Family and Genetics and Addiction

Whether a person decides to use alcohol or drugs is a choice, influenced by their environment–peers, family, and availability.  But, once a person uses alcohol or drugs, the risk of developing alcoholism or drug dependence is largely influenced by genetics.  Alcoholism and drug dependence are not moral issues, are not a matter of choice or a lack of willpower.  Plain and simple, some people’s bodies respond to the effects of alcohol and drugs differently.

Family History and Genetics

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Helping

I went to dinner with a friend who quit drinking a few weeks ago. He warned me he thought it would be weird to go out without a drink. He has avoided being sociable. We ordered ice tea with dinner. I did not notice if he was aching for a beer and he never said anything.

I tried to give him advice without sounding pushy. I asked if he wanted me to go with him to an AA meeting. He said he doesn’t want to do the AA thing.  I wasn’t really sure what to tell him.  I am not really active in AA. I felt suggesting it was sort of a cop-out to actually helping him.  Then again,  I think everyone should at least try it.  Go to a meeting.  For me,  there is always at least one thing I hear in that whole hour that helps me. Maybe I just don’t want to feel the responsibility of being the only person with whom he can share his sobriety feelings.

My sister has been battling a lot emotional problems the last few years.  We stopped speaking three years ago because she had some mental breakdowns. She started leaving me nasty voicemails and texting me a lot of mean things while she was drunk. A lot has happened since then. But that is her story.

She is now trying to get help and go sober. Yet because of all the problems she has caused and the horrible things she has done,  no one in our family is talking to her. Her kids do not even want to talk to her.

She has started to message me recently. This has caused some strife in my family in a sort of “with her/against us” mentality.  But I know how important it is to have support when trying to get sober. I have sent her a few links to try to help.  She is getting professional help. I plan to check in and try to support her from afar. I am also worried about getting too involved in her problems and it hindering my recovery.

Mistake 178- When she started her nasty messages to me,  they started with accusations of an incident from the early 1990s.

I was drunk and ran into her old, high school boyfriend. We were in a military bar in another country. It was his birthday. A bunch of us were drinking pitchers of beer. With straws. We had long straws stuck in the large pitchers! Everyone was drinking and getting drunk like young military people tend to do. And somewhere in the night, he and I started to kiss. We left the bar and went somewhere else. We started to kiss heavily. He dropped to his knees and started some oral pleasantries.  Then when he tried to go to the next step, I stopped him. I said I couldn’t do this. He dated my sister. This was wrong. He seemed disappointed but was fine. We returned to the bar and acted like nothing happened.

I wrote about it in my journal. My sister later read my whole journal. Since in the journal it said he and I “hooked up”, she thought it meant intercourse. When she confronted me, I told her it meant just making out. I am not sure if I ever told her about the oral. But to this day, she swears I fucked him.  I am not sure if “only oral” is any less worse. What is actually worse is that I stopped from going further because of his past relationship with my sister but the fact that I was married at the time was not a reason to stop.

New Mug and Sober Triggers

My mom came to visit yesterday. She brought me this gift: Purple Flower Mug

(In case you can not read the picture, the mug says “The Best Things in Life are the people we love, the places we’ve been  and the memories we’ve made along the way.”)

It is a large mug and she knows I like large mugs. Plus she knows I like purple. But the message was the best part for me. Having memories is so much better than blackouts!  And I have a new mug for all my herbal teas.

The visit was nice. She again asked how the “not drinking thing” is going and how I feel. I sometimes worry I talk too much about my sobriety with her but I like having her as an outlet. I can not discuss it at work and my friends on Facebook still seem uncomfortable with it.

The only thing she said that annoyed me was “It is a shame. That is what people do. Meet out for drinks.” I told her I can still go out and I am even willing to go to places with alcohol. I will just order water with lemon. I have to just keep reminding myself I can not drink just like her boyfriend, who is diabetic, has to avoid certain foods. Or anyone with an allergy has to avoid certain things.

