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Re: Alcohol Sucks!

Posted by Caleb96 on September 2, 2003, at 12:10:53

In reply to Alcohol Sucks!, posted by BarbaraCat on September 1, 2003, at 13:45:17

Dear BarbCat:

Unfortunately alcohol does suck for a lot of us. My 79 year-old dad can have his ONE martini before dinner every night. He's been doing that for close to 60 years. In my 45 years, I've never seen him drunk or out of control. He still works, not because he has to, but because he enjoys it. He's never had health problems, lost his house, family or a job, had a DUI, or ruined a friendship because of alcohol. He can drink because he can control his intake.

As for his son--myself--he can't touch the stuff. About five years ago, I was rushed to the hospital with excruciating abdominal pain. Twenty years of heavy, steadily increasing alcohol consumption--starting in college--had finally caught up with me. I thought I DESERVED to drink because of all the stress I had to deal with on the job.

At the hospital, they ran all the blood chem tests, took x-rays, did ultrasound on my gall bladder, even did a colonoscopy. I still remember the ER doctor squinting at my x-ray--trying hard to find an explanation for my unbearable pain. My wife sat beside me in tears, holding my hand as if she was about to lose me for good. Finally the test results came back. Everything was normal except some slightly elevated enzymes. I could see the doctor still pacing up and down the freshly polished hallway, still holding my x-ray up to the fluorescent lights.

Finally, he walked back into my small examining room. "Do you drink?", he asked.
"Yes", I sheepishly said.
"How much?"
"Probably too much," I answered, dreading what I knew was coming next. How will I ever get through life without alcohol?, I thought to myself.
"On average, how much would you say you drink in a week?", the doctor asked.
I responded, "about a bottle of wine a day." This was definitely a under-estimate when you consider all the bottles of extra stout beer and 86 proof scotch I kept hidden in my basement workshop. There was also the half-gallon of 100 proof Vodka I kept in the kitchen liquor cabinet. A good stiff shot of that in between glasses of wine or beer really hit the spot. I'd be flying. No more problems to worry about!
Or so I thought.
"Mr. C-----," said the doctor, "what you have is an acute case of pancreatitis, and I'm pretty sure in your case it was brought on by chronic, heavy alcohol intake. Now, pancreatitis is--as I'm sure you're aware--generally considered one of the top ten most painful medical conditions. It's your pancreas literally digesting itself. For reasons we're not totally sure of, chronic alcohol consumption can trigger your pancreas to release its digestive enzymes within the organ itself."
Of course, I knew this all too well since I was finishing my PhD in nutrition. My God, I should have known better I thought to myself!
He continued, "In about 10% of the cases, it's fatal. Now, you're still young and in relatively good health. We treat cases like yours by giving IV fluids, painkillers, and withholding food until your pancreas has a chance to heal itself. Fortunately in your case, you should be better in a day or two."
"But"--he added--"if you continue to drink this problem will recur, and each time it will be more painful and more damaging, until...well, there just won't be anything we'll be able to do for you. Statistically, from the time a person is first hospitalized due to alcohol, if they continue to drink, their life expectancy is 15 years."
"You have a beautiful wife who loves you very much, and you can have a long, full life--but you have to stop drinking."

That was probaly the best advice anyone has ever given me. And I took it.

At first, I went to a few AA meetings, but I found that I couldn't really relate to all the tragic experiences these people had gone through. It just wasn't for me. But I would never put it down because it does help many people. I found it was just easier for me to quit and not think about it. If I'm at a party and someone tries to give me a drink, I just tell them I don't drink. If they get too pushy, I'll tell them I'm an alcoholic. It's not something I'm ashamed of. I would be ashamed if I still drank.

So that's my story. I can't tell you how many months, days, hours, etc. I've been sober. That kind of trivia is irrelevant to me. I can only tell you I'm much happier and healthier since I made the decision to be sober for life.

So good luck on your quest to sobriety. You recognize you have a problem and that's the most important start. Now figure out what route you want to take to kick alcohol for good. You can do it.

Best wishes--Caleb




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