Deaf Alcoholics
Why is it so hard for the deaf to deal with admitting they are alcoholics or
drug addicts which is an impediment for recovery? Why is it so hard for them to
stay sober once they have achieved it for a few weeks or months? What do you
think the main reasons are? Having worked with the deaf for over 30 years I will
try to answer these questions and research other aspects of the deaf culture,
their mode of communication and alcoholism. Although it may seem that
communication is an aspect of every culture, two of the unique features are that
there is not always a common language between parents and child, and there is no
written form of the language. Thus, the deaf culture becomes unique, and through
this uniqueness, they become isolated both from their peers and the hearing
population. According to Marie Egert Rendon in her article, Deaf and Alcohol and

Substance Abuse "Substance abuse is a sensitive issue about which the deaf
community does not yet feel comfortable talking. 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 use
in the family unit has long existed in the deaf community. The family structures
and the cohesiveness of the family in their form of communications is a factor
that must be considered. The deaf have had limited or strained access to their
own cultural rights. They have been denied the right to their own language,
their own community groups, and even have limited access to the majority culture
because of communication barriers. Because of the sense of oppression, isolation
has perpetuated the denial process. In addition, language, family, friendships,
and services available to the deaf culture and native language have many
innuendoes. "Since the deaf culture is built around the language that the deaf
people use- American Sign Language (ASL)- the culture is rarely accessible to
the hearing world, due to the difficulty of mastering ASL." (Rendon, 1992)

Family communication includes several dimensions, among them the mode, content
and structure of communication. Mode of communication is frequently raised in
discussions about communication within families having a deaf member.

Communication mode use refers to the use of speech, sign, or some other method
of face- to-face communication. (Kluwin, 1990) Because of these barriers and
other misunderstandings, alcohol and drug recovery treatment programs remain
inaccessible. In addition to the recognition of communication difficulties,
alcohol and drug service providers need to be acknowledgeable about deaf
cultures, sensitive to the deaf issues, and aware of preferred methods of
communication, including the use of interpreters, both in treatment programs and
in recovery groups. (Luetke-Stahlman, 1994) One of the biggest problems is that
the 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 to
a degree. As the years go on the length of sobriety continues to grow. The
problem of alcohol and substance abuse in the deaf community is a reality. The
culture of the deaf often provides a shelter and a barrier to recovery by
encouraging isolation and denial. Little by little, information and education
are bringing members of the deaf community into treatment programs and, thus,
the cycle of repeated alcoholism can be broken. There are treatment programs
that are specifically designed to serve the deaf, and there are programs that
have some services for the deaf. However, this breaking down of the isolation
and denial barriers requires continued efforts on behalf of a community already
stretched to its limits. The deaf alcoholic or drug-addicted individual can
achieve recovery only when advocacy promoting and achieving accessibility is the
reality and not the rarity. When the deaf community openly admits that
regardless of culture, race, or creed, alcoholism and drug abuse affects all
cultures and that recovery is a right for everyone. It is not a stigma, and it
is definitely not a moral issue. This is a lesson we need to be aware of and be
of service to the deaf population. There are many more AA groups in the greater

Los Angeles area today than ever before. The deaf community is still somewhat
untrusting of the hearing community even in the closeness of the Alcoholic

Anonymous home groups. It has been my experience that the deaf meeting that have
been held for the deaf only have not faired as well as the meeting with more
sobriety and with a regular ASL interpreter. There