Monday, December 12, 2011

What does alcohol do to you?

Every person that has every drunk heavily knows what the mother of all hangovers feel like. That is perhaps the one thing I miss the least about my drinking days. That feeling of the morning after, thinking back to those mornings now makes my stomach turn, and I ask myself how it could be possible that did that this to my body every single day for close on 18 years.

I remember headaches, sore body, stiffness, bloated stomach, heartburn, acid that normally made me wretch in the mornings. Not even considering the emotional damage I caused to others and the financial screw ups. Purely looking back on the physical side of things I look back and I see an overweight, bloated ugly person that slept next to the person he loved with all his heart with a stinking breath every night. That could not have been easy for Debbie, and she has my every respect for how she managed to deal with me. Also not without fault all the time but still she stuck around. Even today, after she has left me as a sober person. I hold the highest regard for her endurance and tolerance towards me and our relationship back then. I smell people every now and again and it truly repulses me now. So I cannot imagine how she endured it. Even that morning after breath and the taste of the stale alcohol in your mouth seems so fresh in my memory.

I took the time and compiled a list of the diseases caused by alcohol abuse. What I did to my body, the body that I have one chance at carrying me through this life.

There is the obvious side effect of developing alcoholism, however I have a feeling that if you are reading this you either have an alcoholic in your life, or you are pretty sure that you are an alcoholic, even though you might not be ready to admit your status to yourself yet.

Cardiovascular disease, malabsorption, chronic pancreatitis, alcoholic liver disease, cancer, damage to central nervous system, damage to peripheral nervous system, coronary heart disease, peripheral arterial disease, heart attack and stroke, cardiomyopathy, hematologic diseases, stroke. Damage to the brain includes, impaired adolescent brain development, neuroinflamation, changes in dopaminegeric and glutamatergic signaling pathways, inhibition of hippocampal neurogenesis (In short drinking makes you dumb, and you lose your short term memory), cognition and dementia, tremors, sleep disorders, mental health effects. There are digestive system and weight gain problems wich includes, metabolic syndrome, gallbladder effects, liver diseases including sclerosis of the liver, pancreatitis. Other systems are affected as well including, alcoholic ling disease, kidney stones, sexual dysfunction, hormonal imbalance, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, skin defects. The immune system is affected in the following ways. Increased chances of bacterial infections, common colds are pronounced, cancers.

The saddest of alcoholic related diseases is certainly fetal alcohol syndrome, I have seen what a mother looks like when she comes to realize that she has taken away her child’s chances of having a normal life and has to look at the face of a child daily of whom she realizes she has in essence been the cause of that child’s condition, and that she did it willingly for her own pleasure. It is one of the saddest things I have seen in my life and it leaves a lasting impression.

In short, I know that for me to drink, means I am going to die. I will kill myself willingly if I drink again.

When I first went to an AA meeting it was explained to me that when alcoholics put alcohol into their bodies, something different happens from what happens to the Muggels (normal people) this does not mean that I am a weaker person or that there is something wrong with my mind or that I am dysfunctional. It means that my body is a bit different and that I have a sickness that causes my body to want more and more and more, where the next person’s body tells him to stop drinking when he feels he becomes intoxicated, my disease makes me want more.

Some of the associated effects that alcohol has on people’s lives includes.

Family violence, (this goes both ways, both because family members and spouses will lash out at a drunk, and it might be the cause of the violence) emotional abuse, (again goes both ways) impaired judgment, ( a loss of a sense of right and wrong) and a multitude of other things too long to list here.

Some of the things I am so happy that I have not had to feel in three years:

  1. Trying to remember what I did and said the night before.
  2. Trying to remember what my wife (or any other person) did and said the night before.
  3. Facing the screw ups I made the night before.
  4. Seeing my wife run into the arms of another man from being happy to see him and being to drunk to really care.
  5. Falling asleep with a baby in my arms in front of the TV.
  6. Missing the first two years of my child’s life.
  7. The feeling of dread when I cannot remember what I did the night before.
  8. The immediate physical damage to my body like cuts from glass and bar fights.
  9. The feeling of utter stupidity when I realized I was not as liked as I thought I was at the pubs, neither funny or even respected, but just tolerated because I paid.
  10. The worst of all, is the damage I did to others, and the hurt I caused emotionally to the people who loves and loved me.

The reality is that alcohol does not only destroy the life of the drunk, it destroys the lives of people close to him, the ones whom love him, and the ones whom has to look at a person they love destroying himself and them.

One would think that these things are enough to make a person stop drinking and look for help. The sad fact is that in most cases it is not. There is a feeling that only fellow alcoholics can recognize and identify with. That is that you in some way realize your problem but feel helpless, powerless and the very idea of stopping seems impossible and an exercise based in futility. The fact is that it is not, it can be done and like writing a final exam millions before you have done it. You are not too weak. You are stronger than you think.

I am an alcoholic and I can witness through the change in my own life that I never want to go back to those days, I have been able to grab at a second chance to life, and I intend taking it to the absolute maximum.

It is possible to stop, it is possible to regain your life, it is possible to become human again, it is possible to not be the problem and cancer in other peoples lives, it is possible to be a person others can depend on and it is possible to regain trust however long that process might seem. Time and sobriety heals, and working through a few basics steps that helps you deal with your problem gives you a second chance, and everyone deserves a second chance.

My name is Christo Hoffmann, I am a sober alcoholic living with my sickness and working at living life every day. I am thankful for every day of sobriety that I give myself. 

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