Alcohol is first a servant then a master: Take a simple
survey and don’t let it happen to you
Though it has been 25
years since I had a cigarette, I can vividly remember the lengths I
would go to to make sure I could smoke.
I started smoking at 14
to be cool and garner peer acceptance. This ploy seemed to serve me
well. But, at some point, the tables turned and cigarettes became my
master… the master now the servant and the servant now the master.
I painstakingly and precisely arranged my life to accommodate my need to
smoke… a big feat for a 16 year old. It was years before I finally
was able to quit.
All addictions are masters
As with cigarettes or any
addictive substance, the line between drinking that serves and drinking
that masters remains the same … thin and indiscernible.
The signs of alcohol
dependence include tolerance, withdrawal, loss of control over the
amount one drinks, unsuccessful attempts to cut down, a preoccupation
with drinking, inability to fully function in personal and professional
capacity, and continued use despite significant negative consequences.
About 5 percent of the population suffers from alcohol
What about the rest of
the population? According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and
Alcoholism, 35 percent of the population doesn’t drink at all, 37
percent always drink at low-risk levels, and 23 percent drink at levels
that place them at risk for alcoholism and serious alcohol-related
problems. At-risk drinking means drinking enough to experience
alcohol-related problems, though not severe enough to warrant
intervention… until now.
Recognizing the difference
One of the most recent
developments in the field of addiction is the heightened awareness,
education, and intervention around behaviors linked to at-risk drinking.
The goal is to make that "thin line" between social drinking and
alcoholism more DISCERNABLE. Simply put, often people are just not aware
that they are dancing on the edge.
Screening and brief
intervention, referred to as SBI, is a strategy that is emerging as a
significant force to help those in the at-risk category identify
themselves as such and make changes that will prevent them from
progressing to the depths of addiction.
The primary goal of
screening and brief intervention is to reduce the harm and costly impact
of at-risk drinking. Screening identifies those at-risk and the brief
intervention component educates and explores ways to help reduce the
drinking to ultimately reduce the risks. The simple 5-to-10-minute
process allows for widespread use and effectiveness. The prevailing
thought is to seize opportunities in medical and public health settings
as well as other settings to provide education and guidance about the
risks and about ways to change. Keep in mind that it is easier to change
BEFORE addiction sets in.
Try it now
I think the State Bar
News presents such an opportunity. Why not screen and intervene right
here, right now? Put your calls on hold (just for 5 minutes) and
let’s do this….
Screening: There are several, well-validated
screening instruments, and the one I’ve chosen is the CAGE. The
CAGE assessment is four simple questions and presumes you answered yes
to the question: "Do you sometimes drink beer, wine, or other
alcoholic beverages?" The questions are:
Have you ever felt
you should Cut down on your drinking?
Annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
Have you ever felt
bad or Guilty about your drinking?
Have you ever had
to have a drink first thing in the morning (Eye-opener) to steady
your nerves or get rid of a possible hangover?
If you answered "no" to all
four questions you are probably among those who are low-risk drinkers or
don’t drink at all. Answering "yes" to any of these questions may
indicate the existence of a problem.
Reading the suggestions
below may be helpful. A call to the State Bar’s Lawyer Assistance
Program (1-800-255-0569) also is an important step to take. The trained
lawyer assistance professional can help personalize this information and
provide you with proper guidance.
Intervening: Small steps can mean big progress in
reducing your chances of having alcohol-related problems. As with any
worthwhile change, it is wise to give them time to work. But it is
critical to note that if you are not successful in making change in a
couple of months, you may be a dependent drinker rather than an at-risk
drinker. If this is so, consider seeking professional help and calling
The National Institute on
Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism suggests the following strategies to try in
order to reduce your drinking:
track. Keep track of how much you drink. Making note of each
drink before you drink it may help you slow down when needed.
measure. Know the standard drink sizes so you can count your
drinks accurately. Standard drink size for beer is 12oz., for wine 5oz.,
and liquor 1.5oz.
Set goals. Stay
within the low-risk limits—no more than four drinks on any day and
no more than 14 drinks per week for men and no more than three drinks on
any day and no more than seven drinks per week for
Pace and space. When you do drink, pace yourself.
Drink slowly. Have no more than one standard drink with alcohol per
food. Eat some food so the alcohol will be absorbed into your
system more slowly. Drinking on an empty stomach is asking for
alternatives. If drinking has occupied a lot of your time or
has become a way to manage problems and stress, seek other, healthy ways
to fill your time and/or manage stress.
"triggers." If certain people or places make you drink even
when you don’t want to, try to avoid them.
Plan to handle
urges. When something triggers an urge to drink, remind
yourself of your reasons for changing.
"no." You’re likely to be offered a drink at times when
you don’t want one. Have a polite, convincing "no, thanks"
strategies and a servant to alcohol you may never be. Please call LAP at
800/255-0569 if you have questions or need confidential