I kept trying to share with her some of my drunk stories to stress to her how much I drank. When we used to share a bottle of wine, she would have a glass and I would drink the rest. She seems to block out the times I spent at her house sleeping all day after being up all night emptying her wine rack. She always thought of my DUIs as unfortunate mistakes. Maybe she is worried if she admits I have a problem, it is somehow her fault?

I am realizing that when I do finally get around to working on the 12 steps, I really need to make amends to her even if she does not recognize it. “Sorry mom for all those times you were worried when I was out drinking. Sorry for making you drive 6 hours away to bail me out of jail. Sorry for you returning to that city for my court date.  Sorry for all I put you through.”

After she left, I went to the grocery store. I was stocking up on veggies and ingredients for salads. I am determined to drop weight in the next month. I have a reunion June 7. I also bought some unsweetened tea and large gallon of water. I am going to put lemon, lime, mint, and cucumbers in the jug of water. Then I am gonna drink at least half of it each day. Keep refilling it. Hope it helps.

I walked past the beer section in the store. I glanced at some summer ale. For a brief second, I thought “I could just stop. I could just give up this sober thing. I could always try again later.” But I kept walking. I thought I worked too hard to stop now. This “sobriety thing” needs to be a forward thing. No backpedaling. No breaks. I do not want to think of the self-loathing that would follow if I drank that beer.

I picked up my last item but the sober-drink battle kept floating in my brain. It was not really a battle. Just a lingering thought. Just images of me sitting in bars. Just one drink in my hand.

Then a man passed me. He was wearing a hat from a university I used to want to attend. A university in a city that I was planning to move to until plans changed in January. That was when I found out I could not get the job I wanted because of my two DUIs. They said it did not matter how long ago the DUIs were. My plans for the job and moving there were canceled. That was when I decided to get sober. And seeing his hat was a reminder of why I quit drinking alcohol. It triggered me back to happy, sober land. I do not want anymore plans changed or futures ruined from my drunk mistakes. I am gonna keep being sober and even if my life does not become perfect, it will be a hell of a lot better than where it was going. I actually want to be alive.

Now I am gonna enjoy some mint tea.

Mistake # 105- I graduated college. My mom came to my graduation with my sister and nephew who was a baby. They stayed at a hotel. I joined them to stay in the room one night. My sister and I waited until my mom and the baby fell asleep. Then we snuck out of the hotel. I wanted to celebrate! Two women in their mid-twenties sneaking out like teenagers.

We went down to some bars that were walking distance. (I had a restricted driver license because this was after my first DUI.) We got drunk. We met some guys. They tried to invite us back to their place. We declined because we knew our mom would be too upset if we were not back by morning. We stumbled in the hotel room after last call at 2am. We tried to be quiet but for some reason, drunk people sound like elephants even when tip toeing. We woke my mom and she just warned us not the wake the baby. We slept in until the afternoon the next day while she took the baby out for breakfast and shopping. My sister and I got drunk again that night. Maybe the birth of my nephew distracted my mom from me and my sister’s alcoholism.

All in the Family

I went to my mom’s last night to take her out for her birthday dinner. It was early but I have to work on her birthday. My brother and his girlfriend were going to join us.

She was happy to see me. I sat down at her kitchen table and we had some small talk. She asked “are you still doing the “no drinking” thing?” I said yes. It has been about 65 days. She smiled and said “that is great! How do you feel?” I was shocked. I told her I felt really good. But this was the first time she seemed to be very positive about my sobriety. Not questioning it or doubting it. I told her this is the longest I have ever been sober. The longest I ever went was “62 or 63” days according to my journals. She beamed with… was that pride? She said that is really great and she was so happy for me.

She was hesitant to pick a place for dinner. “Let’s just order pizza or take out.” My brother insisted we take her out. “Okay well where do you guys want to go.” Mom it is your birthday dinner. You pick a place. “But what do you guys want?” Fine, I want Indian. “Ew I don’t like Indian.” Exactly. Pick something you like.

We went to a restaurant pub. It had nice food. My mom and brother ordered Heineken and his girlfriend got some hard ice tea type of drink. I had my soda. Again, I had no desire to drink alcohol. But I did notice that they both had two beers each during dinner. I easily would have had at least four. I would have been eying the waitress every time my bottle got low to request a new one.

