The second President of the United States, John Adams (1735 –1826) had sired generations of alcoholics, says his great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandson William*. President John Adams’ son, Charles, died of alcoholism at the age of 30; his other son, John Quincy Adams (1767 – 1848), became the sixth President of the United States. Two of his sons died alcohol-related deaths. And so on. William lists alcoholic grandparents and uncles and siblings and he says he worries about his grown daughters, too. “Eight generations of alcoholics,” says William. He himself had followed the famous footsteps of his relatives and despite his best efforts to “try controlled drinking, had ended up an alcoholic.” (He’s been sober for almost 20 years now).
As we talk, for a moment, I feel a little better about the legacy I might be passing on because, come on, American presidents! But then dread and paranoia set in. I’m an alcoholic. And sometimes when I watch my son having temper tantrums, throwing his mittens on the ground or kicking a wall or stuffing food into his mouth without chewing, I think: is this addictive behavior? Is it because of me?