If you ask most people, “What kind of person comes to mind when you think of alcoholism?” they will probably say things like the following:
• Somebody who has a weak willpower
• Somebody with low self esteem
• Somebody who is depressed
• Somebody with a family history of alcoholism
• A person who is poor or homeless
At first glance, these beliefs may appear to be true. For example, you might see a person who is depressed who also has alcoholism and you might think to yourself, Depressed people develop alcoholism.
Keep in mind, however, that alcohol is a depressant drug. If you drink it enough, it will cause you to be depressed even when you are not drinking.
You might see another person who is poor or homeless who also has alcoholism and you might believe that poor or homeless people develop alcoholism. The person you see, however, might be a Harvard graduate and had an excellent career until he started drinking.
Why should we even care about what most people think about the kind of person who develops alcoholism? This is very important.
Most people do not believe they are “that kind of person.” If I really believe that the only kinds of people who develop alcoholism are people who have low self-esteem, are depressed, and have a weak willpower, would I be open to getting help if I developed a drinking problem myself?
In fact, I would probably either get angry that somebody had the nerve to believe I was “that kind of person,” or I would laugh it off like a big joke.
On the other hand, if I did believe I was the kind of person who developed alcoholism, I might see my situation as being hopeless. After all, if alcoholism is caused by the kind of people we are, how important are our choices? Why even try at all?
The truth is, there is no certain kind of person who develops alcoholism. Some of us do have a higher biological risk for developing it, however.
This does not mean that individuals who do not have these risk factors cannot develop alcoholism. Anyone who abuses alcohol for a length of time is at risk for developing it. Nobody is immune.