Community takes low-key approach to high-risk habit of alcohol abuse

The disconcerting use of alcohol in the community was the main focus of a gathering at the Stettler Recreation Centre

The disconcerting use of alcohol in the community was the main focus of a gathering at the Stettler Recreation Centre last Thursday evening.

The informal assessment, sponsored by Highway 12 Communities for Drug Prevention, involved communities from Stettler to the Saskatchewan border.

“The purpose is to gain more insight into the culture of the community and the role alcohol plays and identify potential problems and solutions,” said Siobhan Atkey of Addiction Services in Stettler.

The event exercised some non-traditional forms of expressing thoughts on the issue, many using art forms.

For instance, a clay-modeling session with art facilitator Steph Hadley had participants discussing alcohol-related issues involving family, friends and community members who in some way impacted their lives.

Len Wagner, the regional traffic-safety consultant, made a record of the thoughts and opinions of the discussion group as feedback for the study.

Stacie Pederson with Alberta Health Services said the group wants to collect the community’s perspective on the use of alcohol — what amounts are acceptable and when does it cross over the line.

There was a photography exercise where participants took photographs and related them to affects alcohol had on their lives.

One photo, titled “Getting Close,” was a close-up shot of a bottle and the photographer analyzed it with this statement,

“I got a different angle by getting closer. When I quit drinking, I got closer to my family. Also, I learned I didn’t like who I was when I drank. I was rude. I didn’t have respect for myself or my family.”

Another photo titled “Lady Bug” was a photo of leaves with a lady bug hidden in it. The photographer didn’t realize it was there when the photo was taken and responded with, “The lady bug is unexpected. I had more changes than I expected when I quit drinking. So much has improved.”

Devon McMann of Alberta Mental Health said the Highway 12 group is reaching to the community to see how alcohol consumption is viewed. The low-key approach was hoped to gain opinions from the community. He said his agency wants to reduce the mental-health stigma and build resilience.

In another area, participants were encouraged to add their thoughts to a dream-catcher and decorate their contributions in a manner of their choosing, using beads and feathers.

Some of those thoughts included, “Alcohol is like the bottle you drink — the more you have, the emptier your world becomes,” and “Alcohol is a taker — it takes our youth from us.”

The Living Art Session co-ordinated by Darren Fleischhacker, drama and com-tech teacher at William E. Hay Composite High School, had drama students from the school acting out different scenarios involving alcohol in the work place, at home, in public places and at bush parties.

Throughout the evening, participants had the opportunity to anonymously submit their opinions on alcohol use in the community.

The information is expected to be processed at a later date.

“We will see what action needs to be taken and keep engaging the community,” Atkey said. “What behaviour is acceptable must be community driven.”