This morning, I woke up early and joined my mom in the living room for coffee while she read her newspaper. She shared some of the stories she was reading with me.  Then I talked about my friend’s visit. For the first time, I told my mom the story of me getting drunk at the wedding. I told her how I was “one of those” at the wedding. My mom said “I guess it means you can not handle drinking socially. I guess you can never drink again?” I said no, I can’t handle it. She said she guesses it is good I know that.

We talked about some of my drunk mistakes. I left out the ones about sex. We talked about all my lost phones and wallets and cameras. We talked about the people we know that are battling depression but still continue  to drink. I told her I feel happier now that I quit drinking. I did not go into details about my own struggle with depression. But I did say that I got depressed and cried when drunk a lot.

We talked about the different types of drunks. The party people. The depressed ones. The mean ones. She began to talk about my dad being a nasty drunk. Then she talked about her own father being a nasty drunk. This was the first time I ever heard about that. I never met her father because he died before I was born but all I’ve ever heard was praises about him being a great man. How he was better than my father. And now, for the first time in my 38 years, I hear he was a drunk but then he just quit. He just stopped drinking. And then he died of a stroke in his 50s. Is that why she used to always criticize my dad for not being able to quit? With all his DUIs, she thought he could just quit if he was strong enough. If he loved his family enough. If he was as good as her father.

I wonder what other secrets my sobriety will bring out?

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Mistake #67- Not gonna go into much detail now but there were many mistakes as a result of my DUIs. But one huge regret I have was I missed my mom’s 60th birthday because I was sitting in jail for a week after my second DUI.

Childless

I went to an AA meeting the other day where most people talked about issues with their kids and how it affects their sobriety.  It made me so glad I chose not to procreate.

But that does not mean my sobriety is not affected by children and family. I have a niece and nephew who mean the world to me. They are my younger sister’s kids. I was a big part of their life when they were younger. Then she and I have not gotten along since 2011. I am not sure what her diagnosis is but I know she is suffering from mental problems in addition to substance abuse. I suspect the mental issues are secondary. She did not want me in the lives of her children anymore.

My mom has helped raise them a lot. I don’t think my sister would have managed without her assistance. My mom secretly kept me in touch. She would have them send me cards and talk to me on the phone when they visited.

My sister began to show increased erratic behavior last summer. She gave her two children to their paternal grandparents “for a little bit” and then spent two months fighting for them back. (Their father has been out of the picture most of their lives.) The children were returned to her. I heard she seemed normal for a month and then began “acting up”. My nephew is a preteen and the poor kid told me his mom is “sick”. He is old enough to know.

Last fall, she gave them to my older sister and her husband. She signed away her parental rights and sent them a 1000 miles away. She was mad at my mom so did this rather than give her custody. I was worried because I have not gotten along with my older sister for two decades. I could never pin-point the reason. Maybe she has mental issues too. But I guessed I would never see the kids again.

Since they were born, I have sent them postcards, gifts and foreign currency from all the places I have been. I have taught them few words here and there in other languages. I’ve taken them on trips to cities that are driving distance to their home. Now the poor kids were uprooted and taken away from the only life they knew. Besides my mom, my brother has been closest to them. He was my nephew’s best friend.

At first, my older sister contacted me and said she wanted me included in their life. Over the months, new and stricter rules keep being placed that makes it harder to speak with the kids. We are only allowed to call for a few minutes on weekends but my sister and her husband monitor the calls. I do not know if they get the cards I send. Then they told my brother and I we can not visit the kids. It has been tearing us apart.

Then last night, her husband told my mom that my brother and I are no longer allowed to speak to the kids. I emailed my sister asking what did I do to be denied contact. She responded with a myriad of reasons and excuses that did not make sense. When I tried to refute each one, she replied with mean messages and told me “this is not about you!” Then, to add nastiness to her emails, she said the kids do not even ask about me. She said my close relationship to them is made up in my mind.

