Alcoholism is a disease -- be aware of the symptoms

by Melanie Orange

April is Alcohol Awareness Month. The Cougar Peer Education Project, the Wellness Center and other organizations will host a variety of workshops and information sessions focusing on the dangers of alcohol abuse. Why would you want to attend one of these sessions?

The next time you take a walk across campus, count the first 10 people you see as you leave a building. Then, count 10 who walk past you on the sidewalk. Then, count 20 people you see in the cafeteria. The exercise will take you only a few seconds. If statistics are accurate, you have just seen four alcoholics. In fact, these statistics indicate that nearly 3,000 students attending this university are alcoholics. The thought is frightening.

For every one person with the disease of alcoholism, at least four other people are directly affected by that person's alcoholism.

"PLEASE," you say, "I have never seen a bum on this campus and I practically live here. Just where are these losers?"

Not all alcoholics are bums on the street with bottles infinitely attached to their lips. Just like with AIDS, you cannot differentiate an alcoholic from another person simply by how he or she looks or where he or she lives. In fact, attorneys have among the highest prevalence of alcoholism.

Most alcoholics are regular people with regular jobs, families and responsibilities. Alcoholics are our bosses, professors, judges, police, friends and other people we meet every day. They all started drinking for the same reasons that anyone does -- they simply want to relax, have fun or increase their confidence.

Obviously, no one wants to watch their loved ones succumb to the disease of alcoholism. However, as with any other condition, hindsight is 20/20, and the signs were there.

If you are not familiar with the signs, here are a few: Alcoholics find excuses to drink. They find nondrinking events boring. They need to drink more and more to obtain the same desired effect. Alcoholics are defensive about their drinking habits. Alcoholics often binge drink, which means consuming three to five drinks at one sitting. Alcoholics' responsibilities are often left unattended.

If this article has made you uncomfortable, you might want to ask yourself more about that. You can stop the pain. As Helen Keller once said, "Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of overcoming it."

Being alert to the signs of alcoholism is the best way to keep it from affecting your life. Starting today is the best way to overcome it.

If you are concerned or want to know more about the disease of alcoholism, visit the Wellness Center, located in the University Center.

Orange is a sophomore and an alcohol awareness presenter for Cougar P.E.P

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