It could be in the genes because I think (pretty sure) my daughter is an alcoholic.
My father was raised in Texas during the Great Depression. Because he was an ordained minister he was classified 4-F for WWII so he stayed home and preached to the faithful as he became a covert alcoholic, womanizer, gambler and drug addict. My father died at age 43 when he was shot in the groin three times and left to bleed-out (by person(s) unknown) in the bed of one of his parishioner girl-friends (the husband was never questioned).
My grandfather was war essential (Conscientious Objector) during WWI so he stayed home and became an overt drunk (he operated his own still). He died at the age of 36 on a drunken Saturday when he fell through an open hole and drowned in the outhouse.
I have traced my family linage back to just before the year 1643 AD and without exception in each generation there was either a Still, prison time for running whiskey or affluence won or lost at the gaming tables.
My granddad and my father were drunks and heavy into drugs long before they were popular so logically I and my children should have that same hereditary gene and also be drunks/alcoholics. Yes? No?
I am a decorated Vietnam combat veteran that actually quit smoking when I was sent to SEA but I did drink a bit more then normal while in the jungle.
Am I a drunk? As of today I’m not sure. If you go by clinical definitions, my neighbors, my family and co-workers, I may be a drunk but I don’t think so. I know lots of other men and women that must hang onto the grass while crawling home so they won’t fall off the yard. They are drunks. That’s not my style.
My daughter may be a different story however. I have had doctors tell me she is bi-polar, over-sexed, difficult, high-strung (whatever that means) and temperamental. I have never actually seen her drunk but maybe because of my history I didn’t want to acknowledge her actions but what I do see are the many sighs of alcoholism and they scare me.
For the sake of this story I will call my daughter Lois and assure you, I love her deeply.
Lois is not dumb; in fact she is very intelligent with an IQ just under 122. Lois dropped out of the University of Kentucky (UK) in Lexington late in her freshman year but has taken courses in Nursing in their M.S.N. program. During that first year while in a relationship with a Spanish exchange student she became fluent in Spanish. Not just conversational Spanish but reading it, writing it and well enough to be an official court translator in several high profile criminal, civil, domestic and international and government cases. Do you remember what happened in the fate of the Operación Puerto doping scandal? Lois did the translating. How about, Princess Elena, the eldest daughter of Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, in the first case of marital breakdown the immediate Spanish royal family has experienced. All translating was by Lois.
Communicating with Lois has never been a problem. I can, and we do, talk to each other all the time and on many different subjects. You can not talk with a drunk. You can talk too them and about them but not with them. With few exceptions they will look you in the eye and lie. The sad part about that is they do not do it intentionally. It is the nature of alcohol.
The book says, “Alcoholism is a term with multiple and sometimes conflicting definitions. In common and historic usage, alcoholism refers to any condition that results in the continued consumption of alcoholic beverages despite the health problems and negative social consequences it causes. Medical definitions describe alcoholism as a disease which results in a persistent use of alcohol despite negative consequences. Alcoholism also referred to as dipsomania in the 19th and early 20th centuries, may also refer to a preoccupation with or compulsion toward the consumption of alcohol and/or an impaired ability to recognize the negative effects of excessive alcohol consumption. Although not all of these definitions specify current and on-going use of alcohol as a qualifier, some do, as well as remarking on the long-term effects of consistent, heavy alcohol use, include dependence and symptoms of withdrawal.
While the ingestion of alcohol is, by definition, necessary to develop alcoholism, the use of alcohol does not predict the development of alcoholism. The quantity, frequency and regularity of alcohol consumption required to develop alcoholism varies greatly from person to person. In addition, although the biological mechanisms underpinning alcoholism are uncertain, some risk factors, including social environment, emotional health and genetic predisposition, have been identified.”
Now that was a mouthful.
The definitions of alcoholism and related terminology vary significantly between the medical community, treatment programs, and the general public. The Journal of the American Medical Association defines alcoholism as "a primary, chronic disease characterized by impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with the drug alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking."
That sure does not sound like me OR my daughter.
