Zipper Stripes

"When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading"
-Henny Youngman.

With the closing of another holiday season and the beginning of a new year, many are ready to make changes and resolutions. What are you resolved to change? While a glass of red wine at dinner has shown some potential health benefits, alcohol abuse can destroy individuals, families, careers, reputations and lives. Often the most successful people pursue a self-destructive path of alcohol or drug abuse. Work stress, unmet expectations, loneliness or guilt are assuaged with another drink until abuse becomes habitual. Social pressure to be "part of the crowd" can also result in drinking to excess.

The social effects of alcohol abuse can be immediate and life threatening. Alcohol consumption reduces self-control and can cause people to say and do things that cause pain and regret. In the work setting, coworkers can be harassed or abused, bosses offended and clients lost. At home, excessive consumption can result in failed marriages, domestic violence or child abuse. Drunken driving in the best case leads to arrest and jail, and, in the worst case, destruction and death.

                                   For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty.
                                                                 Proverbs 23:21


In the Navy, several divisions that I led had enlisted men with alcohol abuse issues. These men would perform well for a period and get promoted to the next rank, which would earn them an additional stripe in rank. Invariably, they would go on a binge, get into trouble, be disciplined and lose a stripe. The cycle would repeat. We used the expression "zipper stripes," telling them they should put their stripes on with a zipper so they could add and remove them more easily.

If you suspect you may be an alcoholic, get professional help from a doctor. If you have a predilection towards alcohol abuse, consider the following:
• Go "cold turkey" and don't drink any alcohol. Many people do not drink at all today for        various reasons—to prevent weight gain, for religious beliefs, to save money, or because      they get a headache or don't like the taste. It is culturally acceptable to say no and you          should not feel you have to drink to fit in.
• Don't hang out with people who drink. You will emulate your friends, and if they drink        (particularly in excess), you will too.
• Get a friend (preferably not your spouse) to hold you accountable. Tell your friend you        need their help, and ask them to quiz you (and your spouse) on a weekly basis about your    alcohol use. It's better to have a friend do this than your spouse, as your spouse can come    across as nagging.
• Write down your commitment to not drink, and then list all the benefits (how much              money you will save, better you will feel, problems you'll prevent). When you feel the            urge to have a drink, pull out your written commitment and benefits.

Moderation in all things, especially alcohol, leads to a positive, healthy, surpassing life.

Action Points
• Don't succumb to social pressure—drink alcohol in moderation or not at all.
• Monitor how much you drink and have someone hold you accountable.
• If you have an alcohol problem, get help.
• If your friends drink to excess, get new friends.
• Put your commitment to not drink in writing and carry it with you.

Payoff
Better health, no alcohol-related accidents or liability, no regrets!

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