What does alcohol mean to you?

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas-- From doing a task the first time to something done consistently for years, thinking through it and working around risks is possible, but when alcohol is added, the outcome could turn into something altogether different. (U.S. Air Force illustration/Airman 1st Class Michael Smith)

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, a time to focus on abuse prevention, awareness and rehabilitation resources. (U.S. Air Force illustration/Airman 1st Class Michael Smith)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- What is alcohol?  For some, it is the cornerstone of a good weekend or an occasional indulgence attached to special occasions and holidays. However, for some, alcohol is a problem-causing beverage linked to negative memories or used as a coping strategy.

It is interesting how a single substance can produce different responses for everyone. Since April is Alcohol Awareness Month, we will look at how drinking behaviors lead to differing results, negative and positive.

Alcohol Awareness Month is a chance to set the record straight.  It calls for time to pay attention to the facts of what alcohol is, what it is not and the consequences of its abuse. As a military community, we have seen those consequences. We have witnessed the individual who has had too much to drink as they attempt to walk around the base bar, along the sidewalks or even through the frozen food aisle at the commissary. Those folks tend to create unpleasant situations for friends trying to enjoy an evening, professionals doing their duty around base or families that are just trying to buy groceries.

It's fascinating how many people come into the Alcohol Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment program here at Goodfellow with long histories of binge drinking, but no knowledge of what alcohol actually is. In a society that counts every calorie and talks endlessly about how amazing their gluten-free diets are, are we simply forgetting to pay attention to what we drink on the weekends? Many of you can probably instantly proclaim what country this morning's coffee beans came from, but are unable to recall the alcohol content of your favorite weekend beverage. Knowing what you are consuming is an essential component of responsible drinking.

For example, one shot of liquor is equal to one standard drink. A long island iced tea contains roughly five shots of liquor per glass. If a friend goes out drinking and tells you they will only have two drinks, they very well could consume 10 standard servings of alcohol. Depending on how quickly your friend drinks those long island iced tea, he or she could reach a blood alcohol level around 0.20, putting them at more than double the 0.08 level that all 50 states consider intoxication. At that BAL, it will take approximately 20 hours until your friend is safe to drive home on their own. Unfortunately, alcohol also affects decision-making, so driving home right now may seem like a reasonable option for them. In 2013, drunk driving resulted in 10,076 deaths and approximately 290,000 injuries.

The above situation is extremely dangerous, completely preventable, and occurs too often here at Goodfellow. Alcohol Awareness Month focuses on abuse prevention, awareness and rehabilitation resources. As a military community, the time to have real conversations with those around you is now. One incident is too many. Almost all incidents are preventable and all you have to do is look out for your fellow service members.  If you have any questions regarding alcohol abuse or about the ADAPT program, please call 325-654-3122.