Wednesday, July 2, 2014

I'm Not THAT Stupid

The primary message I received about alcohol during school health classes and military alcohol awareness trainings was to “make good choices”. These lessons taught me that alcohol and substance abuse problems stemmed from a lack of willpower. 

Despite being repeatedly warned about how alcohol affects a person's judgment, I quickly dismissed the warnings. I never thought I could develop a problem because I always had excellent self-control and plenty of willpower. 

That won’t happen to me, I thought, I’m not that stupid.   

What I didn't know was that neither intelligence nor super self-control guarantees a person immunity from alcoholism.

I didn't learn any of this (really useful) information until I was already an active alcoholic.  

No one really knows what causes alcoholism

Doctors and specialists all over the world have spent decades studying addiction in general and alcoholism specifically. And while they know that alcoholism's development and progression are definitely impacted by a combination of genetic, social, cultural, and biological factors (source), no one can pinpoint a singular root cause.

And that includes willpower:
"Critics aside, it is a recognized medical position that a lack of willpower is not the cause of an addiction."
Addiction As Lack of Willpower,

Alcoholism affects a wide variety of people 

Statistics show that alcoholism is not limited to any singular profession, socio-economic background, race, gender, religion, hair color, geographic location, or any other superficial attribute we typically use to identify ourselves. For evidence of this, Alcoholics Anonymous created a pamphlet with data collected during a voluntary survey to its' members in 2011.

Alcoholism manifests in people differently 

Not all alcoholics are homeless people who live under bridges. 
Not all alcoholics lose their home, spouse, children, or job. 
Not all alcoholics drink alone.

Hopefully, you get the picture.

Run a search for "questions to determine if I'm an alcoholic" and a few options will crop up. In many cases they will tell you that you don't have to answer every question with "yes" in order to be an alcoholic

For instance, I know a woman who consumed 2-drinks a day and never blacked out, whereas I drank sporadically and regularly experienced blackouts. Both scenarios will cause us to answer "yes" to different questions in this quiz by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence

This 12-question quiz provided by Alcoholics Anonymous touts that you could have a problem with alcohol if you answer "yes" as few as four times.


More people need to learn about alcoholism and addiction in a way that tells them they are NOT a bad or immoral person if they struggle with drugs or alcohol. Like most mental health issues, it is more common than most people realize, afflicting 17.6 million people (1 in every 12 adults). (FAQs/Facts, National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence

Do the math. Look at the number of people you are connected to on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or just in your daily life. Chances are, you know someone battling alcoholism.