In one of today's Sunday newspaper magazines is an article about how alcohol has wrecked people's lives, taken from the viewpoint of a widowed wife, a daughter and several recovering alcoholics themselves. It helps me to read these articles and know that what I am going through is about typical for the "illness". Sometimes when I am in the middle of this nightmare, I feel as if I am the only one going through this, that Greg's behaviour or the illness itself is atypical. I sometimes get so angry with him that he does not seem to want to stop drinking and save his life. I cannot even understand simple things like him not wanting to wash or groom himself, or to even change his clothes for days and weeks on end. But in those articles, others have done the same, so it reassures me. I hope too that someone reading this blog will be equally reassured that their relative/friend is going through similar phases and that they are not alone. It also helps me to read that excessive drinking destroys relationships, as I have been feeling guilty that maybe I am wrong to throw in the towel and think about leaving him. It is not easy to know that the probable outcome will result in his early death, although I am sorry to say that sometimes I wish he would die quickly to put the family out of our misery. I hate myself for thinking that unspeakable thought, but, if I am honest, I often see it as the only way out of this mess.
One hears so much in the media about binge drinking. That conjures up in my mind teenagers or twenty-somethings who just go out on the town maybe once a week and get plastered. They meet at clubs, drink excessively, vomit and then go home. They can take it or leave it for the rest of the week. It is almost a social thing, like cavemen collectively clubbing a wild animal, then taking it home for supper. But how many of those binge drinkers will go on to be a true alcoholic?
A true alcoholic drinks alone, often without any close family or friends even knowing. They drink to excess because their body is dependent on the alcohol and will undergo physical changes if they try to abstain. Far from just drinking to relax in the evening, they start to drink as soon as they wake, to avoid the awful withdrawal symptoms such as the shakes or hallucinations. Empty bottles are hidden in overlooked nooks and crannies. They neglect their appearance and hygiene. They cannot be bothered with any of the day-to-day intrusions of life such as bills and relationships. Their sole concern is where the next bottle is coming from. Those are the tell-tale signs of an alcoholic. There have been a few articles recently about alcoholics and together with the six cases quoted in this article today, it got me wondering just how many more cases there are out there. It is a disease on a truly large scale which is costing and will cost the health system a lot of money, if more of the young binge-drinkers turn into the older alcoholic. How will our taxes cope with the rising costs of the NHS treatment and how will the local taxes cover the costs of detox and rehab, particularly when most alcoholics go on to re-offend and will need several detoxes and rehabs in their lifetime?
Curbing smoking and obesity is very much in the forefront of the nanny state's attempt to make us healthier, but what is being done to stop alcoholism? It not only affects the health of the alcoholic, but their families too - physically and mentally. How could we stop it? Would we want to stop it? Surely, there is nothing nicer than an occasional drink in the evening with a meal or on a hot summers' day with friends at a pub.... by the sea.....in the countryside? Surely we do not want to go down the route of prohibition American-style? The majority of us know when they have had enough and can stop. So how do you go about stopping those people who don't know when to stop?