Sober October: A Time to Evaluate Your Relationship with Alcohol

Sober October began in 2014 as a fundraising campaign for Macmillan Cancer Support, a U.K.-based charity that provides support to people living with cancer. The campaign’s primary goal was to raise money—but the movement also emphasized the importance of considering your relationship with alcohol.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), emergency room visits related to alcohol have increased in recent years—with an average of 18.5 percent of visits now related to alcohol. Plus, alcoholism is the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States—with approximately 95,000 people annually dying from alcohol related causes.

These sobering statistics help to explain why observances such as Sober October have become global movements dedicated to reducing or completely abstaining from alcohol for 31 days.

Coming To Terms With Addiction

Though Joette Carroll, AS, CRS, is familiar with National Alcohol & Drug Addiction Recovery Month that is celebrated every September, she didn’t know much about Sober October. After learning more about the monthly observance, Jo says she “likes the concept of ‘dry’ months because they offer a great way for individuals to gain awareness of their relationship with alcohol.”

Having experienced addiction herself and now helping others experiencing similar struggles as a Lead Certified Recovery Specialist with our community partner Gateway Rehab, Jo knows first-hand the impact of substance abuse disorder and how to manage it. She believes in living sober rather than getting sober because recovery is a lifelong battle.

“Growing up, I didn’t know my father was an alcoholic. He became sober before I was born,” says Jo. “He was living sober and alcohol wasn’t readily available in our home, so I learned the hard way as I got older that I had the ‘gene’ and was more susceptible to alcohol use disorder.”

Finding Purpose In Addiction Recovery

Going through what she has gone through helped Jo find her purpose in life. After getting help and beginning to live sober, Jo wanted to help others experiencing addiction because she knew she could break down barriers that have historically existed. Knowing that she can have a positive impact on others as a Certified Recovery Specialist, she feels good when leaving St. Clair Hospital after her shift.

“Anyone who works as a Certified Recovery Specialist through Gateway Rehab is in long-term recovery. That’s the only way those of us in the role can meet people we’re there at,” Jo explains. “It helps to break down that barrier and take away the fear because they know I won’t judge them. In fact, I often see people physically relax when I introduce myself and share my story.”

Once St. Clair Health stabilizes patients who are in emergency medical distress, Certified Recovery Specialists like Jo speak with patients to ensure they receive appropriate treatment. They can coordinate transportation from the hospital to a Gateway Rehab facility or arrange for a smooth transition into medication-assisted treatment (MAT), counseling, and any other service that is needed for the patient at the time.

Because of their personal struggles with addiction and training, Certified Recovery Specialists have a way of getting through to patients. Plus, Jo feels it gives patients hope to see “what happens once you work through the hard part and are now just managing the disease during long-term recovery.”

Knowing When It’s Time To Get Help

According to Jo, “Alcoholism is looked upon so differently than drug addiction because it’s more socially acceptable to drink. It’s usually more difficult for someone to recognize they may have a problem with alcohol because it’s so common to drink in America.”

She describes alcoholism as a silent killer. When you’re addicted to drugs, you or your loved ones will often see an external change. But by the time you realize you’re killing yourself with alcohol, it may already be too late to treat the disease.

If you’re wondering whether your drinking has reached a level beyond moderate or may be causing harm to your health, think back on the past year for any signs. Some signs of alcoholism are more recognizable than others and can include:

  • Choosing to drink over performing your day-to-day responsibilities
  • Drinking in private or isolating from others
  • Recurring DUIs or car accidents
  • Physical concerns such as jaundice or liver disease
  • Blackouts or short-term memory loss
  • Irritability or mood swings
  • Not being able to function without alcohol

If any of these signs seem familiar, it may be time to try out a “dry” month like Sober October, make some changes or seek out help. Jo and her fellow Certified Recovery Specialists based at St. Clair Hospital are ready to provide help and treat all patients with the respect and compassion they deserve.

Having Certified Recovery Specialists like Jo at the Hospital has enabled St. Clair Health to engage with more than 1,200 patients—with a third of them entering into treatment—since establishing the partnership with Gateway Rehab. And we will continue to deliver proven and personalized services to many more Pittsburghers struggling with addictive diseases for decades to come.