on habitual problem drinking

on habitual problem drinking December 2, 2020

I’ve seldom spoken or written on habitual problem drinking.  Growing up near Napa Valley has taught me to be careful how I address the subject of drinking.  In fact, I believe I haven’t addressed drinking since Friday 07.20.18.

To read the article Ethics & the GT Region, pt. 2: on Agriculture, Commercialization & Discretionary Income CLICK HERE

Stanton, Archie & Mary on People Facing Addictive Habits CLICK HERE

I have adapted this piece from a study guide.[1]  I have two study guides with nearly 100 pages total.  The guides are not book reviews, but are closer to reaction papers or monographs.  I value one book over the other, The Truth About Addiction and Recovery.[2]

Now that I’m reviewing this writing, I have bulleted my current thoughts.  Some of those bullet points are summaries of larger paragraphs of text.  Other bullet points offer perspective based on my current views.

  1. Whom does the term “silent majority” refer to?

These are the people that recover from addictions without treatment.  The book refers to, “a large number of famous entertainers and sports figures – and a substantial proportion of the entire male population . . . self-curers make up the large majority of former problem drinkers” (p. 49).

  1. What groups tend to have high alcoholism rates?  How do these people view alcohol?

There are some groups where alcoholism is high: “some ethnic and racial groups . . . poorer socioeconomic backgrounds . . . disturbed families . . . men [more than women] . . . and young people” (p. 50).  Some of the ethnic backgrounds that have high alcoholism rates are, “Irish . . . Native Americans (Indians and Eskimos) . . . the Slavs, the English, and some other American Protestant drinkers” (p. 50-51).  Those in the, “working-class population,” become alcoholics more often than college grads.  “Blacks and Hispanics become alcoholics far more often than whites” (p. 51).

There are some basic views of alcohol among those that have more addicts.  “They have a greater fear of drinking and more often avoid it altogether . . . they are more likely to develop a drinking problem” (p. 51).

Irish Americans believe in abstinence as, “the only way to overcome a drinking problem” (p. 51).  “Groups with higher alcoholism rates, like the Irish and Baptists and Slaves and Scandinavians, already fear alcohol and readily accept that alcoholism is a disease” (p. 53).

Perhaps the fact that drinking seems like a greater risk (for those who fear it or believe alcoholism to be a disease) heightens the rush: greater guilt, greater buzz.

  1. What ethnic groups tend to have low alcoholism rates?  How do these people view alcohol?

  • Bear in mind, this book and research was conducted before the era of political correctness.  We may cringe at the findings, but they are based on good research.  They are not intended to stereotypical.  Correlation does not equal causation.

“The Italians, Jews, and Greeks (and those from other Mediterranean cultures) and the Chinese have exceedingly low rates of alcoholism” (p. 51). 

  • One major difference is that these cultures allow for drinking at meals and religious celebrations for the family.  Alcohol is offered at home, as a typical night-cap, etc. Therefore, drinking is a part of life (compare to p. 52).

It’s not the norm, but the Chinese sometimes get drunk.  This is because drinking is part of a social interaction with societal norms, or rules.  “The individual who lost control of himself under the influence of liquor was ridiculed and, if he persisted in his defection, ostracized” (p. 53).  This is in effect the same for Hebraic culture.

“Groups with the lowest alcoholism rates – think of alcoholism as a self-initiated problem that can be controlled” (p. 53).

  • Healthy drinkers seem to have already wrapped their minds around how they are going to drink.  Therefore, they drink with very little problems and avoid those who do acquiesce their locus of control to alcohol (see p. 54).
  1. What did the Berkley group find as the best predictor of having a drinking problem?

The Berkeley group found that your social contexts are your best predictors.  “The Berkeley group found that the best predictor of whether you will have a drinking problem is how many drinking problems those in the groups you drink with have” (p. 56).

  1. What are some typical phases of problem drinking and of maturing out?

The book offers 5 definitive phases of drinking problems and of maturing out.  The first one is, “Early maturing out.  Here a person stops drinking excessively as an ordinary part of growing into adulthood, as soon as he or she develops a sufficient foothold in life” (p. 59).

