Sunday, March 11, 2012

Alcoholics, remain not anonymous!

There are better things in life than alcohol, but alcohol makes up for not having them.  – Terry Pratchett

            Everyone who knows me well knows that I have a huge issue with alcohol. I am not as reproving as I once was; I used to be very vocal to those around me who drank excessively, especially those drinking vodka. (I have a grave repugnance for vodka, because it was my mother’s drink of choice) As far back as I can remember, my mom was an avid alcoholic. I never drank from her cup because I never knew when it would be a vile liquid, and I knew that after my mom was drunk, she would be very lovable and sociable to me for about an hour before she lost interest in her drunken state and passed out. I’m not saying she was a bad person, she wasn’t the best mom but her intentions were never malicious. I never blamed her for her alcoholism and I tried to be sympathetic and accommodating. My husband and dad told her not to come around when she was drunk anymore but I could never say that to my mother; I knew life had not been kind to her and I enabled her drinking quite often. I always knew that one day, I would move my mom in with us and when she was with her daughter and grandsons, she would be able to quit drinking and begin to turn her life around.
When we were living in Alaska, my mom and I planned for her to come up from Bakersfield and visit for a few months. I had hopes that this would eventually become permanent and I would be able to save my mom from the crappy hand she had been dealt in life. She was supposed to catch a flight in September of 2007. Unfortunately, it never happened. I didn’t think twice when she got the stomach flu that February, and when my dad and sister took her to the hospital because she was so sick I believed my mom when she said that they were being overly dramatic. But just a couple weeks later, I was getting calls saying that she was incoherent, turning yellow, in unbelievable amounts of pain. End of February, the doctors told her that her alcoholism was quickly killing her. If she would quit drinking, they would do dialysis and give her enough time to see her children and grandchildren again. She left the hospital AMA and bought three pints of Potter’s Vodka at the corner store. After a pint and a half, she slipped into a coma as her organs began to systematically fail and her body shut down. My dad signed DNR papers, per my mother’s request and they sent her home on hospice care. Ten days later, she stopped breathing. I never saw her body, I never went to the funeral, and I have never been to her grave even to this day.
My mom’s death was avoidable. After 40 years of alcohol abuse, her body just couldn’t take anymore. This is hardly surprising though, since every woman in my family has had serious problems with alcoholism, and/or drugs and/or food. I drank as a teenager but as an adult my drinking habits seem to be mostly sociable and stress induced. I know what’s happening to the women in my family due to alcohol abuse but I wanted to know what the numbers look like as far as alcohol related deaths state and nation-wide. In California alone, 5,222 men and women on average die a year from chronic alcohol abuse. This means liver failure, sclerosis, lung failure, etc. 4,634 died from acute causes, such as alcohol poisoning or traffic related incidents. In total, 80,374 people die in the United States from alcohol abuse each year. These numbers are alarming because these are not just statistics; these are people. That is 80,000+ plus people with faces. 80,000 lives not fully lived. 80,000 people whose deaths are grieved by the parents, children and siblings they left behind.
Today I would just like to take a moment to plead with you, if you or someone you know has an alcohol addiction, please seek help. I know how hard it is to confront someone you love about their alcoholism, that’s why I didn’t do it, and now she’s dead. It is better to have them get mad at you for expressing your concern for them, than to wait until it is too late. There are many different options out there to help you quit drinking and I beg you to at least check them out.
(Sources: cdc.gov/alcohol, www.TIME.com)