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Alcohol abuse is a family problem

Posted: March 23, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 23, 2012 1:55 a.m.

April marks Alcohol Awareness Month. It's a nationwide campaign intended to raise awareness of the health and social problems that excessive alcohol consumption can cause for individuals, their families, and their communities.

Excessive drinking is a dangerous behavior for men, women and teens.

It's unfortunate, but we often settle for awareness when action is called for.

The truth is, there seems to be a disconnect between alcoholism treatment and the real world. Education is the starting place to save lives. And it looks like alcohol education is needed right here in the Santa Clarita Valley.

According to the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station, 60 percent of arrests in the SCV over Thanksgiving weekend 2011 were drunk driving arrests.

Some of those charged with DUIs included an 18-year-old Canyon Country resident, a Saugus electrician, a Santa Clarita teacher, a Santa Clarita escrow officer, a Santa Clarita human resources manager, a Castaic hair stylist, and a Canyon Country chef, just to name a few.

In all, there were 32 drunk driving arrests, and those arrested (both men and women) ranged in age from 18 to 69 years old.

And in the last several months (December 2011 to March 2012) the SCV Sheriff's Station gave us plenty of examples of SCV residents being drunk in public or driving under the influence. Here are just a few. And believe me, there were too many to share.

Leaving the scene of an accident. Friendly Valley Parkway and Sierra Highway, Canyon Country Deputies arrested a 26-year-old Newhall woman just after 4:30 a.m. March 11 for DUI and leaving the scene of an accident after she crashed a 1998 BMW Z3 into a signal light, a sheriff's report said. The woman's blood alcohol content level was nearly three times the legal limit, according to the report.

Charging admission to enter a party, Newhall. Deputies arrested a 21-year-old Newhall woman at 2 a.m. Sunday after responding to a loud noise disturbance at her residence and further determining she had been charging partygoers to drink. Among the estimated 75 partygoers were minors who had been drinking alcohol, a sheriff's report said.

Lyons Avenue, Newhall. Deputies arrested a 35-year-old Newhall man for DUI after watching his 2008 silver Nissan Sentra drift from lane to lane while traveling on Lyons Avenue. The man told deputies he'd had "a beer," but a Breathalyzer test showed his blood alcohol content to be about three times the legal limit, a sheriff's report said.

Soledad Canyon Road, Whites Canyon Road, Canyon County. Deputies arrested a 38-year-old Canyon Country man after watching him travel west in Via Princessa Road in a white 1996 Ford Escort with a flat tire. The man displayed the "objective signs of alcohol intoxication" and his blood alcohol content was nearly twice the legal limit, a sheriff's report said.

Magic Mountain Parkway and Fairway Circle, Valencia. A 19-year-old man was arrested after deputies watched him travel west on Magic Mountain Parkway in a black 2005 Ford Mustang without using headlights. Additionally, the suspect's car straddled two traffic lanes for about 100 yards, a sheriff's report said.

The suspect told deputies he drank two Bud Lights, according to the report, but one Breathalyzer test showed his blood alcohol level to be more than three times the legal limit.

Shadow Pines Boulevard, Gradifloras Road, Canyon Country. Deputies arrested a 24-year-old Canyon Country man after he allegedly slammed his silver Ford F150 pickup into a brick wall on Shadow Pines Boulevard.

The suspect's blood alcohol content was nearly three times the legal limit, according to the report. When deputies asked the suspect what happened, he said, "I don't remember. I just lost control and went over," the report said.

Soledad Canyon Road, Canyon Country. Deputies stopped a 2000 Chevy Suburban driven by a 30-year-old man after watching him make an unsafe turn onto White's Canyon Road. The driver told deputies he was a "little buzzed," but proved to have nearly twice the legal limit of alcohol in his bloodstream.

Maybe these folks have a drinking problem and don't know it, or maybe there was severe lapse in judgment when they chose to get behind the wheel of a car, which is a deadly weapon when one is driving drunk.

It's hard to say, but one thing is for sure: those who choose to drink and drive put everyone at risk. It's interesting that most of us have a stereotypical image of a drunk, you know, the one who lives on skid row, or the old man who lives underneath the bridge and is homeless. But it seems those who are drunk are our neighbors, friends, coworkers, husbands, wives and children.

What to do
Get involved. Talk about the problem openly and honestly. You may be tempted to avoid the issue by saying, "It's their private affair." But are you willing to let someone destroy their life and the lives of their loved ones? I hope not. And please let your loved one know how much courage it takes to ask for help, and to accept help.

The starting place in the process is to reject myths that harm alcoholics and hamper those who would help them. Alcoholism is not a moral weakness. We often believe "nothing can be done unless the alcohol abuser wants to stop," or "they must hit bottom," to lose health, job, home, family, "before they want to get well."

Years of study have made it clear these are destructive myths. One might as well say that you cannot treat cancer or diabetes until the signs of disease are visible to all.

The truth is that with alcohol and other drug problems, as with other acute and chronic illnesses, early recognition and treatment intervention are essential. And treatment does work.

Here are tips from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in asking an alcoholic for help.

- Remain calm, unemotional and factually honest in speaking about his or her behavior and its day-to-day consequences.

- Let the person with the problem know that you are reading and learning about alcohol abuse, attending Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, Alateen and other support groups.

- Discuss the situation with someone you trust - someone from the clergy, a social worker, a counselor, a friend or some individual who has experienced alcohol abuse personally or as a family member.

- Establish and maintain a healthy atmosphere in the home and try to include the alcohol abuser in family life.

- Explain the nature of alcoholism as an illness to the children in the family.

What not to do

- Don't attempt to punish, threaten, bribe or preach.

- Don't try to be a martyr. Avoid emotional appeals that may only increase feelings of guilt and the compulsion to drink.

- Don't allow yourself to cover up or make excuses for the alcoholic or shield him or her from the realistic consequences of his or her behavior.

- Don't take over their responsibilities, leaving him or her with no sense of importance or dignity.

- Don't hide or dump bottles or shelter him or her from situations where alcohol is present.

- Don't argue with the person when he or she is impaired.

- Don't try to drink along with the problem drinker.

- Above all, don't feel guilty or responsible for another's behavior.

Although the victims of alcohol-related problems number in the tens of millions, it ultimately comes down to one thing and one thing only - one too many.

Cary Quashen is a certified addiction specialist and the founder and president of ACTION Parent & Teen Support Group Programs and the ACTION Family Counseling Centers, which offer drug and alcohol treatment programs for teens and adults. Call Quashen at 661-713-3006.



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