Entries tagged with “alcohol & substance abuse”.


April is Alcohol Awareness Month. This observance, sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), stresses the need for education regarding alcoholism and addiction recovery.

At St. Joseph Institute, we stand together with NCADD to encourage an open and honest conversation about the risks associated with underage drinking. In this post, we’ll outline six tips for talking to your teen about alcohol use.

1. Begin the Conversation as Early as Possible

It’s best to begin talking to your children about alcohol use in the upper elementary grades. Statistic indicate that about one-third of young people have begun experimenting with alcohol by the end of eighth grade, with boys reporting their first drink at 11 and girls reporting their first drink at 13. This is troubling because children who start drinking before 15 are five times more likely to abuse alcohol later in life than those who begin drinking after 21.

Of course, it’s never too late to start discussing the risks of underage drinking. Older teens still need your guidance as they navigate the challenge of becoming independent young adults.

2. Promote Positive Relationships

Friendships play an important role in helping kids develop their own unique sense of self. Making an effort to get to know your child’s friends can help ensure that these relationships stay positive. Encourage your teen to invite friends over to your home regularly—using snacks, movies, video games, and music to create a welcoming atmosphere.

It’s also important to maintain contract with the parents of your teen’s friends and establish that they share your values in regards to underage drinking. Do not allow your teen to attend parties where there will be no adult supervision or to spend time at homes where alcohol is readily accessible to minors.

3. Encourage Extracurricular Activities

Kids who are involved in sports, music, drama, and other extracurricular activities are better equipped to resist the pressure to drink because they’ve seen firsthand that alcohol isn’t necessary to have a good time. If your child is struggling to find a suitable activity at school, consider searching for volunteer opportunities in the community, such as working at an animal shelter or the public library.

Getting a part-time job may also be an option for older teens. Work experience teaches time management skills, teamwork, and responsibility. All of these attributes will help your teen make wise decisions in the years to come.

4. Stress the Risks

Pop culture often portrays drinking as a harmless way to relax and have fun. Talking to your teen about the darker side of alcohol use helps put the issue in perspective, especially if you can provide context in regards to portrayals of underage drinking in your child’s favorite movie or television show.

NCADD has a fact sheet with underage drinking statistics that can provide a starting point for discussing the risk of making poor decisions while intoxicated. Risks for teens include getting into fights, having unprotected sex, suffering from alcohol poisoning, or being involved in an auto accident.

5. Be Honest About Your Own History

If you’ve struggled with alcoholism or you’ve seen the consequences of a family member’s drinking problem firsthand, don’t be afraid to share this story with your teen. You don’t need to provide every intimate detail, but these personal stories are often a highly effective way of getting a teen to recognize the dangers associated with alcohol use.

It’s also important for your teen to know that having a family history of alcoholism puts him or her at a higher risk of developing similar problems. Genetics isn’t destiny, but abstaining from underage drinking is the best way for your teen to stay safe.

6. Know the Warning Signs

Drastic changes in academic performance, decreased personal hygiene, neglecting responsibilities at home, and a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities are some of the signs that suggest your teen may have a drinking problem. Depression, mood swings, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating are also cause for concern.

If your teen has already been experimenting with alcohol, encourage him or her to take the self-test for teenagers on the NCADD website. This simple questionnaire evaluates a teen’s risk factors for problem drinking, providing you with a baseline to determine if further services are needed.


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holidaysFor people in recovery, New Year’s Eve can present a minefield of obstacles to staying sober that aren’t present on other holidays. There is the idea that celebrating the change from one year to the next is linked with popping corks and consuming alcohol. Anyone who plans a quiet evening or who doesn’t join a party may feel as though they are “missing out” on the festivities.

To keep your goal of staying sober on New Year’s Eve intact, you need to start with a plan. The strategies listed here will help you stay aware of the pitfalls at New Year’s Eve parties while giving you suggestions about avoiding the temptation to drink.

Tips for Staying Sober When Celebrating New Year’s Eve

Plan new traditions for your new lifestyle
You’re no longer the same person you were when you were drinking. Your New Year’s Eve celebration doesn’t have to be the same, either. Let go of any pressure to keep doing things the same way, “…because this is the way we’ve always done it.”

Look for family-friendly activities as an alternative parties
Instead of going to a party where you know alcohol will be served, consider going to a family-friendly activity in your community. Many of these are available for free or at low cost. Your local library, community news channel, and chamber of commerce website are all good sources of information for what’s going on in your community.

Attend parties where drinking is not the focus of the evening
Choose the types of parties you attend carefully. Dinner and dancing is a much better option than a cocktail party. If the evening’s festivities include some type of event or activity, as opposed to simply consuming alcohol, it’s a much better option.

