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Organizer sees health and awareness goals in substance-free challenge

October 6, 2014
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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A campaign that is being fueled by online marketing and social media is asking Americans to give up all alcohol and non-medically necessary drugs for 14 consecutive days, starting today. The chief organizer of the effort, coordinated via CBSNews.com, hopes tens of thousands of individuals will participate, benefiting in numerous ways from both a health and an awareness perspective.

“Most people in the world can't relate to addicts. I constantly hear questions such as 'Why can't they go on to drink afterwards?', or 'Why can't they drink like other people and not get into trouble?'” says Tommy Rosen, a yoga teacher and recovery expert who also organizes the Recovery 2.0 online conference. “Most people can't imagine what it's like to walk in the addict's shoes.”

Rosen believes the #14Days On The Wagon Challenge (participants are being asked to use the hashtag #14Days on any communications they issue via social media or elsewhere) will attract individuals with a variety of experiences with substances. Some might have alcoholism and not know it, and the experience of not being able to abstain might lead to an important realization about their life. On the other end of the spectrum would be those for whom alcohol or drugs already play a minor role, but participating in the challenge might allow them to express solidarity with individuals in recovery and better understand what they go through.

On each day over the next two weeks, CBSNews.com will feature a taped interview conducted with experts that include Rosen, Alternatives Behavioral Health executive director Adi Jaffe and Drew Pinsky, MD (“Dr. Drew”). Rosen says the idea for the campaign grew out of a conversation he had this summer with a friend who had gone to work at CBSNews.com's health division.

Rosen says this effort came to pass quickly and solely from the grassroots, with no direct involvement from organizations in the treatment field. He adds that this will be an annual effort. October was selected as the month because it follows the Recovery Month events that have become so widespread in the treatment and recovery communities in September.

“Very few people outside of recovery know that it's even Recovery Month at all,” he says. “We were looking to extend the hoopla that exists around Recovery Month.”

The 14-day time frame was selected based on what individuals presumably can handle—a week seemed inconsequential and three weeks or a month sounded excessive or overly challenging, says Rosen.

“If you're used to drinking two or three drinks a day, your body will feel the effects of not drinking for two weeks,” he says.

And there may be others who do not meet criteria for addiction but still will struggle to get through two weeks substance-free. “They may realize, 'Alcohol plays a significant role in my life, and I'm not OK with that,'” says Rosen.

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