Everman: Help for today, hope for tomorrow

All around us in Clark County, it is estimated thousands of people are in recovery from alcoholism.

You may not see them or know them, but they are contributing to our businesses, connecting with their families and giving back to the community.

They have struggled with their own personal nightmares and have set their feet solidly on a path toward hope.

Yet, for others to join them and be a part of building a stronger, healthier community, we need to take action now.

By working together, we can make a difference in the life of someone in need and help fulfill the promise of a more hopeful tomorrow for generations to come.

Alcoholism does not discriminate. It affects people of all ages, ethnicities, genders, geographic regions and socioeconomic levels. And too many people are still unaware talcoholism is a disease that can be treated, just like we treat other health disorders such as diabetes and hypertension.

An estimated 4,000 people needed treatment last year in Winchester-Clark County, and we need to address this real issue.

Having been in recovery for 23 years and working in the recovery field for 12 years, I have seen firsthand the benefits of recovery.

Individuals who embrace recovery achieve improved mental and physical health, as well as stronger relationships and a sense of self-worth.

Alcohol is a drug — a powerful, mood-altering drug — and alcoholism is a chronic disease, from which people can and do recover.

Over the past two decades, scientific research has revolutionized our understanding of how alcohol and drugs affect the body and the brain. We now know prolonged, repeated alcohol and drug use can result in fundamental, long-lasting changes in the body including brain structure and functioning.

Alcoholism and alcohol-related problems touch all Americans, directly or indirectly, as our nation’s number-one public health problem.

Currently, nearly 15.1 million Americans have alcohol use disorder or are alcoholic.

People age 12 to 20 years drink 13 percent of all alcohol consumed in the U.S. and more than 90 percent is in the form of binge drinking.

And, in purely economic terms, alcohol-use problems cost society more than $249 billion per year due to lost productivity, health care costs, business and criminal justice costs.

Research indicates alcohol use during teenage years could interfere with normal adolescent brain development and increase the risk of developing alcohol use disorder. In addition, underage drinking contributes to a range of acute consequences, such as injuries, sexual assaults and even deaths — including those from car crashes.

Alcohol and drug use is a risky business for young people and parents can make a difference. The longer children delay drinking and drug use, the less likely they are to develop problems associated with it.

It’s important to help your child make smart decisions about alcohol and drug use.

We all have an investment in reducing the devastating impact alcohol has on us as individuals, family members and members of our communities. We need to educate ourselves — as parents, teachers, clergy, employers, counselors, friends and neighbors — about the devastating power of alcohol misuse and the healing power of recovery.

The good news is  we are making progress, and it is now estimated more than 20 million Americans are living lives in recovery. These individuals have achieved healthy lifestyles, physically and emotionally, and contribute in positive ways to their communities.

To this end, every April, people across America celebrate Alcohol Awareness Month, an initiative sponsored by Facing Addiction with NCADD.

The theme of this year’s celebration is “Help for Today, Hope for Tomorrow.”

During Alcohol Awareness Month, we recognize the damaging effects of alcohol and alcoholism and renew our support for individuals battling to overcome addiction.

“Help for Today, Hope for Tomorrow” urges all Americans to promote treatment and recovery options and to support all those whose lives have been affected.

Achieving Recovery Together is celebrating Alcohol Awareness Month by holding a Human Resource Association luncheon and a bag Art contest for junior high and high school students to raise public awareness and to reduce the stigma often associated with alcoholism — stigma that prevents millions of individuals and families from seeking help.

These events will send a signal that Winchester-Clark County, embraces recovery and wants to provide much-needed support. I urge local businesses, community organizations, colleges, schools, administrators and government agencies to get involved.

These are small and easy steps to take, and they can make a tremendous difference in the lives of many in our community.

We must continue our efforts to reach out to those who are suffering and to help our next generation avoid the many problems associated with alcohol use disorder.

It’s our kids we’re talking about.

JuaNita Everman is the executive director Achieving Recovery Together, Inc.