12 June 2008

From bad to worse

The drinking got worse, if that were possible - by now the amount of whisky Greg drank per day had risen to a full 70cl bottle. It had not been helped by the information Greg had received in A&E from a young doctor, who had told him that although he obviously had a drink problem, he should not attempt to stop suddenly, as this would bring on all sorts of withdrawal symptoms, such as shaking, hallucinations, convulsions and blackouts!! He should rather try to cut down gradually by a unit per day until he could wean himself off it altogether. This information terrified Greg and paralysed him. Instead of cutting back, he seemed to want to drink more to ensure he did not get the withdrawal symptoms - the thought of them frightened him more than the drinking to excess itself. Now he started to drink as soon as he awoke in the morning - usually around 7.30am just as my daughter was leaving for school. He would not even bother with a cup of coffee, but go straight for the whisky bottle. He was always careful to have a half-inch of whisky left in the bottle at night, to be sure of a stiff drink in the morning. Then, once Kay had left for school, he would ask me to drive him to the nearest supermarket and stock up on the day's supply - a 70cl whisky bottle and 40 cigarettes. You can imagine what this was costing us each week - and remember, we were on a small pension - so making ends meet was becoming an act of ingenuity on my part.

We always varied the shop. Being in the heart of London, we are lucky to have most of the major supermarkets within a half-mile of us - Sainsburys, Waitrose, Tesco, Marks & Spencer Food, as well as Lidl, Londis, a few small corner shops and a couple of off-licences. There is a Co-op too about a mile away. Not to mention several petrol stations. So we were always able to pick a different outlet on any given day to avoid giving anyone the impression he was an habitual drinker. Sometimes he would be too weary to get out of the car and get it. Sometimes too weary to even get in the car in the first place. In which case, I would be sent out to get it. Occasionally,
by very late evening, he would have drunk the entire contents of the 70cl bottle and, just as I was winding down for bedtime, he would demand that I take him out in the car to the all-night petrol station to get another. He still hated the idea of running out and not having enough whisky left to rely on when he woke in the morning, in case he got withdrawal symptoms. I was in a quandary, not knowing what was best - tough love and refusing to get more for him, or getting him a supply to avoid exposing him to the dreaded withdrawal symptoms. The key turning point came horribly one morning, after he had unknowingly run out of whisky the night before. That next morning he was shaking so much that by the time I managed to rush out, buy a bottle and return home with it, he was unable to keep the glass still against his lips and I had to take hold of the glass for him and help him drink. We had sunk to depths we could never have imagined. I now accepted in my mind that he was hooked. He was an alcoholic. It was to be the beginning of a very slippery slope.


goodbyetoallfat said...

"a young doctor, who had told him that although he obviously had a drink problem, he should not attempt to stop suddenly, as this would bring on all sorts of withdrawal symptoms"

That is the WORST advice I have ever heard.

As someone who has chosen over-eating as my personal addiction (I know some people will argue food is not addictive -- it's not the substance, it's the pattern of behaviour that is an addictive, self-destructive habit) I have often thought that it must be "easier" for heavy smokers and heavy drinkers to just "give up".

After all, logic tells us that nobody needs alcohol or nicotine in order to live .... whereas we do all need food (so I can never give up my addiction, but have to manage it better).

However, I have found out recently that the metaphysical changes in a person's body that create an alcoholic or an addicted chain-smoker are much more complex than I had originally thought. (I will be writing more about it on Friday.)

rosiero said...

gtaf - unfortunately, since then, we have come to hear the same advice repeatedly (from more hospital doctors, GPs, alcoholic counsellors) that the alcohol consumption must be reduced gradually or else the sudden drop of alcohol content will bring on the withdrawal symptoms. These can be horrendous with convulsions and hallucinations at the top of the list. I saw at first hand, as I say in this post, how just doing without it overnight caused him to shake so much, he couldn't hold a glass to his lips.

blogthatmama said...

Rosiero that must have been absolutely terrifying for you to see, was he scared too when he started shaking? blogthatmamax

laurie said...

oh my. that doctor should be sued.

i realize that the withdrawal symptoms are real. but a doctor should not just say that and then cavalierly assume that the patient is going to follow through.

there are treatments to help them cut back. the doctor should have helped you with that!

aims said...

Yes - damn that doctor! It must have been obvious that your husband needed help and he just turned his back and let him be. Shame on him!

As I've said - watching my uncle die from liver disease brought on by drinking was absolutely horrendous. Has your husband been told about that?

Doctors! Sheesh!

rosiero said...

blogthatmama - yes he was very scared. He continues to be upset at the way he is, but just doesn't have the fight to deal with it.

laurie - they all seem to say the same - that cutting back gradually is the first step. But you must not do it drastically or the withdrawal symptoms will appear. Of course detox and rehab are the best and immediate solutions, but there are such long waiting lists for those (unless you can pay privately), so cutting back is the next best thing.

aims - the health system in the UK has really gone downhill and there are just not the resources or finances to deal with things like alcohol abuse. I am afraid my husband knows only too well what waits for him ahead and has already gone through some medical crises, as you will shortly see.