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5/18 Mi Town: Patty Taylor Dutcher

Back in Hollywood's early films, people laughed at W.C. Fields, who almost always played an obnoxious, but funny drunk. Those movies were shown on TV and several generations came to know him as a character who upstaged everyone he met.

A couple of generations later, my senior class actually nominated a man who was considered the "town drunk" to speak at graduation. Cooler heads (the principal) prevailed and that didn't happen.

More recently, Mike Parker, known as the "voice" of the Oregon State Beavers, was filmed drunk and falling asleep at a California restaurant and it was all shown on You Tube, all over the Internet.

Thanks to education and experience, we know a lot more about addiction than we did many years ago. And we don't really think there is anything funny about somebody staggering around drunk or drugged, and we definitely don't laugh when we think of people getting behind the wheel of a car or truck and speeding down the highway at 60 mph when the car they crash into could be driven by our husbands, wives, kids or one of our grandkids.

We are also aware that someone addicted might be a man who lives down the street, the nice lady who works in the bank or somebody sitting in the next booth at your favorite restaurant.

Addiction knows no boundary. It's an equal opportunity danger. Every family has experienced alcohol or drug addiction: a wife, husband, parent, child, niece or nephew. We are all affected in one way or another.

Emergency rooms, police and fire departments deal with addicts every day of the year. Jobs are lost and families are broken. Kids are abused and ignored. The lucky ones end up in foster care, where they have regular meals, clean clothing and a safe place to sleep. Babies are born addicted and damaged because of the mother's drug and or alcohol use during pregnancy. It's not a dirty little secret we can sweep under the rug anymore.

Nobody is laughing at Mike Parker now. He's publicly admitted his addiction, is getting help and treatment, and will keep his job at Oregon State. Parker faced the world honestly, and so can you. There's help and treatment available to everyone with an addiction problem.

Alcoholics Anonymous (www.aa-salem.com) and Narcotics Anonymous (www.mwvana.com) hold meetings all the time, all over the area. Call AA at 503-990-0599 and/or NA at 503-990-0861, 24 hours a day. You can get help immediately at no cost.

You can also call Polk County Public Health (503-623-8175) or Polk County Mental Health (503-623-9289) for more information.

Take that first step toward freedom and a better life.

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