Alcohol Awareness Month; How Enlightened Are You?

April is Alcohol Awareness Month and it got me thinking about how addiction is viewed in the general population.

I belong to one of those neighborhood websites where neighbors post and discuss things about safety and crime, garage sales, home improvement referrals and advice, childcare, activities, and whatever else is important.

It’s the way we connect with our neighbors now in the information age, via posting on a website.

One post that came up recently was the concern about one of those recovery homes opening up in their neighborhood.  All these addicts living down the street, creating problems, potential for burglaries and crime, the property value taking a dive and just overall bringing the neighborhood down. The posts were passionate and negative and many people were involved, some had experiences on their streets and there were lots of suggestions and discussion about how to get those people out of the neighborhood.  Quite a lot of self-righteous “I didn’t work this hard and do this much to create this great neighborhood to have it ruined by addicts in a recovery house”. The occasional and well placed “think of our children” really added to the power of the posts.

Us vs. Them

It made my stomach turn.  How about we replace the word “addiction” with “Cancer” or “Alzheimer’s” or any other disease and see how it reads.

“I can’t believe we’re going to have all those Alzheimer’s people wandering around the neighborhood, possibly coming into our backyards, picking up stuff and taking it with them. What if I’m doing an open house and a dirty old person in a bathrobe walks down the street?! We need to get rid of them and clean up our neighborhood! Think of the children, we need to keep them safe.”

Now it makes your stomach turn too, right?

But Kristi, you say, people with Alzheimer’s don’t have higher crime rates like people with addictive disorders.

We can debate that another time but the fact remains:

Addiction is a brain disease. It is a medical condition.

However, we treat it differently than other diseases.  We criminalize it, we blame the person suffering, we assume an addict can just stop (try that one cancer patients: “just stop it, especially all that recurring stuff that happens, can’t you just be in remission and stay that way?”)

We separate ourselves from “those addicts” as if people with addiction are different from us. We believe that it would never happen to me or my loved ones, that we’re the healthy ones and don’t do those types of things.  And thank god my neighbors aren’t either.

The basic Us. Vs. Them mentality that helps us feel safe and better about ourselves.

“I’m not one of them.” {sigh of relief} I feel better already.

We do the same thing about mental illness, it happens to other people and therefore I can ignore it, pretend it doesn’t exist or look at a homeless person with mental illness walking on the streets and blame them for their life circumstances (“just get a job”, roll eyes and cross the street).

“There but for the grace of God, go I…”

It’s a continuum folks, mental health, alcohol use, you name it.  There is no us vs. them, only we and various stages and degrees of health and wellness.  It’s an ongoing process, taking care of oneself, monitoring how you’re doing, asking for help when needed, looking out for others.

National Alcohol Screening Day is on Thursday April 7th

According to Screening for Mental Health, Inc.

“National Alcohol Screening Day (NASD) is an outreach, education, and screening initiative that raises awareness about harmful and dependent drinking behaviors and connects individuals who are at risk with treatment options. NASD is held annually on Thursday of the first full week of April. Thousands of colleges, community-based organizations, and military installations provide the program to the public each year.”

This is a great opportunity to talk with the people you serve, educate your staff and the community at large about alcohol use and abuse.

It’s also a great time talk to your family and friends and do some self-evaluation into your own use.

We have a great course at Relias in our Employee Wellness series that I took the other day and it has a few “stop and make you think” moments

alcohol limits chart

Take a moment to let that one sink in.  if you’re like me, I thought:

wait, what?!? 7 drinks per week max? so if I have wine with dinner a few nights a week and occasionally drink more than one glass…

How about you men sitting in a bar watching baseball?  Have you have tossed back four beers? Or more? (not being sexist here, just recognizing MLB opening week)

The point of that slide and most of what is in the course, is to pay attention and really look at yourself.  Let go of the “us vs. them” mentality and accept that alcohol use is on a continuum; low risk to high risk.

Not to ruin the course for you if you plan on taking it, but it ends with:

alcohol awareness questions

And that is the point of National Alcohol Screening day.

Reflect, take an assessment, talk to someone, learn more about what is unhealthy alcohol use.

Here are some great resources and places to go:


Strategic Marketing Manager BH/CYF and CH, Relias

Kristi has more than 20 years of experience in the health and human service industry, the majority of that time working as a direct practitioner with children, adolescents and adults in both outpatient and residential/inpatient settings. She has worked with Relias for over 10 years, initially working with customers on getting the most out of Relias products, then managing the content products for HHS, and now as the Strategic Marketing Manager for Health and Human Services.

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