I spent a few hours in the ER today with a friend who is suffering late-stage alcoholism. If she stops drinking she will suffer a seizure and is at a very real risk of dying.
The last time she detoxed she had a seizure despite their best medical interventions to prevent it. I remember because I remember how frightened she was afterward.
Where she is today, is about where she was last summer when we first met. In August I had the privilege of getting to know her, and to work with her for a few wonderful months. Then: nothing, no contact, and I feared for her life. Today she called again. Life had gotten worse; in some ways, violently so. After a brief conversation this afternoon I met her at the ER to provide what help I could.
Haven’t held someone so tight in a minute.
The ER staff was kind and professional. But still: incredible. I’d heard many tales many times before but it is pretty stunning to hear a medical doctor, speaking in front of an audience of three other medical personnel who are scribbling notes, telling a patient to go home and keep drinking.
“Pick a number. Your best guess. Sounds like about eighteen [high-alcohol content beers]. Try to drink that number around the clock. Try to drink maybe half of one less per day, until you can get to [a medical] detox [facility].”
He goes on.
To hear the doctor tell her that her needed medical help isn’t currently available because she doesn’t have the right insurance. That her best plan is to go home and try to maintenance drink. Go home with her addict boyfriend and try to drink enough to live and not drink so much as to die. Incredibly, tell someone to do this, when the very definition of an alcoholic involves the unpredictable inability to control drinking once drinking starts. And of course there’s no “start”, because you can’t stop when you’re at this stage.
This is real and I’m not making it up.
And what this doctor said. That is medical science’s BEST PLAN.
They stick her with an IV and she holds my hand so tight.
Upon her discharge I turn to her, as we head out to get (her) a cigarette, and as she’s starting to get the shakes: “If they’re going to prescribe beer they should call it into the pharmacy and we can pick it up in a classy white bag.”
I love her so much but that won’t save her.
I’ve never seen someone suffer the way I saw her suffer today.
When I got sober…
When I got sober, I worried about some things… I worried there wouldn’t be joy in my life, that my life would be like this dry diet (or at least, what I imagine a diet is like) of “good habits”. I truly worried that I’d be bored, or boring. And I definitely thought I’d miss drinking.
Of the one hundred and one amazing and incredible and unexpected things that have happened to me the years I’ve been sober, not one of those worries has come to fruition.
My life isn’t very boring. It doesn’t go according to my plans either. I didn’t think tonight I’d find myself spending my set-aside rent money on the food and alcohol she needs to live. Two cases of skunky beer. Coors Light! I enjoy carrying the cases though. They feel substantial. Medicine they are!
Cans of tinned soup, packets of Chinese pork, fresh fruit, corn chips.