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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Riley's brain damage...

            Riley’s drinking over the past year hasn’t been as bad as it was the year before. It’s because he was drinking beer instead of vodka and the actual intake of pure alcohol was less. But it really doesn’t change anything. The same things are happening inside his brain and liver as they would if he were drinking moonshine. Beer, wine, vodka, moonshine – they all damage the liver and the residual toxins accumulate in the frontal lobe of the brain. It’s a fact that cannot be denied especially if you were a visitor in my house on Christmas Day.

            Since Riley has changed from beer and wine to vodka, things have been getting a little more absurd than usual. His behavior is becoming less rational and more demanding. He is falling several times a day and talks to himself (and the TV) constantly. He is unable to walk through the house without holding onto a piece of furniture or the wall. He eats very little and usually ends up giving his full plate of food to Jade when I’m not looking.

When things get like this I do a little review of the facts to help me see things clearly. I came across this picture and thought this would be a great thing to share with my readers. I remember first seeing this when Riley and I were going through his first rehab center via the Navy. It’s been around a long time and I’m not sure who to give credit to for it’s existence.

            This illustration clearly shows which part of the brain controls what functions and from studying it, I can see that Riley’s Cerebral Cortex and Cerebellum have been damaged. The only thing that confuses me is that in my research, it is always the “frontal” lobe of the brain that gets damaged the most. So maybe it’s the frontal portion of the Cerebral Cortex that is the most at risk. So I found another picture:

(How Alcohol Attacks the Brain is from www.kickoff.net/au/alcohol.html. Please visit their most informative site.)

            Both of the illustrations have helped me understand why Christmas Day was filled with the off-beat humor gained from observing an end-stage alcoholic.

First thing in the morning, Riley appeared in my office wearing no shirt – which is very unusual. He queried me with – didn’t I think it was a bit chilly in the house. I replied that he might be warmer if he put on a shirt. His response – he didn’t put on a shirt because he hadn’t made the coffee yet. I’m not sure what one has to do with the other.

Riley fell getting out of his rocking chair while Alea was here on Christmas Day. She tried to help him get back into the chair, but he had no muscle strength to help pull him up. So she just left him on the floor – where he stayed for hours while we snacked and cooked dinner. We would hand him appetizers while he was on the floor. It was such an odd sight – Riley spread out across the floor between the loveseat and rocking chair – Jade sitting at his side and watching with interest – munching on the bite-size bread topped with prosciutto and mozzarella. A bite for Riley… A bite for Jade…

Since Alea was doing the cooking, she apologized to her father because dinner would not be ready at our normal 5 p.m.-ish dinnertime. He responded that he didn’t want dinner until 8 p.m. today. She replied that she didn’t know that we ever ate that late. He countered with he didn’t like eating at the same time everyday – he liked to change it up so it would be a different time everyday. Alea and I looked at each other with that look that implies “What????” She asked him if he lets me know when he wants dinner. His response – “It doesn’t matter. She should just always know when I want it.” Oh!! I was never trained in the art of mind-reading. I better find some classes on the subject.

Later on that day, I passed through the den to find Riley sitting in his rocking chair wearing just his red bikini tighty whities. I guess they aren’t whities if they are red. Anyway, I asked where his pants were. He said he had wet himself because he didn’t know he had to go and so he took them off. My next question – did you change your underwear? And, do you want me to find you some clean pants? The answer – He didn’t change the underwear because they didn’t get that wet. And – no he didn’t want to put on any other pants. I don’t know how you get your jeans wet without getting your underwear wet when going to the bathroom in your pants.

Seeing the pictures helped me understand the “why” of what happened. But, that really isn’t as interesting as seeing the humor in the absurdity of the day. Riley was never in any real danger and nothing he did really hurt anyone else. Well, OK, the fall could have hurt him – but it was a gentle fall rather than the one that gave him a blackened face. He was safe with his illogicality. Seeing for all of it for what it is makes it easier for me to snicker to myself and think – it could really, I mean REALLY, be a lot, lot worse.

15 comments:

Ms Kay said...

Wow - I've no idea what to say ! That all sounds crazy but I imagine it's part and parcel of your daily life so doesn't seem that whacko to you!! The old pee sneaking round the underwear trick eh !

I'm really glad you've kept your sense of humour and had a good Christmas Linda x

Syd said...

Linda, this is a pretty good article, even though it is a bit dated (2001 research): http://alcalc.oxfordjournals.org/content/36/5/357.full

It appears that long term abstinence can help with reversal of damage to a certain extent.

Well, I'm glad that you were cheerful about the whole thing. Riley loves his dog which is a good thing.

jo said...

welcome to my world, linda.

just cant figure out why some get mean, i guess its a underlying personality thing.

their logic i always laugh at. and continue to dream of life with a real person, who makes sense. mine, sober, is now talking to the tv...and on his porno examples about how their all whores. okkkkkkk then.

now that i can see his behaviors..esp in trying to pick a fight...i can ignore it. no fights from me. it isnt worth it. just wait awhile...tomorrow it will all change up again. whatever was said today..mine will say the exact opposite tomorrow.

poet said...

just wanted to extend Seasons Greetings to you and your family. Been reading quite a while now, following. Good for you for writing this blog, it gives an insight that some would not otherwise have. so thank you.

