TERRE HAUTE — He’s on TV nearly every day delivering weather forecasts, but Saturday, Kevin Orpurt had a different message to deliver.
“I’m Kevin, and I’m an alcoholic,” said Orpurt, a weatherman for WTHI-TV 10 for more than 20 years.
It was his first time speaking about his battle in a non-Alcoholic Anonymous setting, he told the crowd of about 30 at the town hall meeting on underage and binge drinking in Booker T. Washington Community Center’s gymnasium. He’s been sober for more than three years now.
“Alcoholism knows no boundaries, alcoholism has no class distinction,” Orpurt said. “Alcoholism covers everybody. There are doctors, lawyers, police officers, there are teachers, weathermen, there are businessmen everywhere, from all walks of life suffers from alcoholism.
“Not everybody, but alcoholism does not skip over a certain type of person, a certain ethnicity or anything like that”
Orpurt went on to talk about his thoughts of how alcoholism is something a person is genetically pre-disposed to and how he took his first sip of beer at the age of five or six during a family barbecue.
He explained how drinking isn’t wrong, but it must be in moderation. He also spoke about some consequences people could face if overcome by alcohol.
“Yeah, I’ve done the weather about half-crocked and I’m not proud of that, but it’s true,” he said, “because that’s what alcoholism does. Alcoholism is a lie. Alcoholism will say to you, ‘You’re OK, you can have another drink, you’re fine …’”
Sept. 18, 2005 was the day of Orpurt’s epiphany, the day he realized he was an alcoholic, he said, and needed to do something about it. He continued to talk about Alcoholics Anonymous, parts of its 12-step program, and attending his first meeting.
“I’m the weatherman, you all know who I am,” Orpurt said. “… I didn’t care if somebody saw me stumble outside the bar. I didn’t care if somebody saw me go into a liquor store. I didn’t care if somebody saw me dancing on a table at the Oktoberfest. I didn’t care if somebody saw me throwing up in an alley. Why should I care if I can be an example to someone, to prove that recovery works if you want it? You have to work, it isn’t easy, but it can be done.”
A panel-discussion about underage and binge drinking followed Orpurt’s presentation.
The panel consisted of Sgt. Bill Turner of the state excise police; Deb Kesler, Vigo County chief juvenile probation officer; Tom Johnson, chairman of the Vigo County Epidemiological and Outcomes Workgroup and psychology professor at Indiana State University; Teri Evans, vice-chairwoman of the Epidemiological and Outcomes Workgroup and executive director of the Freebirds Solution Center; and Jim Edwards, director at Ryves Youth Center-Etling Hall.
Topics panel members addressed included how important it is for parents to talk to their children about alcohol and signs to look for to tell if a child is drinking.
They all agreed that it’s never too early to talk about the dangers of alcohol with children and that one conversation isn’t enough.
“Having that conversation is crucial,” Johnson said.
Kesler added it’s important for parents to “be nosy,” and don’t be afraid for their children to get mad at them.
“They’ve got lots of friends,” she said. “They don’t need you as a buddy.”
By being nosy, Kesler said it would make it easier for parents to notice if their children are drinking. Other signs include if the children change friends, keep different hours and become secretive about their room and property.
Brandon Harding, a 22-year-old sophomore at ISU from Indianapolis, was surprised to hear of the seriousness of the problem in Vigo County, he said.
“It’s quite shocking, and makes me want to get more involved,” said Harding, who plans for the Student African-American Brotherhood chapter at ISU to become more involved by possibly becoming mentors.
Harding said town hall meetings such as this one are important because they raise awareness in the community about the problem and motivate the community to do something.
For more information about the Vigo County Epidemiological Profile, call (812) 232-5681.
Crystal Garcia can be reached at (812) 231-4271 or email@example.com.
• Call Alcoholics Anonymous of the Wabash Valley at (812) 235-7263.
Highlights form the 2007 State of Indiana and Vigo County Epidemiological Profiles: Alcohol and other drug use and problems in Vigo County and the State of Indiana.
• Funding for the Vigo County profile was provided by the Strategic Prevention Framework-State Incentive Grant (SPF-SIG), a grant that will be used to promote youth development, reduce risk-taking behavior, build assets and resilience and prevent problem behaviors across the life span.
• The county became a candidate for the grant because of its high numbers for alcohol use.
• Vigo County was identified as one of the counties having the most serious levels of alcohol problems and methamphetamine use.
• By the time they reach 8th grade, more than half of Vigo County youth will have tried alcohol at least once in their lifetimes.
• The rate of alcohol related automobile collisions in Vigo County was among the highest 25 percent of Indiana counties.
• In 2006, more than $1.25 million was spent on alcohol and drug related hospital visits in Vigo County.