“I probably had too much to drink last night.”
It’s pretty easy to say that in early stages of illness. Admitting to a little excessive behavior doesn’t reflect on your character. It covers the immediate damage you may have caused. And it reflects what society generally knows about using alcohol.
Most people can drink alcohol safely. Even when they over indulge, they are not likely to become dependent or move to more addictive drugs. Only one person out of ten will experience dependence to alcohol or other drugs during their lifetime.
Of course, if you are that one person, you get to practice this statement a lot. You get used to apologizing for your excess and you get used to denying that anything more serious is going on.
For many of us, this is what is going on:
At any one time, seven out of ten Americans drink alcohol safely or abstain altogether. Three percent are diagnosed as chemically dependent. One percent are in the final stages of addiction disease – completely disabled and near death.
That leaves 26 percent of Americans in a category of “heavy drinking” and “at-risk for addiction disease.” As a member of this class, we are drinking more than the Federal government recommends for safe drinking: Five drinks at one time for men, or four drinks at one time for women and seniors.*
Here’s what happens to this one out of four Americans:
We get to practice saying “I’m sorry” a lot.
We build the ability to deny anything more serious is going on.
We are very likely on a path to dependence.
And, as a group, we already cause most of the social and personal damage attributed to alcohol and other drugs – from divorces to automobile accidents.
The good news is that people in this early stage of illness can still hear warnings – if they come from proven sources of authority and knowledge. That is, the voice of a health professional trumps that of a spouse.
In our society, however, this warning too frequently never happens.
Recent scientific findings encourage physicians and health professionals to use the three-question “Audit C” screening tool with patients presenting symptoms of heavy drinking. A majority of patients who fail this test learn from this intervention and change their drinking habits.
Those who demonstrate “at risk” scores are offered seven more assessment questions. It is at this stage of emerging illness that offers the best hope for living adjustments and the introduction of recovery pathways.
Aquila Clinic teaches a health regimen for individuals with early signals of dependence on alcohol and other drugs. Counseling, education and practice with new social tools are delivered in evening sessions during the week. The care lasts as long as necessary to build a successful lifestyle free of mood altering chemicals.
Think of it as night school.
In fact, it costs less than tuition for four to six credit hours in a typical college or university. Plus, most of the cost is eligible for reimbursement by health insurance plans.
If you or a member of your family seems to have issues around alcohol or other drugs, ask your physician if this path is right for you. Call or visit us today for a free evaluation.
*Data from Willenbring, NIAAA, 2008.