Beer bottles, bars: The fine line of a good time

Always drink responsibly. April is Alcohol Awareness Month; the Air Force has also designated December as Responsible Alcohol Use Month. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Kristen Sauls)

Always drink responsibly. April is Alcohol Awareness Month; the Air Force has also designated December as Responsible Alcohol Use Month. (U.S. Air Force graphic/Senior Airman Kristen Sauls)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas-- -- The sound of the doorbell rang throughout the house like a ceremonial gong. As Linda opened the front door, she was coated in a fine layer of overripe apple and gunpowder, unwittingly falling prey to an American pastime; the April Fool's joke.

Humor is an important part of modern society, providing a release for the stressed and an outlet for expression. Laughter and enjoyment are just a few terms associated with humor, often snuggled right up next to one more infamous word: drunk. While humor may hold a special place in American's hearts, alcohol reserves a sizeable spot in their refrigerators.

While April is home to fools, jokesters, pranksters and often the Easter bunny, it also represents Alcohol Awareness Month and provides the unique opportunity for different organizations to collaborate toward healthier pastimes.

Modern society has come to terms with the fact that alcohol isn't going anywhere soon. It is found in nature, distilleries, kitchens and even research laboratories. It provides flavor for food, fuel for vehicles, sterilization for hospital equipment and often a sense of camaraderie and lighthearted fun for friends and family alike.

Alcohol has been a windfall to many areas of modern living; but just as with anything beneficial, it has the potential for harm through misuse and abuse.

In a nation where strict laws and regulations are set in place regarding drinking, consequences for disobedience or lack of foresight can become costly and troublesome. Unfortunately, rules are continually disregarded and careers and lives are constantly put in jeopardy in the pursuit of the elusive "night to remember."

There are approximately 3,000 active duty servicemembers from all branches of the military stationed here, yet last year alone, more than 45 incidents were referred to the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment clinic for underage drinking. During that same time period, 12 incidents were referred for driving under the influence, six for public intoxication or drunk and disorderly conduct and 10 for duty related alcoholic incidents. In all, 2010 saw more than 105 referrals made to ADAPT for drug or alcohol related incidents regarding active duty members.

Besides loss of pay, potential separation and extra duty, nearly every one of these servicemembers also shared exhilarating experience of the being in the "hot seat," placed in front of the polished desk of their commanders.

Commanders are put in charge of a unit to provide support. They are there to increase unit efficiency and to provide guidance for unit leadership to ensure mission success.

Having a servicemember within that unit get arrested for public intoxication or injured while drunk driving adds strain to the rest of the unit and impairs the mission. Such actions leave commanders with little choice. They must take action to ensure the mission is not affected again.

A servicemember who participates in such actives is likely to receive an Article 15 or even be discharged. While the past cannot be changed, future careers can be spared through prevention and a little planning.

Alcohol Awareness Month is just one tool used to educate people on the dangers of unhealthy or risky drinking. Before drinking alcohol step back and ask yourself a few simple questions: "Do others criticize my drinking?" "How much time and money am I spending getting alcohol?" "Have I noticed any decrease in health or physical ability because of my drinking?" and "Is drinking starting to affect my work or family life?" If you answered yes to any of these questions, consider visiting the ADAPT clinic as a self referral. Fixing the problem before it becomes a major issue can save yourself and your career.

Throughout the month of April, keep your eyes and ears open for on and off base activities. The ADAPT and Drug Demand Reduction staffs are scheduled to conduct brief screening assessments of alcohol use and provid educational information about the effects of alcohol and responsible drinking habits at the Base Exchange and Sunset Mall throughout the month. Servicemembers who complete this voluntary survey will also receive a token gift from the ADAPT and DDR staffs. Event dates and times are:

· April 13 at the BX from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
· April 22 at the Sunset Mall from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
· April 27 at the BX from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Remember, you will never see a bottle of beer get a DUI. Alcohol is not responsible for your career or life; you are.