Alcohol Awareness Month stresses importance of moderation

Spc. Todd Goodman
Landstuhl Regional Medical Center

In the South, there’s a saying that nothing is better on a hot day than a cold beer. The saying, however, doesn’t mention anything about 12 or 13 beers. Moderation is the key to enjoying alcohol in a healthy way.
For many people, though, moderation is merely wishful thinking. Some people can drink socially and have no adverse experiences. Others develop an affinity for alcohol and become dependent.
An alcoholic is someone who has developed an increased tolerance, consumes larger amounts of alcohol, displays withdrawal symptoms and is unable to effectively curb his drinking.
“An alcoholic is someone whose drinking is interfering with their normal behavior or is drinking to feel normal,” said Terri Anderson, prevention coordinator at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.
It is difficult to say how many drinks turn a person from a social drinker to an alcoholic because everyone’s body is different. There are, however, some things that social drinkers just do not do.
“If you have health issues and you continue to drink anyway, that is not social drinking,” said Ms. Anderson. “If your family is concerned and asks you to cut down on drinking and you refuse, that is not a social drinker. If you miss work because you were drunk the night before, that is not a social drinker. A social drinker doesn’t order five drinks at closing time and then drink them all. A social drinker can leave a half-full glass of wine on the table.”
One way to separate social drinking from alcoholism is through consequences.
“Social drinking has no serious consequences,” said Ms. Anderson. “Heavy abusers have serious consequences, such as driving under the influence, domestic violence and other risky behaviors.”
Many heavy abusers are caught in a cycle of shame. They may feel shame about getting a DUI, then drink to make themselves forget about the shame they feel.
“Alcoholics know more shame and blame than we can imagine,” she said. “That is why you can’t shame an alcoholic into going into rehabilitation. If you feel shame about something and your therapy tool is drinking, then that is what you are going to do. And it will lead right back into the cycle of shame and blaming others.”
There are, however, treatment options available. LRMC has both counseling sessions as well as a six-week, partial hospitalization program. The latter being for those who aren’t helped by counseling alone.
“The six-week program consists of group therapy, fitness and educational classes in the afternoon and an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting at night,” said Donald Schuman, clinical director of the LRMC Alcohol Treatment Facility. “I think it’s a very successful program – operating at a 63 percent success rate.”
The program accommodates up to 24 patients. Active duty, dependents, government employees and retirees all are welcome to attend.