When The Bishop’s School student Lianna Treitler, 17, was nine years old, attending a David Archuleta concert could have been the highlight of her young life. But, while attending the show with her father, Marc, she said she only noticed one thing: “Daddy drank the whole time.”
While she was trying to enjoy the concert, she told La Jolla Light: “I kept seeing him go to the beer line. When we got home, my mom asked me how the concert was and all I said was ‘daddy drank the whole time.’ When my mom told my dad that, he said he knew he needed help.”
Soon after, Lianna’s father went to rehab for his alcoholism issues, and is now sober. As part of his recovery, the father-daughter-duo wrote a book delving into both sides of having alcoholism in the family.
“My Dad is an Alcoholic: What about me?” and “Alcohol, Drugs and You: A young person’s guide to avoiding addiction” were published in 2016 and 2018 respectively.
“It started as a family project,” Lianna said. “My dad encouraged me to write about the experience as a way to heal, and as a lesson to my brother and me about the dangers of drinking and substance abuse. In sharing our stories, we realized there was a much greater need.”
At first, the family shared their writings with relatives and close friends. “When I showed it to my friends, they often said they had a family member who was an alcoholic, too. We realized how many people related to what we were saying.”
Co-written by Lianna and her dad, the books explain what addiction is, and how common are the distressed feelings one can experience from living in that environment as a child.
Because she was a child at the peak of her father’s addiction, Lianna said she feels “lucky” to not remember much of his behavior.
“But I do remember there was a heated environment in the house; my brother and I would go off and play and we would hear screaming and yelling. I remember times when my dad would get angry and not be himself; it was really tense a lot,” she said. “As a child, I didn’t understand things on a deeper level, but I knew something was wrong. I didn’t know what alcoholism was, but my dad became a different person. Now I know that was because he was drinking, and I didn’t like the change.”
As such, she wanted to direct the books to young people.
“This book is written for you — not for your parents, not for your teachers, not for any adult. For you. Because your mom or dad is an alcoholic,” opens “My Dad is an Alcoholic.” It also delves into what Lianna calls the “alcoholic gene.”
Within the introduction of “My Dad is an Alcoholic,” the family writes: “Addiction is carried in a family’s genes just as eye color, height or heart disease is. If someone is a drug addict or an alcoholic, the chances are that one of the person’s parents was also an addict.”
(However, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism said it isn’t quite “so simple,” reporting that “research shows that genes are responsible for about half of the risk for alcohol use disorder [AUD]. Therefore, genes alone do not determine whether someone will develop AUD. Environmental factors, as well as gene and environment interactions account for the remainder of the risk.)
In addition to the book about her father’s disease, Lianna contributed to an additional book that talks to young people about avoiding drugs and alcohol altogether.
“I want other kids and teens to know they are not alone,” she said. “So in the books I write, ‘You don’t have to activate that gene, you can live your life normally.’
“Any kid who is worried about it, doesn’t have to follow in their addict parent’s footsteps. I write about peer pressure, and how it can be scary to say ‘no’ (to alcohol). In my experience, there’s a lot of power in saying ‘no’ and staying true to yourself. I also tell people that alcoholism runs in my family and they respect that. I may or may not have (the alcoholic gene), but it can be better to stay away and not try alcohol in the first place. It might run in my family, but it is stopping with me.”
—Lianni’s books are available through online booksellers and potatoallergy.com