This would be an interesting trail for the developmental psychologist to go down.  The book promotes the idea that over a normal lifespan, we outgrow or discard certain vices.

The second phase is, “Mid-career maturing out.  Here the drinker brings his or her drinking into line with a growing sense of security and responsibility that comes with career accomplishment and stable family life” (p. 59).

This is a good model that the book builds on quite a bit.

Values in life begin to outweigh the value of drinking, or the substance

When these other values increase, the dependence on alcohol decreases.

The third phase is, “Late-emerging addiction . . . This can occur when people’s careers go off track and their early promise dissipates . . . more people become alcoholics because of failure than because of success” (p. 59-60).

This idea is congruent with the Scripture, “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but happy is he who keeps the law” (Proverbs 29.18, NRSV).  The idea is that if the person has something to hope for, addiction will not keep him from attaining it.  Another similar Scripture reads, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13.12).

The fourth phase is, “Late maturing out.  For a person who experiences crisis, decline, or escalating problems, two outcomes are possible: late maturation or persistent addiction” (p. 60).

The person comes face to face with his problems, and walks away from the substance

The book reports that most of these people still quit on their own, even though they’ve hit rock bottom.

The fifth phase is, “Persistent addiction” (p. 60).  The book classifies this type into three categories.

First, there are those who are too socially isolated and economically and educationally disadvantaged… whose alcoholism is marked by greater and greater separation from ordinary life satisfaction and success.  Second, there are those whose subjective experience is so painful that they require regular alcohol intoxication to make their lives tolerable… Third, and overlapping with the other two types of alcoholics, are those who fail to confront their worsening life situation because they are too insensitive to recognize they are escaping their responsibilities… What marks this behavior is moral obtuseness (p. 61).

Alcoholics Anonymous labels this third group as being in denial.  However, the book proposes that they are capable of understanding their problem with drinking, but they fail to take the responsibility for it.

  1. What has some of the scientific research shown about the inheritance of alcoholism?

The first thing is that, “children of alcoholics are perhaps two to three times more likely than others to become alcoholics” (p. 61).

As for the disease model, “No genetic marker or set of genes for alcoholism has been identified” (p. 62).

NO research disputes that alcoholism takes a good deal of time to develop . . . no one is guaranteed to become, or to remain, an alcoholic” (p. 62).

We label alcoholics.  However, what do we do then with this finding?  Alcoholism does not have to be a lifelong problem.

  1. Who was the first, and best-known researcher on the inheritance of alcoholism?

“The first, and still best-known, research of this kind was conducted by Donald Goodwin and his associates with Danish adoptees” (p. 63).

His research showed that 18 percent of adopted children with alcoholic parents became alcoholic themselves, as opposed to only 5 percent who did not have alcoholic parents.

The book turns it around though, and brings out the fact that 82 percent of adopted children with alcoholic parents do not become alcoholic.  That speaks more against an inheritance of alcoholism.

  1. According to Donald Goodwin how do children of alcoholics differ from others who have emotional problems?

Goodwin did not agree with the extra problems that adult children of alcoholics face.  The book states that, “all the stuff’ that has been written in recent years about adult children of alcoholics has been, in his judgment, something akin to a hoax.  Adult children of alcoholics are about like adult children of everybody else with a problem, he said, and it’s hard to build a reasonable case for giving them extraordinary attention” (p. 70).

Stanton, Archie & Mary on People Facing Addictive Habits CLICK HERE

Meet Jared

[1] Jared Ingle, Study Guide: The Truth About Addiction and Recovery, presented to Department Chair, Mark Bradford D.Min., Psy.D. (Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, April 30, 2002).
[2] Stanton Peele, Archie Brodsky, and Mary Arnold,  “Are People Born Alcoholics?,” The Truth About Addiction and Recovery: The Life Process Program for Outgrowing Destructive Habits (New York, NY: Fireside, 1991), 47-72.
  • I normally adhere to Turabian style.  However, since this is a workbook for one book, I am only including the page numbers in the citation.

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