Alcoholism and the Social Drinker

My dad was is an alcoholic. Whether he knows it or not is a question for him. I knew it at the age of 8. Countless nights of violence or not coming home or hospitalizations for his abuse left me confused and thinking what was wrong? His love of alcohol was killing him. Slowly. Softly. Right in front of my eyes.

Alcoholism was one of the things that destroyed my childhood. Fragmented pieces of missing activities, tea time and chasing the ghosts away were replaced with loneliness and make believe because daddy was supposed to be there. His drinking was one of the reasons that I say he was broken. Not the only one, but one of the reasons. He was a warning in my household.

My mother would say, “Remember, your daddy was an alcoholic” anytime we would reach for a glass of wine or champagne or talk about our latest parties where we got drunk. Loudly. Resounding words filtered our ears and alcohol hazed brains. Reminding us that we didn’t want to be like daddy. Daddy was a drunk and drunks are mean.

So, I became a social drinker. I drink an occasional glass of wine (maybe twice a month) and once in a while if I go out to dinner. I don’t want to be the angry drunk. The mean drunk. The one who blacked out and forgot school programs or to play with my kid. Alcoholics are different from social drinkers.

Alcoholism runs in my family. I’ve heard it countless times. I’ve seen it. I learned from National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) that “Research shows that genes are responsible for about half of the risk for alcoholism. Therefore, genes alone do not determine whether someone will become an alcoholic. Environmental factors, as well as gene and environment interactions account for the remainder of the risk.*

Multiple genes play a role in a person’s risk for developing alcoholism. There are genes that increase a person’s risk, as well as those that may decrease that risk, directly or indirectly. For instance, some people of Asian descent carry a gene variant that alters their rate of alcohol metabolism, causing them to have symptoms like flushing, nausea, and rapid heartbeat when they drink. Many people who experience these effects avoid alcohol, which helps protect them from developing alcoholism.**”

But, not all of it is genes. Half of it. But, that’s 50% right? Too much of a risk. It’s like playing Russian Roulette with my future. I don’t like to gamble. I don’t like to lose. Genetics. Propensity to become an alcoholic. Phrases that conjure fears of craving a bottle instead of my son’s laughter. These things keep me straight. Scared straight.

“Whether a person decides to use alcohol or drugs is a choice, influenced by their environment–peers, family, and availability.  But, once a person uses alcohol or drugs, the risk of developing alcoholism or drug dependence is largely influenced by genetics.  Alcoholism and drug dependence are not moral issues, are not a matter of choice or a lack of willpower.  Plain and simple, some people’s bodies respond to the effects of alcohol and drugs differently.”

-The National Coalition on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc.

My dad is an alcoholic. It was inherited through genetics. His body isn’t strong enough to fight the “monkey”. So no, I’m not an alcoholic. I am a social drinker. I will decline alcohol, not because of my religion, but because of my desire to not have that “monkey” on my back. Genetics. Sometimes they suck.

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The Power of Daddy

There is nothing more important than the bond between father and child. I don’t underestimate my role in my son’s life, but there is nothing like the power of daddy. I can see how Lee’s relationship with Brennan is shaping him into the man that he will become. A few posts ago, I talked about the importance of me being there with my hectic schedule. I now want to point out the power of daddy.

In today’s changing society, many women are single parents. I recently read that more than 70% of black children are born to single black women. I was astonished at this number because I do believe that a lot of black women want to be wives as well as mothers. Being a product of a single parent household, I will say that it was the hardest thing growing up feeling like I was missing something because I had no dad at home. I didn’t want the same thing. I actually ran from marriage. I didn’t know if I was marriage material or if there was anyone who could deal with me and all my “baggage”. However, God had other plans and sent Lee my way. Lee and I were married almost 6 years before we had Brennan. I was terrified of being a mother. I felt that every time something went wrong in a child’s life, society blamed the mother. I feared that I would be a failure as a parent and I didn’t want to mess any child’s life up, especially my own. It was Lee’s love for me and faith in us that we decided to be parents. I never knew that God would bless us with Brennan. Brennan is a rambunctious, questioning, argumentative and hopefully future successful prosecutor who believes that at the age of two, he knows what is best. It is crazy to watch my son’s argument form in his mouth and be expressed in his lips. He is really a funny little boy. He is his father’s son.

Last Sunday, Brennan and I were lying down getting ready to go to bed. Brennan screams “Mommy, I want a lollipop.” I politely say “No.” He says, “Mommy, I want a lollipop.” I reply, “No.” He screams, “Mommy, I want a lollipop.” I said “No, you’re not getting one, so please stop asking.” I called Lee into the bedroom and said, “Brennan, tell your daddy what you said.” He froze. I told my husband, “Brennan wants a lollipop.” Lee said, “Brennan, do you want a lollipop?” Brennan replied, “No, Daddy, I don’t want a lollipop!” I was stunned. Did he just call me a liar without ever saying those words? How could this be? I then realized, it was the power of daddy.

Dad’s have a powerful and positive impact upon the development and health of children. The way Lee plays with Brennan also has an impact on Brennan’s emotional and social development. According to the Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, U.S. Children’s Bureau : “Fathers spend a much higher percentage of their one-on-one interaction with infants and preschoolers in stimulating, playful activity than do mothers. From these interactions, children learn how to regulate their feelings and behavior. Rough-housing with dad, for example, can teach children how to deal with aggressive impulses and physical contact without losing control of their emotions. Generally speaking, fathers also tend to promote independence and an orientation to the outside world. Fathers often push achievement while mothers stress nurturing, both of which are important to healthy development. As a result, children who grow up with involved fathers are more comfortable exploring the world around them and more likely to exhibit self-control and pro-social behavior.”

This forming and attached bond could explain why Brennan felt that he really didn’t need the lollipop when confronted with his wants by his dad. Dads have power. I will never underestimate the role my husband plays in our son’s life. He is shaping the gift we were blessed with by being an involved and hands-on dad. I don’t think we give men, especially dads the props they deserve, so I want to say thank you to all the wonderful fathers who are involved in shaping their children’s lives. You make me proud. You are loved and appreciated for all you do in making us better mothers because of who you are.