April marks Alcohol Awareness Month, an annual effort to raise awareness about the dangers of abusing alcohol.
“Alcohol and addiction are very important topics; however, I don’t think we are taught much about it. I never really knew our campus offered programs and counseling towards it, and I think more people need to realize there is help available,” said sophomore Isabella Mazzucco.
A big part of alcohol awareness is to educate individuals about the signs of a drinking problem and the effects that come with it.
“I would define a drinking problem when a student’s alcohol use is putting their own safety and/or the safety of others at risk, and when the drinking begins to interfere with one’s ability to function in their daily life,” said Jeffrey Labella, University Counselor and Alcohol & Substances Services Coordinator.
As part of alcohol awareness month, Sacred Heart provides various programs that help students who may be suffering from alcohol addiction. One of which is through the University’s Counselor and Alcohol & Substances services, which takes place both on and off-campus.
The Collegiate Recovery Program offers virtual recovery meetings every Wednesday at 2 p.m. on Zoom in addition to 12-step meetings on Monday evenings at 7 p.m. in the Main Academic Building.
“Everyone is welcome. This meeting is great for anyone interested in substance use recovery, and those in recovery as well,” said Labella.
“James Cafran, the Recovery Coordinator for Collegiate Recovery Program, oversees these programs,” said Labella. “In addition, students who are questioning their alcohol use, or struggling with alcohol use challenges are welcome to reach out to myself or James Cafran and make an appointment for guidance.”
There are also programs offered off-campus for those who are interested including weekly Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings in the community. If there are students in recovery seeking these supports or questioning their alcohol use, they should visit www.ct-aa.org to find a local meeting.
“If a student requires more intensive help than weekly meetings, individual counseling, outpatient and inpatient services are available based on individual need,” said Labella.
Additionally, if a student is looking for referrals to treatment, they can find more information on the CT Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) website.
While it is very important to know how to seek help if needed, it is also good to know more about addiction and how it can happen.
“Genetics account for up to 60% of risk factors for alcohol addiction in studies,” said Dr. Kerry Millner, professor in the Doctor of Nursing Practice and an expert on addiction.
According to research used by Millner, excessive alcohol consumption is common amongst individuals of various ethnicities and is a component of both young and older people’s lifestyles.
“There are certainly SHU students who fall into the category of having drinking problems, but this is not a problem unique to this University,” said Labella. “I think this is a problem affecting most universities in the country, and it is a problem that many are working hard to find effective solutions to.”
In addition to the Collegiate Recovery Program, there is also s.w.e.e.t., a student branch of the Wellness Center that serves as a support center and will answer any questions students may have regarding topics such as resources for mental health and education on alcohol, sleep and therapy/therapy dogs.
“Students who may be suffering from an alcohol addiction could benefit from education from the sweets on campus by observing how much alcohol you are actually putting in your cup and how that alcohol may be affecting your body,” said Abigail Andre, s.w.e.e.t. peer educator.
When a student shares a question or concern about their use of alcohol or any substance, s.w.e.e.t. counselors take that concern seriously.
“We have a program that we run called the BAR exam, and it is one we mostly give to freshman resident students,” said Andre. “We take them through an activity of filling a glass (they can choose from various alcohols) and guessing the amount of alcohol in it. Most students are surprised at how much they may be putting into their bodies at one time, and it is a good way to teach students how to pace themselves if they choose to drink.”
During this program, they use a website called “The Virtual Bar,” which enables the user to enter their body weight, gender, and height and influence how much alcohol/food/water they give to a virtual individual. It then calculates the person’s BAC and gives a little information on the physical effects that amount of alcohol has.
Collegiate recovery programs are beneficial for recovering alcoholics and are one of the first of many steps they may have to take to recover.
“This type of recovery does not happen overnight and starting with a program on the collegiate level is a good base program to have,” said Andre. “I think collegiate recovery programs are a great way to start immersing yourself into the path for recovery.”
Services and recovery programs are available to everyone and reaching out is encouraged.
“Recognizing the signs of alcohol misuse and receiving appropriate treatment may make a big difference in someone’s recovery. Everyone should know that help and treatments are available,” said junior Colton Nicholas.
To schedule an appointment for Alcohol or Other Drug Service, please contact the Wellness Center Counseling Services at 203-371-7955 or email Labella at email@example.com.