries, organizations, businesses, court-ordered program or to the public. Email me at email@example.com for a quote.