Alcoholism is a Family Affair

My mother is not the only alcoholic in my family. Oh no, she is not.

Alcoholism is often a Family Affair. Sometimes it is as simple as a family tradition; sometimes the dysfunction of living with alcoholics drives other members into the bottle. There is a genetic predisposition to alcoholism that must be taken into consideration.

My mother is not the only member of my family who will die of alcoholism. There are many ways in which alcoholism kills as I mentioned in an earlier post  (Please check out the archive section to the right…)

Let me count the ways that members of my family have died or suffered due to long time use of alcoholism:

(I will not name anyone or list the relationship out of respect for those still living. I will say that most of these people would have looked like very successful people to anyone outside the family. That is what we call ‘A Professional’ in my family. )

-One family member became homeless due to alcoholism.

-One family member began to have seizures which is one of the symptoms of Wernicke-Korsakoff. Long time alcohol abuse had weakened the cell walls of his internal organs. The last seizure caused him to struggle and his internal organs collapsed. He bled to death from the inside out. His blood soaked through the floor boards and into the basement below.

-One family member was committed several times to forced rehab. They were arrested  many times for driving while drunk and for indecent exposure. This family member has several advanced degrees and was a ‘highly functioning alcoholic’. She passed out, face first in more family meals than I can count. The rest of us would continue to eat  our meal as though nothing had happened.

-One family member also began to have seizures. They became incontinent (another bonus of long time alcohol use) and could no longer leave the house for fear of accidents.

-One family member had an ulcer that was so serious due to long time alcohol use that the ulcer eventually ate a hole through his stomach. He was rushed to the hospital and was not expected to live through the night. He did live. He became sober after this only because alcohol use caused too much pain.

-One family member committed suicide when the realization of what the future would bring became clear to him. Seizures had become part of his every day life.

– One family member died in a cheap hotel room surrounded by empty vodka bottles filled with his own urine.

-One family member, also a highly functioning alcoholic with a successful career, was so afraid of the future she was certain she would die by the age of 30. She tried other drugs, became a workaholic, was afraid of relationships and developed OCD as a way of coping. This family member could drink all her friends under the table and wake without a hangover. She was what we call in our family,  a ‘Professional.’  As her 30th birthday approached, she began to realize that choices must be made. Death was not looming as promised in her mind. To live her life as an alcoholic became unacceptable. She quit drinking on her 30th birthday.

That was the first day of the rest of her life.

That woman was me.

I sit with my mother in her nursing home, the doors locked to keep us in, and I see what could have been; what still could be.

Alcoholism is a lifelong curse and recovery is a lifetime committment. I have a mirror in all of these family members; a tarnished family heirloom that reminds me:

Alcoholism is a Family Affair and not everyone gets out alive.


~ by Step On a Crack on October 4, 2011.

3 Responses to “Alcoholism is a Family Affair”

  1. Such a harsh reality but thank God you had the courage to break the cycle. I know recovery is life-long. Keep doing the next right thing. And thank you for such openness to share yourself like this. I know many will be challenged to take courage too.


    • Wheww. I really debated writing this. The thing is, alcoholism DOES KILL and it DOES destroy lives. I am continually amazed at how casual my family can be about it all. It is unnerving and really disturbing. Maybe it is being so close to my mothers dementia that just brings it all to the fore.

      I LOVE the Next Right Thing. I LOVE that. Thank you again and again!


  2. Debating whether or not to write a post usually means you’re struggling with either personal vulnerability or risking rejection from others’ opinions. You’ve shown a willingness to face both and succeed with this post!

    By the way, we’re on the same page with Next Right Thing. It’s the topic for my post today!


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