The author was born in a country town in the Riverina
The bulk of the author’s childhood was spent on various
farms, where she and her siblings were educated mainly by correspondence. She
was 21 when she sat externally for her Higher School Certificate and
matriculated to university, however circumstances prevented her from undertaking
tertiary studies for almost two decades.
In the interim, she worked in banking, insurance, libraries
and newspaper editing.
The author holds a tertiary qualification in librarianship
as well as a Certificate IV in Frontline Management. Her writing qualifications
include a course in professional proofreading and editing, and another (through
TAFE) in script and screenplay writing.
This novel is based on some of her experiences.
The author has one adult son and three grandsons. She lives
Hi. My name is Priscilla Knight. I want to talk about alcoholism, its causes, and the effect it has had on my life.
Alcoholism has always been, and remains, an enormous social problem. The damage it causes is irreparable. At worst, it results in immeasurable violence, and death (especially in the case of drink driving). To the alcoholic, it is life threatening. In the end though, it is not just their lives that they lose. It is their jobs, often their driver’s licenses, friends, relationships and their own self-esteem. Worse, they hurt those who love them most because these people can see what alcoholism is doing to them, and know that there is nothing they can do to stop them from self-destructing.
Alcoholism cannot be cured. Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic, whether one is still drinking or not.
Similarly, once alcohol has taken its effects on the body, they are incurable. I have cirrhosis. Abstinence halts it. The liver is able to repair itself but the parts that are cirrhotic cannot heal. In addition to that, I was recently diagnosed with central pontine myelinolysis, a neurological disease caused by severe damage to the myelin sheath of nerve cells in the brainstem, more precisely in the area termed the pons. (Wikipedia).
Symptoms include loss of consciousness, and dysphagia (an inability to swallow).
Most people like to get together and have a few drinks. However, once it becomes obvious to people that your drinking is out of control, you are a pariah and they shun you.
Many of us have an image of the alcoholic in a gutter or backstreet or camped on a park bench. We wonder how they end up like that. What stops me from being like that person?
Various theories have been advanced as to what causes a person to become an alcoholic, including the following:-
• That it is a basic character flaw, a weakness.
• That it is genetic; carried down through families.
• That it is a product of one’s environment (for example, an abusive childhood).
• That it is learned behaviour; for instance in the case of children brought up by people who drink.
• That it is alcoholism by association; that is ‘falling into the wrong company’.
• That it is a by-product of extreme stress or a reaction to a life crisis. For instance some men who have been teetotallers all their lives may ‘hit the bottle’ if for instance they lose their job or their spouse leaves them or dies.
• That alcoholism is actually a form of food allergy.
Whatever theory one chooses to adopt, overall, alcoholism is generally regarded as a type of serious illness, both physically and mentally.
Alcoholism crosses all classes and occupations, from High Court judges, to shoe salesmen, to the chronically unemployed. Intellect is not a factor. Some of the most intelligent people in history have been alcoholics.
I cannot say exactly how or why I am an alcoholic. However, I am inclined to think it was not just one factor but a combination of factors that led me to become what I am. I do not intend this to be a dissertation on alcoholism itself. Instead, I will recount my life story and let readers draw their own conclusions.
I will go back only as far as my great-grandparents to describe this aspect as far as it may have affected my life.
My paternal grandmother’s father was of Scottish heritage and, as far as I know, if his family drank at all, it was not to excess. However, by all accounts, my great-grandmother’s family (on my paternal grandmother’s side) were a rough-and-tumble lot and all drank very heavily. My grandmother might have had the odd ‘shandy’ (beer and lemonade) on a hot day but otherwise didn’t drink. I know that at least two of her brothers did. One of them ended up having to have his stomach removed. His son was an alcoholic and only gave up when his wife gave him the ultimatum to quit or she would leave him and take the kids. He remains abstinent to this day. However, he is still an alcoholic, simply not a practicing one.
I know very little about my paternal grandfather’s parents as far as alcohol is concerned.
One thing I did hear was that my great-grandfather used to hold his children down with his foot and beat them with a stock whip. He obviously had quite a sadistic streak, which may have passed down through some of the family. My paternal grandfather was a very gentle man (perhaps beaten into cowed submission). It was certainly my grandmother who wore the pants in the family! One of Grandpop’s brothers was also gentle. I only ever met a couple of his other siblings, just briefly. This was probably at some family funeral, which is where our family get-togethers tended to take place and still do. None of them drank.
Now we get to the maternal side of the family.
I know nothing of my maternal great-grandparents and, indeed, very little of my maternal grandmother, who died when my mother was a teenager. My maternal grandfather, an Englishman, was a thorough gentleman. He liked a couple of small ‘toddies’ (sherry) of a night time. By a couple, I do mean just two, not a dozen. One could never describe him as an alcoholic or a drunk. Therefore, there is no chance alcoholism was in any way inherited from that family.
My mother did not drink. Neither did my father, nor any of his siblings.
If alcoholism is genetic, it may therefore have come down to me through my paternal grandmother’s side of the family, that is, Granny’s family.
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