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In the past, alcohol awareness month would have meant nothing to me. In fact, I didn’t even know there was a month dedicated to awareness of alcohol. I didn’t care, as I didn’t think alcohol abuse or dependence would ever apply directly to my life.
But nearly four years ago, I ended up hospitalized with a blood alcohol content of .34 — a dangerously high number for someone my size. The two years leading up to this situation had been full of drinking until I couldn’t remember things, drinking until I hurt myself or someone else, drinking until I did something I regretted. But because I never drank daily, I didn’t think I had a problem with alcohol. I just figured I got too drunk sometimes like everyone does.
But not everyone got that drunk every time they drank. I did. In the months following my hospitalization, my parents put me into an outpatient alcohol treatment program. As time passed, I came to realize that I had a problem with alcohol. My relationship with it wasn’t a healthy one, and that was something I hadn’t been aware of on a conscious level prior to treatment.
For nearly four years, I have remained sober. That night in the hospital changed things for me, gave me a glimpse into the direction my life would be headed if I chose to keep drinking. Now, happily sober, alcohol awareness month has a great deal of meaning to me. Here’s why.
It’s a chance to fight the stereotype of addiction.
When I came out of the sobriety closet in June of 2013, this was why. I wanted people to know that addiction doesn’t always look like homelessness and loneliness. It doesn’t always mean jail time or legal trouble. While some who struggle with addiction definitely face these things, many don’t. Many addicts are high-functioning, meaning they still manage to carry a job, do well in school, maintain relationships, and hide their drinking fairly well. I fit into the high-functioning category, which is not the stereotypical image people have when they think of addiction. Before getting sober myself, I was guilty of stereotyping. But since getting sober, I have realized how important it is to speak out. I share my story of high-functioning alcoholism and hope that in doing so, people realize that addiction presents differently in different people.
It’s also a chance to fight the stigma of substance use.
Just as there are stereotypes surrounding what addiction looks like, there are stigmas surrounding people who struggle with substance misuse. Though this stigma is slowly dissolving, it still exists. There are people who think that because someone has a history of substance misuse, that defines them. They may think there is no way such a person could stay sober or return to living a life without a certain substance. But this is far from the truth. We do recover, and we do stay recovered. Yes, addiction will always be a part of us. But that doesn’t mean it has to define us.
It’s an opportunity for people to take a look at their own drinking habits.
In 1987, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence designated April as alcohol awareness month, in hopes that doing so would raise education and awareness of alcohol use in individuals. Though people can speak up about alcohol use and misuse any time of the year, having a month designated to doing so may make people more aware of the potential dangers of alcohol and their own relationship with it. If can be difficult to come to terms with having a drinking problem, and sometimes that extra awareness may be the push an individual needs in order to realize they are not alone and that seeking help is in their best interest.
It’s a reminder that things can always get better.
At the beginning of sobriety, it can be difficult to feel as if life will ever be enjoyable again. So much is changing, and that can be scary for many people. The unknown is unsettling and can make recovery feel daunting. But having a month dedicated to alcohol awareness means a chance for people to share their stories of recovery, something that can evoke a feeling of hope and excitement in those who are newly sober or doubting their ability to stay sober. Hearing other people’s stories of recovery can do wonders for our own.
It’s a time to reflect on the journey of recovery.
Sometimes I get so caught up in the chaos of day-to-day life that I forget I am even in recovery. Not drinking has become so normal to me that it’s not something that crosses my mind all that often, which can be dangerous. It’s important for me to revisit the reasons I got sober in the first place and to focus on the good that recovery has brought to my life. Having a month dedicated to being aware of alcohol is a good reminder that sometimes I need to stop and reflect. This can mean writing about my recovery journey, or talking about it, or simply thinking about it. This period of reflection is different for everyone, but it’s an important thing to remember to take the time to do.
This April, I encourage you to take a few moments think about alcohol and the role it plays in your life. Chances are that you may be a responsible drinking and alcohol may not be at the root of any problems in your life. But if you find yourself thinking your relationship with alcohol could be abnormal, you’re probably right. And there’s no better time than the present to start educating yourself and thinking about what you can change to improve your life.