Jeanne is 19 and just started college in her hometown at Ruralville Community College. She’s a bright girl, pretty and sweet, but she has a secret. Jeanne is an alcoholic. A few of her close friends know she drinks, but none to the extent she does except Kevin, who truly believes she is an alcoholic but has not done anything about it. Her parents, whom she still lives with, have absolutely no idea. Back when Jeanne was in high school they caught her with a small bottle of vodka once and grounded her accordingly. They did not know it was only one of several she had stashed in her closet. She was 16.
Now it’s three years later and the stash has moved from the closet to the car. She still drinks five or six shots’ worth of vodka every night, and sometimes smokes marijuana along with it. Her drinking began when she was 14, when she would dabble with sipping her mom’s liquor. By 16 she was full on drinking whatever she could get her hands on.
At this point, Jeanne knows she needs help. She’s pretty much drunk all the time. Living in a small town, not having much money, and not wanting to upset her parents makes it difficult for her to receive the help she needs.
One day, drunk in the morning, Jeanne is walking from her car to her class when a small shooter bottle of vodka she forgot was in her pocket falls to the ground. As fate would have it, one of her professors is walking behind her and sees it happen. Jeanne is a decent student, despite the drinking, and always kind enough, so the professor does not take immediate disciplinary action.
Instead, the professor takes Jeanne to his office, sits her down, and explains how his twelve-year-old daughter tried alcohol about a month ago for the first time. It devastated him. At the end of the conversation, he makes a deal with Jeanne, a deal which involves something called Alcohol Awareness Month.
Jeanne gets to stay in school, discipline-free, as long as she participates in the Alcohol Awareness Month event next weekend at the Ruralville Community Center.
Alcohol Awareness Month
The story you just read is fictional, but chances are you know a Jeanne, that you are a Kevin. Chances are you either know someone who has a drinking problem or someone you suspect does. However, Alcohol Awareness Month is very real. Sponsored by NCADD, (the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence), what our character Jeanne will attend is an event that any community in America can participate in.
In 1987, NCADD decided to make April the month that would annually be called Alcohol Awareness Month, and now in 2018 it’s still going strong. The mission is “to increase public awareness and understanding, reduce stigma and encourage local communities to focus on alcoholism and alcohol-related issues,” according to NCADD’s above-linked website. The way it’s carried out is by local communities hosting events during the month of April.
There is a free organizer’s guide available for download on the website, and it is quite extensive. With the help of the guide, the level of involvement is up to you. Everything from literature to guides on how to get PSA scripts read over your local radio stations is there.
You can initiate an event in your community, or you can attend one of the many events already in action. Visit the above-linked website for more information. There are two missions of the Alcohol Awareness Month organization, “…first to have a proactive national education and advocacy program attacking the stigma and misunderstanding about alcoholism, treatment and recovery; second, to operate service centers in communities across the country staffed by professionals helping individuals/families with alcohol problems.”
Also, every Alcohol Awareness Month has its own theme, and this year’s theme is “Changing Attitudes: It’s not a ‘rite of passage’.” The idea is to teach children and adults alike that consuming alcohol is dangerous, and should not be considered a part of a normal childhood. Many people see getting drunk as a milestone of sorts, especially getting drunk for the first time. This idea should be done away with. Getting drunk is simply step one toward a potential disease called alcoholism.
Alcohol Free Weekend
To launch Alcohol Awareness Month every April, the first weekend is dedicated to staying 100% abstinent from alcohol. It’s called Alcohol-Free Weekend, and this year it starts on the morning of Friday, March 30th and goes until the end of Easter Sunday. According to the site, “During Alcohol-Free Weekend, NCADD extends an open invitation to all Americans to engage in three alcohol-free days.”
Even if you do not have the means to attend an event, or to initiate one on your own, participating in alcohol-free weekend is an excellent way to kick off a month dedicated to being aware of the dangers of alcoholism. Not a drinker anyway? You’ll be participating by default! Casual drinker? Put the glass down this weekend coming up. Social or moderate drinker? Prove to yourself you can do it.
That all being said, if you are a heavy drinker/alcoholic, it is not recommended to ever stop drinking suddenly without professional medical assistance. The withdrawal symptoms for alcoholics who stop on a dime can be deadly. Please, please seek medical assistance if you are a problematic drinker.
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence is one of the forerunners of sobriety advocacy. Their resources are plentiful, and anyone who needs help on any level with drugs or alcohol is strongly recommended to reach out to them. Good things tend to last, and NCADD has been around for nearly 100 years. Alcohol Awareness Month, the pet project of NCADD, celebrates its 31st birthday this year. Participate. Get involved. It takes change to make change.