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My Coast Guard
Commentary | April 21, 2023

Is it time to explore your relationship with alcohol?

By AJ Pulkkinen, MyCG writer

Do you ever worry about your relationship with alcohol? It may be time to change your relationship status.

Ask yourself if these situations sound familiar:

In my social life, I…
⦁    Rely on alcohol to have a good time
⦁    Use alcohol as a social outlet with buddies
⦁    Choose alcohol over friends or family
In my finances, I…
⦁    Have less cash because it all gets spent at the bars
⦁    Spend my savings on alcohol instead of special purchases
⦁    Use my hard-earned cash to pay off the cost of a DUI
In my career, I...
⦁    Run late for work or my shift
⦁    Miss work because of drinking over my limit
⦁    Find it difficult to perform my job after a night out
In my personal time, I…
⦁    Get drunk by myself
⦁    Find any reason to grab a beer with my buddies
⦁    Use alcohol as a reward for ending the week

If you can relate to at least one of these situations, consider changing your relationship with alcohol by following these steps: 

  1. Visit Rethinking Drinking, a National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism education campaign, aligned to the National Institutes of Health, designed for adults who drink alcohol. It provides evidence-based information about alcohol and health along with tips, tools, and resources for those who want to cut down on or quit drinking.
  2. Consider self-referring for alcohol screening or discussing with your Command Drug and Alcohol Representative (CDAR) available resources to further explore your relationship with alcohol. 
  3. Commit to owning your limit.

Early intervention and the adoption low-risk drinking guidelines is critical in preventing addiction and health-related disorders. The method to evaluate drinking risks or alcohol-related concerns is through screening and referral. There are three types of screening referrals.

Self-Referral: A self-referral is a proactive step taken by you when you’ve become concerned about your own well-being and relationship with alcohol. The purpose of a self-referral is to empower you to take control of your drinking habits and connect you with the necessary resources on your road to recovery well before an alcohol incident has taken place. Keep in mind, a self-referral is confidential and will not be documented in your official military personnel file unless you fail treatment.
Command Referral: A command referral is a non-punitive measure initiated by your command out of concern for your well-being. This type of referral occurs when an alcohol incident has not yet taken place, with the intention of providing you with preventive support and resources. Like the command referral, nothing is recorded in your official military personnel file unless you refuse or fail treatment.
Incident Referral: An incident referral occurs when your command initiates the referral process following an alcohol incident. In this case, a copy of the referral, screening, and treatment plan is kept in your health record, and a copy of the referral is also recorded in your official military personnel file. Unlike self and command referrals, an incident referral may have punitive consequences, depending on the nature of the incident and your actions during the treatment process.

The purpose of the self, command, and incident referrals is to ensure that if you find yourself struggling with alcohol misuse, the Coast Guard can help assist you in receiving the proper support and resources you need. Prevention works, treatment is effective, and more importantly, recovery is possible. With the right help, and armed with knowledge and resources, you can change your relationship with alcohol and move towards a healthier life.

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