April is Alcohol Awareness Month in the United States. Alcohol Awareness Month should be an important event considering current statistics of alcohol-related death, disease, and dependence but statistics can be mind-numbing. When I see the number 95,000 representing annual deaths by alcohol abuse in the United States, it is hard to wrap around the significance of that number. It is more powerful, more personal to me, to read that deaths caused by alcohol use have doubled since 1999. My daughter was born in 1999. In the first 18 years of her life, nearly 1 million Americans died from alcohol related disease, accidents, and suicides . That statistic troubles me deeply, and I often wonder why it doesn’t trouble other people more.
I think that people disassociate from the dramatic statistics about alcohol abuse in the same way that they dissociate from the statistics that we see daily about Covid19. We see dramatic statistics concerning the pandemic every day, all day, on the news and on the internet, and yet there are people who still feel that Covid is not real, or it’s not as bad as it’s made out to be, or they are somehow able to disassociate and decide that this pandemic is not really about them. It’s about someone else.
I will never forget that for many years when my alcohol consumption was a concern, an increasingly troubling problem, I was holding out hope against hope that I would make it under the wire and not become one of those statistics about alcohol-related deaths. I hoped that I wasn’t that bad. I hoped that I could get it under control before it took my life. Even now at almost six years sober, when I look back on that time, I know that I was drinking in a way that put me in the top 15%, the high functioning drinkers who are over the line and find themselves unexpectedly in a doctors office looking at numbers that tell a terrifying story.
Because they waited a bit too long to stop.
Because they pushed it a bit too far.
And my drinking fit into a horrifying statistical group. In the study published in 2019 that found that Alcohol-related deaths more than doubled in last two decades,
… the rate of deaths among women rose much more sharply, up 85 percent. In sheer numbers, 18,072 women died from alcohol in 2017, according to death certificates, compared with 7,662 in 1999.
Unimaginable statistics, often have the effect of deflecting the truth of the ugly reality. The Death By … becomes a number. It not only becomes a number but a number so huge that it cannot touch you. It is someone else’s pain. And of course, there are always questions, always the assumption that statistics lie.
The kinds of alcohol-related problems that are highlighted during Alcohol Awareness Month in the US are of course international. Not every country is afflicted with addiction epidemics but many are in considerably worse situations than the United States. In Russia, the direct and indirect impact of increased alcohol consumption has produced a phenomenon called “The Russian Cross,” meaning that the birth rate drops while the mortality rate increases …. every year in Russia 700,000 to 800,000 people die prematurely due to alcohol. ( source – Sober Focus: The True Face of Alcohol Elvi L.J. )
Comprehending the impact of those 700,000 lives is something better left to art than statistics. I have never seen it more evocatively done than in this short video .
Young people reach the “drinking age” without seeing examples of sobriety. That choice does exist but is not promoted. Many Russians do not drink at all, yet that segment of the population is never represented in the media. If the media made a concerted effort to reveal the ugly truth of alcohol consumption, the choice of sobriety would eventually be entrenched in people’s minds.
Elvi L.J. Sober Focus
We have much to improve in many of our cultures concerning how we present the face of alcohol use and misuse to our children. I believe that it starts not with statistics but with the behavior of the adults that our children see. We tell ourselves, and we teach our children, that alcoholism is a disease, that the problem is not the drink but the drinker. But is that really true? Is daily drinking something that genuinely can be moderated, or is it likely to lead to addiction in cultures where wine is a slickly marketed product, sold as an acceptable anecdote to all lives problems and a necessary accompaniment to every joy? Why not celebrate Alcohol Awareness Month by joining us for an alcohol-free April.
I have read that in the United States, only between 10 and 20% of the adult population have an alcohol use disorder and should stop drinking. Before I stopped drinking, sabotaging depression told me that I was over-reacting and that if 80% of American adults can drink moderately, well, I should be able to moderate my drinking too. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t control or moderate my drinking – so I stopped drinking and eventually I decided to flip that statistic on its head and make that 20% the best 20% to be a member of! Rather than seeing myself as a member of the unfortunate percentage of people who cannot drink, I decided to see myself as a member of the fortunate few who live free of alcohol. I don’t have to feel that I’m in a deprived minority or living at the bottom rung of some ill-defined ladder because I cannot drink this addictive substance that kills so many. I’ve realized I’m not at the bottom but striving to be at the top of the ladder. And I’m comfortable sharing this alcohol-free rung on the ladder with famous successful people like Warren Buffet, Zac Efron, Stephen King, Brett Favre, Tim McGraw, Kelly Ripa, Bradley Cooper, Craig Ferguson, Christina Ricci, Jennifer Lopez…
Being sober is truly a freedom to treasure!
“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”~ Mark Twain
And the truth is not in the statistics but in you.
It’s in Your Hands – Breaking Down the Myths: What can Alcohol REALLY do for You?
Come join us for an Alcohol-Free April to celebrate Alcohol Awareness Month – How Posting in the BOOM Community can help you Rethink the Drink
To everyone finding things
really difficult at the moment
who think no-one notices
who might be drinking
more that they would like
to cope with it all…
Hey I see you
Don’t worry though
It doesn’t show
You’re trying so hard
Why doesn’t anyone realise?
You’re juggling everything
And doing it so well
I can tell
But is that bottle of rose
Your reward for getting through your day
Going to help?
Will it take your cares away?
Or could it make things worse?
Could you maybe try and take a break from booze?
For a few days, weeks or whatever you choose?
Come here and talk to us in BOOM
It’s free, anonymous and
You’ve nothing to lose
There’s no commitment needed
Just people you could chat to
Who might just feel similar to you
You’re not alone
even if it seems that way
Why not click and join today?
If you are concerned that you may be on the wrong side of the alcohol misuse statistics – Rethink the Drink – Talk to Us.
Start where you are right now
Whether with determination or overwhelming fear
Or everything in between
Tell us your story if you’d like to
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To say what you need to here
It’s helpful to leave self blame at the door
If its not serving you anymore
From a heavy and maybe weary heart
To a fresh start
You could find out soon
Life could bloom with BOOM
Be proud because you’re taking the first steps
Just do the next right thing
And then the next
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