Breaking free from alcohol addiction | Editorial

Breaking free from alcohol addiction | Editorial

Overcoming alcohol addiction may feel like a Herculean task, but it can be done with the help of your loved ones, medical professionals and organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous.

People in my life who have shed the burden of dependency emerge with a new sense of purpose and clarity. You can lead a perfectly successful existence, but one day recognize the “hold” that daily drinking (or drug use) has on you, and no longer wish to be controlled by a substance. It’s incredibly hard work, but also some of the most important work you’ll do in your life.

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, which is a time to encourage friends or family members to make small changes, like keeping track of their consumption and setting limits. You can also learn and share tips with parents to help them talk with kids about the risks of alcohol use and ask a doctor about the benefits of drinking less or quitting altogether.

WebMD classifies heavy drinking as more than three drinks per day for women and four per day for men. Other red flags are joking about having a drinking problem; not being able to keep up with home, work or school responsibilities; losing friendships; being arrested for driving under the influence; needing alcohol to feel relaxed or confident; forgetting what you did while intoxicated; drinking alone or in the morning; denying that you drink; avoiding activities that do not involve alcohol; and experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, nausea and shaking.

“Functional alcoholics” may seem to be in control, but the risks of abuse include liver disease, cancer, high blood pressure, engaging in risky sexual encounters, endangering others by driving while drunk, blacking out and death. Alcohol addiction also raises the odds of domestic violence, child abuse and fetal alcohol syndrome.

According to an Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation study released in August 2018, 73.07 percent of San Juan County residents — both male and female — consume alcohol on a regular basis. Look through our weekly sheriff’s log and you’ll see many entries for DUI arrests, citations and wrecks.

A great first step can be calling a helpline where you have free, nonjudgmental, confidential access to knowledgeable professionals. The U.S. Department of Health and Services offers a 24/7, 365-days-a-year addiction helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) that offers both English and Spanish. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.

There is no shame in seeking help. The consequences of ignoring your addiction can be devastating for yourself and everyone around you.