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|Putting down the drinks|
|Written by Alec Nielson|
|Friday, 03 April 2009 05:02|
In true Old-West style, Tombstone has a bar or saloon at every turn.
But bottles of booze and glasses of hard liquor are not without their side effects, even in the “Town too Tough to Die.”
“If you drink too much, you’re going to have some negative consequences,” said Lynn Reyes, prevention specialist at the University of Arizona’s Campus Health.
She said consequences can range from having a morning-after hangover to developing certain types of cancer.
According to Reyes, anything the alcohol touches while being digested can be affected by the substance. This includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, circulatory system, liver and so forth, she said.
“Alcohol is impacting a lot of your major functions,” Reyes said.
There is a list of criteria set to help determine whether a person is, what Reyes calls, a substance dependant.
She said substance dependants will exhibit these signs in a 12-month period:
• High tolerance of alcohol
• Withdrawal if they do not drink alcohol
• A hard time cutting down intake, and drinking larger amounts over a longer period of time than intended
• Compromised relationships and jobs.
“It shortens your life,” Reyes said, referring to the health effects of heavy drinking.
It is not necessary to be a substance abuser to get caught up in the negative consequences of drinking. Even social drinkers can drink too much, wake up with a hangover, say something they later regret or get arrested for a DUI, Reyes said.
The more a person drinks, the more negative the consequences will be, she said.
In 2008, approximately eight people were arrested for DUIs in Tombstone, and this year to date, there have been two, said Dee Jackson, dispatcher at the Tombstone Marshal’s Office.
To fight negative side effects of drinking, some Tombstone residents have turned to sobriety.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an association in which people work together to overcome struggles with alcoholism and then help others recover from the disease.
The program, which is free and non-denominational, uses 12 steps to help people become sober.
“The only desire (you need) for AA is a desire to stop drinking,” said a Tombstone resident and member of AA, Tom. His real name is being is being withheld because of AA policy to keep sources anonymous.
Meetings in Tombstone are held at the Community Congregational Church every Friday at 7 p.m. Seven to 26 members attend from Tombstone and surrounding cities, said Sally, another Tombstone resident and member of AA. Her real name is also being withheld.
And members attest that the program has changed their lives.
Sally said AA made her life 200 percent better.
She calls alcoholism an incurable disease.
“These meetings will become your medicine,” Sally said.
For some people, that medicine is life saving.
“I’d be dead if I hadn’t quit drinking,” Tom said. “It’s a fatal disease, and if you don’t do something about it you will die drunk.”
Tom attended AA meetings for what he called a miserable six years before he could quit drinking.
“Quitting drinking was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” he said. “Nothing else comes close.”
Now, Tom has been sober for 26 years.
“One day I got up in the morning and the obsession was gone,” Tom said.
Sally tells a similar story.
She has been sober for 13 years, and joined AA at the advice from her psychologist.
At the time she was in Al-Anon, a support group for family and friends of alcoholics, because she thought her husband was an alcoholic.
“My shrink said, ‘You’re the one that needs AA,’ so I went,” Sally said.
She said when she first started attending AA meetings she went to three meetings per day because at home there was a 12 pack of beer in her fridge.
“It would talk to me,” she said. “It would say, ‘Don’t you need a beer?’”
Two years later it stopped.
AA helped Sally with more than just avoiding alcohol. She said it helped her overcome anger from her childhood and guilt associated with drinking.
“I would have never been able to live with the fact of my son following my footsteps,” Sally said.
But AA helped her understand that she cannot control other people, and helped her stop blaming the world for her problems.
Sally realizes, though, that it is not easy for everyone to take the first step toward overcoming alcoholism.
“The sad thing about being a drunk is we would rather live in pain than walk into a meeting and find an easy solution,” Sally said.
“We get awfully comfortable with our misery,” he said.
Tom said he lost family (he and his son did not speak for 15 years), cars, a 110-acre farm, his ability to work and almost ended up in prison.
Once he became sober he had no trouble getting work, and now his son is living with him.
“I could walk down the street and hold my head up,” Tom said.
For Tom, the hardest part of the road to sobriety was admitting he had a problem.
“The hardest part for me was actually saying I am an alcoholic,” he said.
Sally said there are many alcoholics in Tombstone that will not attend an AA meeting.
And she knows the tolls of alcoholism.
“This disease … there is no light at the end of the tunnel when it’s active,” she said.