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The problem with Donald Trump's advice on drugs and alcohol

The problem with Donald Trump's advice on drugs and alcohol
The problem with Donald Trump's advice on drugs and alcohol


In an interview with Fox News last week, Donald Trump said the best way to avoid becoming addicted to alcohol or drugs is to not start using them.

Now, the only time I didn't vote for a Democrat was to vote for Bernie Sanders. So it pains me to say this, but Trump is right.

The former president said he saw incredibly strong, powerful and accomplished men, including his brother, take to drinking and realize they just couldn't stop. He didn't understand why they couldn't stop; they just couldn't.

Once again, he is right.

So, he suggested, don't start. His advice to the world regarding addiction could actually be summed up as: Just say no. Which, in theory, is true.

But when you live in a culture steeped in alcohol and quick to cure almost every illness with pills, that's not practical either. More than impractical, it is dangerous.

Yes, if you do not come into contact with anything that causes cancer, your chances of developing cancer will be significantly reduced. Oh, have you ever been in the sun, eaten meat or experienced stress? Well, maybe you should have thought about your choices! Good luck to you though.

We have tried this approach before. Some of us are old enough to remember First Lady Nancy Reagan's campaign. Just say no. And even though I've spent 12 years in various recovery rooms and heard hundreds of thousands of widely varying stories about addiction and sobriety, I've never heard anyone say, Nancy Reagan said, “Just say no, and that was the day I quit forever.

At the heart of this argument is the idea that willpower is always your best defense. Even as a child or teenager, you should resist the billions of dollars of alcohol and drug advertising and embrace abstinence. You should learn from other people's mistakes from a young age.

I have a 6 year old daughter. My first drink was at noon. So she's halfway there.

What we know about addiction is that it is 40 to more than 70 percent determined by genetics. So my daughters' chances are pretty good. Add to that my mother's story, my grandfather's story, etc., and the chances seem even better, which is to say, worse.

So what I want to shout at him is: just say no! I think about all the times I almost died from alcohol poisoning, drunk driving and more and I really wish I could tell her to never drink and have her listen.

There is an irrational but sincere despair there. I barely made it out alive. What if she doesn't? Can't she just say no?

And yet, at 6 years old, she already ignores my advice. I already have a hard time getting him to finish eating something healthy before asking for dessert.

But what if a friend eats something healthy? If a cousin mentions liking broccoli? Shell, try it.

There you have it: her circle of friends helps her determine what she puts in her body. Their opinions matter a lot. And they'll be the ones there with her the first time someone buys her a drink at a party.

I ask my sober friends with kids: What do you tell them? The one I admire very much tells them: if you ever have trouble, I will be there for you.

Recognize that its arrival, like all aspects of letting go of a child, is terrifying. And for addicts, who know what awaits their children, it's almost impossible. But the best parenting doesn't stop bad things from happening; this helps build resilience when this happens.

I understand. Just say no. I wish it worked. But that's simply not the case.

So let's try it, I'll be there for you. Let's talk about harm reduction, getting help and being honest.

I'm glad Trump is talking about addiction on Fox News. It's a victory and I hope he does it again. Next time, though, I hope he explains how we can all be there for the person starting out.

Sean Daniels is a long-term recovering person who runs the Recovery Project in Sarasota, Florida, and is the anti-stigma director of Live Tampa Bay.




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