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Simulated intoxication highlights a powerful lesson

Visual representation of what someone would see when operating a vehicle with Fatal Vision goggles to simulate the effects of driving impaired during an Alcohol Awareness Month event in the Base Exchange parking lot April 18. These goggles simulate vision at a Blood Alcohol Content of 0.17 to 0.20 percent. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jet Fabara)

A visual representation of what someone would see when operating a vehicle with Fatal Vision goggles to simulate the effects of driving impaired. These goggles simulate vision at a Blood Alcohol Content of 0.17 to 0.20 percent. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jet Fabara)

PHOENIX -- Recently, James Eddie, our wing's director of psychological health, and I have been visiting some of the offices and shops on base to give demonstrations of what drunkenness feels like by using an alcohol intoxicant simulation kit. 

The purpose of the kit is to simulate the sense of intoxication felt by one who has been drinking alcoholic beverages by having Airmen wear special goggles. It has been comical watching people attempt to follow Mr. Eddie's instructions while wearing the goggles, but the point of the demonstration is no laughing matter.

Alcohol is addictive and does affect behavior.  Mr. Eddie said alcohol is a factor in most of his client cases.

One lesson I have learned is that whether a person drinks a large or small amount, response time is affected. It's amazing to see how only a couple of drinks will affect a person's reflexes.  The frequency of use and the amount of alcohol both determine how a person responds.

I remember back in my enlisted days, I had a supervisor whose career was ruined because of his addiction to alcohol. It is important that we are educated about the effects that alcohol has on the body. We must be aware that consuming alcohol is a choice, and each of us is responsible for our own actions while drinking.  I am always amazed to hear the stories of my friends who were addicted to alcohol at one time but now make the choice every day not to drink.

While watching the Olympics, I was reminded of how Michael Phelps struggled with alcohol.  It is interesting to hear him speak of this time in his life which he calls the "dark days" - not knowing if he wanted to live. In 2014, after he received his second DUI and receiving a six-month competitive swimming ban, Michael checked himself into an alcohol treatment facility.  After seeing the results of his recent competitions in Rio, it is easy to see that his choices impacted his success.

As your chaplain, I ask you to be honest with yourself and if you find that alcohol is your "go to" for relaxation and you need it more and more to ease life's pain, please seek counsel. There are options for dealing with this addiction. Currently, Mr. Eddie is working to start AA meetings this fall for 161st members.  Listed below are some phone numbers that can also be of assistance to you.

161st Chaplain office: 602-302-9078

161st DPH office: 602-302-9424

AZ Chap of the Red Cross for the Greater Phoenix Area:  602-336-6660

Behavioral Health Crisis Line: 855-832-2866