April brings several key areas of focus for the Navy to the forefront, and among those topics is alcohol awareness. Alcohol misuse can affect all aspects of our lives—from health and well-being, to social connections, physical and emotional safety, and mission readiness. As we mark the two-year anniversary of Navy’s flagship responsible drinking campaign, Keep What You’ve Earned, here are a few suggestions to help you and your shipmates adopt or maintain healthy drinking habits and promote healthy decision making.
Don’t rely on alcohol to reduce your stress. When encountering stress, if we’re unable to respond adaptively while our bodies are in “fight or flight” mode, the likelihood that we’ll make potentially unhealthy choices to ease that tension increases. Having a drink or two to unwind after a stressful day may seem harmless, but this habit is actually working against you and can lead to long-term physical and psychological health effects, including addictive or destructive behavior. Instead of immediately reaching for a drink, try turning to healthy habits. If you’re more likely to make a “pit stop” on the way home from work, head to the gym instead. Endorphins released during exercise can actually improve your mood—a true happy hour! If trying to de-stress with alcohol has become a common practice for you, it’s probably time to self-refer for assistance. Talk to your Drug and Alcohol Program Advisor (DAPA), chaplain, doctor, or command leadership about where to get help.
Empower yourself to thrive during adversity. To help you explore and identify your resources for making healthy decisions during stressful times, take a moment to fill out your Stress Navigation Plan, available on www.suicide.navy.mil. This simple proactive tool helps you think about your current practices for navigating stress while you’re still emotionally and physically healthy. In the process, you may be able to identify more positive coping strategies than what you currently turn to, avoiding potentially destructive behavior like alcohol abuse.
Exercise controllability and plan ahead. As the winter weather is giving way to warmer temperatures, social calendars will start to fill with cookouts and parties. While you’re making your party plans, make plans for a safe ride home your priority by ensuring that a shipmate, friend or family member will be your designated driver. Designated drivers need to completely abstain from drinking—buzzed driving is drunk driving too. Programming the number to a local taxi service in your mobile phone is always a good backup plan. Controllability is one of the Principles of Resilience, helping you make proactive choices and minimize potential for stress or negative outcomes.
Be an active bystander. April also marks Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. Approximately half of all sexual assaults involve alcohol consumption by perpetrator, victim or both, according to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Staying alert, engaged and looking out for your shipmates can not only prevent alcohol abuse, but can prevent sexual assault as well. If you recognize a potentially negative situation, you have the power to speak up and intervene before an incident occurs.