So… am I a drunk, is my daughter an alcoholic or just someone who enjoys a drink now and again? My liver may think one way but I think another. How can I be, how can either of us be – a drunk? I will have a few drinks and I am about as happy as a person can be while still dressed. I don’t hurt anyone, I don’t bad-mouth anyone and I have never taken anything away from those people close to me and depend on me for their well being. How can I be a drunk and not hurt anyone or anything?
While on the subject of enjoying a drink I need to say, “Alcohol is an acquired taste much like cigarettes.” Those of us that drink and (have) smoked will need to take more time then permitted here to explain the phenomenon of doing something that, at first, is disgusting and nasty. I can not do it in this format.
What about Lois?
This paragraph may be out of sequence in this story but I would like to pass it along while I’m thinking about it: A TRUE story about my mother and father. My dad was clever at being a drunk. After he and my mother dated for a bit they married and it was over three months before mother even knew he drank. How can that be? Well as mother related to me when I was old enough to understand (around 8 as I remember the story) one day mother came home early from her beauty shop and found dad home – sober.
After that dad did not bother hiding his drinking.
I remember one day while sitting at the dining room table working on some school math homework dad stumbled into the house completely pie-eyed, slurring his words and was a bit abusive in his language (this story is only R rated so can not related exact words or actions that followed, except this…) Dad made it to the bath room where he began relieving his bladder, more or less into and around the toilet bowl with mother right on his coat-tail saying words I am pretty sure few if any sailors even knew. Dad had almost finished, I think, because he turned toward mother and appeared to be trying to get his dripping penis back inside his pants and zipped. Drunken fingers must have been numb and wet because all that was happening was mother had to back up a bit trying to stay away from a now spurting yellowish stream while both now contributed to the air turning blue from more intense sailor language.
Never let it be said my mother was not kind and considerate because somewhere in the blue sailor language dad said, words to the affect, he had a girl friend waiting outside so he had to go.
My mother was a raven black-haired beauty with a fire and brimstone temperament she inherited from her full blood Black-foot Indian mother. In one blinding smooth motion, penis still hanging outside, now with just a slow drip, mother grabbed the cloth of dad’s crotch with her left hand, the pull-tab of his metal zipper slider with her right hand and closed it almost all the way to the top.
The following blood–curdling scream was the talk of the neighborhood for weeks.
The girl-friend found another man that evening as dad was out of commissions for over a month as his wounds healed.
At the time, I was actually afraid for my mother, afraid my dad would do something dumb in retaliation. I should not have wasted my time worrying about mother because, remembering now, I knew she always carried a silver-plated Colt .45 revolver fashioned to a .38 frame in her purse and each night slept with it under her pillow. My mother was no pussy cat.
Why am I even addressing this subject? What difference does it make to me or others if I am or may not be an alcoholic? What’s in a name? Besides, this story is about my daughter, Lois.
I am different. Your drunks and alcoholics are those that get stopped while driving and ticketed for DUI. Not me. I have learned when I am so drunk I could feel no pain but I could still focus (OK its tunnel vision but hay, it’s still focusing, more or less) on the road ahead and point my car, stay away from all others and stay as far right as I could and stay under the speed limits. Speed limits have always been a challenge mainly because my brain knows what the posted limits are but my eyes can not see my dashboard. That’s OK because I have learned a way around that; I roll the window down and make sure the other cars around me all pass. It’s OK with me they are blowing their horns, waving something that looks like a middle finger but words I am sure are words of encouragement.
I feel Lois may be the same as she has never been stopped either.
I am different. My daughter is different. Your drunks are the homeless, the uneducated, the poor, the old, the unshaven, the unwashed and those forgotten by society.
That is what society would have you believe, but could not be further from the truth. When you hear a statistic that 50% of crime, of fraud of duplicity and other ‘bad stuff’ is caused by drunks or those high on drugs, have you ever wondered about the other 50%. Just who are they; are they your Mr. and Ms. Goody-Two-Shoes, church going, holier-then-thou cream of society? Think about it, I have.
I overheard a conversation not long ago between a young lady I will call Sue Ellen and a somewhat older man named Frank that I would like to share with you: The scene is in a noisy watering hole named The Cowgirls Inc night club on 1st Ave just a stones throw from the Space Needle in Seattle.
