On February 27, I celebrated my 90th year on the planet. In all the years, alcohol was my only drug of choice. It served me well until it didn’t. Active in the recovery movement for many years in Colorado, I returned to California in 2019 and helped to start a new non-profit called The Purpose of Recovery (TPOR). At The Purpose of Recovery we value positive recovery language through our peer support services and community advocacy.
Recently I noted that Alcohol Awareness was being diminished by all else going on and I determined to edit my recovery language to feature alcohol and its effects.
What I noticed is that my language works in any month, whether it is Alcohol Awareness Month (April) or not. Ok, so who do we help (individuals, families and those in recovery) and what do we tell them about alcohol? Particularly, how do we guide their research on talking to kids?
Each April since 1987, the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) has sponsored Alcohol Awareness Month to increase public awareness and understanding, reduce stigma, and encourage local communities to focus on alcoholism and alcohol-related issues.
Most adults in the United States who drink alcohol drink moderately and without complications. At the same time, alcohol-related problems are among the most significant public health issues in the country. Alcohol use disorder (AUD) affects about 15 million adults in the United States, and an estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the nation. Read more here.
A young person’s brain is not fully developed until they reach their mid to late 20s, and any drinking while the brain is still developing can be problematic.
Regardless of age, alcohol lowers inhibitions and impairs judgment and coordination. It can also increase the incidence of aggressive or violent acts. Consuming large quantities in a short period of time — or binge drinking— which is defined as having 4-5 drinks on one occasion and is common among young people — can cause alcohol poisoning and even death. More than 16 million Americans misuse or are addicted to alcohol, which is a legal substance that is widely available and normalized in our society. Prolonged, heavy use of alcohol can lead to addiction as alcohol use disorder, or alcoholism. There is liver and heart disease, and other health consequences such as a weakened immune system and increased risk of developing certain cancers. Accidents related to alcohol use are among the leading causes of death for teens.
Every April the National Council for Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) sponsors Alcohol Awareness Month to increase awareness and understanding of the causes and treatment of the nation’s #1 public health problem: alcoholism. As part of Alcohol Awareness Month, the NCADD says local, state, and national events will be “aimed at educating people about the treatment and prevention of alcoholism, particularly among our youth, and the important role that parents can play in giving kids a better understanding of the impact that alcohol can have on their lives.
Alcohol Awareness Month Resources —NCADD has several helpful resources on its website. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) underage drinking prevention campaign, ‘Talk. They Hear You,’ has talking points and tools for coalitions, parents, and caregivers so they can start talking to their children early—as early as 9 years old—about the dangers of alcohol.
The Alcohol Action Network (AAN) is a project of the American Public Health Association and is a nationwide network of alcohol prevention practitioners and researchers engaging in alcohol policy issues in their states or local communities. AAN was initially established to address the shifting alcohol policy landscape at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to bring prevention specialists together to address policy issues as they arise.
I grew up in South Dakota with the awareness that Sioux Native-Americans were a seen and unseen part of life. A friend, Don Coyhis, is a recognized leader and mentor of the Sioux Nation. He posted the following:
Thinking positive thoughts will flush out negative thoughts. There is not enough room for both. When we do have both, there is an internal argument with ourselves until we decide which one should go. There is only room for one. We change ourselves by being convinced, which means “to be persuaded by argument or evidence. – Don Coyhis
Look forward to becoming a positive thinker and using language that supports others in recovery whether from alcohol or other substances.
You may be surprised when your friends become a “flusher” of negative thoughts too.
Merlyn Karst, Recovery Ambassador
MEET MERLYN! A LEGEND AMONG US.
Good Afternoon. Thank you for your virtual presence. I am, virtually and otherwise, Merlyn Karst, a person in long-term recovery, as a result, I haven’t found it necessary to take a drink of alcohol for 22 years, my only drug of choice. My standard answer to how much did you drink is—just enough—until it wasn’t.
I found that alcohol is out to kill us, but first wants to get us alone. I retired early and went from corporate executive to consultant while paying the consequences of DUI’s through Nancy Clark’s Alternative Sentencing Program. No jail time and the positive experience led me to stay with the program as administrator for several years. Time in our Recovery Centers, instead of jail, saved lives, families, and productive careers. In sustained recovery, I have had a full and healthy life and have accumulated 88 years of lived experience. After 27 years in Orange County, my wife and I relocated to Denver, Colorado. I immediately pursued activities in the justice system and the agencies serving the recovery community. It led to a meeting in St Paul, Minnesota in 2001. The meeting centered around the fact that by our silence, we let others define us. We needed to put a face and a voice on recovery. With respect for anonymity and its role in recovery, we set forth to develop a language, an identity, and a message so that individuals in recovery could stand up, stand out, speak out, and be proud about their reality of their recovery. Faces and Voices of Recovery was born. It birthed a movement that is now national and international. We adjourned the meeting with the words, from our movement’s leader, Bill White. Let’s go make some history—and so we have and so we are.
I was privileged to be its board chair for the first six years. At the same time, we started the RCO, Advocates for Recovery-Colorado. We featured advocacy and peer supported services and training. We assisted in bringing the Betty Ford Children’s Program to Denver. I learned very quickly the value of an executive director to the growth and success of a national and/or recovery community organization. I praise and appreciate Pat, Patty, Tonya, and now Donella. A few months ago, we moved back to California and Orange County from Denver. Denver was the birthplace of an organization many of you know as The Phoenix, now growing nationally and internationally. Besides renewing a relationship with Nancy and Alternative Sentencing Programs, I made contact with Lauren Deperine, the Director of The Phoenix in Orange County and San Diego. Through Lauren, I was introduced to Donella Cecrle, and through her, Janie Tsao. Our common interest was the development of a Recovery Community Organization (RCO) that could serve the needs and interests of a variety of those principally involved in Substance Use Disorders (SUD). We want to be a catalyst for expanding peer specialist training and support, with an eye to providing career path opportunities. Though Donella, Janie, and I have not physically met until this week, (from 6 feet) The 3 of us have contributed to the ZOOM Boom through countless virtual meetings and attended several trainings and conferences. Following the work of Donella and several others, we are together today to share progress in the development of our new RCO, The Purpose of Recovery. We invite you to be a part of our purpose and promise as we become a collective of the purpose and promise of recovery for all. As our logo portrays, our heart is truly in it. We must always remember, they won’t care about what we know until they know that we care.
Merlyn Karst, Recovery Ambassador