People will change the world for the better.

My desire to aid social problems has evolved over time, and has taken form through the various populations I have had the privilege to work with.  It is important to me to understand and support the intricacies that make people who they are, while keeping a big picture in mind based on individuals’ quality of life and the skills for sustainability.  Most currently I have found myself engaged in the social problem of alcohol influence on young adults.  Last year I was approached by my partner and asked if I would quit drinking.  I belong to a family of alcoholics: father, mother, and sister.  Her blunt honestly and a reflection of my drinking habits over the past 12 years influenced my decision to stop drinking and to stay sober.  I have been sober ever since that conversation with the support of individuals and community programs.  Since this experience I have been more aware of social factors that have tremendous pressures on individuals to drink heavily.  In doing so these individuals create a strain on their immediate connections and cause a negative influence on public health: injuries, violence, liver diseases, and cancer.

Societal contributions to this problem include but are not limited to early life stress, availability of product, peer pressures among social groups, and influence by mass media.  More and more young adults are being told that what their doing is not good enough.  Their performances at school, work, sports, peer relationships, and family relationships are being discredited.  As a teacher I was told to always set high expectations.  While I agree with this statement as a general philosophy I believe that we forget that these expectations must be differentiated and that everyone doesn’t need to reach mastery in all subjects and performances.  These unreasonable standards are causing young adults to stress more.  Individuals can find a quick fix to this stress in alcohol, and alcohol can be found just about anywhere.  I see at least 5 advertisements on my two-mile walk to work.  I see it in every commercial break.  There isn’t a time I don’t see someone at the beach drinking it, and I haven’t ever performed a beach clean up without picking up at least one bottle.  Payton Manning, NFL quarterback and 2016 Super Bowl winner said in his postgame celebration that he will be going home to kiss his wife and kids and “drink a lot of Budweiser tonight.”  Additional pressures are formulated at the peer level as well.  The majority of teens doesn’t leave high school without at least trying alcohol, and are later expected to have the, “college experience.”  Co-workers encourage decompression meetings at a bar for “happy hour.”  A date should involve “taking someone out for drinks.”  An intellectual discussion should be “talked over a beer.”  Societal contributions are encouraging abusive drinking behaviors everyday.  The language we use and the philosophies that we live by are adding both passive and aggressive pressures on young adults throughout the United States.

I believe that a culture is changed through the individual.  Tools like education, recovery programs, and self-acceptance help an individual in their recovery process.  Education has moved into schools and professional settings, but could continue its course into homes as well.  Parents, partners, and friends should be aware of codependency habits, healthy drinking boundaries, and strategies on approaching excessive alcohol use.  New takes on recovery programs might start a movement towards positive public health.  While recovery program exist in most places, ideas of rites of passage and wilderness therapy could increase attendance.  Finally self-acceptance is a key tool that connects one’s quality of life to a sustainable future.  A young adult’s self-identity creates a story for the individual who then can then influence the culture that they are a part of.  I feel that if each of these tools can be utilized than an individual’s quality of life will improve.  I trust that the supports that surround them will sustain their positive wellbeing.  I believe that they will affect another human being and support them in their recovery process.  Therefore increasing education and awareness while decreasing the amount of individual substance abuse, communal pressures, and negative public heath issues.

My late 12-step mentor once told me, “Caleb, if we can change one person’s life for the better then we have accomplished our role in life.  We were put here on this planet to help each other.”  While I do not fully agree with the absolute message from the old-timer, his voice has rattled around in my brain for the last eleven years.  I am motivated to spend the rest of my life helping people.  I am motivated to spend the rest of my life accepting help from others.  I once had a student approach me, look me in the eyes, and said “I need help.”  After a long conversation the same student told me, “You have changed my life.”  I didn’t tell her then, but I was thinking the same.  I intend to help people. People will change the world for the better.