Do you have a problem with alcohol or drug use? 

On the occasion of Drug Awareness Week I would like to offer you some information and questions that may help you eventually take better care of your life.

Recently I went back to my hometown, where we spent some "happy hours" in a local bar. We discussed the world over a glass of wine. It was fun. However, my visit left me with a feeling of sadness: the local bar was the same, filled with young people, and some old friends, still discussing the world and still drinking (probably way more than before.) They have not moved on with life; they seem to have stayed stuck in old times and old habits.

Yes, drinking and using drugs is a habit for countless people. Is it one for you? How do you know whether you're drinking and using just "for fun," or whether you "have" to use because you have developed a dependency?

Drug and alcohol dependency and addiction are developed through use over time. The younger you started, the more you used, the faster you may have developed problems. Adolescents get addicted more quickly than adults do because their bodies are still growing. Brain cells killed by alcohol are not replaced. It takes an adult five to 15 years to develop a physical addiction to alcohol. It takes an adolescent six months to two years to become addicted to alcohol!

So why do some individuals move from substance use to substance abuse? The answer is complex: Drugs may offer temporary relief from stress such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, pain from childhood problems, difficult relationships with a partner and children, problems at work... you name it. If drugs are used regularly in order to "push down" unpleasant feelings, substance abuse may develop. Drugs do not help people to learn how to deal with their problems (so they stay the same), and drugs may eventually create a range of additional problems, in addition to the ones you wanted to get rid of in the first place. And drug and alcohol abuse lead to physical deterioration and illness. The good news is: it is never too late!

You may want to take an honest look at yourself and check whether your "happy hours" may also serve you to forget and numb uncomfortable feelings. If so, it's great that you can actually acknowledge it, because then you can do something about it.

You have a free A&D counselling service in Whistler and in Pemberton where you may call to ask your questions. In the counselling process you will learn specific skills to reduce or stop using, you will heal some of the pains and learn how to deal with life's challenges, so you won't need mood altering substances to feel good. Many people who went through this process are saying it was a life-changing experience for them.

Also, everyone is welcome to attend a group session on the topic of substance abuse at the Sea to Sky A&D office in Whistler, 23-1212 Alpha Lake Road in Function Junction, Monday, Dec. 3 from 6-7 p.m. and in Pemberton, 1357 Aster St., on Thursday, Dec. 6, from 7:30-8:30 p.m.

Marlise Witschi, M.Psy,

A&D Counsellor

Sea to Sky Community Services Society

Whistler office: 604-932-3312

Pemberton office: 604-894-6101

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