“Better Things To Do Than Drugs,” the promotional slogan for National Red Ribbon Week a few years ago, sets a tone for positive behavior that is at the heart of substance abuse prevention.
The involvement in “Better Things” is a protective factor that benefits people and the community. Positive alternatives to drugs and alcohol abound in every community. It’s a matter of being aware of what’s out there, accessing it and getting involved.
Equal in importance to “things” to do is finding the right people to do them with. Healthy interests and relationships are fundamental in becoming a happy, healthy person able to make wise choices in life, choices to stay away from drugs, alcohol and violent behavior.
Where do we look for opportunities to find these people and things? Schools have many activities to take advantage of. Consider the clubs they offer starting in elementary school with Lego groups, band, drama, chess clubs. There’s a world of fun at your fingertips.
The Youth Clubhouse and Community Center on Main Street, Catskill, offer a safe place to make friends and enjoy sports, games, cooking and a variety of other healthy activities. Summer programs are offered by the Community Center and the YMCA in Coxsackie. The Lumberyard holds free dance classes for kids. Check out the library. Make friends with the librarians — they’re great resources. Organize a book club. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re young or old. Don’t be afraid to mix it up — multi-age groups benefit everyone. There’s much to learn from each other.
The wilderness is here at our fingertips FREE for the taking. Ever think of bird watching? Try Rams-Horn Audubon Sanctuary. Hiking trails crisscross the mountains. Trail guides are available at the library, the tourism office and many local shops. The majestic Hudson River in our backyard offers boating, fishing and chilling out on the banks. Dutchman’s Landing is great, take a picnic, blanket or chair.
Thursday evenings in summer adds another free treat, music in the park. Creeks and lakes provide locations for swimming, fishing and kayaking. And remember, being in the natural environment improves our mental and physical health and lifts our spirits. Reaching the summit and eating lunch on one of the area’s highest peaks, with the Hudson River Valley stretching as far as the eye can see, is an unforgettable experience no one should miss out on.
Senior centers provide opportunities for entertainment and social engagement. Catskill has several wonderful groups that work to benefit the community; among them are Fortnightly, Cultivate Catskill, the Catskill Glee Club. These groups promote community pride and support area youth through academic scholarships.
Participation in charitable or community service projects helps those served while building our own self-esteem. High self-esteem is another protective factor in preventing substance abuse. Happy, well-adjusted people don’t do drugs. Living well requires a balance of work and play, of self-care and caregiving, all of which, in turn, benefits the person and society. A wise person once told me “happiness is a byproduct of how you live your life.”
Family is perhaps the single most powerful tool in the prevention arsenal. Stable family experiences grow strong, solid people. Think about an afternoon of family fun at North-South Lake, a picnic on the beach, water games. A backyard campout can be a memorable event for all. Pitch a tent. Catch some fireflies in jars. Even small yards can become a natural environment. Plant a garden. Be creative. Young people are influenced by their families, friends, and the environment in which they live. If we lead by example, living healthy lifestyles, a clear, positive message is sent.
Reach Helen Exum at Helene@twincountyrecoveryservices.org.