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The Stigma about Alcoholism – Alcohol Awareness Month

It’s been three decades since I attended a training offered by Operation Community Awareness Nashville (CAN). That training and one shortly thereafter provided by STARS, (an organization that I only had heard about at the time), changed my life. So much so that I began my own recovery from the impact of addiction, and have been working in the field of prevention, intervention, and now treatment, for the last 30 years.

Three decades later with the all the medical advances and knowledge about addiction so prevalent in our culture, the stigma about alcoholism and drug dependency in the family still exists. This is especially true if you are a child or adolescent living in a family impacted by the disease of addiction. Ask yourself these six questions:

  • Have you ever thought that one of your parents had a drinking problem?
  • Did you ever encourage one of your parents to quit drinking?
  • Did you ever argue or fight with a parent when he or she was drinking?
  • Have you ever heard your parents fight when one of them was drunk?
  • Did you ever feel like hiding or emptying a parent’s bottle of liquor? (Or you choose the substance)
  • Did you ever wish that a parent would stop drinking?

If you responded YES to 3 or more of the questions, it is highly likely that you are a child of an alcoholic.  (Note: These questions are a subsample of the questions appearing on the Children of Alcoholics Screening Test, developed by Jones and Pilat, and have ben rigorously tested.)

April is Alcohol Awareness month.

It’s a time to focus on the families that are impacted by alcoholism; and for over 30 years STARS has been working to alleviate the shame and stigma about this family disease.

Did you know:

  • That according to the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, more than 28 million Americans are children of alcoholics; nearly 8.3 million are under the age of 18.
  • That an estimated 12 percent of children in the United States live with a parent who is dependent on or abuses alcohol or other drugs? Alcoholism and other drug addiction tend to run in families. Children of addicted parents are more at risk for alcoholism and other drug abuse than are other children.
  • That children growing up in families impacted by substance abuse are the highest risk group of children to become alcohol and drug abusers due to both genetic and family environment factors? And that they are also at a higher risk for emotional disturbance, neglect and abuse.  Also, that the biological children of alcohol dependent parents who have been adopted continue to have an increased risk (2-9 fold) of developing alcoholism? (National Association for Children of Alcoholics)
  • That one in four adolescents who start using alcohol and other drugs under the age of 15 end up developing abuse or dependence problems and do not stop until they have gone to treatment 3-4 times over several years?”  (National Institute on Drug Abuse)

The costs to families, our culture, and, most importantly to the young people impacted by this disease are staggering, economically, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually and physically.

Breaking the shame that goes along with the admission that there is the proverbial “elephant in the room” can be painful, disrupting, chaotic, unnerving, humbling as well as restorative, hopeful and healing. Thank goodness that today, for so many children and adolescents, the cycle of silence and shame is being broken. Whether through the work of Kids on the Block, school-based STARS Student Assistance and Deaf and Hard of Hearing services, or YODA’s intensive outpatient treatment services, the stigma of substance abuse and dependency is being broken.

When STARS began in Nashville in 1984 our mission was to help prevent substance abuse among adolescents, to support children of addiction, and walk alongside those adolescents that had already experienced treatment for this disease. Those services are still thriving today and we are fortunate to have been able to add these additional approaches to help young people and their families find the hope, strength, and ability to heal and recover.

Without the support of this community none of this would be possible. For more information about how the many programs and services of STARS might be able to support your school, faith community, or family, please visit our website. For information about how you can support STARS, please visit our website or call us at 615-279-0058. STARS will forever be about providing support to families impacted by addiction, breaking the code of silence and shame that too many are living with, unnecessarily. Help break the cycle this month!

STARS is deeply committed to creating a culture and work space that centers on the power of relationships, that values diversity of perspective and experience, and that honors the dignity, worth, and contributions of all.