Alcohol Abuse – Where Does it Come From?
If you want to eliminate a problem, it’s helpful to know where it started. Again, the pseudos – the shorthand I will use to refer to them hereafter – will tell you it’s a “progressive disease” or you have an “addictive personality” or you were born with it, as common experience, yours and mine, show. None of this adds up, yet the mythology has become so pervasive that nearly everyone believes it!
The reality is more complicated.
The simplest explanation is that we fall into the misuse of alcohol because it works. And it does. Alcohol provides almost instant relief from, anxiety and depression. From loneliness and boredom, from much physical pain and emotional angst. From hormone shifts in both men and women. From aging, job losses, changing roles, intolerable spouses and other family members, and any number of personal tragedies and traumas.
What’s not to like about that?
The answer is equally simple – the relief is only temporary, does not “fix” any of these conditions but, in fact, prevents them from being fixed, and, eventually, becomes a problem in and of itself.
There are also other contributing factors. These include cultural expectations, family modeling, and a cluster of genetic factors that make some of us more inclined to “go there” than others.
Let’s look at cultural norms first. There are no genetic differences between young Irish males in Ireland and young Jewish males in Manhattan. Yet the Irishmen will abuse alcohol at rate about 50 times as high as the Jewish men. The difference? Cultural expectations and acceptance. Getting drunk in the pub is an expectation in Ireland, both accepted and condoned. Drinking is accepted in the Jewish community but drunkenness is neither accepted nor condoned.
Quite the opposite.
After considering cultural contributions, it’s equally important to look at individual family influences.
Like it or not, whatever the circumstances of our childhood, no matter how good, bad, or indifferent, we absorb these conditions, as if by osmosis, as our own personal “normal.” That includes how to use alcohol. Grow up around a lot of alcohol abuse and that becomes your normal, even if you hated it, and you will, under pressure, tend to emulate that abuse.
There is, at least to date, no “alcoholic gene.” But there are genetic traits that make it easier for some of us to “go there.” These include liking the taste, liking the buzz, having a high tolerance, not getting hangovers, and having a high risk taking personality. Hardly any surprises there, but as with the family and cultural considerations, you aren’t doomed.
You still have choices.
Including the choice to leave alcohol abuse behind. Want to talk about that?