Reflecting back about my Grandpa – Substance Abuse

Recently, I have been reflecting back about my grandpa with a new perspective.

As our brains and thought processes develop, the perspective we had as children change in adulthood.  Our perspective also changes throughout our adult lives because of life experiences that broaden our views.  Recently, I have been reflecting back on my grandpa with a new perspective.

Grandpa – automobile accident

I am always striving to learn new things about mental health, hoping to find more helpful knowledge.  As I studied mental disorders in relation to alcohol and drug addiction, I had a “flash memory thought”.  I remembered my mom mentioning a handful of times that grandpa injured his head in an automobile accident just before he got married and that he was never the same after that.

 As I studied mental disorders in relation to alcohol and drug addiction, I began reflecting back about my grandpa who was an alcoholic. 
Photo by Jordan Bebek

Head trauma and mental disorders

When I had this “flash memory thought”, I realized it was very likely my grandpa, an alcoholic, drank to self-medicate a mental disorder that began with the onset of trauma to his head during the car accident he had.

Today doctors like Dr. Daniel Amen make recommendations to take precautions to protect the brain because it is soft and can be easily traumatized, so I think it is very likely my grandpa’s brain was negatively affected during the car wreck he was in.

Years ago, connections weren’t generally made between head trauma and mental health if it didn’t result in an acute brain disorder that left the person obviously mentally slow.

Substance abuse and mental illness

Today we also make connections between a person with a mental disorder and substance abuse.  When I attended my NAMI class they taught us as follows:

First, we must learn to expect substance abuse in mental illness, rather than consider it an exception.  NAMI Family to Family pg. 3.21, 2013

Additionally, NBER reports people who have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder at some point in their lives are responsible for the consumption of:

  • 69 percent of alcohol consumption
  • 84 percent of cocaine consumption
  • 68 percent of cigarettes consumption

After seeing this report, it further convinced me my grandpa was self-medicating a mental disorder because he also smoked, which was very unusual for a Mormon.

Understand my grandpa

Reflecting back on my grandpa has helped me to understand him better.

As I child, I felt more love from this grandpa than my other three grandparents.  It is my opinion that young children naturally recognize love more readily than adults because they haven’t been poisoned by judgments and gossip yet.  Thus, I trust my instincts as a child more than my young adult or adult-learned judgments that my grandpa was bad because he drank and smoked.

Mental disorders and loving hearts

When a person is plagued with a mental disorder and substance abuse, the ability to give their expected portion to a relationship is hindered due to their illness.  However, this doesn’t mean they do not possess loving hearts.

Our son, who lives with Bipolar II, has a loving, kind heart.  My friend, Jane, says her daughter Amanda who also lived with Bipolar disorder, was loving too.

Conclusion – After reflecting back on my grandpa

Although my grandpa had a drinking problem, I felt sincere love from him.  He praised me, and I felt acceptance from him.  Today, I sincerely believe my REAL grandpa (minus the mental disorder and alcoholism) had a caring, generous, and wonderful heart.

It is therapeutic and thrilling for me to view my grandpa with new positive and loving thoughts!  If we understood more details about the mental and emotional well-being of those who abuse substances, it may help us to be more patient and kind despite their weakness.

Suggested Movie about Substance Abuse

I highly recommend watching the true story movie “The Glass Castle” which depicts how love can triumph over substance abuse and its negative consequences.

Top Featured Photo by OC Gonzalez

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