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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.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Dead brain cells...

One of my OARS Group members posted about a blog she had come across that helped her with her feelings of guilt over her husband’s alcoholism. I followed the link and found this terrific blog post (written by “Charlie”) that I felt I needed to share with all my readers.

You might want to check it out and read some of Charlie’s other posts as well. I will certainly be following him.


We had an update on Riley’s MRI results that were ordered by the neurologist. It was explained to us that Riley has the physical body of an 85 year old man even though he is only 75 years old. He is diagnosed with “moderate brain atrophy”. But, don’t let the “moderate” fool you. As we age our brains do atrophy – how much depends on many factors. Let’s say that Riley had never used any alcohol, then normal atrophy would probably be minimal, but Riley has an alcohol abused brain with moderate atrophy for an 85 year old man. And… it is continuing to atrophy. This means he “officially,” medically, has been diagnosed with dementia and it will become worse as he continues to travel in this world. There is something reassuring that the debate on his mental health (does he or doesn’t he have dementia) will no longer be an issue.

In my research I found that it really doesn’t take much alcohol (2 to 4 drinks a day) to increase the percentage of atrophy in our brains as we age. I remember back in the day, that we used to joke about “killing some brain cells” as we open another bottle of wine. I don’t think any of us realized then what harm we were actually doing to our future health. We were young and probably would not have changed even if we knew.

There are things that we can do throughout the years to help our brain be healthier. If we exercise our thought processes it’s like exercising our bodies. Things like crossword or word puzzles and taking those quizzes, reading and even those argumentative debates can help keep your mind sharp. Of course, it also helps if you have a balanced diet and limit your intake of unhealthy substances like alcohol.

We finally have a blissfully appointment free week – with the exception of a dentist appointment for me. I thought this was the week we would get all the “official” results from all the tests and a decision on the treatment plan for Riley’s cancer. But, some things got changed around and now the week of the 22nd will be the week for all that. I want to enjoy and take advantage of this week by taking things slow and easy. Hopefully I won’t have to do a lot of driving or running errands. I can get some housekeeping things done and manage to get some cooking done. Oh, yeah, and I’m hoping for a little rest.

The one thing I will be continuing with is my pursuit of finding alcoholics who are willing to be filmed for the upcoming documentary. Actually, it won’t be premiered until January 2016, but we are in the process of gathering stories now. If you are an actively drinking alcoholic, I’d love to hear your story of how you have come to be in the position you are in. How you survive each day? If you have a job, how do you “hold it together” and get through the day without a negative incident? If you have suffered consequences from your drinking, what were they and how did you resolve the consequences? Imagine the benefit that can be gained for the audience and possibly for you by bringing the issues of being a practicing alcoholic into the light. Maybe you can show that it is possible to be a heavy-drinker and still maintain a sound, productive life. E-mail me if you are thinking about participating and we can connect you with the producers who can answer all your questions.

The main thing I’m not able to do is the biggest project on my table and I’m still feeling a bit of resentment over having to postpone my seminars sessions. But I’ll work through it by getting some of the prep stuff done. I have centerpieces to make, door prizes to gather, welcome bags to stuff, and PowerPoint presentations to compose. By the time I’m able to go forward with the seminars, all the little time-consuming things will already be done and have a choice of topics all set to go.

When I re-start the seminars, I’m considering beginning in the Washington DC area sometime in December (if possible) and focus on the topic of surviving the holidays. I can’t think of any time of the year that is more stressful on the loved ones of alcoholics than the holiday season. Alcohol flows like the waterfalls at Yosemite. It’s as though people don’t know how to have a party or a dinner or even a kid’s party without rum laced eggnog or bourbon soaked cookies. I remember my mother once getting tipsy from the bourbon balls she made for my deployed Riley. It was certainly a very rare occasion.

Normally, Riley and I live a quiet, simple existence out here in the country. However, I’m told that things won’t be so quiet once Riley starts chemo/radiation. I’m not really sure what to expect. I know he will most likely be very sick and weak. But, that’s about all I’ve been told. I have already asked for hospice to come out and evaluate our prospective needs. But, really, I’m in a wait-and-see mode.

My plan is to keep you posted and possibly get Riley to agree to some more videos of him as he goes on this cancer journey.


JansSushiBar said...

It's a terrible thing when you can't look forward to the holidays, but they're brutal. My husband is more or less "okay" during the warm months; he's an avid gardener and our backyard is full of raised beds, which are in turn full of vegetables. But once the harvest is over and the beds are cleaned up, the heavy drinking will gradually become more-or-less non-stop drinking, and from Halloween on he'll be a staggering, word-slurring mess by 2 p.m. on his days off. *sigh*

Anonymous said...

I think I am still in shock.
A friend of mine died in July. She was throwing up blood, went to the hospital, sedated and put through detox for alcohol. Liver and kidney failure, hepatitis, bleeding stomach. Drank herself to death. In intensive care for a week on dialysis 24/7, on a ventilator, not eligible for a liver transplant because she was a boozer. She died 17 days after she was admitted to the hospital. Only 58 years old.
Then today I found out that alkie exhusband who was locked up in June after being sentenced to 2.5 years in a Texas prison has been transferred to a psychiatric prison for mentally ill criminals. I guess he must have had a breakdown mentally or physically or both. Maybe alcoholic dementia.
I bet he is a goner and will be dead pretty soon
Have a great day. This too shall pass.

Anonymous said...

Given that Riley isn't made of very much anymore, what is the objective of chemotherapy and radiation? What effect will these things have on his already battered brain and organs? It almost seems like a kind of euthanasia in practice, so I'm wondering what the ultimate intentions of the doctors might be, actually. Would it not be better to let him drink now, if the outcome is likely a swiftly approaching death in any case?

Linda -- The Immortal Alcoholic's Wife said...

Anonymous -- I gave Riley a couple glasses of wine with dinner right after we learned of the cancer. He quickly escalated to going behind my back and opening bottles of wine when he knew I would have told him NO. It was in the morning -- before coffee. That deceitfulness lead me to believe I had made a mistake. Then his behavior became so hostile, I decided there would be no more alcohol at this time. I have no idea what the future hold when it comes to whether I should give him booze or not.

This and your other questions will be addressed in a very near future posting.

Anonymous said...

There is a "subreddit" on the Reddit.com site called "crippling alcoholism" you may find individuals willing to be part of your documentary if they are willing to part with the anonymity enjoyed on that site. Not all of the members are actively drinking but it seems that most are or wish that they were.

coping said...

Speaking of holiday drinking...at holiday time....my family seems to enjoy the wine they pour down by the gallons more then the delicious dinner. Makes me sick! When they ask if I want a drink...they all look at me like I'm some kind of freak when I say no...I don't drink.
I've lived so much misery w/an alcoholic husband for all these years, no way will I drink anything.
I just wanna scream that to all of them. Are you people blind....they all know my husband is an alcoholic jerk!