Tony's dad was a brilliant scientist and ruthless industrialist driven by his obsession with work. Tony admired his father and sought his approval. Howard prioritized work, rarely spending time with his son. Influenced by Howard Stark's alcoholism and anger, Tony started acting out, breaking rules, becoming defiant to authority, obsessing over his inventions, and propelling him into hedonic pursuits.
It was Howard who forced Tony to have his first drink. After that, as F. Scott Fitzgerald describes, "First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you." Tony's drinking took over his life. Tony Stark drifted into his 20's and became idle, rich, shiftless, and rootless, traipsing around the world as a jet set playboy adventurer. He disappointed everybody and made promises he couldn't keep.
Eventually, Tony invented a suit from a combination of iron, titanium and nickel-titanium (aka nitinol). The suit included repulsor beams, uni-beam chest projector, pulse barrage, smart missiles, onboard computer, sensor array, energy shield and gave Stark the ability to fly. Once in the suit, Tony was given the name Iron Man, and he found his purpose was to save the world from evil.
Ove the years, Tony Stark's greatest nemesis was his internal battles with alcoholism and trauma. Tony Stark famously said, "give me a scotch I'm starving." Although he managed to recover quickly from his first serious alcoholic binge, the compulsion to drink remained a constant temptation. Over the years, Tony Stark's relapses on alcohol brought on multiple disasters including him to lose Stark International, someone destroying all his Iron Man suits except one; losing all his money and various apartments, and having horrible fights with Captain America.
Why would one of the greatest superheroes of all-time fall victim to alcoholism? I'm sorry, I don't know. Hopefully someday, a scientific superhero will appear who will tell us. What we do know is there is a connection between childhood trauma and an increased risk of developing alcoholism.
One theory may be that Tony Stark drank to manage the intense flood of emotions and traumatic reminders associated with the death of his parents. It could be that Tony drinks over the emotional abuse by his father who was also an alcoholic.
Stark's childhood trauma may explain some of his erratic behavior such as his drunken fights with Captain America, his failed romantic relationships, or his murder of his fellow Avengers.
Luckily, we can help Tony Stark with his trauma. An excellent psychotherapist such as Bernadine Fried, LMFT, trained in trauma may use techniques such as EMDR, Stress-inoculation training, and Cognitive-processing therapy. A psychiatrist may prescribe medications. Tony may find benefits in a supportive community, a practice of mindfulness and yoga, eating healthy foods, exercising and helping others.
I'm grateful Marvel Comics for demonstrating that many of the most difficult battles are internal. Since the 1960s, I have enjoyed watching my favorite superhero, Iron Man, save the world while coping with childhood trauma and alcoholism.