Should I Get Involved With An Alcoholic’s Health Issues

JC: Pat, thanks for sending in your story. When it comes to medical issues, I think we all need love and support, especially from our spouses. I have a few communication guidelines I like to use when I am involved in communicating with someone I love:

1. Say what you mean, but don’t say it mean
2. Say things only once when conversing, more than that means you are trying to control the situation.
3. Avoid having serious conversations when the alcoholic is either drunk or hungover.
4. Don’t have serious conversations late at night.

You may get a few ideas from this article: How to Communicate With An Alcoholic

Guest Post From: Pat
Hi everyone. My husband is a functioning alcoholic. He has now retired from our trucking business. He had a heart attack about 3 years ago and then had to have his eye removed due to skin cancer that went under his eye socket. What has amazed me is how the medical personnel will not stand up straight and tell him the truth about his lifestyle choices.

After the heart attack several mentioned his smoking and told him he needed to quit. Never really explained to him the extent of the damage he is causing. When we would go in to have a check up they would do blood tests and his c-reative protein would be sky high. They just would skip right over it. I asked them if this was not something to be concerned about and they would just say nothing. To me this is a bad sign of inflammation that is caused by his smoking. Not one doctor would come out and say anything about it to him. They would say something to me when he was out of the room. Then I would tell him and he would ask me why the doctor didn’t say anything and then he would fight with me saying what a bitch I am. I thought that he needed to see the evidence of his habit then maybe he would see in black and white the proof.

Now he is having trouble controlling his blood pressure and other health issues. It used to stay fine by itself after the surgery. Now he has been through several medications and he has had trouble with all of them. Today I said something about being concerned that he is going into congestive heart failure because of his coughing. He said I am not being supportive and am such a terrible person. I looked up the symptoms and they fit pretty good. It even mentions alcohol abuse as a contributing factor.

Now for my questions. Am I being cruel in telling him the truth or should I just shut up and let him go on in his ignorant is bliss state? I don’t know if telling him would change anything as he has drank his whole life and probably will not be able to stop. He has tried to quit smoking several times and has not been able to do it so far. His VA Dr has prescribed a water pill for him which seems to indicate that he knows he is in congestive heart failure so why won’t he tell him?

Video About Some Health Issues An Alcoholic May Face:

17 comments to Should I Get Involved With An Alcoholic’s Health Issues

  • Sally

    Pat, bless your heart, this has to be so hard for you. Sadly, even without a person being a drunk, most people, and I do mean most, don’t/won’t do anything about a health issue if it means any change in their habits. The older people get, the less likely they are to make an effort to change anything. I’ve been in your shoes after a fashion. To save your sanity and keep peace in your home, you would have to learn to keep what you learn to yourself. Your husband’s physicians seem to know that nothing they can say will change decades old habits. As you say, your husband has been drinking his whole life and nothing short of an act of God will stop him. Pray for him, but know that all the information in the world won’t make your husband want to prolong his life if it means giving up his habits. Stay strong. You’ll be in my prayers.

  • Diane


    You don’t have to be the mean bitch. You’re not the medical professional. It sounds like you are with your husband at his appointments. Just ask the doctor your questions in front of your husband. Ask about the specific blood tests and what they mean. Ask the doctor about the impact of smoking or drinking on hypertension. If your husband’s legs start to swell, ask the doctor why and what can be done for it. You have a right to ask questions and get information, and your husband can hear the answers at the same time.

    However, don’t expect the fact that your husband has heard the information to make a difference in his behaviors and habits. My husband was diagnosed with a neurological condition that was affecting his balance and ability to walk and use his hands. The neurologist was adamant that he absolutely had to quit drinking, because the drinking would make the condition get much worse much quicker. I don’t think my husband had a sober day after that. It didn’t make one bit of difference to him. And he deteriorated rapidly, just as the doctor promised.

    I told my husband I would do anything to be supportive and helpful with his neurological condition, but not with the drinking. Eventually, since he continued to drink in greater volume and his physical abilities were worse and worse, I left him. We are now in the midst of divorce and he is staying with drinking buddies. He has had numerous hospital stays and nursing home commitments in the interim, and the drinking continues.

    It’s very sad to see him because he’s a mess, but I know I did everything I possibly could. When I left, I had no remorse or guilt.

    This is a very hard road to walk. Remember to stay on your own path; don’t walk your husband’s.


  • From experience, I have found that close relatives and doctors will not talk about the alcohol abuse. Your life will be consumed with his needs because he is headed in one direction. Get professional help to keep your mental and physical health in top shape. The alcoholic will wear on you – friends will lift you up.

