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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1152591-What-They-Dont-Tell-Us
by Kenzie
Rated: 13+ · Non-fiction · Personal · #1152591
A human is worth less than an animal? Apparently some think so.
What They Don't Tell Us
By Marilyn Mackenzie

A human is worth less than an animal? Apparently some think so.




Recent studies have supposedly shown that light to moderate drinking might actually have some health benefits. I’ve always been skeptical of studies such as these. Most likely someone who had an interest in the business of alcohol financed them. Perhaps my skepticism has arisen from the problems I’ve seen in my own friends and family members whose lives have been touched, and sometimes ruined, by drinking.

Not many people set out in life to become alcoholics. Most young people cannot wait until the legal drinking age to start experimenting with alcohol. In fact, most probably don’t wait. I know I didn’t. Back then, I didn’t know what could happen if one became addicted to drinking. Fortunately, I stopped drinking before that would be my fate. I can choose to have a drink now if I want, and then not have another for years at a time.

I should have known about the horrors of drinking, though. Way before I was born, I had relatives who were hurt by alcohol. One great-uncle died in an icehouse. He probably broke in looking for something to drink, stumbled and fell and died alone. Although I do remember being told that story, it was never really a story used to discourage me from drinking.

My father was an alcoholic, and my young childhood memories include Dad stumbling in late on Christmas Eve, only to be accosted by Mom shrieking that she needed help putting toys together. He did listen to doctors when he was retired and ended up in the hospital. They told him to stop drinking and smoking, and he did, and that’s likely why he lived to be 77 years old. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s were his biggest problems in his later life, and pneumonia, not alcohol, killed him.

Mom was raised to believe that alcohol was evil, and had no idea when she married my dad that he was a drinker. They had lots of problems because of alcohol. Finally, our family doctor told her to set aside time each night after dinner to have one or two drinks with my dad. He told her it would help save their marriage, and might actually reduce some of her stress. She started drinking when I was about eight years old, and never did stop until she was placed in a nursing home last year.

Thanks to that doctor, my mother also became an alcoholic, and she now suffers
from alcoholic dementia. That form of dementia is far different than the Alzheimer’s my dad had for a number of years before he died. For Dad, there were drugs to help. For someone with alcohol induced dementia, there are no drugs to help recover lost memory. Alcohol can and does kill brain cells.

My brother also became an alcoholic. I have my own thoughts on why and how that came to be. I do know that he started drinking cough syrup first at about the age of ten, then was given drugs by older neighborhood kids. Of course, he drank too. Looking back, and knowing what I know now, I’d say he was drinking heavily and doing drugs by the time he was fourteen. As his life fell apart around him, and he couldn’t afford expensive drugs, alcohol became his drug of choice. It was the only one he could afford. There are lots of cheap wines, and one can now buy single bottles of beer. For the alcoholic, just one drink will stop some of the shaking that accompanies not drinking.

My brother turned 50 this year. He’s been living on borrowed time, since the doctors told him he probably wouldn’t live past 40. Perhaps they should have never told him that. Perhaps if they hadn’t said that, he might have actually stopped drinking instead of continuing to drink away both real and imagined pains. We’ll never know.

What we do know is that my brother lost his job(s), his house, his wife and his kids because of alcohol. He has lived in cardboard boxes, under bridges, on porches of abandoned buildings. He steers clear of shelters, because they won’t allow drinking on premises. Instead, he’ll face harsh northern winters on the streets, just so he can drink.

Sometimes a kind person will offer him a sofa for a night or two, but when they realize that he’s stolen money or trinkets to pawn, they don’t invite him back. I guess no one has turned him in for these offenses because, in spite of being disheveled and having the smell of beer in clothes and coming from his pores and his lungs, he’s still a charmer. He’s polite and respectful, even as he’s stealing from you.

My brother’s mind has certainly been affected by the overuse of drugs and alcohol. His brain has also been damaged by the many fights and accidents and falls he’s had over the years. But his body has been so abused that it’s amazing that he’s still alive. That’s why the doctors predicted he couldn’t possibly live past 40.

Of course most of us have heard of cirrhosis of the liver. We may have even heard of some acquaintance who died from complications of this malady. But it’s not something anyone ever thinks they will get. It’s much like the smoker who knows that lung cancer happens, but doesn’t think it will happen to him/her.

But health problems do happen to alcoholics. And cirrhosis of the liver is one of those physical problems that can occur. Although the doctors have never said that my brother has cirrhosis, I do know that he has some problems with his liver and kidneys. His stomach grows and grows until he looks pregnant. It’s a hard mass that looks as if it could burst like a balloon if punctured. I believe it could actually do just that.

About every six to eight weeks, my brother limps to the hospital to have fluids drained. His belly button is now herniated too, and his “outey” is so enlarged that he wins bar bets when he tells other patrons that he has an added appendage.

Alcohol manufacturers don’t ever tell us that these kinds of things can happen to regular drinkers. They also don’t tell us that once we’ve crossed the line from someone who can control his/her drinking to someone who cannot, we’ve also lost our worth and value in the world.

About two years ago, my brother was in a van with his friends. These friends wouldn’t allow my brother to drink in the van, and he hadn’t yet begun drinking for the day. It was probably about nine a.m., and that was late for him to start. But he wanted a day in the country with his friends, so he complied. Still, because he’s homeless and an alcoholic, his clothes and body reeked of the smell of beer at all times. So it was that day.

To keep from thinking about drinking, my brother watched out the window of the van. Suddenly, he shouted, “Stop!” And the driver did.

