All in the family system

  • Published
  • By Paul Ahlberg
  • 81st Medical Operations Squadron Alcohol Drug Counselor
April is National Alcohol Awareness Month. Thirty days designated for the nation to raise awareness and increase alcohol prevention. It is also a time to focus on preventing personal alcohol problems by examining one's use and assisting others to lower their risks.
Alcohol problems cause systemic issues that impact the person, family, and community. In so many ways, families are devastated by alcohol. A good reminder of this is "The More You Drink, the Less You Think about Your Families."

When a member takes the oath he inherits the Air Force as an additional family. This Air Force family requires respect, discipline, and accountability, and it will support a member in need.

Alcohol dependence is a progressive and chronic disease that affects the family system. After 32 years working for the Air Force and 20 of those years as a substance abuse counselor I'd like to share briefly on a personal level.

My father is a hero, an Army Veteran who was an alcoholic. He loved his family, worked hard but throughout life, he never reached out for help. He was a good father but greatness eluded him because of his compulsive drinking led to mood disturbances, failing health and inattentiveness. My father died in a tragic truck accident trying to save his young grandson in a runaway truck in his own driveway, as a result my nephew survived. Alcoholism not only impacts a member's systems, there is also a genetic predisposition for alcohol problems.

It can be prevalent in families, to include my own family system as my father, one of my siblings, grandmother, an uncle who died of cirrhosis of the liver at age 47, and several cousins have had their share of problems with alcohol. My sister currently suffers from associated health problems at the age of 52.

So why do people drink? Bottom line: to feel good! What happens to alcohol once it's in the body? Alcohol may make a person feel good when it is actually a central nervous system depressant that slows down the brain processes.

First, it alters one's mood; it impairs judgment, decreases inhibitions, decreases muscle coordination, and slows motor-skills functioning. It takes approximately one hour for the liver to process one drink. One alcohol drink is considered one-half ounce of pure ethyl alcohol or what is in one 12 ounce beer, 4-5 ounces of wine, or l and one half ounce of hard liquor.

Each active duty member and supervisor should carefully review the information provided below to plan ahead to protect yourself and others from needless career impact.

1. Set limits, 0-0-1-3 is a great guideline to responsible drinking: 0- underage
drinking, 0- DUIs, 1- drink per hour, and no more than 3- drinks per night.

2. Plan ahead, before drinking starts: Where are you going? Are you going to
multiple places? How are you getting there and how are you returning home?

3. Use the Wingman system: Go out with a friend who is not drinking or a group
with a non-drinking designated driver and designated thinker.

4. Have your AADD program card and numbers available. Call (228) 377-SAVE, or a cab or your supervisor for a safe ride.

5. If you have concerns about your drinking or a family member or a friend's use
of alcohol don't hesitate to ask for help. Call ADAPT (228) 376-3452.

6. Eat before/while you drink and alternate alcohol and non-alcohol drinks.

7. Be a responsible party host. Ensure your guests don't drink too much and
have a safe way home.

8. Always use good, common sense when you use alcohol. Never let anyone
drink and drive and never ride with someone who has been drinking.

For more information about alcohol facts, alcoholism, drinking and driving,
prevention and treatment services, contact the ADAPT staff at 376-3452.