Completing the genetic-history questionaire in Chart 2 of the book Seven Weeks to Sobriety can be a revelation. It will show you where your alcoholism came from and it will help you see which lab tests may be particularly enlightening.
Use the chart to track your heredity. Record your paternal history on the left side and maternal history on the right. Do not include relatives by marriage who are not biologically related to you.
Your nationality is important because certain ethnic groups are particularly vulnerable to alcoholism. You may be surprised to learn that there is a direct relationship between the rate of alcoholism among an ethnic group and the length of time that group has been exposed to alcohol. People from the Mediterranean areas of Europe have been drinking alcohol for more than seven thousand years. Today, they have a very low (10 percent) susceptibility to alcoholism. Those from northern European countries, including Ireland, Scotland, Wales, northern parts of Russia and Poland, and the Scandinavian countries, have been using alcohol for only fifteen hundred years. As a result, their susceptibility to alcoholism is measurably higher (between 20 and 40 percent). Native Americans (including Eskimos) had no access to alcohol until three hundred years ago. Their vulnerability to alcoholism is extraordinarily high between 80 and 90 percent).
The scientific principle of survival of the fittest is at work here. Over many generations, those most susceptible to alcohol have been eliminated. The survivors continue to pass along their low susceptibility. The only deterrent to this process of natural selection is the interbreeding of people from different regions.
To make an educated guess about some of the drinkers in your family, use this simple criteria: Does he or she have an unusual high tolerance for alcohol? Anyone who has never been able handle much alcohol is not an alcoholic. Those who can and do put away a lot of alcoholic drinks are most likely to have problematic chemistries.
Before you decide that you have no family history of drug dependency, think about the Valium Aunt Mary lives on and the painkillers Uncle Joe takes for his chronic aches and pains.
This condition may be present on either side of your family whether or not it has been formally diagnosed and treated. Record any tempted or accomplished suicides in this category.
This disorder is often seen in a grandparent within an alcoholic family. Native Americans are particularly vulnerable to adult-onset diabetes early in their drinking careers. A glucose tolerance test to identify regular glucose metabolism is particularly important for anyone with a family history of diabetes.
Do you have any relatives who suffer(ed) from schizophrenia, nervous breakdowns, or paranoia?
Most alcoholics have some family history of allergy. Pollen, dust, mold, and grasses are common offenders. Classic allergic reactions include hives, wheezing, and sneezing. Many people who have an allergic/addicted response to alcohol react adversely to a number of foods, including those containing refined sugars and the grains from which alcohol is made. Becoming overweight is often a sign of food allergy/addiction.
Bulimia and/or anorexia are often the outcome of years of wrestling with cravings. Young women are most apt to become bulimic in a misguided attempt at weight control, but at any age binge eating can be a sign of food allergy/addiction.
How many of your brothers and sisters are vulnerable to alcoholism? Some may have stopped drinking heavily, but count them as having alcoholic chemistries. Include any siblings who have been addicted to other drugs.
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Seven Weeks to Sobriety by Joan Mathews Larson, Ph.D. (ISBN 0-449-00259-4) ©1991-2000. All rights reserved. This information may not be reproduced without permission from Villard Books, a division of Random House Inc. and Joan Mathews Larson, Ph.D.
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