Although I have known for many years my mother had an "issue" with drinking, only in the last few years has it made any major impact (or noticeable impact) upon her life or upon ours.
Her drinking was “never” to be discussed or mentioned in any type of negative light. Suggesting she had a problem at all was basically being a vindictive “child”.
A year ago, my mother’s enabling husband, whom we loved dearly, passed away from cancer. As you would imagine, the drinking escalated, as her health declined, and accidents began. All was written off to the depression of losing her husband. This was her reasoning for never eating, never going out, and smoking up to 3 packs of cigarettes a day as well. Antidepressants worked for a short time as alcohol became the main source of relieving her pain. Along with this also came an increased amount of manipulation on her part into having others do for her.
As I spent some time with her this summer, as well as my children, it became very clear that the amount of alcohol she was drinking (which was from morning until night…and without eating very much at all) was now causing more medical problems. She would fall (intoxication related) at least three times a week. Most of these falls resulted in broken ribs, noses, and a massive amount of blood loss as she was on Coumadin and prednisone. Always was the refusal to seek emergent medical treatment.
Family and friends had always “known” that my mother would drink too much, but to avoid any confrontation it wouldn’t be brought up. I knew logically, and from being in the medical profession that she could not continue on sabotaging herself while we sat around watching.
Shortly before thanksgiving this year, I received a call from my aunt that she was unable to get a hold of my mother. Knowing she didn’t drive at night, my son and I drove to her house to check on her. She was found on the living room floor….she had been incapacitated for almost 28 hours. She somehow managed to get a blanket off the sofa to cover herself, but stated she could not reach either phone in between the blanket. On admission to the hospital, I spoke with the ER nurse and told her point blank that the reason she had fallen was that she had been intoxicated. As she was moved to the ICU, the alcohol part was lost. I was lucky to speak with her attending and let him know what was going on. At that point they had been running numerous neurological tests to determine the reason for her “fall”.
She was evaluated by the psychiatrist who suggest in-patient treatment. As she had broken her collar bone, skilled nursing and physical therapy were needed first. Her physician specifically told her that her daily drinking was the cause of her medical issues and that she must stop immediately….along with smoking cigarettes.
It was unfortunate that my mother has been adamant about refusing any psychiatric care. She will never admit to having an alcohol problem and becomes very irate when the subject may be mentioned. I only realized from this past hospitalization, and talking things over with my family members, that they still will not mention the alcohol issue to my mother. They acknowledge that she has a serious alcohol problem, but are reluctant to say it to her. This makes me…..once again….the “bad” child.
I am more than aware that I cannot “make” her stop, nor can I make other family members “stop” from buying her either alcohol or cigarettes….and that I will become okay with. The one thing I know I will not ever be okay with is having one of my children with me to find her passed out, bleeding, or deceased.
I think logically we all know that our parents’ alcohol abuse was not caused by us, and that their abuse did and does affect us…..we as children just have a very difficult time confronting them with it and not holding some guilt within ourselves. There is no single or easy answer for any of us dealing with the alcoholic parent, especially the elderly alcoholic parent. We all need to deal with the situation that best meets the needs of ourselves and our families as well as our parent.