Do you remember the old National Enquirer commercial? “Enquiring minds want to know!” That’s me – and sometimes I still wonder why I became an alcoholic. I know alcoholism is caused by a complex group of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors, but I want to know what caused my drinking problems. I have an enquiring mind after all…
For some reason I keep chewing on the notion that genetic factors influence alcoholism. That we are all somehow suffering the consequences of the sins of our fathers and mothers, hapless victims of unfortunate family legacy.
I know many people who were raised by alcoholics or who have alcoholism popping up on the family tree like blonde hair, or dimpled jaws. Research says the children of alcoholics are about four times more likely than the general population to develop alcohol problems. They also have a higher risk for many other behavioral and emotional issues.
There is an additional, addiction whammy, if the alcoholic parent is depressed or has other psychological problems; if both parents abuse alcohol and other drugs; if the parents’ alcohol abuse is severe; or if there is violence in the family.
I have scrutinized my family history. My brother had drinking problems, but the only member of my extended family who could be called an excessive boozer was my Uncle Skoney (and he was only an uncle by marriage).
So what’s my excuse?
Let’s face it, we cannot escape our family legacies, whatever they might be. The most positive thing we can do to educate our children about alcoholism, is to sit them down (just like the sex talk) and explain the hazards of their predisposition. The NIAAA says there are two clear cut rules for the children of alcoholics:
- Avoid underage drinking
- Drink moderately as an adult.