Letter: Rehashing past tragedies in Barrington won't solve problem

To the editor: If the statements Kathy Sullivan made in the “Underage drinking – Barrington residents need to be ‘re-reminded’ of tragedies” are a testament to how she believes substance abuse is prevented, we are in trouble. Substance abuse prevention isn’t about rehashing past tragedies. It is about breaking through denial, acknowledging the facts of the behavior and the incidents, and dealing with them effectively. Bruce Becker, the Barrington resident charged with hosting an underage drinking party at his home, is not only is a physician, he is an emergency medical doctor who teaches emergency medicine. What is Ms. Sullivan suggesting? That Dr. Becker is unaware of any alcohol-related injuries or fatalities in emergency rooms? Furthermore, yelling at the kids to run because the police are there does not indicate Mr. Becker lacks awareness of where the law stands on underage drinking. What in Mr. Becker’s profession, training, or statements gave Ms. Sullivan the impression that he “needs” to be reminded? Al-Anon, the 12-step program for families and friends of alcoholics, has existed since 1951. Alateen, which is for teens, started in 1957. Both are available for anyone affected by somebody else’s drinking. In its 2003 survey, Al-Anon estimated that Al-Anon and Alateen have over 26,000 groups worldwide with more than 600,000 members. That is an abundance of first-hand knowledge and experience of what it takes to effectively deal with attitudes about drinking. Nothing would please Al-Anon or Alateen members more than knowing they helped prevent someone from becoming a problem drinker. Al-Anon strives to mitigate or prevent suffering caused by the many consequences of drinking. Alateen has been tremendously successful with preventing its members from falling into problem drinking or alcoholism themselves either as teens or adults. What exactly does Ms. Sullivan think Al-Anon and Alateen do? Al-Anon and Alateen teach that alcoholism is a two-person disease — for every problem drinker there is always at least one enabler. Al-Anon and Alateen members learn how their behavior inadvertently contributes to problem drinking. Al-Anon and Alateen refuse to enable unacceptable drinking by 1.) not making excuses for it, 2.) permitting the drinker to take responsibility for his or her actions, and 3.) not assuming that the drinkers are incapable of knowing right from wrong and “need” well-meaning caretakers to point their errors. The police, the law, and the boards governing Dr. Becker ensure that this underage drinking incident will be dealt with according to what is ultimately determined. Ms. Sullivan “guesses” that more education is needed. She might start with herself by actually joining Al-Anon and learning about Alateen. It sounds like they can teach her a few things. Marcia M. Weeden


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