Questions about an end-of-disease alcoholic (dad)

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Questions about an end-of-disease alcoholic (dad)

Post by kslaggie » Mon Nov 12, 2012 12:23 am

first time here and i am hoping to get some perspective and possibly advice about my dad who is very ill and i believe near the end of his battle with alcohol. I must admit that I feel a little awkward just barging in here on my first time and asking for help. He is 72 years old and has been an alcoholic all of his adult life. extremely heavy, constant drinking. I estimate is his prime he was a half gallon to a gallon of vodka per day, every day drinker. Here is the situation and I'll try to be brief and to the point, although I feel like I could go on forever.

He is 72 but living in the body of a 110 year old. he last lost virtually all mobility and independence. He had been a functioning alcoholic since very early adulthood when his mom abruptly passed away and he was then somewhat abandoned by his dad, who didn't know how to handle the loss of his wife.

Up until age 60, (when he retired), he was a successful doctor. He invented the program in California that had prison inmates making eyeglasses for VSP patients instead of license plates, and he was for the most part a happy, friendly, and fun loving guy. He was never abusive, but also not much of a "dad" when we were growing up. He has been very successful in life and always well off. When he retired, that all changed and he went from functioning alcoholic to just an alcoholic. Interestingly, his health held up very well up until about age 68. Liver always checked out fine, and he was an avid skier up until about age 62. He even survived melanoma that had a very bleak prognosis with no complications a few years ago.

My mom is 60 and in good health, vibrant, loving and caring, and beat cancer last year. Unfortunately, for the past several years as things have gotten worse, she has become his enabler due to his declining mobility and independence. He is at the point in his addiction to where if he does not have a constant intake of alcohol he becomes almost completely immobile, mostly because he shakes and trembles so violently and then becomes disoriented. He has inexplicable problems with movement and walking. He can only go an hour to two hours without drinking before he becomes alarmingly incapacitated. He experiences a wide range of neurological symptoms, including cognition and memory problems in addition to the mobility problems as well. He virtually doesn't eat or drink anything other than vodka, yet he never loses weight. My mom has been put into a situation where she has to get him his drinks or else the obvious happens. There was a tipping point tonight because we went to a movie together as a family and it was 3 hours long, and by the time it was time to go, he was almost literally stuck in the theater. I basically had to carry him out. I think this was probably the last outing like this. It took us 20 minutes just to get to the first set of doors. He uses a walker but they are about to transition to a wheel chair. By the time we got home and he had a drink, he was mobile again and moving around on his own. It's bizarre to me, but he did not acknowledge in any way what happened at the theater. Frustratingly, he also never shows any gratitude or appreciation for the help anyone gives him and that he now requires.

Needless to say, it is very upsetting for all of us. My mom is in the worst possible position I can imagine and my sister and I don't really know how to help. We are all battling with issues such as guilt, for not helping him sooner, hopelessness and also how to move forward from this point. My dad's denial of the situation, really for his entire life, is baffling to me. I really can't tell if it is denial, or if it a genuine lack of understanding of the situation because he now has cognition problems. As a family, we have never really talked about his illness with him, but there have been occasions where it has come up, and he looked completely dumbfounded when it was suggested that he is an alcoholic.

I feel pretty hopeless about the situation. I know one should never think that things can't get better, but I am finding it very difficult to see how this situation could get anything other than worse. He would never accept treatment. My mom will only be able to care for him for a limited amount of time before he needs professional care, which would open up a whole new set of issues. I can't see him going into a home because how would he drink? I truly feel like we missed the opportunity several years ago to turn this around. I'm not a doctor, but I think his only true alternative to drinking will be his death. How's that for hopeless?

There is so much more I could write, about how this has affected us all for years and years. All of the psychological damage, missed opportunities, sadness, and anger. With all that said, i think my main questions are these:

- Is it possible that some people progress past the point of help? Am I thinking about this all wrong? Your opinion on this is valuable to me.

- Can anyone advise me from a more medical point of view? Are the symptoms he exhibits common with the end stages of alcoholism? He has been to see several doctors over the past few years to find out why he is losing his mobility. No significant pathology has ever been found, and I don't believe that the doctors are aware of his alcoholism, or if they are, it is downplayed. The obvious things have all been ruled out, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, ALS, dementia, etc. I am aware of wet brain (Wernicke–Korsakoff) syndrome and this is my primary suspicion.

Any other advice for this family that finds itself in a very tough situation? Anything would probably help. Out of anyone, I feel the worst for my mom. She is really struggling with the situation and I don't think she, or anyone has a clue on what to do. I sense that she is now dealing with the fact that other people have taken notice of the obvious and now label her an enabler and I think she is very saddened by this. While I am disappointed that she, and all of us, have been unable to help in more constructive ways, and I do have some hard feelings about her being his enabler, I do not blame her as I feel that she has become more an unwilling participant in his illness. I can't really say I would have done anything differently than her.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and if anyone has anything to respond with, I would truly appreciate it.

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Re: Questions about an end-of-disease alcoholic (dad)

Post by happycamper » Mon Nov 12, 2012 1:49 am

Awwwww.... (((( kslaggie ))))) Wow, what a story you have shared here.

It makes me literally think to myself... 'There but for the Grace of God go I'.

I would highly, highly suggest Alanon for you.. and as fast as you can get to a meeting, the better.
Get and read ALL the Alanon literature you can get your hands on. Get some help for yourself in this whole unfotuneate circumstance.
Faith without works is dead

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Re: Questions about an end-of-disease alcoholic (dad)

Post by Tosh » Mon Nov 12, 2012 2:49 am

I am sorry that I have nothing to share. I agree with happycamper, Alnon would be good to get in touch with. Your Dad's situation sounds terrible, but your Mum's happiness and yours is important too.


Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come.” Rumi (No sniggering from the sex addicts)

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Re: Questions about an end-of-disease alcoholic (dad)

Post by ann2 » Mon Nov 12, 2012 3:16 am


There is ALWAYS hope. My dad died through this thing, but YOURS doesn't have to.

Go to the doctor! Get an appointment, take him and your mother along, and do it ASAP! Share *everything* you wrote here, and everything else.

Go to Al-Anon, not just for yourself but for your dad and the rest of your family. You need the resources you'll find there from other people in your situation!

I know exactly what you're talking about and there was nothing I could do in my situation, but everybody's situation is different! You don't have to lose your dad this way! Take action and don't wait!

"If I don't take twenty walks, Billy Beane send me to Mexico" -- Miguel Tejada

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Re: Questions about an end-of-disease alcoholic (dad)

Post by kenyal » Mon Nov 12, 2012 7:56 am

Hi K and welcome here.

I agree with Ann that there is always the possibility for change for an alcoholic. The problem with that is the one who must make the decision to change is your dad, and those who love him cannot effect that for him. I do have some thoughts that reading your post brought up, based on my observations of others in similar circumstances, which might or might not apply to your dad.

He is not special in his depth of denial. When everything points to the truth of someone's alcoholism, the alcoholic ordinarily cannot grasp that. The bewildered expression he gave when his problem was brought up was genuine. I gave the same look when my problem was mentioned by my ex. It translates to "how could they possibly be so wrong about me?" You may as well have called him a Martian, it's that kind of disconnect from reality.

Wet brain can come on quite suddenly and doesn't go away. He might now have a window right now to get better but that will close. When it closes he'll be gone to you. If his mobility problems are related to alcoholic neuropathy, those very often reverse after we are sober a while. I've seen people move from wheelchairs to walkers to canes to full mobility within 2 years.

AA doesn't practice intervention, but is available to him as a solution to allow him to live sober should he be of a mind to try it. He'll need the desire to change this area of his life, something I don't know how to produce in others. The clarity it takes seems to be a gift somehow. We can suddenly see what we couldn't see all the days before.

There is room for love in this situation if he does not get better and nothing is altered and his relatively good health fails him. From what you wrote your family seems well able to provide that for your dad for the rest of his life. If you can view these things that are going on and the worse things to come through a different lens. Seeing a man with a condition he cannot willfully alter, one that he did not choose to have to endure. It sounds as if he has been productive in his lifetime, has accomplished good for others and performed well as a provider and raised up some good children.

That may need to be enough.

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Re: Questions about an end-of-disease alcoholic (dad)

Post by Hanna » Mon Nov 12, 2012 10:16 am

Hi K, welcome here.
My father died at age 60, I was 17. That was over 30 years ago. I wish I had somewhere to turn back then. Im just discovering ACOA adult children of alcoholics. You may find help there as far as understanding the progression of his disease as well as support for you. Your mom may find alanon beneficial, she is not to blame for his disease. You may also want to contact AA for a list of meetings for doctors only, alcoholics in recovery are grateful for the opportuniity to help another alcoholic, this is the 12 step of AA. Such meetings do exist for police officers, teachers, ect. they would be grateful to talk to him This disease does not discrimminate.
I wish your family well.
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Re: Questions about an end-of-disease alcoholic (dad)

Post by Tommy-S » Mon Nov 12, 2012 1:10 pm

Hello K

I can certainly empathize... Dad's been diagnosed with Cirrhosis & Liver Cancer... inoperative & incurable. And still drinks. It's the actions of a Mad Man, for to continue to return to the thing killing him is any but sanity. Unless locked up, he's not going to stop... But his wife won't permit that.

There's been several great suggestions given... Alanon works for family & friends of Alcoholics. You can contact them here:

Or through your phone book... the call is free & confidential.

Talking to his doctor as a family may help... We did that with my Dad, but it p*ssed him off such that life at home was miserable. That was my experience... and I would do it again, if only to now I did all I could. Alcoholics are sick people.

Know your not alone, and that there are others like you, in Alanon, who can help.

Best to you and yrru family...Tommy
Together, we don't have to cave in or wimp out to that Fatal First One, no matter what today!

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Re: Questions about an end-of-disease alcoholic (dad)

Post by kslaggie » Tue Nov 13, 2012 12:32 am

Thank you everyone who responded. your thoughts and recommendations are very much appreciated.

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Re: Questions about an end-of-disease alcoholic (dad)

Post by AlisonT » Tue Jan 01, 2013 8:52 am

My sister has wet brain. From a purely non-medical point of view it is characterized by short term memory loss and disorientation. She has had some improvement with medication but she cannot live on her own. I take her to lunch occasionally and she has to be watched like a hawk. She wanders and she forgets where she is. Once she got disoriented coming out of the bathroom and ended up in the parking lot and had started to walk back, forgetting she was at lunch with me. It is impossible to carry on any kind of a conversation with her since she forgets what she asked a few minutes before. When I look back I can see that the signs were there 10 years or more ago but we didn't recognize them and chalked them up to forgetfulness.

I don't really see your mother as an enabler. What else can she do, sit and watch him die of DTs? My father went into DTs in the lobby of a hospital where I had taken him to visit my mother. After he got out of the hospital my husband and I moved in to "keep him sober". Now that was crazy! It also didn't work and destroyed any relationship I had with my father. When my husband and I talk about that time in our lives we both agree we should have bought him all the liquor he wanted and let him drink. I'm reminded of the saying I hear around AA - If someone wants to drink, that's their business. If someone wants to stop drinking that's our business.

Definitely go to Al-Anon and take your mother. If you can, get your father to a different doctor. My father went to the same doctor for many years while his drinking got worse and worse. The doctor was an alcoholic too and looked the other way.

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