Highlighting the Road to Recovery | News

(WKOW) — The road to sobriety is one of the most difficult roads people struggling with alcohol addiction will ever go down.

The COVID-19 pandemic further complicated that road for countless people who lost their jobs, their hobbies, and ultimately, their will to stay sober.

A report from Wisconsin Policy Forum shows alcohol sales rose last year at the highest rate in 50 years. In 2020, death from alcohol use increased by 25 percent, the biggest one-year rise in more than 20 years.

During hard times, people often turn to the hard stuff, and during the pandemic, the problem got a lot worse, especially in Wisconsin.

“Alcoholism is a disease that not just affects the person, it affects the family, it affects work, you lose yourself,” said Ismael, AA Madison District 20 Public Information Chair.

As a recovering alcoholic, Ismael knows the impact alcohol can have on someone’s life far too well.

“When I start, I was not able to stop,” said Ismael. “I lost the house. I lost the family. I lost myself. That is the most important,” he said.

His sister found the AA Madison website and took him to one of the meetings on Williamson Street. He’s been sober since December, 2017. Now, he helps others do the same.

“I’m grateful that I didn’t get my life back. Alcoholics Anonymous gave me the opportunity not to get my life back. I got a better life,” said Ismael.

During the pandemic, Ismael says he has seen more people from across the country join their virtual meetings looking for help.

“It’s been a stressful time for a lot of people,” said Dr. Randall Brown, professor of family medicine and community health, UW School of Medicine and Public Health.

Brown says the problem is worse in rural areas, which is why the Wisconsin Hospital Association and the UW School of Medicine and Public Health launched a new program. The goal is to train health care workers in rural counties on how to care for people struggling with substance use.

“Treatment works, we know that, but for rural residents, it can be a real challenge to get access to that, particularly in a timely way,” said Brown.

For someone grappling with addiction, even the smallest opportunity for help can make a big difference in getting them back on their feet.

“If you work a strong program, you are able to say, ‘I’m coming stronger than ever,'” said Ismael.

Ismael encourages anyone struggling with addiction to visit AA Madison’s website to find out how to get help.

Brown says people struggling with addiction should engage in aerobic activity, and in practices, such as Yoga, Tai chi, and meditation.

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