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Letter to the editor: I am an alcoholic who now abstains

Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 12:01 am

I am an alcoholic who abstains from alcohol. I take a sip of Communion wine once a week or so, but otherwise I haven’t had a “drink” since 1977 when I completed the alcoholism treatment program at Lutheran Hospital in Chicago.

I grew up with drinking on both sides of my family, some abusive, most not. I mention this as prelude to my comments on the popular theory that “a genetic history of alcoholism is the biggest risk factor for alcoholism.” In other words, “It’s not my fault. My genes made me do it.” That sounds like nonsense to me. But then, my unpopular view is that alcoholism is a problem, not a disease, and that it is personal, not genetic.

I never felt that my family had anything to do with my drunkenness. I drank. I got drunk. I embarrassed myself and my family. I was the problem. When I had had enough shame and trouble, I went to my pastor for help. He directed me to the Lutheran Hospital, which introduced me to AA.

My experiences have led me to believe genetics played no significant role in my drunkenness. The most helpful influences in my abstinence and sobriety have been a gracious God, a loving family, forgiving Christians and abstaining alcoholics.

John Ribar