Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Day 25 - The "Cause" of Alcoholism

Day 25, and sad news this morning of the passing of Charles Kennedy (see Mummy was a Secret Drinker), his death not yet officially attributed to his long battle with alcoholism.
On this side of the pond, the major news story is the much awaited report from the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, that was formed to examine the very dark subject of Residential Schools. For those of you not in Canada, First Nations families were ripped apart by the Canadian Government, who decreed that native children should be sent away to residential schools, in order to educate them to be 'civilized"
If you are thinking that this must have happened in the 1800's, you would be mistaken, the last residential school closed down in 1996.
The abuse that these children suffered is incomprehensible to any decent human being. The ripple effect on families and communities cannot begin to be evaluated.
The Truth and Reconciliation Committee have made a fine start in the healing process that will no doubt take many generations before closure on this painful period of history.
Why am I blogging about this? Firstly, because I am married to a full status native (as defined under the Indian Act), and his father (my late father in law) was an alcoholic.

Alcoholism in Canada is generally perceived as a "First Nation's Issue".

1. Statistics show that a large percentage (not sure of the exact figures) of native communities suffer from alcoholism - far greater than any other section of the population

2. Its a widely held belief that much of this alcohol abuse is "caused" by the terrible trauma that First Nations people have suffered over the last centuries.

Now, I am not diminishing in ANY WAY the trauma and suffering that native people have endured (I have seen first hand, the family dysfunction that it caused), my objection is the premise that  alcoholism has been directly "caused" by this situation.

I don't doubt for a second that many people drink to numb traumatic memories, to forget pain and suffering - hell, who wouldn't?

But don't you think we're letting Alcohol and the Alcohol Industry off the hook? Sure, horrible events may lead to the first drink and then the second.....but a lifetime of drinking surely has to be attributed to the addictive properties of Alcohol?

My point is that if collectively we assume that Alcoholism is primarily an issue for one community, or directly caused by traumatic events, how do we account for US?  Yes - 'us" the white, middle-class, high functioning individuals who had great childhoods, fantastic careers, homes and families?
What "trauma" lead us to drink our first drink? And why did we carry on?

Yes - that's correct - ALCOHOL is ADDICTIVE!

So today, I hope that the Truth and Reconciliation Committee recognize that many First Nations people need help with TWO issues - firstly the counselling and ongoing healing process for the tragedies they endured at the hands of the white government and community, and secondly - the addiction and health problems caused by alcohol.

I also hope that open discussion of Charles Kennedy's alcoholism will show that even talented, famous, wealthy, privileged people can fall victim to alcohol's clutches.

And us? Well, I hope that we can eventually be less embarrassed about our addiction, stop navel gazing for deep seated flaws in our character, and accept that the only cause of alcoholism is Alcohol.

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