Alcoholism in America

Your articles on alcoholism were excellent {Special Report, Dec. 15}. In particular, the article dealing with families of alcoholics really hit home.

When I was 5, I thought my father was the greatest guy in the whole world. By the time I was 10, I hated him. At age 14, I would cry myself to sleep at night, wishing impotently that he would drop dead.

He was an alcoholic.

In the early '60s, living in "upper class" Chevy Chase, we didn't talk about it. Not to him, not to each other, not to our friends. We hid from him. We hid our awareness of him from each other.

I know now that his drinking affected my social development, my school work, my marriage. Now I admit that I was emotionally scarred by his alcoholism. The scars will never go away, but I have learned to put them in perspective.

I was 31 when my father died. It is a sad commentary to say that I felt only relief, not grief.

My own children are growing fast, loving and learning from their father. In them I see what my father denied in his relatiohship with us: the gifts of love and learning children give so unstintingly to a willing parent. Because of alcoholism, my father was an unwilling parent. Eventually it also killed him.

Perhaps these articles will prevent some future adult from writing a similar letter. Devero Mott Lovettsville, Va. Your two examples of intervention featured affluent individuals who had sympathetic and cooperative employers and families willing to work closely with a knowledgable clinical professional. In the case of Mr. Bill Giery, he was also fortunate in having the financial backing of somebody to pay for the month's treatment at Ashley Treatment Center.

Your story, I think albeit unwittingly, appeared to give the impression that getting into treatment leads to automatic success. Unfortunately, data are not available, but I believe responsible alcoholism professionals do not claim fantastic success rates; though this is no argument against alcoholism treatment centers or the concept of alcohol intervention. The more important issue would appear to be that, despite its soundness, the alcohol intervention concept is accessible only to a limited population at risk -- those with the less usual combination of employer/family sophistication, support and finances. Martin Berdit Columbia During the holiday season many people celebrate with alcohol and some will attempt to drive after drinking. The tips offered in Ms. Melillo's article provide helpful tips for hosts who want to make certain their guests get home safely. However, I found the chart accompanying the article a bit misleading. Because of the serving sizes selected, the chart made it appear that hard liquor contains more alcohol and is thus more debilitating than beer and wine.

The fact is that a 12-ounce beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine and 1 1/4 ounces of 80-proof liquor each contains about the same amount of alcohol and thus packs the same punch. The average person can effectively process one drink per hour in these quantities. Of course, other factors such as one's weight, food in the stomach, stress and fatigue affect the rate of alcohol absorption into the bloodstream, but these figures can be used as basic guidelines.

The best way to prevent drunk-driving accidents is to never drive after drinking. If one must drink, knowing how much is too much can help in making responsible decisions about getting behind the wheel. Walter R. Smith Chairman, Public Information and Education Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP)

'35 and Counting' (Cont'd)

Joan Marie Rooks was correct in contending {Letters, Dec. 15} that the cover illustration of a woman with broken eggs was tasteless and insulting to women {Cover Story, Dec. 1}. However, the remedy she suggests -- a cover drawing to provide an equal insult to men -- is both puzzling and inaccurate. From a social policy perspective, it remains to be seen what will be achieved by imitating the worst characteristics of men. Michael H. Dougherty Ocean City, Md. I can't believe the negative attitude of the two people whose letters were published on Dec. 15. I thought that article was the best thing I have ever read on menopause, and I passed it along to a friend who does not get The Post. There was so much information in there on things that I have gone through for years, only to be told by my MD that I wasn't old enough to be going through menopause. Alice Davis Jefferson, Va. Letters intended for publication must be signed and include the writer's home address and home and business telephone numbers. Letters may be edited. Although we are unable to acknowledge all letters, we appreciate the time and value the viewpoints of those who write. Send letters to Health Section, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.