A Conversation for Alcohol Abuse
Andrea Started conversation May 8, 2003
I've just been reading the article on alcohol. We have a serious problem in Ireland with alcohol - it's abused more than enjoyed in a lot of cases, and my husband is one of the abusers, a very painful thing to experience because nobody on the outside, no matter how close, can do anything but be there.
We live in the Liberties in Dublin, a very old and venerable quarter of the city, but quite an economically depressed area. My husband left school at 14 to join his father in a bakery. He didn't take any 2nd level examinations at all, and it is therefore very difficult for him to further educate himself. When he left school and started bringing home a wage, he was considered to be a man and it was considered acceptable for him to draw up a bar stool along with his father and his peers. I think he latched onto drink pretty early in his life as a way to escape the difficult family life he had. When I met him 10 years ago, he would have been a pretty heavy drinker but the tag of "alcoholic" is pretty taboo and god forbid you should accuse anyone of having a drink problem.
I had come from a very sheltered family life. I grew up on a farm and my sisters and I were brought up to believe in an honest days work for an honest days pay and so on. Alcohol didn't really have any part to play in my early years, it would never occur to my parents to go to a pub for entertainment. When I met my husband first, we would meet in pubs and have the "craic", which was a normal part of young people's lives, and it didn't seem that he had any more of a problem than I or anyone else did. However, things went downhill and recently, he got his last warning, which I had been waiting for for some time.
On a Sunday morning he had a seizure, but when I called an ambulance, he wouldn't go with them. Later that afternoon he had another seizure and was very weak and disoriented and when I again said I would call an ambulance, this time he agreed to go to hospital.
As soon as he arrived, he was admitted and put onto a detox programme. All the tests were done, EEG, CAT scan, ultrasound etc etc. It was confirmed to us that he had had alcohol-related seizures, and that his liver was badly damaged, but that the majority of the damaged part would heal.
He stayed in Emergency that night but was given a bed the following morning. His consultant told me that he expected him to remain in hospital for at least 5 days so that he could get maximum benefit from the detox programme. I visited him twice a day, bringing him fresh clothes and food etc as he had lost so much weight. When they weighed him, I was shocked to see that he was only 8 stone, 1 1/2 stone lighter than he should be. For the first few days he was lucid and full of life, doing his round of the ward and chatting to the other patients. On the third day, when I went to visit him in the evening, he was very disorientated and paranoid, convinced that he was in a psychiatric hospital, and that he would never get out. At about 3am that morning he discharged himself and ran home.
Of course I was shocked to see him in the middle of the night and as he had to have one more test the following day, we went back to the hospital. He was still very disorientated and as we walked into the lobby of the hospital, he was sure we were at the airport. He didn't know what was going on.
It is now three months later and he has recovered enormously. Although he is insistent that he doesn't need any help from AA or any other organisation, he has done extremely well. Of course, he has fallen off the wagon a couple of times and has been rewarded by being extremely sick.
I have been doing some heavy thinking over the last few months and Al Anon has been a big help. Now that he has long periods of sobriety, my husband has been able to understand better himself what makes him tick and the reasons behind his addiction. I think it has brought us closer together and we both make more an effort to be with each other and to rediscover the magic that brought us together in the first place. Before his "watershed", we had both, although still living in one house, essentially lived as separate people, two entities who had little in common and spent little time with each other.
I know it's still early days and it could all go pear shaped tomorrow, but as they say, take one day at a time.
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