by Deborah Steele Hazen
Elsewhere on this page is the announcement that after 92 years of ownership by our family, we are selling The Chief. The sale will be finalized July 31, and I will write my thoughts regarding my retirement and the ending of this family legacy in the edition that goes to press that day.
In the meantime, I have been thinking about what issues I want one more poke at with this “trident.”
During my 46-year career as a professional journalist, I have received several honors and accolades. Perhaps, the ones that mean the most to me – besides the personal expressions of support and gratitude – are the two “outstanding media” awards I have received from the Oregon Education Association for my positive coverage of the local schools, and the Clark Campbell Outstanding Media Achievement Award from the Governor’s Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs for “invaluable contribution and dedication in the fight to reduce alcohol and drug abuse problems in the State of Oregon.”
Twenty-seven years ago, after about a decade during which I abused alcohol – (and marijuana, for part of that time) – I quit drinking and smoking entirely. I did so with the help of God, and the strength and determination of the man I love – my hero and my husband, who not only proved his character and his extraordinary courage in combat in Vietnam, but then fought and conquered another “cunning, baffling, powerful” enemy – alcohol.
Like many people who fall victim to addiction, I began using alcohol and marijuana socially, and then started to depend upon it to ease the emotional pain of life.
The more one uses alcohol or drugs to anesthesize that pain, to deal with stress, to drown sorrows, to take the edge off a hard day or a difficult person, the less capable one becomes of managing the problems of life without those substances. That’s the “cunning” part. It seems to help at first, but for those who are drawn too far into dependency, it ultimately has the opposite effect.
Alcohol, marijuana and other even more powerfully addictive drugs – including prescription narcotics – are mind-altering substances. They change the way we think. Therefore, they change the way we behave.
Most people who have been “under the influence” have done things – frequently harmless things – that they wouldn’t have done without that influence. But, too often, they do things they regret.
To state the obvious, alcohol and drugs also make one much more vulnerable to accidents of all kinds – car crashes, drownings, falls, fires. It is not hard to find the statistics to prove that.
Healthy relationships are impossible to have with an addicted person, and, therefore, alcohol and other substance abuse plays a huge role in social problems – failed marriages, troubled children, domestic violence, bad relationships in the workplace, law enforcement problems of many kinds.
Despite the now-disputed claims of a glass of red wine’s beneficial effects on the heart, long-term, even moderate alcohol use takes a toll on the body and is directly linked to several kinds of cancer, as well as heart disease and organ failure.
That “cunning, baffling, powerful” description of alcohol comes from the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) “Big Book.” The 12 steps of AA are a means of breaking the power of addiction and learning how to live life happily without mind-altering substances.
I quit writing about the dangers of alcohol and drugs for awhile because I sensed that it made some of my friends uncomfortable.
However, now that I am drawing near the end of my career – at least as the editor of this newspaper – I can’t help but look back on all the tragedies and controversies that I have covered which were linked to alcohol use and abuse.
I know that there are people who enjoy a glass of wine, or a beer or a shot of hard liquor – or occasionally smoke a joint – and don’t have a problem with it.
Wine culture and designer beers are fashionable and celebrated. Marijuana is being legalized. I accept these things as the reality of modern culture.
But let me ask you this:
Does every social occasion in your family or circle of friends involve alcohol?
Is a drink or a joint or a pill the first thing you turn to if you’re feeling mad or sad?
What would your reaction be if you learned that you could never have another drink in your life? If you can just shrug that off, or feel only a bit of regret – then I’m not talking about you. But, if the thought of never drinking again stirs a moment of panic, then you may be in the grip of a powerful enemy.
For those of us who have been there and come back again, it is deeply frustrating to see the pain and destruction that alcohol and substance abuse causes, and, at the same time, to witness the denial of that reality by our society in general.
In a few weeks, I won’t be the bearer of the bad tidings any more, but please, think about it.
Think about what you’re doing to yourself. Think about the example you’re setting for the younger generation. Think about all the tragedies that could have been avoided; about the loved ones who would still be with us.
Just think with a clear, unaltered mind about the reality of alcohol, drugs and addiction.