There are so many feelings going through my head and body. I am hurt and angry. Saddened. Worried. I worry so much about those kids. My nephew is very sensitive and emotional. Before I went away when his mom first started with her problems, he apologized to me for his mom being mean. He cried and told me not to leave. I think my niece is still too young to know what is happening. The times I have talked to him, he talks to me about art and books and the latest Walking Dead. I wonder what they are going to say to him when he doesn’t hear from me nor my brother.

I am trying to restrain outrage and hatred. I have been reading Buddhist quotes to try to find a peace of mind. I am going to start a journal of letters to them but not send it. Hopefully my mom will be allowed to see them this summer (unless she gets cut off too) and she can show them the journal. I hope keeping these letter will show them I never stopped loving and thinking of them. Hopefully my younger sister will seek help and regain custody.

I know I mention that my sisters have mental issues but fail to mention mine. I know I am an alcoholic. I suffer depression. I plan to explore whether my depression triggered the alcoholism or the other way around. Maybe if I can treat my depression, I can fight the drinking problem. I am not perfect. But the kids should not have to suffer.

I am not letting it affect my sobriety. I did tell my mom I wished I could just drink a bottle of wine and call my older sister to give her an earful. I know that was not rational thinking.

I pray for my little K and D.

By your own folly you will be brought as low as your worst enemy wishes. – Buddha

Mistake# 34- I was visiting a friend in Florida. She had her two little girls with her. One was 4 and the other 7. I spent a week with them traveling from Tampa to Pensacola to St Augustine. I was asked to join them to watch the girls while my friend took care of some things. She was going through a divorce.

The week was  a good reminder of why I do not want kids. I even went to the airport early to try to get an earlier flight home. I was drained from spending time with her kids. I was tired of their yelling and screaming. I was irritated by their crying over a stuffed animal or cartoons. I was so fed up with their fighting that I went out alone my last night.

The last night was a visit to St Augustine. It is the oldest city in America. We spent the day sight-seeing. I remember two girls arguing relentlessly and not listening to their mom. That night, I decided to go out alone. I wanted my own time. I went to some place for dinner and margaritas. A guy from the bar started smiling at me and then asked to join me. We talked and had many margaritas. Many! He invited me to a small party down the street.

I got drunk and went back to this party full of strangers. I do not remember much except a beautiful kitchen, more margaritas, and he and I having sex in a bedroom. Then I stumbled back, along cobblestone streets, to find the hotel. I do remember being scared I was gonna break my ankle on the antique road.

The oldest daughter was waiting up for me. She said she was worried when I did not come back by the time her mom went to bed. I told her I got lost.

Shamed by a 7 year old.

my Mom

I do not have problems turning down alcohol yet. I am not sure if that is due to lack of influence or weak temptations. My brother’s girlfriend offered me white wine on Friday night. She said she put a bottle in the fridge earlier. It seemed she bought it for my visit. I declined it and requested water instead. She did not encourage or ask offer it again. Neither she nor my brother were drinking booze that night. So no pressure.

I am visiting my mom now. She is aware of my intentions to quit. I shared with her some of the things I learned from the audiobook I was listening to on my roadtrip. She asked me if I believe alcoholism is a disease. She never believed my dad had a disease. She thought he just did not have the desire to quit. I told her I believe there are different levels of alcoholism. I think delirium tremen seizures are proof that it can be a medical problem. I do not have a physical addiction. But I am hoping I will be encourage to never drink again by noting some of the problems and mistakes from my drinking habits.

Mistake #5: Well this was not just one mistake. There were many times I would stay up late drinking wine or beer while my mom visited or when visiting her. Then the next day, I would sleep in while she would read the newspaper and drink her coffee. Sometimes it caused us to have a late start if we had site-seeing plans. Or I would sleep away most of my visit. She would place the empty wine bottles in the recycling bin and I would apologize when I woke up. If I drank a bottle during dinner, she would make some comment about not knowing how I could drink that much. Then she would give her consent to open a second bottle. I think living in denial of a husband’s disease formed her beliefs that her children could control it too.