Presidents Message-April 2012
Welcome to the April edition of the MHS Voice. April is Alcohol Awareness Month, a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of excessive drinking. It offers a great opportunity for us to be mindful of concerns related to alcohol consumption. For those of you who are wondering, I am what is known to some as a “normie.” I know a lot of people think this means I can drink, but I see it as meaning that I can stop drinking. After all, anyone can drink, but not everyone can stop drinking once they start.
This brings to mind an uncle of mine; in fact, my mother’s favorite brother. He was a lifelong alcoholic with bouts of sobriety. I remember his visits and his fantastic tales of his journeys. He traveled all over the country, literally riding the rails, working in one place and then another. He was a master at putting up drywall, once worked in a chicken processing plant, and later at a ranch in Montana. Each place he landed brought new tales and stories, and through them all, his constant companion was alcohol. When he came to visit, he and my mother would get together and tell stories and laugh and laugh and laugh.
I also remember how broken hearted my mom would be at the end of his stays. He would show up and she’d have so much hope that this time he would stop drinking and settle down. He couldn’t drink while he was living with us, so he would stay weeks, even months sometimes, and then one day he would just be gone—out on the road again. She never knew whether or not she’d ever see him again. It broke her heart every time. Yet through thick and thin, he was her brother and she loved him dearly.
After mom was killed in a car accident, this same uncle stepped in and took over full-time care of my grandmother. In the end, he did all the things my mom had wanted for him. He didn’t wander anymore and finally settled down. He stayed even after my grandmother passed away, adopted a dog and a cat, made friends, and put down roots. The last month of his life was spent in a rehab hospital after his heart gave out.
A lot of us have family members who struggle with alcohol—who can drink but can’t stop once they do. Most alcoholics have people who care about them and many of those people happen to be family. For those of us who care about someone with this struggle, the person we care about is not the alcoholic or addict—rather the person behind the alcohol, behind the addiction. We know what is good and greatest in them and continue to believe that person is still there. We have our own struggle trying to figure how to best help them.
Perhaps you care about someone who drinks too much—who can’t stop drinking once they start? This Alcohol Awareness Month, I invite you to join me in spending some time considering solutions to the problems of excessive drinking. If finding those solutions seems daunting, just remember what Margaret Mead said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Together we can make difference.
With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.