nature or nurture?

cw: alcohol dependence syndrome

i have this family member… he’s around 60, a bachelor… and an alcoholic. it’s kind of off and on with him, sometimes he can go months without drinking, but lately it’s been getting worse. alcoholism runs in my family; both sides.

he’s smart enough, kind, can be funny.

but i’ve only come to appreciate these qualities about him a while ago. before, i overwhelmingly had negative associations with him: him harassing my mom, extorting money, things like that.

but when i forced myself to look at him from a different perspective, i started feeling sorry for him. i can’t read his mind; maybe he’s perfectly content with things just as they are. but if i had to guess, im pretty sure hes pretty damn miserable. no career, hardly any personal life; the three of us are pretty much the only family he’s got. (again, i’m not saying you need other people to be happy; but it seems to me his only “friends” are his drinking friends.)

i know better than to judge or patronize him; that’s the worst part: i see a lot of myself in him (him in myself?), and i know i can’t really blame him for being prone to addiction any more than i can blame myself for my negative attitude.

and i’ve been thinking… can you really prevent addiction?

even if the external environment takes measures against individuals developing alcoholism in the first place, there will still be people who simply can’t do anything in moderation. i know because i’m one of them. you can spread information about drugs and alcohol all you want, and educate people about the dangers of addiction, but there will still be food. online shopping. exercise. sex. STUFF.

going overboard is bad for you, and you know it on some level, but to what extent can you control the signals that your brain is sending you? maybe if you can control them, you don’t have it as bad as some people.

overall, i like him, that family member.

and i wonder — was there something that triggered his problem, or was it more gradual? were any external factors involved, or was it all his poor impulse control / other characteristics & traits you can’t do much about?

and also — i don’t have to hate him, blame him, pity him. but i’d like to help him. …but can i? can anybody?

what if us impulsive people really are responsible for our own suffering? maybe we are just inherently toxic and narcissistic, immature, parasitic, lazy, sefish.

but surely that can’t be the whole story. i know because when his alcoholism is in remission, he can be… fine. considerate, empathetic.

maybe for all my negativity, i’m an incurable optimist about this one thing at least: that most of the time, most people mean well. or maybe that’s what i need to believe in order not to lose all hope myself…

what do you think?

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