“You are the prettiest girl in the room. Could I buy you a drink?” Frank fumbled his words but his smile more then made up for what his mouth said.
“That is about as lame a ‘pick-up’ line as I have ever heard – does it work?” The young lady said as she sipped her martini.
“No” was the honest response.
Thought the now heavy din of over 300 young people each trying to talk loud enough to be heard over their neighbors plus the heavy beat of Big Geminii mouthing and moving to his latest rendition of “Hypnotized”. If you like Rap or Hip-Hop the words were in themselves hypnotic. Three martinis helps you hear the words a bit better plus you don’t seem to mind all the hands and bodies rubbing and touching you in places your mother use to powder and diaper.
Sue Ellen smiled at the honesty just as the sounds from the stage playing “I Like the Way She Do It” began. She tasted her drink then said, “Can you hear the words?”
“Should I do what the words say?” Sue Ellen was saying over the lip of a now empty plastic glass.
Again Frank nodded as he said almost under his breath, “…the part about ‘please believe me now?”
“Good for you, you are listening. Yes, that’s the part.” Sue Ellen said as she motioned the barkeep for a refill.
There was a long minute of silence between Sue Ellen and Frank before he said, “You are very pretty, you know that?”
“Are you saying that because we have both had lots to drink and I am just a bit tipsy?”
“Tipsy?” It was an honest question.
“Yea, tipsy as in too much to drink, as in drunk, as in feeling good.” Sue Ellen seemed to have more definitions ready to go but Frank interrupted her but the universal hand sign as he said…
“No, not really, just conversation, but beings you mentioned it, if you are a drunk do you know what kind you are?” Without taking a breath he extended him hand as he added “My name is Frank by the way.”
“Sue Ellen” She hesitated just a second but accepted his hand then said, “Sue Ellen Lane”, but my friends call me Lois.
That must have been funny as they both smiled wide-mouthed grins as Frank amended his name with, “Actually Frank is my middle name” He continued holding her soft rose pedal right hand in his and said, “Clark… Clark Frank Kent at your service.”
That was the ice-breaker as Sue Ellen’s face relaxed into soft features and a smile that would make Venus jealous.
Sue Ellen wrinkled her brow and said, “What kind of what am I? Is that what you just asked?”
The din in the room did seem louder now that Big Geminii was coming from dozens of speakers around the room.
Sue Ellen’s over-the-shoulder purse was lying open on the bar and it was difficult to not notice a red, white and blue flyer announcing an AA meeting that evening.
Frank threw caution to the wind as he said, “AA? You work for Alcoa?”
It was a bit sultry but definite “NO” from Sue Ellen.
He wrinkled his brow a bit and said, “You are a stewardess for American Airlines?”
The same definitive “NO”.
“A pilot?” She didn’t bother responding.
“You’re the president of Aluminum Associations?” Frank whimsically tried.
“NO!” Was the emphatic response.
Frank sipped his drink, listened to the music a bit and finally shrugged his shoulders as he kind of muttered under his breath “AA?”
Sue Ellen’s words were the classic oxymoron, “I’m a recovering alcoholic”.
Frank’s look of disbelief was almost genuine. A long minute passed before he could mouth the words. “You can’t be…you’re too you
Sue Ellen’s skin was clear under a delicate foundation. Her eyes were bright hazel; hair was a stylish dark Bohemian brown cut as a Posh Pob, not a split-end anywhere. There was a delicate scent of Opium that followed her. She was a petite classy looking lady.
“Do you mind if I ask your age Ms. Ellen?”
“Not at all. Do I have to be honest?”
“Only if you don’t want to be.”
“I’m 39.” Frank volunteered.
Drinks were sipped for another minute or so, the music remained loud and constant but the crush of people seemed to be less. A two-person booth opened in a distant corner and they settled into it while now holding hands.
The atmosphere in the room was loud and almost chaotic but here in the distant booth there were several minutes of pregnant, almost uneasy silence.
Frank said, “What kind of drunk are you?”
“You’re persistent aren’t you?” No one had ever been this blunt with her before or this quickly in a conversation. They usually waited until the next morning. Sue Ellen responded by sipping her new three-olive martini and coyly saying, “What are my options? How many ‘kinds of drunk’ are there…? Mr. Clark Frank Kent?”
