Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I Didn't Mean Right NOW

I got a call from the Medical Examiner's office that one of my patients was found dead. It was the woman I saw the other week, the one who couldn't stop drinking, the one I called a drink-yourself-to-a-miserable-death alcoholic. The cause of death was clearly alcohol-related. She was found by her daughter, who had stopped by with her newborn baby. I didn't even know she had a daughter.

I spoke with the daughter on the phone. She talked about how the alcohol was the only thing that mattered to her mother; she only ever called her daughter to scream at her. The daughter seemed incredibly nice.

I haven't got anything profound to say about this. I'm just trying to imagine what it must be like to care more about getting drunk than about your daughter, or your brand-new grandchild, or your own life.

26 comments:

Meira said...

Oh, her poor daughter.

Eve said...

So, so sad. It would be one thing to drink yourself to death, but don't people understand it is wholly another because of what it does to your family?

Flicka said...

Oh, that's awful. Her poor daughter. I have to wonder if this doesn't come as something of a relief, though.

Dr. Wannabe said...

I recently just wrote a post about alcohol and ended it posing the exact same questiong.

I really don't know how it comesdown to something like this.

Anonymous said...

My MIL fits this profile, almost. I think she's in really profound psychic pain all the time, and the alcohol dulls it. She has a permanent slur from brain damage related directly to drinking. (We think. I don't know what her doctor says. She doesn't tell him she drinks.) It's heartbreaking. But there was something really wrong before she started to drink, and drinking must have seemed to help.

cherylc

Menita said...

Oh no. That is just awful.

Anonymous said...

Now that is indeed a spooky coincidence. Having battled to have my kids, I find this difficult to comprehend but I suppose oblivion is preferable to the way she was "living". The finding of someone like that must be truly awful though - one of my students returned home from school one afternoon to find his mother (who I sometimes talked with at the gym) hanging from the bannister rail. Why do that knowing that someone who loves you will probably encounter you first? Beats me.

Fiona

Sugar Pixie said...

I'm so sorry- stuff like this must get to you somehow. And you JUST WROTE ABOUT HER!

Now that I think about it... don't you dare write about me. Ever.

E. said...

I think Flicka's suspicion that her daughter must feel some relief has got to be true, and for that reason I feel even more sad for her. Grief is so difficult, and adding anger and relief and the guilt that has to come with such relief to it... it's just so hard.

Kim said...

I have known several alcoholics - some who quit and some who drank themselves to death. It is an awful way to go. It's an awful thing to try and overcome also. Do you believe it's a "disease"? In my experience, there's a lot more involved than just wanting to get drunk more than wanting to see your new grand-baby.

meno said...

I wonder if she could have found a faster way to kill herself. I wonder if it would have been easier on the people around her if she had. I don't know the answers.
I feel for her daughter, what a way to be abandoned.

Orange said...

My dad finally quit drinking about two weeks before he died. I'm sure it helped my sister and me tremendously that he'd stopped drinking, because it had been a huge bone of contention for years. My sister had actually cut off contact with him, but fortunately saw him once or twice again before he died. He'd have been miserable sober, though, so it's actually lucky that his heart gave out when it did.

My brother-in-law's brother drank himself to death at age 40. I can't imagine what it must've been like to live in that troubled mind.

emjaybee said...

My friend's dad drank himself to death, and her younger sister killed herself (slowly and painfully with OD-ing on Tylenol PM, which is one of the gruesomer methods in terms of how painful it seemed to be, ugh) the next year.

And my friend is married to an emotionally abusive asshole, and they have a little girl, and I don't go see her anymore because none of them will get help and I can't stand it.

I wish to god we had some decent mental health treatment in this country. We have a friend battling (but at least he's fighting) alcoholism, and he hates AA because he's an atheist, and his local chapter is all about the Jesus. The closest secular organization is 40 miles from him, past lots of bars. He doesn't have money for therapy. And there just isn't anything else, it seems.

Nadine - Healthifica.com said...

I feel sorry both to your patient and the daughter. Things must have been hard back then.

Hope there are people who can learn from this story.

Thanks for sharing it with us, Doctor Mama.

Larki said...

