Today I went to see a man who for my children is very dear despite his dependency to alcohol. They never defined him as an addict and never thought anything but the best of him. This man is their grandfather who fell gravely ill several months ago with acute pancreatitis caused by lifelong abuse of alcohol.
Having spent over five months in hospital of which he spent four in an intensive care (2 months in coma), he was finally at home. But he was a shadow of a man he used to be.
This man used to be proud. He was a kind and pleasant (when sober) man. He was very skilled and was ready to help others when needed. He loved kids and knew what would make them happy.
Today when I went to see him he was lying in bed barely recognisable weighing just 50 kg. He had tubes coming out of his stomach leading into a bag that was filling up with brownish secretion from his organs that were riddled with a spreading necrosis. He was unable to obtain any food or drink inside, taking several medications many times a day, dependent of his wife who was looking after him. His voice was like he was speaking from the grave.
It was the saddest sight I have ever seen. There was no need or desire to say I told you so. No gloating over being right all these years about his future. It was just simple sadness over a kind man, father, husband, grandfather who would have had so much more to give to so many but instead now was bed-bound waiting the imminent death. Slow death that took away all pride and dignity and which every day reminded him why he is where he is now. Alcohol.
But even more sad than seeing him now is the fact that he never got the help he would have needed for his drinking which started at his twenties. No-one intervened when there was still a chance to turn the tables. Instead of this a troubled sensitive soul was taken over by the numbing comfort of an alcohol that took a firmer hold of him as the years went by. He faced many misfortunes in his life and he dealt with them by alcohol. He had happy times and he dealt with them by alcohol. Before he reached his fifties everything he did, everywhere he went the alcohol came along.
He was told by all the close relatives that he cannot continue drinking like this. He was told he has a problem with the alcohol. One day he admitted he does, the other he declined. He never seeked help. And no-one could force him. Instead he came a master in finding excuses to visit his hidden bottle. Taking the garbage out, checking something from the garage, fetching firewood for the fireplace. Everyone who was witnessing this knew that he went for his hidden bottle. This too was heartbreaking to watch.
When he finally fell ill and the house needed to be emptied of all the alcohol there was altogether 30 litres of strong spirit.
This man’s story is not unique. There are plenty of similar fates in the world.
The longer the alcoholic carries on drinking the harder it is to intervene. I mean that the intervention we can do at the dental practice has less impact than it would have in the early days of an addiction. That is why the early intervention is very important and us dental professionals have a very easy and natural way to intervene.
Please read my post below and hopefully it will bring you courage to ask about patients’ alcohol consumption.
About 60 year-old man came to see me one morning and complained that every once in a while a layer of skin comes off inside his mouth and no-one has been able to tell why. He was concerned and felt…