“Six…” He left the word hanging in mid air as he looked at her forehead, exposed deep cleavage, her cleavage again then right eye, left eye, back to forehead and finely her open very lightly colored pink lips before repeating the word. “Three, but some say six” Frank whispered.
It was plain to see Sue Ellen was not contributing anymore to this conversation until Mr. Clark Frank Kent reveled the kinds of drunk that got her to thinking does it really make any difference what kind I am?
Sue Ellen was busy mulling her kind as she sipped the martini as Frank said:
“Well first there is the Horny Drunk - This one is pretty easy to spot. Usually it is a guy who tries to grinds his crotch against anything that moves. Damn irritating. Thinks he is charming the ladies. He isn’t. Hands like octopus.
Second you have the Sleepy Drunk - The kind that just rests at some corner or on some friend’s lap. Kills the night for at least one person.
Third is the Laughing Drunk - The kind that laughs at anything and everything. Person pukes. Laughs. People Fight. Laughs. If girl, makes every guy feels like a stud because they think they are bloody witty. Can get extremely irritating if she cackles. Can be cute if she giggles. If it is a guy, we just think he is retarded.
You have the Hyper Drunk - The energizer bunny of the group. Bouncing here, and there, and everywhere, we are the Gummi bears.
The Angry Drunk - The most dangerous kind of drunk to be around. Belligerent. Friends have to keep watch on this person and make sure nothing violent happens.
And finally the Melancholic and sometimes Philosophical Drunk - If a guy can be extremely sexy to some girls. Will just sit there and look melancholic. If musically inclined and if in right location, guy will whip out guitar and start playing songs. Girls will swoon. If a girl, guys get the chance to show their sensitive side by listening. Chance to put arm around shoulder and give gentle squeeze and stroke hair.”
Sue Ellen was enjoying herself as she looked at Frank and repeated her chooses; “Horny, Sleepy, Laughing, Hyper, Angry and Melancholy”. She was quiet for a second then her brow wrinkled a bit as she extended both hands and started counting again, “Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy…” She was stuck on Sleepy because she repeated the named a few times just as Frank hinted, “Bashful….” Sue Ellen beamed from ear to ear than said, “Yes thank you… Bashful, Sneezy AND Dopey.”
Frank was silent. He was witnessing the little girl in a beautiful young lady. Nice.
“Can I be all Thirteen?” Sue Ellen tried.
Frank had never gotten that question before or maybe it was the way her eyes danced or the slightly crooked grin on her pretty face caught him just a half-step off guard, he sputtered a bit as he heard himself say, “Sure, but not all at the same time.” Not sure why he said it but he heard himself adding with somewhat of a southern accent, “Wellll girly, yea maybe ya can…but only if you are bi-polar.”
Dumb response, but what do you expect… Frank is a guy. Not sure if bi-polar was heard or just ignored as Sue Ellen didn’t respond to the word.
Fast forward twenty-seven months.
Sue Ellen and Frank now see each other occasionally and have lunch when they can but nothing serious anymore. For several months they did try living together in a suburb of Seattle just around the corner from the Microsoft campus, but one day a guy called and said he loved her and offered to buy her a few drinks and she was gone.
Now Frank is busy making the world a safer place to live by building computer programs that do not crash and is now more careful when bar-hopping. Sue Ellen is completing her second year in the AA where she now is a formidable figure and personality that teaches and as far as the AA knows, leads by example, sorta. Has she slid backward? Sure… four times we know about and probable more… but who’s counting? Where is she? No way of telling for sure…maybe someday she will surface but not as long as the cork is out of the bottle.
Sue Ellen Lois Lane and Clark Frank Kent may not be a Guinevere and Lancelot or Cleopatra and Mark Anthony but they are not a Bonnie and Clyde either. Frank isn’t but Lois seems to rival the likes of Judy Garland, Dorothy Parker, and Tallulah Bankhead with her capacity and taste for booze.
THIS IS NOT THE END OF THIS STORY - - - The following is information you may not know or be aware of. If you have a few more minutes this data may help you save a life; maybe yours, maybe a loved one or a complete stranger or another Lois.
