Learning Differences and Alcoholism


That’s me in school, quietly despising the smarty-pants at my table who is trying to explain an indecipherable GRAPH… I’d like to stab him in the eyes with one of those sharp number 2 pencils…


You’re not supposed to call them “disabilities” anymore. I’m always the last person to get the memo on changes to what offends. In the future everyone will speak in initials. And we’ll all tiptoe…

Right. When Lauren first visited me in Georgia, and we realized the Dish package boasting 200 Channels I had purchased had nothing on it we wanted to watch, she tried to order a movie. She asked me for my satellite-TV account number. I stared at her for a while, fiddling with a furry throw to buy time, as it occurred to me I had ordered satellite TV, Wi-Fi, a house phone and gas and electric services without a clue as to how to maintain them, make contact with the providers or pay the bills. I didn’t even know where my mailbox was.

I don’t think that’s normal.

If Lauren had not jogged my memory, after a grace period of 45 days or so, my vital utilities would have sputtered and died out like candles in a cave.

I think I’ve told you that I test in the genius percentile on verbal skills and in the 2% in practical capabilities (that means 98% of those tested perform better than me right?). I have often said I operate with undiagnosed learning difficulties and that I self-medicated for years out of supreme frustration.

The American Psychological Association says, “The risk factors for adolescent (and adult) substance abuse are similar to the behavioral effects of learning disabilities: reduced self-esteem, academic difficulty, loneliness, depression and the desire for social acceptance. Thus, researchers posit, learning disabilities may indirectly lead to substance abuse by generating the types of behavior that typically lead to substance abuse.”

The above paragraph (and anything written using the words “posit” and “thus”) makes me want to have a stiff drink, so I must fall into the “at risk” category. The important thing is that 20% of school age children have learning difficulties, half of them have ADD and half of the ADD group will go on to become substance abusers.

If your child has learning differences it is important to test, diagnose and treat as early as possible with an eye toward the likelihood of substance abuse issues. I KNOW. I am inherently unequipped to deal with administrative minutiae, information in graphs or any data that is not presented to me in a manner I find entertaining. My high level of annoyance and my ability to talk my way out of most sticky situations led (at least in part) to my alcoholism.

Can’t you just picture the kind of student I was???


Today I’m not drinking, because I’m paying my utility bills.

How come you’re not drinking?