The best way to avoid a problem is to avoid the source of the problem. If you already have a problem with alcohol, Alcoholics Anonymous may be just right for you.

We live in a world fraught with addiction—to food, to shopping, to smart phone use, to gaming, to the Internet, to drugs, to alcohol … heck, even to bicycling or whatever your favorite pastime might be.

For the majority of these potential addictions, the consequences are not generally fatal, although indirectly the outcome might be (i.e. texting while driving and ending up in an automobile accident).

Still, we have to eat, shop for basic needs, communicate with others over the telephone and Internet, and, hopefully, engage in some form of positive activity for our physical and mental health.

Drugs and alcohol, however, are completely optional. In fact, simply by choosing to use, you may be taking the first step on the road to addiction. This blog will focus on alcohol use, since use and abuse of this substance is socially acceptable and, often, the user may not realize that he or she has stepped over the thin line between use and abuse.

So, before you take that first drink—or even the second, third, or fourth one--please consider the heartache, sadness, and despair that may be the outcome of your so-called “freedom” to drink.

To begin, are you predisposed to alcoholism? Do you have relatives, living or deceased, who have struggled with this disease? If you opt to take that first drink, you’re essentially pulling the trigger in a game of Russian roulette that may result in a) your death; b) your enslavement to the substance. My stepdaughter, Stephanie, chose to take that first drink many years ago, despite her mother’s repeated warnings and admonitions about drinking alcohol. Both Stephanie’s father and grandfather are alcoholics. Stephanie is dead now. Her alcoholism indirectly caused her death.

But, you say, I don’t have a family history of alcoholism. I simply drink socially to fit in with others. There’s nothing wrong with that. I can handle my alcohol. I compare alcohol use to driving a car. Even though the warning signs (i.e. Stop) may be right in front of you, do you put on the brakes or do you just keep plowing through, hoping that no one T-bones you on a cross street?

I have known a few “social drinkers” over the years. Innocently, they began with a drink or two until their drinking evolved into full-blown alcoholism. The only way to avoid a problem is to not invite it into your life in the first place.

So, you say, why shouldn’t I drink? Everybody else does. What would tailgate parties be without a few beers? Holidays wouldn’t be the same without wine and mixed drinks. Just because a group of people are headed in the wrong direction, does that mean that everyone else should follow? Alcohol use results in impaired judgment. Impaired judgment leads to poor decisions. Poor decisions usually end up in a story on the front page of the newspaper or on the evening news (or Facebook, these days). Is that really what you want?

Okay, okay, you say, so my alcohol use gets a little out of control sometimes. It’s really no big deal. What can I do about it anyway?

One simple, inexpensive solution is to attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. If you really want to get well, you don’t keep hanging out with people who choose to remain sick. Alcoholics Anonymous (aka AA) is comprised of likeminded people who want to overcome their problem with alcohol (admittedly, some must attend due to being court-ordered).

AA proved to be my deceased brother Jason’s salvation. He had a problem with alcohol that joining the US Army and being stationed in Germany only exacerbated. He found a way out through AA. He began working the 12 steps and faithfully attended meetings. He did service work and stayed sober. Even though he passed away young, at 27, he had no alcohol in his system when he died. I’m grateful for that.

If you think you might have a problem with alcohol—or other people or law enforcement has informed you that you do—now is the time to connect with AA. Just because you haven’t experienced delirium tremens yet (more on that in a future blog), doesn’t mean that you won’t one day.

If you find yourself craving a beer, mixed drink, or glass of wine, you may very well be on the road to addiction. Get yourself to a meeting, and you’ll find a better friend there than an aluminum, glass, or plastic one.

Local AA meetings are printed in the Pratt Tribune daily. One local AA group even has a contact number, 620-546-5417.  Another good resource for finding a meeting in this area is through the Central Office in Wichita, which offers a 24 hour helpline. That number is 316-684-3661, or simply visit