If there is any doubt in your mind right now about drinking or alcoholism ask yourself these questions. If any answers are yes, then you may want to talk to a spouse or close friend that will tell you the truth.
Have you ever gotten up in the middle of the night and drank a whole bottle of wine – alone?
Have you ever felt you needed to cut down on your drinking?
Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
Have you ever felt Guilty about drinking?
Have you ever felt you needed a drink first thing in the morning (Eye-opener) to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover (hair-of-the-dog)?
There are reliable tests for the actual use of alcohol; one common test is your blood alcohol content (BAC). The tests do not differentiate alcoholics from non-alcoholics; however, long-term heavy drinking does have a few recognizable effects on the body, including: It is common for a person suffering from alcoholism to drink well after physical health effects start to manifest. The physical health effects associated with alcohol consumption may include cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatitis, epilepsy, polyneuropathy, alcoholic dementia, heart disease, increased chance of cancer, nutritional deficiencies, sexual dysfunction, and death from many sources.
The social problems arising from alcoholism can be significant. I won’t waste your time here but you know what we are talking about.
Alcohol withdrawal differs significantly from most other drugs because it can be directly fatal. While it is possible for heroin addicts, for instance, to die from other health problems made worse by the strain of withdrawal, an otherwise healthy alcoholic can die from the direct effects of withdrawal if it is not properly managed. Heavy consumption of alcohol reduces the production of GABA, which is a neuroinhibitor. An abrupt stop of alcohol consumption can induce a condition where neither alcohol nor GABA exists in the system in adequate quantities, causing uncontrolled firing of the synapses. This manifests as hallucinations, shakes, convulsions, seizures, and possible heart failure, all of which are collectively referred to as Delirium Tremens. All of these withdrawal issues can be safely controlled with a medically supervised detoxification program.
The DTs - - I have witnessed this three times (once when I was 8 again at 9 and the time that tore my heart out – three weeks ago at my home while trying to help my daughter)
Treatments for alcoholism are quite varied because there are multiple perspectives for the condition itself. Those who approach alcoholism as a medical condition or disease recommend differing treatments than, for instance, those who approach the condition as one of social choice.
Most treatments focus on helping people discontinue their alcohol intake, followed up with life training and/or social support in order to help them resist a return to alcohol use. Since alcoholism involves multiple factors which encourage a person to continue drinking, they must all be addressed in order to successfully prevent a relapse. An example of this kind of treatment is detoxification followed by a combination of supportive therapy, attendance at self-help groups, and ongoing development of coping mechanisms. The treatment community for alcoholism typically supports an abstinence-based zero tolerance approach; however, there are some who promote a harm-reduction approach as well.
Betty Ford has a couple of Rehab clinics in California and Texas that are excellent but a bit pricy. The really sad part is that Betty Ford also has a clinic for children.
Films like Days of Wine and Roses, My Name is Bill W., Arthur, Leaving Las Vegas, and The Lost Weekend, chronicle similar stories of alcoholism. My favorite was Nick Cage in Leaving Las Vegas. Nicholas is hell bent on drinking himself to death and is well down that road when he meets Elizabeth Shue. My eyes water and I always get a little dreamily just at the mere idea of being with and making love with a gorgeous lady like Ms. Shue. Alcohol is that strong, that destructive and can have that kind of affect on you when Nicholas loses his family, leaves a great job, destroys all his worldly assets, sells (basically gives away) his BMW, then tops it off by turning his back on a woman like Elizabeth Shue when she was willing and tried to help. I know it was ONLY a movie, but I have seen almost the same scenario several times in real life – because of drinking.
My Lois? My daughter Lois? My Lois passed away a week ago Tuesday. Lois died shortly after giving birth to a beautiful (smallish) girl she named Hope. My Lois last looked at me with eyes swollen with tears and a very tired emotional and physical expression. I will always remember her last words as Hope was lying on her breast “Something is wrong daddy. I can smell alcohol on her breath," she said. "My baby is drunk” (Fetal alcohol syndrome).
My heart burst as Lois’s last breath left her body and her lifeless arm fell away from Hope.