Think Before You Drink: A Response from Samaritan Inns’ Support Counselors
By Sonya Schweitzer
Recently, we published a blog to promote National Alcohol Awareness Month. In the blog, a quote from Thaddeus McRae gained the attention of both clients and Samaritan Inns’ staff. As a sequel to Think Before You Drink – The Importance of Alcohol Awareness Month, we asked Samaritan Inns’ support counselors some questions about the unique challenges facing clients going through the Samaritan Inns’ three-phase recovery program in Washington, DC.
The responses are eye-opening, so we wanted to share them with you. Think before you drink…
First, we continue our conversation with Thaddeus McRae.
Thaddeus McRae, Senior Certified Peer Support Counselor
Samaritan Inns: Tell us why it is important to “Think Before You Drink.”
“It’s important to recognize that alcohol is legal and some of the ramifications when you are under the influence of alcohol. You know, drinking, the behavioral changes, you’re not focused, and you lose consciousness – I think some of those are the main things people need to be aware of. For people in recovery, staying sober has to come first. And Alcohol Awareness Month is a very good time for the antenna to be up and to understand that if you decide to drink, then don’t get behind the wheel because you are impaired…even though a lot of times alcohol will tell you that you’re okay.”
Samaritan Inns: What are some unique challenges we may face when dealing with alcohol use or alcoholism?
“Some people are social drinkers. Some people can handle alcohol, and it doesn’t affect them as far as taking one drink, and that’s it. Other people, when they start drinking, can’t stop. Alcohol is a drug. Alcoholism is a very deadly disease…. People in recovery face the daily challenge of staying sober – because there are so many temptations: advertisements, social media, and a liquor store on every corner.”
Samaritan Inns: Could you estimate how many of the clients we serve deal with alcoholism?
“For most of those who come to us, it is alcohol. And whether it’s crack, heroin, cocaine…I’d say a good 70% of people have used alcohol. When people relapse, it’s usually with alcohol. They take a drink. They’ll be in a social setting and have a drink.”
Samaritan Inns: Thank you, Thaddeus, for sharing your thoughts and insights. We think it is essential for our blog readers and clients to read your input and understanding of the deadly disease of alcoholism.
Judy Ashburn, Director of Treatment Programs
Samaritan Inns: Tell us about the importance of acknowledging National Alcohol Awareness Month and “Think Before You Drink.”
“In the midst of an Opiate Epidemic, alcoholism historically remains the #1 drug of choice for clients in Samaritan Inns’ residential treatment programs. Alcohol is the first drug experienced by many persons at an early age, sometimes before the age of 5.
Alcohol IS a drug and often a gateway drug, opening the door to using other drugs. The impact of alcohol on the brain and other major organs is often irreparable, with symptoms such as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome—cirrhosis of the liver, etc.
The impact of learning to escape or numb emotions with alcohol has lifetime consequences, stunting emotional, social, and spiritual growth. This is why at Samaritan Inns, we focus on longer-term treatment to build new pathways in the brain, to gain the courage to face the pain we try to escape with alcohol and to open ourselves to the help and inspiration of others to overcome incredible odds.
Persons choosing to take this journey are our true heroes!
Samaritan Inns: Judy, we agree. Those that are taking the Samaritan Inns’ three-phase journey are heroes.
Juanita DeShazior, Director of the Women with Children Program
Samaritan Inns: What is the impact on women and children as they face alcoholism in the family?
“Because alcohol is legal, most people don’t even consider it a drug that causes problems. In actuality, it’s one of the biggest problems we have. After all, it’s the hardest to get a person to understand that they need treatment because it’s legal.
Will it change? I don’t know. I’d like to see it because it destroys a lot of homes. You can get a DWI. If you get a DWI, it can ruin your whole family. It can destroy, you know, the way you live, the way your family lives. I think it can do a lot, and then you can probably kill somebody. They don’t think about that.”
Samaritan Inns: With the clients we serve, how often do you see alcoholism come up?
“Usually with the folks we serve, usually in every group, we have one or two. As I said, they’re the hardest to keep in treatment and the hardest for recovery because it’s legal. Glamorized.”
Samaritan Inns: Thank you, Juanita, for sharing your thoughts. You are right; one DWI can change a family forever.
Jonathan Alston, Clinical Director of the Men’s Transitional Living Program
Samaritan Inns: This year, we chose “Think Before You Drink” as our theme for Alcohol Awareness Month. Please tell us what you think of alcoholism today.
“I think one of the unique challenges of Alcoholism is that because it’s readily available and legalIt’s widely accepted in our society. Readily available in advertisements and sporting events. I think one of the issues is that folks see any disease as being, well, alcoholism specifically, as the inability to control their lives. The inability for others to understand that and for those affected to understand that it is a disease and treatable. It is a medical disease.
Samaritan Inns: For the clients we serve, what percent would you say deal with alcoholism?
So, I got 14 guys; I have 13 guys in the house. For at least a quarter of them, the primary diagnosis is alcohol abuse.
Samaritan Inns: This isn’t to say alcohol didn’t play a role for the other 75%, right?
“Right, it isn’t that alcohol isn’t a substance they use, but it’s the primary. I’ll say of the 13 that I have, at least 10 have alcohol as part of their drug history. It’d probably be 25% of the folks I have here as a primary diagnosis.
Samaritan Inns: What’s the importance of having a month like Alcohol Awareness Month?
“I think the disease of addiction, which includes alcoholism, has such a major impact on our society. It’s important to have a time frame where it’s focused on and recognized, but I think the awareness has to be heightened to year-round. Addiction, which includes alcoholism, is such a big problem in our society. And, of course, we see it at Samaritan Inns every day. We constantly get calls for folks to receive services, and in some cases, we don’t have beds for them. So I think that it increases awareness. Also, I think it impacts the stigma, decreasing the stigma of having the disease of alcoholism.”
Alcohol Awareness: Four Samaritan Inns Team Members Respond
As a sequel to the blog Think Before You Drink, we could have crafted an edition full of national stats and links to government websites. But, we decided to bring attention to alcohol awareness through the words of our team members. The words in this blog are directly from those fighting alcohol addiction and the disease in Washington, DC.
For more information about the Samaritan Inns’ three-phase approach to recovery, visit our website. While visiting our website, be sure to read the stories of success. Can we help you build an alcohol-free future?
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