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A sobering thought

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It's National Alcohol Awareness week and we've invited guest bloggers to contribute their thoughts and experiences on this subject.

In this post, Bromford colleague, Ki Simpson writes about the effects that his dad's alcoholism has had on his life.

I am a pretty open book but there is one thing that I generally do not discuss in great detail, and that's my father. This is mainly because my father passed away nearly three years ago.

He passed away due to acute liver disease that was primarily caused by being an alcoholic for over twenty years. Now, living with someone that is an alcoholic is something that is not the easiest thing to do in the world, it's not something that can be easily prepared for or explained but hopefully in this blog I can tell you about my experiences of living with an alcoholic and how that has affected me in later life. 

From a young age I can remember my Dad’s routine. He’d come home from work, have his tea, and drink a can of lager. At 9.30pm every night he’d go down to the shop to get more cans of lager. He did this every night for as long as I can remember. He would just sit there drink, drink and drink. 

Role model

My Dad’s drinking got so bad that it wasn’t just reserved for after a “hard days work”.  He began drinking throughout the day. I remember going on holiday on the train and my dad would be drinking “apple juice” if anyone asked (when in fact it was strong cider poured into a plastic bottle).   

I used to dread his work’s Christmas Parties. He would go out with his factory colleagues, all expenses paid and would get absolutely paralytic. He would have to be carried home after drinking himself into a stupor. I would stop up most of the night making sure he was ok and nothing bad happened to him but the sight of my Dad, my role model, just lying there after drinking is an image that I will have for the rest of my life.

Poor health
Sad Santa
Inevitably, my dad's health took a turn for the worse.  He was told many years back that if he didn’t stop drinking that he would die. Like most, he did not heed this warning and actually began drinking more. He switched his drink of choice to strong (cheap) cider that helped him to get drunk for less. 

Mom had to threaten to leave my dad for good before he would consider cutting down or quitting drinking. After a huge discussion he decided he would try and stop and so went to see his GP.  The GP advised him to stop drinking immediately and replace his drinking with tea and sweets (cider being sweet this would apparently help with the addiction). This worked for a time and my dad completely stopped drinking, allowing us to see another side to him. He was relaxed, he looked better in himself and he was happy.

All was going fine until my mom got a call to say that my dad had had a seizure.

After rushing to the hospital we were informed that the reason for my dad’s seizure was the fact that he went “cold turkey” with his drinking. Your body adjusts itself to someone that drinks heavily and becomes dependent on it therefore if you withdraw alcohol from your body it can actually cause you massive harm, which is what happened to my dad.  

This was the first time that I thought we were gonna lose him. I was shocked and scared that a doctor's advice could have led to this. After being discharged from hospital, a nurse visited the house daily for the next three months, injecting my dad with medication that helped him to cut down.

After the seizure, dad was a different person. He was extremely depressed, part of his left side would randomly stop working and would not be able to put any weight on it.  We then had a call from the doctor asking to see my Dad.

The doctor diagnosed my Dad with early onset Alzheimer’s which is why he had a seizure and why the medication that was helping my Dad withdraw from alcohol was changing him. This was devastating news to dad. He was once an active, jolly, happy go lucky person and to receive this news changed him completely…in summary he had lost hope.

He went back to what he knew best – drinking.  It was as though the conversation we had with our dad never happened.  In his words “If I’m going out, I’m going out my way!”.

Cider aisle by Drunken MonkeyA few months later, at Christmas he was dancing with my Mom when all of a sudden his left side dropped, his arms, legs, and even his face were affected. A specialist advised my mom and dad that the previous doctor had been wrong; my Dad did not have early onset Alzheimer’s…he had, in fact, had a mini stroke. This gave us some hope as at least we now had something to work with.  

After receiving this news, dad started getting better. He cut his drinking down a fair bit (though he did still drink a bottle of cider a night) and finally we could see hope in his eyes.

My dad passed away on Monday 23rd May 2011.

My dad was gone and it was down purely to a substance that people say provides them with joy and stress relief. In fact, when abused alcohol can bring terror and sadness.  

Moving forward

So, Looking back on the experiences of my dad you may ask how it has affected me. To some they would be resentful of the experience, vow not to go through it and then due to self-fulfilling prophecies end up becoming an alcoholic through proxy. Needing to have a drink to cope and to be happy in life.  

I have chosen the opposite; I surround myself with the friends and family that I love. I can go out with my friends and not drink and be happy. I have found my ways to deal with the stresses that I feel with my life. I can look back on my dad and look into the happy times but always have the stark reminder of his journey through alcoholism.  

This is one a series of blogs being posted during Alcohol Awareness Week. Please click on the titles below to read the others:

Alcohol Everywhere

Do small things with great love

Does everybody have an off switch?

The occasional drink

It's not big, and it's not clever

Come and have a look at how we help and if you feel that you could make a difference, you could even come and join us.

(Images courtesy of abrackin, Alli'Cat' & Drunken Monkey)