Bring someone to the party with you
A good friend can keep you engaged in conversation so you don’t get bored while making sure you leave the party before you start to get tired. Both of these are red flags that you might be vulnerable to having a drink. The person you bring could be a friend, relative or your sponsor. Make sure the person you choose will support you in maintaining your sobriety throughout the evening.

Rehearse saying “no” to alcoholic drinks in advance
If you decide to attend a New Year’s Eve party and you know that alcohol will be served, go over how you will turn down an invitation to have an alcoholic drink. Keep in mind that you don’t have to explain your reasons for not wanting to drink alcohol.

There are plenty of people who don’t drink because they are taking medication, they are driving home after the party and don’t want their judgment to be impaired, or for religious reasons. A simple, “No, thank you, I’ll just stick to Diet Coke” will suffice. If anyone questions you about your choice, simply repeat your response. Then stop addressing the question.

Very few people will be rude enough to push the issue. If they do, you can always walk away from the conversation. Or leave the party entirely.

Limit the time you spend at a New Year’s Eve party
You don’t have to stay at a New Year’s Eve party until midnight and you don’t have to arrive early in the evening, either. Limiting the amount of time you spend around people who are drinking will make you less likely to be tempted to join them.

Plan something fun for New Year’s Day
The fun of New Year’s celebrations doesn’t have to be wrapped up into one evening. Plan an activity for New Year’s Day that you can look forward to. Friends and family can get together to see a movie, visit a museum, go ice skating or tobogganing (with hot chocolate afterward) or play cards board games together.

If the fun will continue into the next day (or beyond), there is less pressure to make one party or celebration the one time that attendees have to pull out all the stops. Without that pressure, you may feel less tempted to have a drink. It’s New Year’s Eve and it’s a party, but you have other times when you can have fun as well.

If you slip on New Year’s Eve…

Despite your best efforts, you may slip at a New Year’s Eve party and have a drink. Some people think that one drink means their entire sobriety is ruined and that there is nothing they can do but continue the slide into a full-blown relapse. This is not true.

If you slip on New Year’s Eve (or any other day of the year), recognize it for what it is. Call your sponsor. Go to a meeting. Do what you need to do to get your recovery back on track, including seeking professional addiction treatment.


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People often ask us “what does faith-based mean?”  “Does it mean that you will be preaching at me?”  “Will I be welcome if I don’t participate in organized religion?” “Can you help me re-connect with my faith?”

These are important questions.  In a world where all-to-often we see people seeking to impose their beliefs on others, it is easy to become apprehensive.  When we hear of people claiming to have all of the answers, we become suspect.  When people are condemned or ridiculed because they do not know what to believe, we fear rejection.

Addiction Recovery through Spiritual HealingHopefully, none of these attitudes or actions will be evident at St. Joseph Institute for Addiction.  We want to help people grow spiritually – discover a sense of purpose and meaning for their lives – but we believe this is a journey that each person must travel on their own.  We encourage, we provide information and we share what works for us, but we believe each person must have the freedom to find his or her own answers.

St. Joseph Institute for Addiction is built on a Christian faith tradition.  We believe there is a God and he cares deeply for each of us.  We believe that Jesus has shown us the path by which to live, love, and find meaning & purpose for life.  We believe that if Christianity is to be real, it must guide the way we live and treat one another day-by-day.

St. Joseph Institute for Addiction is non-denominational.  We do not advocate the teachings of a specific church or theology.  There are many Christian traditions and we seek to draw wisdom from many places.  When we discuss forgiveness, we may recount the teachings of the early church fathers, who lived centuries ago.  If we talk about the need for humility in achieving lasting recovery, we may share the words of Andrew Murray, a protestant minister in South Africa.  At Christmas time we adopt a carol for each day, drawing upon Catholic, Episcopal, Baptist, Lutheran and many other traditions. We encourage our residents to discover the place of worship that feels right for them.

In welcoming people of different backgrounds and beliefs, we do not judge or condemn.  We encourage people to find the answers that will guide their life and give them peace.  It is not for us to judge lifestyles, or condemn the choices people have made.  We educate, share the solutions that have helped others, and help people find a better way when their past actions have led to dead-ends.  Very importantly, we challenge people to allow their spiritual self to heal and grow – for all too often addiction shatters that aspect of who they are.

A story is told of St. Francis who lived in the thirteenth century.  Hundreds of friars had joined his community of believers, and he gathered them together and provided instruction before they spread out across Italy.  The commission he gave them was “go forth and spread the gospel, and when necessary use words.”

The message is that faith is most powerful when it is lived.  I hope that our residents see in the staff of St. Joseph Institute for Addiction a spirit of compassion & concern, a sincere commitment to their healing, and a desire to help them grow to experience more of life’s joy and happiness.  If we do our best in this regard, then we are truly Christian.


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