Karen E. said...

According to your blog I am NOT alone !!! Kinda sad really. Our Christmas morning was without any real events. She was up all night the previous night so she slept most of the day and we went to her brothers for dinner. She was awake when we returned..when I say awake all night or awake..there is no tv watching..she uses her walker and makes it to the kitchen for a drink..sits on the edge of the bed until she falls back to sleep..thats her awakeness. No conversations nothing...BUT TODAY..we hear a crash about noon. She had fallen out of her bed, face first on the tile. Her nose is sliced and swollen she lost another tooth (thats 3 up front) blood everywhere. She refuses to go to hospital..I clean her up best I can. An hour later I check on her and Blood is all dried all over her face and swollen purple nose. I remark that I just dont know what to do about your nose...she says " theres nothing wrong with my nose !!..she doesnt remember falling..can she not FEEL it??? I got her a mirror so she can see what I am forced to look at. How long can one exist like this????? OR how long can we continue to live here and "see" to her????

Gerry said...

Studying alcohol damage. I notice changes in Doc. I can kind of tell what is alcohol damage. Thanks for being so explicit.

Anonymous said...

Okay, so I am not the crazy one after all. Some days I start to wonder! The charts cleared it up for me. I think I will save them to my computer for future reference. Warmest wishes for a happy new year for you. Maybe next year we can all start real living without all the stresses and messes.

tearlessnights said...

I am glad you can see the absurdity an laugh some. I still try to wrap my brain around it and make sense of it (which is probably more insane than the behavior of the alcoholic). I don't know how you LIVE with it though. I learn a LOT about serenity reading your posts... thanks.

Gerry said...

I had to come back and read this post again I thought it was so honest, painful, and revealing. I told Doc about you having to feed Riley appetizers while he was lying on the floor and it disturbed him. I know he doesn't think he will reach this stage. A woman alcoholic in the complex died Sunday. Cirrhosis. The whole bit, sober for a while, months but too much damage was done. She was the second woman alcoholic to die in here in the last month. I couldn't put this entry out of my mind!

Anonymous said...

I see that I'm not alone after all... spent this past weekend with my husband changing his underwear every 20 minutes because he was "modeling" it for the cameras. I guess it was a photographer only he could see. He had seen my camera out earlier in the day and I'm assuming that was imprinted in his brain, so that became part of his "story." We also had 4 glasses of ice water on the kitchen counter that he and his "friends" were sharing while they talked about his drinking - only problem was, he was there alone, talking to imaginary friends... He's been diagnosed with "wet brain syndrome," otherwise known as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. The things he does and says would make for a fantastic comedy show - if only they didn't really happen... and didn't really happen to us (or me).

Glor said...

Thank you for your post. I have a better understanding now of what is happening to my little sister. Even though this is something that starts out voluntarily, at some point, I believe it turns into a very real disease that most do not have the strength to fight. I'm pretty sure my sister is in the end stage now so it's a matter of time before I get that call. I pray everyday that God will ease her pain and bring her comfort as well as the family involved. I saw her today and told her "I love you Lis!" As I looked into her eyes, I could see my sister. She told me she loved me and smiled! As devastating as this is to deal with, I believe her suffering on earth will not be in vain. One day, she'll have earned those angelic wings! Kudos to those of you who are able to fight this disease, and God bless the families who endure its pain.

Glor

Anonymous said...

Linda, thank you, this is such a helpful entry. I've been reading your blog a lot. We're clearly dealing with my brother's end-stage alcoholism and I think what you're doing by acknowledging the insanity that takes place certainly helps you to deal with it. Right now the extreme denial of my brother's very obvious brain damage by his biggest enabler (his wife) is worrisome. The rest of us can see what's happened, and is happening, but she's pushing to take him home from the hospital, after a month and a withdrawal that almost killed him, and we know she won't be able to take care of him at home as he will need full-time care and supervision. The signs of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome are all there, but his wife blames dreams, tiredness, overstimulation, hunger, confusion, sleep, the restraints, the nurses, what someone said two weeks ago, the pureed food, the meds, the weather, you name it - anything to maintain things will soon be back to 'normal' if she just gets him home.

The beacons in your writing for me are that you've come to terms with what's happening and are as realistic as possible about your situation, so as to best handle it. Riley is very lucky to have you. Thank you for your blog. Take care and stay sane. :)
TJ

Anonymous said...

My alcoholic husband says he thinks something is wrong wih his brain--he doesn't feel well. I don't think he realizes that is what happens when you drink gallons of alcohol everyday for 20+ years.

Karen said...

Is this blog still active? I just found it and love it. Of course I love it because I am living with one too. Unfortuneately he gets pretty mean and the kids (grown) can't stand him. When you get the purple nose going and the really heavy breathing (cigs too), how do you know how close it is to the end? Is there some kind of time table? Sounds morose but have someone has to plan.

Jen said...

I just found it as well, I hope it is still active