Bill opened the van door and raced to the middle of the two-lane highway. There was a turtle slowly making its way from one side of the highway to the other, and my brother was concerned for its welfare. He picked up the turtle and started across the highway with it tucked under his arm.

A gang of motorcyclists zoomed around the bend in the highway. Too late, they saw my brother in the middle of their lane. They continued driving, kicking at him as they did. My brother fell to the ground, and other motorcyclists kicked him out of their way. He was hit by some of them. A few cycles and riders went down, but none of them were hurt badly. My brother was hurt, however.

Behind the motorcycle riders, one lone woman in a car stopped and watched. She used her cell phone to call for help. The cyclists drove past the stopped van to check on each other. Two went back to see how my brother fared. They met the woman in the highway and their conversations were about how strange it was that a man was in the middle of the highway with a turtle in his arms. They also commented on how badly he reeked of alcohol and decided that he must have been “falling down drunk.” That was how they reported the accident to officers, and none of the motorcycle drivers were ever cited.

My brother’s friends didn’t wait for medical help to arrive. They feared that with all the blood he lost that he needed help fast. They sped off to the hospital, where my brother received over 200 stitches in his leg. Officers arrived later to take his statement. An ambulance chaser attorney also arrived on the scene, probably having been tuned in to a police scanner.

As a homeless person, it was difficult for my brother to care for such a large wound. He was hospitalized at least twice more, just to have the wound properly cleaned and bandaged. Even though each of us had tried over the years to take my brother in and help him with his alcohol problem, my parents decided to take Bill in once more. They were afraid that he would lose his leg if he couldn’t keep the wound clean and dry.

I was living with my parents too at that time, so I discovered first-hand what little value my brother had to the world. The attorneys who had sought him out in the hospital decided to drop my brother’s case. They couldn’t see any financial reward for him or them, because the police report and witness accounts all said that my brother was at fault for being drunk in the middle of the highway. That he really hadn't been drinking that day was not even considered. That the motorcycle riders all kicked at my brother didn’t seem to matter to anyone. That he received over 200 stitches certainly didn’t bother them either. To them, he was a worthless drunk who was entirely nuts for trying to save a turtle from being hit on the highway. The persons who hurt my brother would not even be accountable for his medical expenses, let alone any pain and suffering award, all because he was just a homeless and worthless drunk.

I pondered that for quite a while. I’ve only been able to work for about 12 weeks in the last five years because of my firbromyalgia, chronic fatigue and chronic pain. Does that make me a worthless person also? My sister is a Vice President for a major corporation. If she had deemed it necessary to try to save a turtle in the middle of the highway, would she have been called crazy? Would her medical bills been paid? Would she have received pain and suffering compensation?

And what about animals? If those same motorcyclists had kicked at and run over a helpless animal, would they have been called to account for their actions? I believe they would have been. I believe animal rights groups would have demonstrated outside the courthouse to ensure that they received the harshest penalties. And yet, a human being was considered so worthless that, apparently, it was perfectly okay for other humans to kick him and run over him and they didn't even receive a slap on the hand. I am still amazed at that fact.

Ads for alcohol don’t tell of the lives ruined by drinking. They show the fun and the excitement of partying.

When any drug and alcohol education is provided for young people, there is often no mention of what can happen years later. That’s probably because most young folks aren’t looking that far ahead in life. They also don’t intend to be controlled by alcohol. But then, no one sets out to allow alcohol to control his or her life.

We all know by now that drinking and driving is not an option. People still do that, of course. But at least it’s something even the makers of alcohol will advise against. And it’s something the courts address severely now, thanks, in a big part, to groups like Mom’s Against Drunk Driving. But even public service ads that ask people to drink responsively don’t ever mention what can happen to lives touched by alcoholism. I guess selling alcohol is such a big business, that we really wouldn’t want our economy to suffer the way it would if everyone just stopped drinking, or at least took steps to ensure they would never be controlled by a drinking problem.

A person who chooses to ruin his/her life by consuming too much alcohol is considered of lessor value than a helpless animal. That’s what I learned by trying to help my brother with his dealings with the police, attorneys, hospitals and insurance companies.

Brain cells can be permanently damaged by alcohol, and dementia can be a result of that. I learned that when I moved back in with my elderly parents for a time. By researching this on the Internet, I discovered that in only 20 years of daily moderate to heavy drinking, alcohol induced dementia can be a possibility. That means that a 21 year old who chooses to drink every day could show signs of permanent dementia by the age of 41.

I do believe someone should share stories such as this with young people as they reach the age of legal drinking. No one ever starts out trying to become addicted to alcohol. But daily consumption can and does lead a person down that road. And once a person has chosen that route, the ramifications can be many. Shouldn’t we all be given this information before we have to decide?




Note: Even my sisters thought it was a bit crazy that my brother walked into a two-lane highway to save a turtle. I'm the oldest, and I wasn't surprised at all. My brother has always cared about people and animals. He might not have cared for his own health and welfare, or that of his family, but he would probably give his shirt to a stranger who needed it. In fact, he has. And turtles have always been a favorite creature.

Not long ago, I heard from a male cousin. Ed is a truck driver now, nearing retirement age, but he has a master's degree in psychology and used to be a professional psychologist. Twice in about a week, my cousin also stopped on two-lane highways to save turtles. I guess either the males in our family are strange, or it really isn't weird for someone who loves all of God's creatures. I wonder which it is?




June 11, 2007. I hear from the male cousin mentioned above at least two or three times a month while he is traveling. He still continues to save turtles from the middle of the road. In fact, for a while, he was saving 2-3 a week.




Here is one site about alcohol induced dementia. There are many. http://neurology.health-cares.net/alcohol-related-dementia.php


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