November 26, 2022

Drowning in a problem of society

The Associated Press story we ran Monday was a little sobering. Pun intended.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the number of deaths because of alcohol rose 30% in the country during 2021, a COVID-19 influenced year. Considering all ways a person can die from alcohol use and abuse, there were more than 52,000 deaths in 2021. That was an increase from 39,000 in 2019.

Do the simple math. That means we averaged 1,000 deaths a week last year. Towns like the size of Villisca were gone each week.

If that story and its statistics get some momentum it should get some attention like the gun-control discussion. I’ve read from other sources where alcohol-related deaths do not get the same attention as gun-related deaths. The number of drinking deaths is just as alarming, but it doesn’t happen as violent or quickly as gun-related incidents so it’s not treated as urgent.

It makes sense to me why gun violence gets the attention. If it’s not related to a car or other device, drinking deaths can be drawn out affairs. But that doesn’t make the issue any easier to understand. The CDC included deaths that were connected to various organ failure or diseases caused by continuous, excessive drinking.

I have nothing against drinking. A great phrase I’ve heard is “have two, and then you’re through” meaning no more than two during that event.

My oldest child is of legal age. My other child is close. I need to remain a good role model and provide good advice for them to have the same strategy should they willing want to consume.

Drinking goes along with virtually every other thing on the planet; it must be done in moderation. I also remember a person who had recovered for excessive drinking told me a great piece of advice. “If drinking causes a problem in your life, you have a problem with drinking.” The same person told me if excessive drinking isn’t the goal, then the person isn’t drinking.

I wasn’t the person who tried or experimented with drinking during my teenage, high school years. I knew what drinking was all about but I never had the influence strong enough to participate then. I was just too much of a nerd. A good thing about being a nerd was I was trusted enough under the circumstances. I knew others, who were older than me, who had too much to drink and called me to either safely get them home, or I was asked to take their vehicle so they wouldn’t be tempted to drive. It didn’t happen all the time, but enough for me to remember knowing I had some people’s cars for at least a Saturday or Sunday.

My stance on alcohol has been reinforced during my adult years knowing of unnecessary deaths that are linked to alcohol abuse. I also know of families that are stressed because a family member’s ongoing drinking problem.

Then there are those times where it gets sad.

Many years ago an acquaintance asked me to attend a party at a private residence. I think he asked me to go because he could sense my nerd abilities. Turned out, that was a smart move as he did ask me to drive him home.

But what happened before that is what saddened me. The host of the party paid attention long enough to notice I wasn’t drinking enough. When he thought the time was right, the host was upset at me for not drinking enough to make him happy. Knowing the condition he was in, I diplomatically tried to explain my reasons without getting defensive from watching too much football on the TV or just talking too much to others there.

It was not the first social event I had been told I wasn’t drinking enough to make them happy.

I don’t have a solution to the problem. We have seen the sad or tragic consequences of excessive drinking for decades and they still happen. As stated in the story, some have suggested raising the tax on alcohol or limiting where it can be purchased to somehow reduce the problems. I question that as people always seem to have the money to get what they want.

Maybe if we try harder to not be a certain statistic.

John Van Nostrand

JOHN VAN NOSTRAND

An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.