Oh geez, how sad. And kind of eerie. I'll be thinking of her, and her daughter, and grandbaby.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Kim. If it were only so easy as a choice. Be careful about passing judgement on an illness.

Maderine said...

I really appreciated this post, along with your others. Where have you been all my life?

Thank you for writing.

susu said...

doctormama, I just stumbled on your blog, I have to tell you, I just love it, your writing, point of view is just really wonderful to read.You really should quit medicine and start writing books, I wish your blog came in book format so I can just curl up somewhere to read every entry, sitting on the computer all day gives me back ache,LOL!!

Your new fan.

Fat Doctor said...

I came here for a picker-upper. Clearly I need to move on. But I think the whole problem with addiction is that NOBODY can explain it. Hope you find an answer...if so, please share it.

DoctorMama said...

I think that the difference between what I feel like when I "need" a drink and what she felt like was something akin to the difference between the voices most of us "hear" in our heads and the voices that schizophrenics hear, the ones that make them jump and turn around to see who's there. I don't think I'll ever really be able to understand it.

I don't think there's any question that she's better off now.

Cecily said...

I'm curious about the question a reader posed. Do you believe it's a disease?

I do, but then, I'm a recovering drunk.

Also, I too hope someone reads this and has a wake-up. But they probably won't. Living sober is abnormal for the alcoholic--and that's why we care more about the booze than our families and friends. For this alcoholic, learning to live without alcohol was like swimming upstream in a razor-ridden torrent. Nearly impossible and excruiatingly painful.

I'm so sorry for the daughter. I hope she seeks out help, either in therapy or perhaps Al-Anon. Sorry for you, too, Dr. Mama. It's gotta be hard to not be able to help.

Amy said...

I think this is an example of how drugs de-humanize people. When you are addicted to alcohol, or cocaine, or whatever, you just aren't in control of yourself any more - the drug is in control. Some people are able to overcome it (as the previous poster did, at great trouble), and some people aren't. Somehow these chemicals are able to insidiously subvert your biochemistry in such a way that the only thing that matters is continuing to take the drug. These awful chemicals take away a person's humanity, reducing him/her to a more animal existence. I don't think this poor woman was making a conscious choice of alcohol over her daughter or grandchild - she wasn't making any choice. That insidious -OH molecule was in control.

PS - I've gotten so good at running my 30 minutes that I've been able to add an extra loop to my route! And my knee isn't complaining!

DoctorMama said...

Cec, do I believe it's a disease? Well, sure. Clearly the way an addict's brain is wired is different from the brain of someone who isn't susceptible. That's shitty luck, certainly, but you could also call it a disease. Doesn't seem much different from diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, you name it. People don't like to think of it that way because most people have fun getting there. But people have fun eating salt (and getting hypertension), eating too much (and getting diabetes), and ... well, there's not much fun on the way to getting arthritis, especially since running doesn't cause it.

I think we'll feel more comfortable calling it a disease once there's an actual treatment for it beyond just getting someone to stop. Kind of like how the perception of depression is changing now that we've got good medications for it. And even obesity is getting a tiny bit more respect now that there's surgery for it, because hey, if a surgeon can fix it, it MUST be a disease, right?

We've even started labeling people as having "at risk" drinking, kind of like the way we say people have prehypertension or prediabetes.

Amy, way to go!

Anonymous said...

I don't know, but I think I expected a different type of response coming from a doctor...To me this post reeks of, what? Lack of understanding where I'd expect there to be some? Something along those lines. Almost as though coming from a medical person I would expect you to know quite clearly what alcohol can and does to a person's brain, and therefore their judgement, their very soul. This poor woman didn't know what she was losing...which is exactly what alcoholism does to a person in the end. Why did she care more about the drink? Well, excuse me for saying it but -- duh! And I'm not even a medical person...just someone who has seen what alcohol does to others and a fine man once told me "There are two cures for alcoholism: you quit or you die." Period.

DoctorMama said...

Anonymous- "duh," indeed.

Surgeon in my dreams said...

My comment is on my BLOG. TOo long for your comment section.

Also, I shared all your descriptions of how the anti-depressant affected your love life with my husband...we rolled laughing!!