  • Deb

    HI. My alcoholic is kinda a trip. He is on three medications which took a lot of time to figure out by the way to control his high blood pressure. Its incredibly expensive. Alcohol causes high blood pressure. He smokes..smoking causes high blood pressure. One time after a binge his ankles swelled up huge..he was super drunk and I noticed his huge ankles and in shock I said..’whoa..your kidneys aren’t need to go to the dr.’ He called me a bitch to shut the f up. Then I remembered ‘he’s a drunk.’ Something about remembering this always snaps me out of my ‘normal behavior.’

    A normal person interaction would result in the other at least acknowledging your ‘observation’ and perhaps taking it to heart. It doesn’t work that way with an alcoholic. A friend of his spoke to me after I told my story.

    Out of the blue one day, at work, from work he had to be taken by ambulance to the emergency room. He was there for a week. I knew what it was about but he tried to lie to me about it. I said ‘its your liver and pancreas isn’t it.’ He swore it wasn’t but I knew by the heavy dose of pain medications it had to be at least pancreatitis and his yellow skin color confirmed it was the liver. I sat there next to him as he has no family and no one else but me to visit him.

    Hi my name is ‘The bitch’ yea..that is what he calls the one and only person he can ever call for assistance. Its a total trip being with him. When he got out his kidneys weren’t working and the doctor told him to drink a lot of water and that after a week they would test his kidneys again to see if they were working. The doc wouldn’t let him go back to work until his kidneys were at a certain level of function.

    When I began my story I’m not sure if I mentioned that it was during that week that his ankles swelled and I noticed it. He had been quite nice to be around for a week without alcohol had toned his angry self down. He is almost always angry about something. Well, he followed the doctor’s instructions (sort of). He understood that the doctor asked him to drink ‘a clear liquid’ and to drink ‘lots of it’ while he was recovering and not working.

    Did I mention the misinterpretation was my roommmate thought that clear liquid was VODKA. He drank a great deal of Vodka the entire week after his hospitalization. Of course that is why he called me names when I noticed his Huge ankles. I’ve learned to take this in stride. I don’t try to make him do anything. The next morning the swelling had decreased by about half but they were still swollen.

    What entertained me was how I went into the kitchen and I hear him saying ‘holy smokes,o my gosh,my ankles,I need to see the doctor.’ I nonchalantly turned to him and said..’o yea I told you about that yesterday.’ He was sober by morning of course and that he freaked out when they were half the size of the night before made me have a ‘hmm’ moment.

    I wanted to say something but realized there is no point in it. His friend let me know that 12 years ago the doctor showed him a picture of his liver compared to what a liver is supposed to look like and neither looked the same. That was 12 years ago and he’s still a fish.

    Jack Daniels did a decent job getting him ready for work the following week. He has Astronomical blood pressure, its actually amazing that you can have blood pressure that high (when he’s not taking his very expensive meds) but what the heck ‘anyone up for a beer or twenty?’ You gotta love the Alcohol Demon. Its Amazing!

  • Deb

    I know I’m making a joke but really you have to look at this. Or, that is my take on it.

    One time after a binge, he kept trying to attack me but being unable to stand up makes that really easy to avoid. Folks have told me to be careful that he may hurt me and they worry a lot for me. But, they don’t know my alcoholic. On this occasion he was so angry at me but you didn’t ask me why he was angry.

    He was standing near the wall to his bedroom near the kitchen looking wobbly. Hey I was just walking to get water from the sink, I was thirsty. I did a double take at the way he appeared. He looked a little bit lost and I thought he was trying to take a step forward but with both hands out trying to balance himself and a look like he was on board a ship which was really wildly swaying side to side. But, the floor was stable (I checked). When I filled my glass, amusingly watching his balancing act and intense attempt to take what appeared to be a single step, he suddenly lost balance the arms flailed wildly and he began to move to the left and right. He was very off balanced.

    I turned and looked right at him as he backed himself into the wall then fell flat on his rear. The fact I was staring at him while he did this made him, of course, assume that I had ‘pushed him down’ to the ground and he began to threaten me with violence. In anger at what I did to him. All this while I am standing there with my glass of water.

    I explain about why I am not concerned about the threat to my physical self which he often speaks during these moments. HE was so angry and he was going to nail me. I walked up to him about two feet away and the dude couldn’t even stand up. I stood there as he continued to threaten me and then I walked back to my bedroom. He screamed at me for a while and an hour later elected to call me on the cell phone from his cell phone from his bedroom. He managed to crawl or flail or walk I’m not sure which the remaining three feet into his bedroom and had to call me on the phone to threaten me.

