Have you ever wondered how much of alcoholism is nature versus nurture?
If you have a history of alcoholism in your family it’s only natural to think about whether or not your genetics have already determined your fate or if your environment will ultimately determine your relationship with alcohol.
If you have children of your own, these sorts of questions may also be renting a lot of space in your head.
A few months back, I got an email from a woman who’s been sober for well over a decade, her children never saw her drink a drop but she’s well aware that her mother and other members of her family were alcoholics. She’s concerned about how far her family genetics will go in influencing her two kids. Will genetics play a larger role than their environment? Does it matter at all that her kids never saw her drink but know that their mom is now sober?
Whether you’re asking yourself the nature versus nurture question for your own health and well-being or if you’re a parent asking the question for the sake of your children, this post is for you.
Today, you’ll learn 3 simple questions that will help you gain clarity around the fuzzy issue of nature versus nurture.
Especially if you’re concerned about your relationship with alcohol or the potential relationship of someone you love, these questions could go a long way in helping with prevention.
The nature versus nurture question isn’t an easy one to answer but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be discussing it with one another.
In my opinion, your experiences and ideas are just as important as the research, therapeutic and professional opinions that are available to the recovery community.
Every family is different, every person is unique and in order to answer the nature versus nurture question everyone needs to be heard.
So when you’re done reading, I want to hear from you.
What’s your take on the nature versus nurture question. In your experience with alcoholism have you found that it’s been all nature, all nurture or a combination?
Leave your thoughts in the comment section.
Remember, your voice, experiences and insights are vital to this community. And what you have to share is not only unique but it may be exactly what someone else needs to read. And that someone could be you.
As always, thanks for reading!
Until next Tuesday,
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#1 – What’s The Real Deal With Your Family History?
I know this seems like a really simple, no-brainer question to ask but I want you to seriously ask yourself how well you know your family history with alcoholism.
Answering this question isn’t just about being able to rattle off the number of alcoholics in your family, it’s also about knowing the other people in your family that somehow, despite genetics or their environment, stayed sober.
For example, as I’ve shared before, both of my parents were alcoholics and both of my older brothers followed in their footsteps. Now, I also have relatives on both my mom and dad’s side that struggled with alcohol too, but there are also a handful of those who didn’t.
In addition to me, I have a handful of cousins, aunts, uncles and one grandparent who never became alcoholics. Why was it different for them? Did they have a supportive home life? Or if they didn’t, how did they manage to stay away from alcohol? Was it a conscious choice for them or not? You can even consider people in your family that are in sobriety. What caused them to start drinking in the first place and what motivated them to seek out recovery? Are there any other addictions, such as gambling or food, that you didn’t know about but could benefit from being aware of?
If you can have an open conversation with people in your family about these issues, you may gain a deeper insight about the patterns of alcoholism and addiction in your family. And from there you can, possibly, pick up on patterns of behavior that could help you prevent another generation of addiction plaguing your family.
The whole idea here is this – the more you know the better. Obviously, there’s not much that you can do to alter someone’s genetic path and there may not be much you can do to alter the amount of influence someone’s upbringing has had on their relationship with alcohol but when it concerns you and your children this question can build a level of awareness that could help stop a problem before it starts.
#2 – How Much Do You Really Know?
In addition to understanding your family history, it’s also crucial that you branch out and try to understand the debate around the nature versus nurture question at large.
This is all about you doing your research and finding out what the scientific, recovery and therapeutic communities have to say about the nature versus nurture debate.
The more informed you are the better you’ll be able to help yourself and educate your family.
As Kofi Annan once said:
“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.”
To jumpstart your research, I’ve gone ahead and found a few articles that I thought might help you get a grasp on the nature versus nurture question outside of your family.
And this Pacific Standard piece asks whether or not it helps or hurts to try to separate the biological factors from the social, especially when trying to predict alcoholism among teenagers. If anything, after reading this one, you’ll understand how difficult it is to isolate the impact of nature versus nurture in the world of addiction.
#3 – Are You Talking About It?
In Wayne Kritsberg’s book, The Adult Children of Alcoholics Syndrome, a book I’ve mentioned numerous times before, he provides a chart that compares general characteristics of an alcoholic family to a healthy family.
One of the differences he mentions is how in an alcoholic family there are secrets and in a healthy family there are none.
So, if you’re concerned about the impact your family environment could have on someone’s drinking then it’s important to not keep secrets about your family history. You can’t keep secrets if you’re willing to speak openly not only about addiction in your family but also about any struggles or issues you’ve had with alcohol.
If you’re not talking about the nature versus nurture issue or you’re not creating a safe, judgement free space to talk about it then you could be creating the kind of environment, for both you and your family, where addiction thrives.
Remember, addiction thrives in denial. And wherever denial lives, communication has most certainly broken down. The best you can do is try to keep those lines of communication open, especially since the nature versus nurture question is a difficult one to answer in the first place.
You may not have all the answers you’re looking for but when it comes to alcoholism, and nature versus nurture, you really can’t afford to stop asking questions.