The Taitung County Government on Sunday recognized 86 people who have achieved more than 90 days of abstinence from alcohol in an awards ceremony to conclude the county’s five-and-a-half-month abstinence marathon.
The campaign was launched in June amid an increasing number of alcohol-driven social problems.
“Our abstinence marathon may have come to an end, but our life marathon has just started,” all 86 — including former Daren Township (達仁) mayors Pao Shih-ching (包世晶) and Chang Ching-sheng (張金生) — shouted as they began to embrace their alcohol-free lives.
The competition, launched by the county government on June 11, offered a NT$50,000 top prize for alcoholics in the county to combat their addiction.
An “abstinence guardian angel” was assigned to each participant, whose daily count would be reset if they tested positive for alcohol during the competition.
Talking about his battle with alcoholism, Pao said it was his wife’s participation in the event that spurred him to quit drinking in the first place.
“Abstinence isn’t that hard, as long as you find a way to calm your mind,” Pao said, adding that his journey to sobriety has not only put a smile back on his wife’s face, but it has also made him healthier and allowed him to spend more quality time with his children.
“People should take care of their body, regardless of how busy they are,” Pao said.
While most winners owed much of their success to their guardian angel, it was particularly the case for the mother of Liu Yu-ting (劉玉婷), a fifth-grade elementary-school student and the youngest guardian angel in the competition, who helped her mother through the abstinence process.
Chihshang Township (池上) Health Center director Lee Ying-lan (李英蘭) said the determination of Liu’s mother to win prizes for her daughter, including coupons for steak and fast-food eateries, gave her the strength to resist the temptation to drink.
“My mom is different now. She has become a much better-tempered person and she smiles more,” Liu said.
Taitung County Commissioner Justin Huang (黃健庭) said the county government launched the marathon in light of the county’s high number of cases of drunk-driving, alcohol-related domestic violence and sexual abuse, as well as its high education dropout and divorce rates.
“The county government believed that alcohol abuse was a root cause of the aforementioned social problems and it set up a intra-governmental task force, aiming to remove the stumbling block of alcohol addiction from the path to social development,” Huang said.
Citing the latest statistics, Huang said the government had held 731 alcohol education seminars, received 117 calls to the county’s sobriety hotline, provided counseling services for 245 severely alcoholic people and sent 638 for treatment between June and last month.
“During the same period, deaths caused by accidents involving drunk-driving have decreased by 62 percent, while the number of cases in which a pregnant mother’s drinking problems have effected the development of her fetus has dropped by 18 percent,” Huang said.