I do a great deal of research as part of my blog writing. I watch the national and local news to help guide me in addressing current issues. Most of us have heard the phrase: “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” What that phrase conveys to me is that only until a problem or issue becomes big or loud enough to gain one’s attention does it get addressed. The reason I mention this is because as I was researching on substance abuse through one of our local TV stations I noticed that the last time an article was written for substance abuse was in 2011.
One of the challenges of being in the field of Prevention is that as a society we are used to taking action only when a problem has become so massive that it cannot be ignored. Most funders are focused on treatment, and prevention is overlooked. (“It is difficult to prove that you prevented someone from using/abusing a substance of abuse.”) This is a mindset that limits us.
To understand the benefits of prevention we have to be real with ourselves. In all aspects of our lives if we were actively practicing prevention we would be a much happier, safer and productive society. Everything that we do is interconnected, so when we don’t make healthy choices for ourselves a domino affect happens. When people are not happy, when they are overworked and stressed, we make poor choices, either we eat out more, eating one meal which has enough calories for a full, active day, or we choose quick, fast pre-packaged meals that are also high in calories and with little to no nutritional value at all. Just because we are eating does not mean that our bodies are getting the nutrients and minerals that they need. Our bodies signal that it is still hungry and despite having eaten a full meal, and we find ourselves eating even more. This leads to obesity, then it leads to dissatisfaction with our body image, low self-esteem, etc.
One bad choice becomes a series of bad choices over a lifetime. What does this have to do with substance abuse? People who are happy and fulfilled in all areas of their lives (career, relationships, and in their mental, spiritual, physical and emotional health) do not need alcohol or drugs. They are in control of their lives, they take care of themselves and whether they realize it or not, that is prevention. They make more healthy choices across all areas of their lives. Prevention is not about NOT doing something; it is about MAKING the right choices not just for today, but for tomorrow. Prevention requires that we teach ourselves and our children to be critical thinkers, which we move beyond instant gratification to instead planning for long-term gratification.
Start today by making wise choices, take inventory of the areas in your life where you are not fulfilled or satisfied and create a plan for change. A wake up call for my family, several years ago, is when we ordered pizza from a local pizza place and were jokingly told that we had acquired platinum status because we were ordering pizzas on an all-too regular basis. Combating substance abuse in our society is the battle, making wise decisions for your future health is the war. Begin by asking yourself what your current lifestyle habits today will look 1, 5, even 10 years down the road.