It’s the kind of thing you see at family gatherings, barbecues, parties, celebrations and holidays. You might not be thinking about the dangers involved because you’re probably thinking about taking a breather and just enjoying the moment. For some people enjoying that moment becomes a powerful addiction that can destroy not only their life, but the lives of others.
Recently the community lost an individual who many knew. She touched several people and while anyone will tell you she was friendly, kind and the life of the party, they will also tell you she suffered a terrible addiction that cost her life in the end. Cindy Spencer suffered an addiction to alcohol. Her mother Delores Matuska said that her four children lost a mother this year, but the addiction cost them many years and sorrows.
Matuska said that the family rallied around Spencer until the last few years, when everyone seemed to give up hope and got tired of the addiction. Her liver finally gave out as she passed away close to a month ago. The family luckily was given a few extra weeks to get to her and make amends with the woman they loved, who harbored a dark side. She had a great sense of humor but the alcohol made her throw it all away.
Like many others who find themselves in an addiction, she gave up time with her children, she gave up on herself and would lash out and blame others for her problem. Matuska said that she hopes that her daughter’s story can be light to a bigger problem lurking in the community. She said that they tried to get her help multiple times but without her willingly ready to take that step she failed. She also explained that she was the daughter to a father who suffered the same problem.
In both instances she came to realize that it wasn’t that her loved ones didn’t love her, it was that the addiction was stronger than any bond of love. Matuska posed a question, what do you do for loved ones who just don’t want help? There is some help in our rural area. Eastern Montana Community Health Center has people to help with interventions. They have classes on relapse prevention, early recover and family education classes for those, like Matuska, who are looking for a way to support someone who is suffering from an addiction. There are also several group that meet in town at different times, many of them are listed in our coming events calendar.
Let's take this question a step further and talk about prevention. A dialogue in the community needs to take place. People need to realize that there is indeed a problem. Kids start younger here, people brush off that extra beer and chalk it up to having a good time, instead of calling it what it is, binge drinking.
In Montana, alcohol has touched or cost everyone something. A study released claims that alcohol abuse in the state costs $510.6 million, or 1.7 percent of the total state economy on alcohol problems. That includes medical care, treatment, disease and poisoning deaths, morbidity and crime. Imagine how many incidents go into that figure. What’s even more disturbing is that $200.6 million of that goes to disease and poisoning deaths alone.
Montana has the highest rate among other states with children, ages 12-17, using illicit drugs and marijuana in the last month. Alcohol use and binge alcohol use and having more than five drinks of an alcoholic beverage once or twice a week, ages 12-25, are included.
The state is also one of the highest driving while under the influence (DUI) problems in the nation. Sheriff Glen Meier said that he’s had 33 fatalities as sheriff since 2003, 23 of those fatalities were alcohol related. The county in the last year, December 2012-13, had 43 DUIs, that more than doubled from the previous year, which only had 20.
In the city of Glasgow from December 2012-13 there were 25 minors in possession arrests and 14 DUIs – and five of those DUIs had a blood alcohol level greater than .08 percent. Glasgow Police Chief Bruce Barstad said that sometimes domestic violence situations are related to alcohol events as well.
If Spencer’s story and the numbers aren’t enough to convince you there’s a problem with alcohol in the area, know that Myles Kittleson, of Glasgow, only 22 years old, was sentenced last month to 20 years in prison, 16 years suspended, for a DUI accident that killed his friend and roommate. He paralyzed another victim in the accident and severely injured a second person, adding more time to his jail sentence. A young kid who has to suffer severe consequences and lose his future. Something that maybe some extra dialogue could have prevented. How did he not know the sever consequences that could happen buy picking up the keys after drinking?
Parents, friends, families and neighbors, it’s time to freeze the keys. It’s time to realize that binge drinking can kill. It’s time to step up and become an advocate for those in need. I once interviewed a man who suffered a 23-year addiction to meth and alcohol. That man went in and out of treatment, went in and out of jail, and suffered the loss of more than one marriage. Once he had his epiphany he was able to turn his life around. He graduated college, became a youth minister and a counselor for others who suffered powerful addictions. He gave me hope that sometimes it’s never to late.
In Spencer’s case, it was too late. The addiction took away her life. The only way to prevent people like Spencer from slipping through the cracks is there has to be an awareness. People have to pay attention. If you don’t think there’s a problem, you’re still not convinced that alcohol doesn’t have an impact in your life, start asking questions. You might be surprised to find the answer.