    When your alcoholic is as functioning as this, you don’t really worry about the physical violence. One time drunk, I managed to lock him out of the place. He screamed bloody murder and was going to kick open a window. Pounding on the door there was no way I was going to open the door. It got quiet then for about 10 mins and I decided I would see if he calmed down then I would let him in. He had. He was face down asleep on the steps to the house. When the cops came, they found him that way. They commanded me to open the door and advised me that he has the right to be in the house since he lives here and I can’t lock him out of the home.

    The police do that a lot. Tell me what rights he has. I listen. I told them that he wanted to hit me and they told me I need to go downtown and get eviction papers and do it all formally and legally. The dude helps me pay rent. Why would I evict him? he sorta has issues but he give me the best stories.

    Only one story I don’t look forward to. Its the story of the one day I will come home and find him dead in the house. I figure it will happen if he lives here long enough. I was advised by a friend to call 911 and not go in and see him. But I figured I’d have to visually see him. He said it would freak me out to see a real dead person. This is story of someone living with an alcoholic.

  • Karens

    I am married to my alcoholic for 27 yrs and recognize the signs and symptons of alcoholism. It is so hard dealing with them when the alcohol has controlled their lives
    for a long period of time. Sometimes, I forget he is an alcoholic and that is when
    the real trouble begins. I am living with the person who has poisoned himself
    and his brain cannot go without alcohol. It is to miserable and painful to choose
    to get away from its sting on his life.

    He has neuropathy in both feet, both hips replaced due to a necrosis brought on by
    the alcoholism and two back surgeries in the last three years. The Dr says that
    he does have a fatty liver which is the beginning signs of his end. They, family
    members and my self have begged to have him quit. He has forced me to find other interests so I can cope with the cruelties of alcoholism that he tries to make
    me accept. Life is so difficult but the guilt that caregivers feel is beyond understanding. For myself, I have learned to accept that if he does not care
    about his body then there are things I cannot control. Forced to face the agonizing
    pain he causes hisself and me I have learned how to be detatched from him and to
    face the many qustions that have come my way. For me, not being around during
    surgeries proved to be the icing on the cake that pushed me to learn how to
    accept his alcoholism that is his problem. Not Mine. I do not worry about his health
    as much as I used to because he has chosen to ruin hisself and tries to bring me
    down with his problems.

    God gave us a gift of knowledge and experiences that if used properly can help
    the alcoholic heal. However, this is not my luck. Good luck to you. Perhaps
    things of life can help you. Till then love your alcoholic life to the best of your
    ability and try not to deliver strange items. We had a great wedding amd I
    am looking forward to seeing tem once

  • Donna

    Hi. My name is Donna and I was just dealt the blow that my longtime best friend of 50 years has become an alcoholic. She was so good at hiding the problem, all of us closest to her were completely unaware. She has always been a smart, courageous, clear-thinking individual. We have been more like sisters than just friends. She started having physical problems recently, she was hospitalized and fully supported by friends and family. She had two stents put in, and we expected a normal recovery. Certain long standing life issues popped up during the course of her hospitalization, but she had been dealing with these family issues for years, and expected everything to be status-quo. Within days of leaving the hospital I received a call from her sister, saying she was so depressed she wasn’t eating or drinking water, her blood pressure was off the charts and they were frightened.They put me on a plane from another state and I arrived to find her crying, weak to the point of falling down. I stayed for a week, nursed her and fed her and supported her, and she seemed so much better when I left. I had arranged for nurses, including a psych nurse, but I had to get home to my family. She did not divulge that she was drinking in secret while I was there. Kept close contact with her. Friday I received a text telling me she had signed herself into rehab because she had been drinking. She had the DT’s. We took her liquor (she volunteered it) only to find she had stashes everywhere. She is minimizing the length of time she has been drinking (I know she’s lying), as well as the amount (also lying). She is avoiding going to meetings or the recommended psych counseling, is blaming everything in her life for it happening, and as soon as she walked out the door of rehab, she drank. At first I was devastated, crushed and sorrowful. Then I started reading everything I could get hold of, including this website. SO I could understand what my part in her recovery should be. My first instinct was to swoop in and fix it, or get a handle on it. But I know now there is no handle to get, no fix I can do. This person who was my most trusted friend is no longer herself. It’s like the real person is hiding inside her. She now lies compulsively (never an attribute of hers), misdirects, omits and is generally now a person I don’t know. I don’t know if her brain is being damaged or if she’s outright lying. I know now that I must detach myself from the outcome, and it hurts more than I can say. The most alarming thing I read from AA was that the alcoholic will not stop until the pain of the disease is greater than the pain they were trying to escape by drinking. I am well aware that reaching that point could end her life. And I believe she is a person who has a life worth living, if she can only find that reason and move toward it. She still calls me, and I support her, whether the decisions are misguided or not, I don’t ask questions about whether or not she is drinking, and I’m allowing it to unfold without enabling her by giving her more reasons to justify her self-destruction. I am trying to hold on to my joy, my passion, and live my life. She has to be the one to decide if she chooses to love, or not. This expression of my love for her is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

