Why is it so hard for the deaf to deal with admitting they are alcoholics ordrug addicts which is an impediment for recovery? Why is it so hard for them tostay sober once they have achieved it for a few weeks or months? What do youthink the main reasons are? Having worked with the deaf for over 30 years I willtry to answer these questions and research other aspects of the deaf culture,their mode of communication and alcoholism. Although it may seem thatcommunication is an aspect of every culture, two of the unique features are thatthere is not always a common language between parents and child, and there is nowritten form of the language. Thus, the deaf culture becomes unique, and throughthis uniqueness, they become isolated both from their peers and the hearingpopulation. According to Marie Egert Rendon in her article, Deaf and Alcohol andSubstance Abuse “Substance abuse is a sensitive issue about which the deafcommunity does not yet feel comfortable talking.Order now
For many with in the community,it remains a moral issue; the denial of pathological drinking is very strong. “(Rendon, 1992) Isolation is a well-known stressor and the denial of alcohol usein the family unit has long existed in the deaf community. The family structuresand the cohesiveness of the family in their form of communications is a factorthat must be considered. The deaf have had limited or strained access to theirown cultural rights.
They have been denied the right to their own language,their own community groups, and even have limited access to the majority culturebecause of communication barriers. Because of the sense of oppression, isolationhas perpetuated the denial process. In addition, language, family, friendships,and services available to the deaf culture and native language have manyinnuendoes. “Since the deaf culture is built around the language that the deafpeople use- American Sign Language (ASL)- the culture is rarely accessible tothe hearing world, due to the difficulty of mastering ASL.
” (Rendon, 1992)Family communication includes several dimensions, among them the mode, contentand structure of communication. Mode of communication is frequently raised indiscussions about communication within families having a deaf member. Communication mode use refers to the use of speech, sign, or some other methodof face- to-face communication. (Kluwin, 1990) Because of these barriers andother misunderstandings, alcohol and drug recovery treatment programs remaininaccessible. In addition to the recognition of communication difficulties,alcohol and drug service providers need to be acknowledgeable about deafcultures, sensitive to the deaf issues, and aware of preferred methods ofcommunication, including the use of interpreters, both in treatment programs andin recovery groups.
(Luetke-Stahlman, 1994) One of the biggest problems is thatthe deaf do not have sobriety long enough to be of help to other deaf people. Although that is beginning to change most are still dependent on the hearing toa degree. As the years go on the length of sobriety continues to grow. Theproblem of alcohol and substance abuse in the deaf community is a reality. Theculture of the deaf often provides a shelter and a barrier to recovery byencouraging isolation and denial. Little by little, information and educationare bringing members of the deaf community into treatment programs and, thus,the cycle of repeated alcoholism can be broken.
There are treatment programsthat are specifically designed to serve the deaf, and there are programs thathave some services for the deaf. However, this breaking down of the isolationand denial barriers requires continued efforts on behalf of a community alreadystretched to its limits. The deaf alcoholic or drug-addicted individual canachieve recovery only when advocacy promoting and achieving accessibility is thereality and not the rarity. When the deaf community openly admits thatregardless of culture, race, or creed, alcoholism and drug abuse affects allcultures and that recovery is a right for everyone. It is not a stigma, and itis definitely not a moral issue. This is a lesson we need to be aware of and beof service to the deaf population.
There are many more AA groups in the greaterLos Angeles area today than ever before. The deaf community is still somewhatuntrusting of the hearing community even in the closeness of the AlcoholicAnonymous home groups. It has been my experience that the deaf meeting that havebeen held for the deaf only have not faired as well as the meeting with moresobriety and with a regular ASL interpreter. There are still not enough meetingsas the hearing, but great improvements are being made.
BibliographyRendon, M. , (1992) Deaf Culture and Alcohol and Substance Abuse. Journal ofSubstance Abuse. Vol.
9, pp. 103-110 Kluwin, T. , (1990) Communication inFostering Cohesion in Families with the Deaf. Journal of American Annals of theDeaf.
Vol. 139, No. 3 Luetke-Stahlman, B. (1994) Social Interactions with Regardto Students who are Deaf.
Journal of the American Annals of the Deaf. Vol. 140,No. 3 Duff, J. , (1981) The Truth About Drugs. Los Angeles, California: BridgePublications, Inc.