Caring for someone who is dependent on substances feels like you are about to take part in a three-legged steeplechase. In front of you are many obstacles all of which must be overcome to get them over that elusive recovery finishing line. One of the biggest hurdles is getting your loved one to participate, but what if they wont?
“Help me up, I’m going for a pint” These were the words from a 55 years old man, who unbeknown to me and my sister that morning was riddled with pneumonia and only had hours to live.
Asking someone to consider stopping using drink or drugs, can be like asking a child to give up their comfort blanket. Dealing with the tantrums and denial was exhausting. That bloody comfort blanket that dad sought so much comfort from only ever caused him pain and in the end it suffocated him.
There were the odd occasions when he acknowledged that the alcohol wasn’t good for him, but it didn’t last long before good old denial soon crept back, leading to him to
- Not being able to walk without assistance.
- He could no longer wear his false teeth because his gums had shrunk because his body was emaciated
- He showed signs of Korsakoff’s syndrome
- Fracturing his collarbone, a result of a drunken fall which had never properly healed.
- Suffer from Delirium Tremens (DTs) also known as Wet Brain
- He was reduced to wearing a nappy because he could no longer control his bowels.
- He had developed Alcoholic Hepatitis, which could turn his skin bright yellow
There were 7,551 deaths related to alcohol-specific causes registered in the UK in 2018, but I suspect there are a lot more.I recall the morning that the GP came around to confirm dads death, which seemed bizarre considering that he’s stopped breathing over an hour before. I was asked the question ‘The final cause death was due to pneumonia, do you want me to put that down or alcohol abuse?’ my reply was ‘Alcohol abuse’. Although I didn’t want my dad to be another statistic, I also didn’t want his death to be in vain neither. Plus one less statistic would only serve to help to minimise the often unseen side of addiction, which is the impact it has on families.
I know that nobody likes a Debbie Downer, but there is a harsh and dark side a real reality to alcoholism that people rarely talk about and thats “not everyone recovers”. So then what?
There was a point, i’m not sure when it was, when I realised dad wasn’t going to make it. He was too far gone. During this time me and my sister supported each other and developed an even stronger bond. We had each others backs, we talked and negotiated about the best way we could not just help Dad but ensure we were ok too.
Support for families
Alcohol abuse and alcoholism can also be felt in the family, it becomes a family problem that can destroy marriages and drive a wedge between some of the strongest families.
All too often the focus is on the addicted loved one, which can cause families to lose sight of their own support need. Families lives can be turned upside down in their attempt to help the addict, offering unconditional support at each setback when others have given up. Dads mates from the pub had stopped calling around long ago, his family lived in another city, leaving me and my sister as his only source of support.
The UK Drug Policy Commission (UKDPC) study suggests that around 1.5 million people in the UK are significantly affected by a relative’s drug/Alcohol use whilst other studies have suggested this number is nearer to 8 million.
The lack of knowledge and support can leave family members feeling very vulnerable, therefore, families need support too. They don’t have the comfort blanket, like the addict. Families need help to recognise that they have support needs too, they need…
- Help to understand addiction, to understand addiction isn’t a linear journey it is a journey of ups and downs, achievements and setbacks, stagnation and progress.
- Help to develop their coping strategies, help strengthen their resilience, especially when it comes to setbacks.
- Help from others, which can be found in support groups, face to face or online
I will never know if I could have done anything different, I suppose that question sits alongside a list many other unanswered questions. But what I do know, is that it’s not just the alcoholic who needs help and support.
If you have a loved one who is suffering from addiction and find that your life is being affected, please seek support (see below for some links)
Love Fordy x
Thank you for taking the time to read.
Remember, I don’t write for financial reward or gain. I just want to help share my lived experience with others hoping that it helps. And I just love to write, so if ya fancy getting the occasional email (NO SPAM, I PROMISE) with the most up to date blogs from yours truly, please feel free to subscribe at the bottom of the main page.
Support for families
SHSC Support for families
There were some Alnon groups in Sheffield, although due to COVID, like many others are providing support online
SMART Family & Freinds
Adfam Also has some great resources and sources of support
For information about Sheffield drug and alcohol services