Local association provides alcohol and drug counseling for the community

By Greg Miller

STAR STAFF
gmiller@starhq.com

  
September has been designated National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month and, according to Robin Shaffer, director of the Cross-Roads Alcohol and Drug Association located in Elizabethton, observing it is important in order to make the public more aware that these are issues of concern.
   Shaffer said the public needs to be more aware of alcohol and drug problems so that, as a community, they can form a bond and develop good, comprehensive programs in their area.
   "I think that we have a very good working relationship with all the agencies, and that is a plus for the community here," she said.
   Cross-Roads provides assessments for clients to determine at what level of alcohol and/or drug dependency they are. From there, they try to refer them to the appropriate programs, depending on what they need.
   "After that, we are available for follow-up to see how well they're doing and make sure that they're staying on track," she said.
   Many Cross-Roads' clients are in the 18-24 age range. In the last five months, Shaffer said she has seen an increase in underage drinking due to a tendency of young people not to admit their addiction and, therefore, not to reach out for help.
   "They don't realize what can happen when they begin to use - that they could become abusive with the drug, and they could become chemically dependent," she said.
   Alcohol is the number one drug being used by those who come to Cross-Roads for help, according to Shaffer, followed by marijuana. Shaffer referred to both as gateway drugs that can lead to other drug use.
   "They make the door open a little wider to experiment with other drugs," she said.
   Cross-Roads representatives also go to schools and talk to students about alcohol and drug addiction. "We talk about self-esteem," Shaffer said. "We talk about decisions and the consequences of decisions. We try to get them involved in making goals for their lives. We also educate them on alcohol and drug use."
   Shaffer said her staff talk to sixth through eighth graders about chemical dependence and how individuals can move from one level to the next without even realizing it.
   She said churches can help those who want to begin the recovery process by becoming more educated about the problem. "I think that there are a lot of churches that are willing to do what they can do to help," she remarked.
   However, for those who are using drugs and who want to be drug-free, the first and most important step is to admit they have a problem, according to Shaffer. "Unless they're willing to admit it and know that they need help, it's tough to get them into that recovery process," she said. "Once they do that, we usually do a short assessment and refer them on to a treatment center.
   Shaffer said many times families come in who are concerned about their loved one's drinking and drug use. "It's so frustrating for families. They want to do something. They think someone should be able to do something. But it's up to that person that's using to make the change in their lives."
   Shaffer has been employed at Cross-Roads for about 17 years and has been the director for 13. She said the biggest change she has noticed has been in attitude, especially in young people.
   "The attitudes seem to be more closed, not wanting to open up. They're more defensive than they used to be. I think there's a lot more that they're having to face, and sometimes they shut off any adult help."
   Cross-Roads Alcohol and Drug Association is located at 413 East Elk Avenue. For more information, call 542-8011, or e-mail crosroad@preferred.com.