If genes really do make the woman (and the man), then they certainly must help make the addict. But does that also stop folks from growing a sober family tree?
This Florida family of addicts and alcoholics says No. And they've got generations of addiction to prove it too. They've also got generations of sobriety.
All in the Addict Family: The Founders
Peterson the Fourth ("friends call me Four") comes from a long line of Petersons. A real long line. He also comes from a line of drinkers, and drink providers. See, Peterson's great grandfather was a bootlegger back during Prohibition. In fact, that's where his family got its first real money. And when "The Noble Experiment" finally ended, Four's namesake opened up his own bar. That was up in Yonkers, right across the street from the Raceway.
Everybody drank in those days. Everybody. Especially former bootlegging bar owners. And the first Peterson drank with the best of them. You might even say he outdrank the best of them. Because he'd spend every single day with a drink in his hand. When your days begin at Noon and don't end till 4am, well, that's a lot of drinking.
You never saw Peterson drunk though. Not once. He didn't get drunk. Consequently, he didn't like people who did get drunk. And the fastest way off his friends list -- and out of his bar -- was to drink more than you can handle. To Grandpappy Peterson, drinking wasn't the problem, people were. Especially people who couldn't control their drinking.
Peterson's son (and Four's Grandfather) grew up in the bar. So he learned early on how to drink. More importantly, he learned early how much drinking he could get away with.
Turns out a bar owner's kid can get away with a whole lot of drinking. He's even encouraged to do so. Look at Little Pete go, said his father's friends. A chip of the ol' blockhead. They'd laugh. And he'd laugh. Then they all had another.
And another. Junior spent his life drinking and tending bar for his father. It's what he knew. And it was what he loved. So when he graduated high school and he had to decide between college and the bar, Junior stayed right where he loved. It was a no brainer.
It was also a no brainer that he'd still be standing there behind the bar when his father finally died. Junior would stay standing there too. After all, the bar was named Peterson's.
All in the Addict Family: Generations Two and Three
By the time Big Poppa Peterson died the bar was an institution. Cops and criminals, judges and attorneys, politicians and public payroll types. They all spent their time -- and their money -- at Peterson's. So did the Raceway Set. And in those days the track was a glamorous place to be.
If all that sounds like a romantic upbringing, well, that's probably because it is just that. And Junior revelled in it all. But being a bar family wasn't all music and laughter. Junior's mother for instance (Four's Great Grandmother) was so afraid of her husband she never once set foot in the bar. She knows her place, said Big Poppa. And folks left it at that.
So folks never saw the times she'd wake with a black eye. Hell, Junior barely even suspected there'd been violence. And he dismissed those suspicions but quick. To him, his mom was a saint and his father was a god. That was that.
One late night though, Junior found himself standing over his own wife pleading for forgiveness. He'd just struck her in the face, with his fist, simply because she'd asked if he remembered to double-lock the bar. Seems, he'd forgotten a couple times lately. And though his wife tried to make light of it, Junior knew something was wrong.
Drinking was what was wrong. Junior had been drinking so much, so steadily, for so long, it had begun to affect his memory. Things were slipping his mind. Names, dates, people. Even tasks. Tasks that he'd performed thousands and thousands of times with no problem. All gone in a black cloud.
Now he was slugging his wife.
Standing there, tears in his eyes, something else snapped. His memory. Junior could recall seeing his father standing over his mother the very same way. Worse, he could now remember seeing that scene too many times to count. All these years he'd blacked it out completely. Now he was reliving it in person.
When Junior looked up he saw how own son Three standing in the doorway staring. It was a look he'd never seen in his son. A look of pity. And it scared the hell out of him.
Junior was at an AA meeting the very next day.
All in the Sober Family
Junior quit drinking immediately. Just as recommended. He didn't stop tending his bar though, which was against all recommendations. Junior said he was tough enough to run a bar and head a sober family. And he dared anyone to tell him otherwise. Since Junior was at least twice as tough as his father and his father had been the toughest man in Yonkers, nobody dared dare him.
Junior also insisted his son go to college rather than run the bar. Peterson Three was only too happy to comply. Oh, he liked the fellas enough. The stories, their character. But he wanted more for himself. Besides, he saw his dad's happiness was tied to one thing only -- his position as a barkeep. And he didn't see a future in liquor. Not after it almost made his dad a monster.
In fact, Three (Just Pete) never drank. Not in high school. Not in college. And not in grad school either. Then Pete was hit by a drunk driver in Manhattan and was forced to undergo some serious surgeries. The docs gave him OxyContin. The rest is an all too familiar history.
It took three full years before Pete could finally get off opioids. Three full years of fighting every step of the way. He fought with his father, who claimed addiction was a question of character. He fought with his wife, who kept insisting on real treatment. And he fought with himself, mostly over whether or not he really needed to completely quit. It was only his school's threat to expel him that Junior finally capitulated. He's been sober now for almost 18 years.
Peterson didn't know anything about his dad's opiate addiction. He was still a toddler when all that happened. In fact, he wouldn't learn about it till he too had to face the truth of his own substance abuse. Seems Peterson also like opioids, though he was more fond of straight heroin. He especially like mixing heroin with crack. Hell, even now, 18 months into sobriety, his mouth still waters a little at the prospect.
But that was then. Peterson has contended with four generations of addiction -- and he's come out on top. He's not about to bottom out now. Besides, he kinda likes living in a fully sober family. His sober family kinda likes it too.
Gratitude All Around
Recovery Boot Camp thanks our colleagues at Healing Properties for tipping us off to Peterson's incredible sober family story. We also thank them for helping to make such a story possible. Mostly though, we thank Peterson and his sober family. Because without his fortitude -- and their support -- there would be no sober family. And there'd certainly be no successive generations of sobriety. Remember that the next time someone says the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
How about you and your family? Getting along? Fully sober? Could you use a little more sobriety? It's out there, you know. There for the taking, and for the giving. Give us a call and we'll sort you out.