In my last post, I referred to family issues affecting my writing. One of the issues is alcoholism. One of my husband's adopted brothers is sinking ever further into addiction and is simply unable to see that he needs help. He believes he controls the alcohol, not the other way around. His life, nearly fifty years of it, has not gone at all as he would have hoped and he has battled other addictions in the past. However, the death of my father-in-law this year has tipped the balance and this is the worst that we have seen him - from any substance or liquid.
One of the issues which I wonder about, in my pondering, genealogy-obsessed way, is what has driven him to this point. The circumstances of his adoption were not handled well by my parents-in-law. A very old fashioned approach was taken to how the two brothers were told of their adoptions (they are not related to each other) and how the family then integrated when my husband, the only natural child, arrived. My brother-in-law has always maintained no interest in seeking out his birth parents. However, on Long Lost Family last week, one of the stories concerned a man who had sunk into addiction because of the rejection he felt from a combination of being adopted and of his adoptive parents then divorcing. He described very eloquently how he had reacted and I believe my brother in law may have very similar issues.
Alcoholism can run in families. I do not think a trace of the birth parents in this case would necessarily reveal alcohol related problems though. I believe it is self esteem and family issues which have driven the constant need for a crutch in his life.
Now, though, we appear to have passed a point where counselling alone would help him to abandon his crutch. Drying out is the only option but to do that, you have to recognise the existence of the problem and we are at a loss with how to make this happen.
I know, sadly, from having also witnessed a couple of acquaintances slip into alcoholism over the past ten years, that at a certain point, even organ failure and imminent death do not persuade someone that drink is not the answer. They will lie, yellowing, on a hospital bed and ask you to slip them a drink.
Many of us like a drink, don't get me wrong. This is drinking on a whole different scale. Wake up, drink whiskey; once you are no longer capable of holding down a job you then drink on and off all day. You lapse into sleep, wake up hungover at whatever time then start drinking again. Continue ad infinitum... Paula Hawkins' thriller The Girl On The Train describes the cycle very well.
We are lucky to have more knowledge than our ancestors on how to deal with these issues. Despite government cuts, there are many services trying to help, to cope. The Georgians, the Victorians or whoever did not have these insights. However, at the end of the day in whatever age of history you are looking at, the key remains the same. Admitting the problem and wanting to do something about it. I hope my brother-in-law can find that key soon.