Alcoholism: The #1 Ingredient in a Broken Home

X 7.15.14

I did not start this website to convince anyone to stop drinking. While my life has improved since I dumped the bottle, I’m not about to tell my friends what they need to do to revamp their lives. Most of my friends and family members who drink are doing great with their careers and personal relationships.

I’m not a recovering alcoholic, but I’m not pure as the driven snow. At one time, I would have qualified as a problem and binge drinker, according to the Mayo Clinic definitions.

In Wisconsin, we make lots of jokes about drinking too much and alcoholism (“Drink Wisconsinbly!” and “I’m Not Drunk; I’m From Wisconsin!”). All Things Considered even featured our state in a discussion on costs of alcohol abuse. We just accept it as part of our culture. For a long time, I bought into that cultural paradigm, and I have made plenty of my own jokes. Hell, I regularly post a youtube video of our old governor giving a drunken speech at Lambeau Field.

But, maybe we look at things in a twisted way here in the Badger State. In real day-to-day life, alcoholism is no joke. It destroys bodies. It destroys families. It exacerbates mental health problems.

I’m not making this stuff up. My wife shared an article with me today regarding a 75-year-long Harvard study on happiness. The study, put into a book called Triumphs of Experience, states that alcoholism is the number 1 causal factor in divorce. Along with cigarettes, it is the number 1 cause of morbidity and early death. It correlates strongly to neurosis and depression, disorders that were often absent in people before they started abusing.

And I was abusing, at least according to Mayo. When socializing, I usually drank hearty Wisconsin portions of beer and booze, often amounting to 5 or more servings at a time. I occasionally had stretches of drinking more than 4 days out of the week.

None of this prevented me from being successful in my educational work or my political career. It even had the effect of making me way more extroverted than normal, and I’m sure I met a lot more people than I otherwise would have (not that I remember all those encounters). But it dragged on my closest relationships. I often showed up to family functions in a foul mood following a night of overdoing it. And I replaced real intimacy with alcohol-fueled, mostly forgettable encounters.

I’m not lamenting those years. I learned a lot about myself and others. I did a lot of good work. I had a lot of fun. I became more empathetic. But, I also recognize that I did a lot of stupid, hurtful, and dangerous things.

I’m grouchy enough in my natural state. I don’t want my boys growing up with a father who is making their life more stressful because of booze. Like many Wisconsinites (probably like most people everywhere), I’ve had friends and family members who went to early graves, endured long, painful hospital stays, and suffered many broken relationships because of the chemicals they put in their body.

I don’t want to lose my sense of humor. I’m sure I will still make jokes with my friends, but I will also teach my sons that there is a very grim side to what we accept as normal.

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