Posted by: RealisticRecovery | August 13, 2009

Common Myths about Alcoholism

Common Myths about Alcoholism

by Shannon Morris,

There are many “myths” about alcoholism. As an adult child of two alcholic parents, a sister, granddaughter, and wife of an alcoholic, and someone who has struggled with her own alcoholism, I have realized that there are no myths about alcoholism except one. That is the myth that alcoholism can be explained or defined and that the “rules” apply to all alcoholics.

Myth #1- When a person drinks they show their true colors. This myth is a complete falsehood. One or two drinks my allow a person to let go of their inhibitions enough to say or do things they would normally be too shy to say or do. Is that their true personality? Maybe. When someone who is normally a decent, caring person drinks to excess and beats another person to a bloody pulp, is that their true colors? I don’t think so. Alcoholism impairs your ability to think rationally so you say and do things you would never, under ordinary circumstances, say and do.

Myth #2- Alcoholism is caused by genetics or heredity- Alcoholism does seem to “run in families”. I believe it can be genetic. I also believe it can be caused by many other factors. I have known people who consider themselves alcoholics who are not genetically predisposed to the condition because of a family history of alcoholism. Instead these people began drinking for a variety of other reasons. One such person, found out many years later that they have a mental health condition. One that is now easily treatable but years ago was not. They began drinking as a way to “self-medicate”. The alcohol helped them feel less anxiety. Another alcoholic I know grew up in a family where alcoholism was not a problem at all. This person was abused by someone outside of the family and they turned to alcohol as a means to ease the pain caused by the abuse. Sometimes alcoholism can seem to be genetic because children raised by alcoholic parents, so often grow up to repeat the cycle. Is this definately because of genetics or because of learned behavior. I think both. It’s the nature versus nurture question and I believe that there may be a genetic predisposition to alcoholism in some cases but certainly not in all.

Myth #3- An alcoholic CAN drink again or an alcholic CAN’T ever drink again. These are both myths. It depends on the alcoholic and the nature or their alcoholism. I know someone who had a very serious drinking problem. They went to a psychologist who worked with them on stress management skills and some deep-rooted psychological issues stemming from their childhood. They now can drink socially with no problems whatsoever. I also know a man who was an recovering alcoholic. He had more than twenty years of sobriety. He had grown up in a healthy family environment. He had not been abused as a child. He had no deep-rooted issues that caused him to drink. During his sobriety he had married, raised a family, built a very successful business, and was extremely happy.
He was on the golf course one day with some buddys who were drinking beer and decided after twenty years of sobriety and being secure and happy with his life there was no reason why he couldn’t have a beer. Within a year he was drinking every day and had almost lost everything. As I said before there are no rules to alcoholism.

Myth #4- Alcoholism is caused by environment. This can be true for some people but is definately not always the case. My father grew up in a home where there was almost no drinking. My grandparents might split a beer now and then or have a glass of wine on a special occasion. There was no abuse of alcohol or any other drug and the family was as happy and functional as any. Yet, my father grew up to be an extreme alcoholic. He certainly did not learn this behavior. My mother on the other hand did grow up in an alcoholic home. There is a history of alcoholism in her family and she was abused as a child. So which one caused her alcoholism. Was it genetic? Was it a learned behavior? Was she trying to dull the pain of childhood abuse? It was probably a combination of all three.

Myth #5- AA works or AA does not work- AA can work for some people. I’ve seen it. It may not work for others. Alcoholism is a term for someone who cannot control their drinking without help. What kind of help is needed is as varied as the reasons for alcoholism. If a person drinks excessively to mask the pain of some type of trauma, of course they need to deal with that trauma. If someone is an alcoholic because of genetics or an “allergy” to alcohol then AA may work well for them. That person my NEVER be able to drink again. As with treatments for other illnesses and diseases, there is no one treatment for alcoholism that will work for everyone.

There are many other “myths” surrounding alcoholism. The biggest myth, however is simply that any one statement concerning alcoholism will ring true for every alcoholic. People are very different and so require different treatments. The causes of alcoholism vary greatly from individual to individual. I have searched for answers for years. What caused this in my family? Why us? How can I keep this from happening to me or my children? There are now answers to the first two or better I should say, there are too many answers to the first two. As for my last question, there is no way to be sure that my children or future grandchildren won’t ever encounter problems with alcoholism. Statistically speaking, they are doomed! I can, however, lead by example by making sure my own drinking habits are never out of control. I can teach my children the risks of alcohol. I can let them know that our family has issues with alcoholism and what the warning signs are. Knowledge is power. We may never know why but we can learn how to keep from perpetuating the cycle.

source: Shannon Morris,


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