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alcohol addiction
cough mixture
common denominator
bragging rights
peer pressure
23 years
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Alcohol Addiction – Is It A Disease, Hereditary, Or Something You Learn?
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Alcohol Addiction – Is it A Disease, Hereditary, Or Something You Learn?

Is alcohol addiction, something you teach yourself?

Is it a disease?

Or is it hereditary?

These are questions I have asked myself for years, and still have not convinced myself I know the answer. I was a drinker, a heavy drinker. When did I start? At school, at the age of 14, don't get me wrong, I'm not bragging, if anything I'm ashamed of myself. But I have the bragging rights to not having had a drink for 23 years, I mean not a drop, not even a cough mixture with an alcohol base.

Why did I start so early? It certainly was not because of my parents, nor peer pressure, could it have been a disease? Is it catching? No one else at the school appeared to suffer the same sickness. I went to a very strict all boy boarding school, miles from towns where one could be influenced by others. Was it a wish for recognition by those at the school? I did not need it, I was a good athlete, played rugby, cricket, water polo and did well in them all, I was not the most intelligent in the class, but held my own. Was good at mathematics, even to becoming a Land Surveyor in later life.

All I can say is, I began early, and the problem with starting at that age, because of the circumstances, you learn to hide the fact. A common denominator in alcoholics, hiding the fact, hiding the bottle, sometimes so well hidden, you could not find it till later years. My wine making days began at school, where the school chapel bell tower became my fermenting room. When I left school and started in my career, I could not afford the beer that I drank to affect my future, so moderation took over. A stint in the Rhodesian army even managed to slow down the drink, but only till weekend passes issued, then lost time made up.

Collage followed where my education came first, studied every night till happy I understood everything taught during the day, then it was time for the night clubs. Did my parents know of this, or my employer? No, I was an adult, been to the border to defend my country, allowed to do what I pleased after working hours. Was it a major problem? I don't think so at that time, I never missed a lecture or was late for work, head of the class in results for exams, no it was not a problem.

Graduated and took on the responsibilities of a surveyor in the field. Most of this work was deep in the outback where alcohol unavailable. But when visiting towns, I made up the lost time, but it was still not a problem. I got married and like most wives, mine worried about the amount I drank. Standard answer, “I can quit any time I feel like it!” Her concern well grounded, I did partake too much, but a young man will never admit to it. We moved to South Africa, where I got a prestigious position, and enjoyed the new-found life. Did I have a problem? No, I never missed work for a day, never late and very conscientious, too conscientious according to my wife. Spent too much time at work, doing what I loved, but alcohol was available.

I bought a farm, and that is when things started to go wrong. Farmers are a breed of their own, they work hard at times and party hard at other times. Up to my farming days I only drank beer and wine, it was here I started to drink the brandy's and other such spirits. This was not good for the brain and body, I became derelict in duties on the farm, late morning rising when you own a dairy is not on. I lost the farm after five years and moved to town for employment. Did the drinking slow down? No, we had little money, yet I always had for brandy, the curse of my life. My marriage held together only because my wife thought I was a “good man” (her words not mine). But was I? Now, due to debt, we started our own business, which my wife ran for a few years whilst I continued to work. She could never understand how I became so drunk from what she saw disappear out of the bottle in the house. Little did she know, I bought a new bottle everyday and hid it in the vehicle she drove all day. This would be devoured in gulps and slugs whilst smoking outside out of her vision.

I remember the day well when I knew I had a problem, I awoke at work after having been there for an hour and a half. Determined I could remember how I got to work I checked to see if the vehicle was there, it was, so I had driven myself to work. I chatted to the Boss, he was not upset, so I had been a good worker for the day, so far. How was it possible to awake, dress, go to work and not remember a thing? I had a problem, a major problem, a “black out” of note. I asked myself the question, the same question my wife had asked of me so many times, “was it necessary to attempt to pickle my brain in this way?”

I decided not and asked permission of the Boss to quickly go home. I grabbed any and every bottle of alcohol in my house and was pouring it down the drain when my wife arrived. She asked the obvious question and I answered that I would never drink again. My wife never laughed at the answer, or gave a hint of disbelief. Her words “I will support you through it.” and she did. A pillar of strength in my time of wanting, the days of urges she talked me through. Spent the day with me when I felt I might “fall off the wagon”, a crutch I could lean on.

Did I go to AA for support? No, I had my support at home. Was I an alcoholic? Yes, I can admit to that today. Did I get it as a disease or was it hereditary? No, I think I taught myself, a self-inflicted wound, one that has not left a scar on my marriage, because I married an Angel. Is it a disease, hereditary or simply a self-taught addiction? I lean towards the latter, any person with common sense should know their own limitations. I do not wave a placard against alcohol, those that know when “enough is enough” have my admiration, it is just not good for me.

When did this day of self-education, the day of enlightenment happen? 8/8/1988 my second birthday of life.


Street Talk

Johnney  

Just came from your most recent article, Rob, "Don't Drink an Drive" congratulations on your sobriety it calls for a medal of honor. I'm reminded of a great song that says... "my gun is a bottle, the drink is the bullet, and I'm dying one shot at a time"

Reply
  about 8 years ago

Thanks Johnney, I had almost forgotten that I had written this article till I wrote the other. But thanks for reading and commenting.

Reply
  about 8 years ago

Great article, I agree with you Rob, this is a real disease and its not easy dealing with it. I have family members and best friends that struggle with this problem. It has been years for them and its seems that it will be more years to come as well. Thank you

Reply
  about 8 years ago

Thanks William, I have got to know many that have struggled with the condition, some who have given up and others still struggling. I am convinced that it is in the head, and when you can get that right you have won.

Reply
  about 8 years ago
Stacydee  

Wow great article, well said.

Reply
  about 8 years ago

Thanks Stacydee. appreciate it.

Reply
  about 8 years ago

Great article Rob. Very touching and I think you are right, everyone needs to know their limitations.

Reply
  about 8 years ago

I think one of the most difficult things is admitting you have a problem and that it is self inflicted. I feel strongly about all addictions, they are self inflicted. You did it to yourself, so teach yourself to stop. No addiction is so bad you can not leave it, It is the will and wish to stop that is the difficult decision. Get that right in the head and you have won the battle.

Reply
  about 8 years ago
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