And make no mistake about it, they do die. Left untreated, alcoholism is a fatal disease.
The alcoholic in Linda's life is one of those terminal cases. Eight times she has been told that he would not live another six months. Three times he has been at death's door, with hospice involved in his final days. But he keeps coming back, going through detox and recovering.
He's Not Going to Make It
"I anticipate and plan for the end which, unfortunately, always feels as though it would be a blessing," Linda writes on her blog. "We've been through the 'he's not gonna make it' ordeal many, many times."
But he keeps making it. Therefore the title of her blog, "The Immortal Alcoholic."
Usually, when a new recovery-related blog comes across my desk, I briefly visit the blog, read a few posts, make sure it's updated regularly, it's on-topic and is well-written, before adding it to the growing list of Recovery Blogs on the About.com Alcoholism site.
But on The Immortal Alcoholic, I lingered. I stayed for hours, reading everything on the site about the trials, tribulations, and yes, even the humor involved in caring for an end-stage alcoholic.
Protecting Her Daughter
As you begin to read Linda's story, you want to go find her and give her a big hug, although I suspect she would prefer that you merely leave a comment. But for those of us who have seen or are watching loved ones kill themselves with alcohol, her story is both heart-breaking and edifying.
A Navy wife, Linda dealt with her husband's progressive alcoholism for 20 years while raising a family, but then left him after her daughter was grown. During the 15 years they were separated (but not divorced) his alcoholism progressed to the point that it was affecting his brain and his internal organs.
When her daughter made the decision to take her ailing father into her home to care for him, Linda stepped in to protect her daughter from the insanity.
"My daughter wanted him to come live with her family. I said no," Linda writes. "I had stayed married to him in order to have my military benefits. He was my responsibility. It was time for payback. I did NOT want my daughter's life to become the center of his alcoholic circle. I had to protect her by stepping up and doing what needed to be done."
Caregiver, Policeman and Warden
Somehow Linda has managed to emotionally detach herself from the alcoholic while at the same time admittedly serving as his caregiver, policeman and warden. He is living with her in the Southeastern United States in her rural home miles from the nearest liquor store.
At The Immortal Alcoholic Linda posts frequent blogs about her daily life struggles with a end-stage alcoholic, who at this writing has been dry for more than three months, but makes it clear almost daily that one day he will drink again.
Her blog deals with the ordeal of living with someone whose mind and health has been devastated by alcohol abuse, but she also has pages of resources for other non-alcoholics like her, who may be going through the same situation.
As she explained in an email, "I have had problems with finding people who understand "end-stage" and all the things that go along with it. Even the doctors really don't know what to do..."
End-Stage Alcoholism Information
Therefore, her website has information she has gathered while dealing with end-stage alcoholism, including:
Stages of an Alcoholic Life
Linda outlines the progression of alcoholism from "just a few beers" to the "he's not going to make it" stage and everywhere in between.
The Truth About Detox
What they don't tell you about the detoxification process, until the patient is already in the program.
The Medical Dilemma
Most family doctors are either not trained to deal with end-stage alcoholism or they are just not willing to be that honest with the alcoholic or their families.
Alcohol and Biology
When the liver can no longer metabolize alcohol fast enough and sends it back through the bloodstream over and over, it causes all kinds of problems in the body.