  • Carol

    Reading these comments about how alcohol has effected loved one’s lives, I can relate because my daughter who is an alcoholic is married to alcoholic who has diabetes since he was a child, had 2 heart attacks, acute pancreatitis which almost killed him, COPD, kidney issues and yet he still smokes and drinks. He has told me numerous times he is quitting……does for a short while and than back at it. My daughter has a history of depression, stomach cancer, and was recently arrested for a domestic violence incident where she seen as the violent one because her husband has bleeding issues and she did not have bruises until the next day. She also has told me she is not going to drink anymore and she should not because of the anti-anxiety and depression meds she takes. Her life is a wreck and none of her three adult children want to have anything to do with her. I love her and feel sorry for her, but have come to realize that she must sort things out herself. I am trying to not offer advice, don’t call to ask her how she is doing and am trying to let it go and let God. I have started attending Ala Non and find it helpful to help me keep my sanity. I am grateful for all the support that can be found here at this website. Peace and blessings to all.

  • Debbi

    Don’t Lose Hope Yet–It seems you know that you can’t “swoop in” and help like we all wish we could do. That actually may stop her from seeking recovery. But you can let her know you are still here for her–tell her that you will help her in any way possible towards recovery if she sticks with it & tell her you love her & remind her of all the fun times you had & remind her how you don’t want to lose your friend. Be there when she is ready for rehab & recovery. You are doing all the right things. My thoughts are with you now.

  • Debbi

    My thoughts are with you. As a mother your first instinct is always to protect your child so this must be the hardest thing to step back. But know you are doing the right thing. Be ready to help when she says she wants a recovery program & keep your prayers going. I’ll keep you in my thoughts today & Donna too!

  • Donna

    Thank you, Debbi. I have told her I love her and support her in her recovery from this awful disease. Thank you all for your it doesn’t seem so lonely out here. My thoughts and prayers are with you all.

  • Donna

    well, the saga continues. she continues to lie to everyone, isolate herself, and is adept at seeming just fine and normal while in the company of family and friends. However, as soon as she is in the car, the flask comes out, and she’s immediately drunk. She is drunk now and is planning on getting in her car and driving to a meeting. It is so hard to make the choice not to get involved when she is getting into a car and driving dangerously where she might hurt someone else. I am afraid I’m going to get a call which will tell me she died.

  • C

    Find support for yourself. You will benefit from a professional so you can lead a happy and productive life. Right now you are captive audience to something you cannot control and it could make you very ill. I hope you will call your doctor and find a reference even if you only go once. This is too difficult to handle alone. Take good care.

  • Debbi

    You might want to consider calling the police when you see her getting behind the wheel while intoxicated because she might hurt someone else. I think you can call it in anonymously if you do not want her to know you did it.

  • Mike

    You MUST intervene.
    Someone else might get killed.
    Take the keys away.
    If that does not work, call the police and have the person arrested.
    The things you’ve seen drinkers do, are only the tip of the ice berg.
    If they’ve driven drunk once, that means they’ve done it many times before.

  • Debbi

    To Mike:
    You said “the things you’ve seen drinkers do, are only the tip of the iceberg”. It was so true in my case–what about you? I never thought mine was drinking and driving until one time I snuck over to where he was fishing at and there at his feet–a six pack & I knew he would get in that car & drive home but not sure if he drank all six but that didn’t matter to me–what I saw convinced me that there was a lot I did not see for many years. Thanks Mike.

  • Deb

    No one asked for my thoughts and I can’t say they are worth much, because of the way I am affected by my own events in my life. But, my opinion about taking keys away from the alcoholic are ‘to not do it.’ Unless the alcoholic is taking a passenger with them and if I were that passenger I’d just say ‘No.’

    Why do I feel this way?
    Its a good thing for the alcoholic to lose their driving privileges. It Is! So, do everything you can to speed this up. You should call the police immediately when you see the tires rolling and advise them exactly what highway they will be on, what their destination is. Even if the alcoholic makes it home if the police show up and do a Breathalizer and its positive, they have your Word that the alcoholic drove home. And, hopefully the police pull that person over before then, yes for the safety of others.

    The reason is that you have to let the alcoholic hit bottom. You really do. Without hurting others, though. Maybe a good idea is to convince the alcoholic to ‘drive to get your mail’ down at end of street and delay them a bit. Call the cops and make sure they are almost arrived and then encourage alcoholic to ‘get driving’! Get the driving alcoholic arrested as soon as you can!

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