Alcohol Awareness Month – April 2013

Alcohol Awareness Month – April – is an annual celebration founded and sponsored by the NCADD (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence) to increase public awareness and understanding aimed at reducing the stigma that too often prevents individuals and families from seeking help. 2013 marks the 27th year of this annual celebration.

BreakingTheCycles.com Celebrates the “Family-ness” of Alcohol Misuse for Alcohol Awareness Month

Alcohol Awareness Month - April 2013

Alcohol Awareness Month – April 2013

This year, BreakingTheCycles.com is taking a slightly different approach to its celebration of Alcohol Awareness Month – namely taking this opportunity to raise awareness about the “family-ness” of alcohol misuse – both those that misuse and those affected by Secondhand Drinking (SHD).

Secondhand Drinking is a term to describe the impacts on a person who is on the receiving end of someone’s drinking behaviors. Drinking Behaviors are the behaviors a person engages in as a result of excessive alcohol changing brain function (see brain images at end of post). These brain changes are caused by a variety of drinking patterns ranging from binge drinking to heavy social drinking to alcohol abuse to alcoholism. These drinking behaviors include:
– drunken arguments
– physical fights
– verbal, physical or emotional abuse, neglect, bullying
– driving while impaired, riding in a car with an impaired driver, getting a DUI
– unprotected, unwanted, unplanned sex, sexual assault
– problems at work or in school
– domestic violence.

As an example, secondhand drinking is what happens to the spouse and children of the veteran who turns to alcohol after his/her tour of duty ends – alcohol to relieve his untreated PTSD (1), s/he’ll never find a job and confused feelings about returning to civilian life. His/her abuse of alcohol, untreated PTSD and the combination thereof changes his/her behaviors drastically. This throws his/her family into a tailspin as they all jockey for what to do to make him/her want to stop or get help. It’s what happens to that veteran’s son at school after a particularly rough night of parental arguing about the drinking, when he can’t concentrate in class and is embarrassed by his schoolmate’s snicker when he fails to answer the teacher’s question. He’s fuming by recess and tracks his classmate down, punching him in the face. For that he’s sent to the office, only to have his parents called because he’s a behavioral problem – again.

It’s what happens to the husband whose wife repeatedly promises to stop or cut down but every night can’t keep her promise. When he confronts her, she starts her offensive attacks on something he has or has not done as the reason for her drinking, causing him to go on the defensive and engage in the crazy, convoluted arguments that ensue. He rehashes these arguments over and over in his mind the next day while at work, unable to complete the task at hand, which holds up the next stage of the project on which his team is working.

Secondhand drinking is what happens to the boss whose life and the life of his daughter and the lives of every member of his immediate and extended family are shattered when his daughter is paralyzed in a head-on collision caused by a drunk driver. As you can see, SHD can be a one-time event, but its ripple effects will last a lifetime causing physical and emotional outcomes unfathomable to most.

Secondhand drinking is real. It hurts. And it can forever change a person’s life (at least until they understand it and can treat/change it). This is especially true if they are the family member or close friend who, over the course of their ongoing exposure to SHD, become victims, suffering their own consequential physical and emotional impairments. They often experience quality-of-life changes that are beyond a “healthy” person’s comprehension. See The Health Consequences of Secondhand Drinking.

The heartening news is that understanding the causes of secondhand drinking (namely another person’s alcohol misuse, brain changes and subsequent drinking behaviors) is helping people (especially family members and children) learn what it takes to protect their emotional and physical health.

Since NO ONE SETS OUT to cause secondhand drinking and NO ONE SETS OUT to cope with it in unhealthy ways, BreakingThe Cycles.com’s 2013 Alcohol Awareness Month celebration will run posts throughout the month to raise awareness about this “family-ness” of alcohol misuse and secondhand drinking. Topics will include:

And if you prefer the more traditional celebrations of April as National Alcohol Awareness Month, click on this link for logos, proclamations, press releases, background information, etc., as provided by NCADD.

SPECT Scan comparison showing brain changes caused by alcohol misuse. Courtesy: Amen Clinics

SPECT Scan comparison showing brain changes caused by alcohol misuse. Courtesy: Amen Clinics

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(1) Untreated PTSD and other mental illnesses often “cause” a person to drink. The alcohol helps them self-medicate the symptoms of the mental illness because it works on the brain’s dopamine pleasure/reward pathways.

Lisa Frederiksen

Lisa Frederiksen

Author | Speaker | Consultant | Founder at BreakingTheCycles.com
Author of nine books, including "If You Loved Me, You'd Stop!" and "Quick Guide to Addiction Recovery: What Helps, What Doesn't," and hundreds of articles, Lisa Frederiksen is a national keynote speaker, consultant and founder of BreakingTheCycles.com. She has spent more than 12 years researching, writing, speaking and consulting on substance misuse prevention, intervention and treatment; mental illness; addiction as a brain disease; effective co-occurring disorders' treatment; secondhand drinking | drugging; help for the family and related subjects – all centered around 21st century brain and addiction-related research. In 2015, she founded SHD Prevention, providing training and consulting to companies and public agencies to address the workplace impacts of secondhand drinking - the other side of alcohol misuse - something that affects up to 40% of a workforce and costs hundreds of thousands dollars each year in absenteeism, safety risks, health care expenses, distraction and poor performance costs.

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  1. Second-hand “anything” is devastating because the assumption of need (and focus) is almost always on the one in the first-hand position. Thanks for raising the flag on this one, Lisa!

    • It really can. Hopefully raising this kind of awareness can help people better appreciate taking a stand against drinking behaviors – behaviors that do not occur with low-risk or moderate drinking patterns. Thanks for your comment, Meryl!

  2. Thanks for raising the awareness in this area Lisa! It’s so important to start realizing what the *second hand* effects are with addiction – the truth is that it’s hard to quantify or qualify because it’s not been chosen by the individual. Awareness is the first important step to change – you are doing an awesome job!

  3. Thank you for sharing! Those brain scans are scary!! I did not know that there was an alcohol awareness month, but I think it is a fabulous way to remind people and to make them aware:)

    • Aren’t they something! Having the visual “proof” is making a world of difference. Much of this research, though, is just 21st century so unfortunately, it’s not really “mainstream,” yet – hence my passion to make it so :)! Thanks for the compliment, Norma!!

  4. Those brain scans were pretty scary! Seeing something aside from texts will definitely be an eye-opener, I’m wondering if someone could make an infographic using this info. That would be nice!

    • Good idea, Randy! And you’re right – these scans really are an eye-opener for people which is helping us better frame the conversations for more effective outcomes. Thanks for your comment!