I liked the tidy optimism in a headline in my Arkansas Democrat Gazette this morning. “2 DWI offenders finish sober program” it said.
It reminded me that we can do a lot to reduce alcohol and other drug abuse problems with small programs in individual communities, and not a big nationwide “War on drugs,” a war we are losing.
The dealers, let’s face it, are too resourceful, the drugs are too powerful and fences and physical walls can be breached. Our best option is to focus more on drying up the demand in individual communities led by residents who have the heart for it.
We should, of course, do what we can to interrupt the supply, but we must focus more on reducing the demand for drugs with local programs.
The program described in my morning paper by reporter Eric Besson is a good example. Here’s what it said in part:
“Two men convicted of driving while drunk multiple times heaped praise Tuesday on a Pulaski County court diversion program for helping them avoid alcohol for several months.”
“’I never knew I would be able to live without it’ said Wardell Robinson, 42, whose daily liquid diet consisted of beer and cognac before he was arrested last year for his second DWI.
“As the first two people to finish the new year-long program, Robinson and 36 year old Forta Jones ate cake and drank punch in Pulaski County District Court judge Wayne Gruber’s courtroom.
Gruber’s sobriety court, which was launched in August 2016, is one of 12 in Arkansas and 726 across the country. People with multiple DWI offenses or whose blood alcohol content was more than four times the legal limit of 0.08 percent in a first offense, are eligible for the program.
“At least 160 Arkansas participated in sobriety court programs between May 1 and September 1 of this year said Bettina Toth, research analyst for the Arkansas Administrative Office of the courts. Thirty three people graduated and nine people left the programs in that span, Toth said.”
“Of 470 people killed in Arkansas crashes in 2014, 206 or 44 % died in wrecks where one of the drivers was determined to be impaired by alcohol or drugs according to the most recent Arkansas State police data.
“Independence County District judge Chaney Taylor created Arkansas’ first sobriety court in Batesville in 2009. Other Sobriety Courts are in Arkadelphia, Benton. Bentonville, Conway, Harrison, Hot Springs, Jonesboro, Pine Bluff, Sherwood and Van Buren.
“To graduate participants must complete each phase of the program, maintain sobriety for at least 120 consecutive days and have a support system in place to help them remain sober.
One day at a time
“It works, but you’ve got to want it to work, and you’ve got to take in one day at a time. If you don’t drink today, do it again the next day and do it again the next day. Before you know it, once you’ve stopped for so long you don’t have a desire for it.”
There are lots of DWI offenders who need help. More than 2 million people in the United States have been convicted of DWI at least three times, according to the National Center for DWI Courts, a Virginia group that advocates for sobriety courts.
Last year, former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy issued a report on drugs and health by. He said, in part:
“I am proud to release The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. As the first ever Surgeon General’s Report on this important topic, this Report aims to shift the way our society thinks about substance misuse and substance use disorders while defining actions we can take to prevent and treat these conditions.
“Alcohol and drug misuse and related disorders are major public health challenges that are taking an enormous toll on individuals, families, and society. Neighborhoods and communities as a whole are also suffering as a result of alcohol- and drug-related crime and violence, abuse and neglect of children, and the increased costs of health care associated with substance misuse.
“It is estimated that the yearly economic impact of substance misuse and substance use disorders is $249 billion for alcohol misuse and alcohol use disorders and $193 billion for illicit drug use and drug use disorders.
No single solution
“I recognize there is no single solution. We need more policies and programs that increase access to proven treatment modalities. We need to invest more in expanding the scientific evidence base for prevention, treatment, and recovery.
“We also need a cultural shift in how we think about addiction. For far too long, too many in our country have viewed addiction as a moral failing. This unfortunate stigma has created an added burden of shame that has made people with substance use disorders less likely to come forward and seek help.
“It has also made it more challenging to marshal the necessary investments in prevention and treatment. We must help everyone see that addiction is not a character flaw – it is a chronic illness that we must approach with the same skill and compassion with which we approach heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.”
Our company, One Day at a Time sells sobriety. It’s a great product. It lengthens lives, helps restore families, saves money, adds friends and much more.
And, if you are living sober, your future is much brighter. The odds are that you will keep your job, your family and your friends and be better able to handle adversities that will inevitably intrude. And it’s “one day at a time.” Don’t underestimate the power of that simple phrase.
We have a lot going for us. First of all, we Americans tend to be entrepreneurs, impatient with those who tell us we can’t do something. It’s a great motivator for our kind.
Also, among our key resources, there are two programs—AA and Alanon–that are available in most American cities. They are free, faith-based, and they work. Millions have sobered up because of AA since it was founded 82 years ago.
Individual churches and other Christian organizations like the Salvation Army and Union Rescue mission and the longer term, Teen Challenge, have also responded to the need and are growing in number.
As a nation, we are temperamentally suited to tackling difficult assignments. But remember, it’s one day at a time.