End stage alcoholism.
End. Stage. Alcoholism.
No matter how many times I try to put that into my brain, I can’t truly understand it. It is exactly as it sounds; it’s the last stage of the disease prior to death. It’s the part of the disease that, even though you may fight it and win, you may never come back from it, completely. Just as it is with cancer, or any other disease. The only difference, in my view, between something like cancer and a disease of addiction, is that you find the addiction, it doesn’t find you. Cancer, for instance, seems to find you and set its sights upon you with a purposeful vengeance. Where addiction is concerned, it is almost as though WE are the disease and it is us who sets out on our terrible journey with purposeful vengeance.
From the moment we are conceived, every part of every cell strives to live. Life, once set into motion, is determined and forceful in its struggle to continue on. I suppose that’s why suicide is looked upon so harshly in nearly every culture, and why it’s so difficult to actually commit suicide. Our will to live is informed by billions of cells that make up our physical being; each cell having its own biological imperative to thrive. The killing of oneself is the most unnatural thing a human being can do, as it is wholly contrary to what our natural selves have known since conception.
When you think of addiction as disease, I believe that what is lost in translation, so to speak, is that it is an ongoing form of suicide. Is suicide, in and of itself a disease? I don’t know. But, I do know that we seek out our addictions, whether or not they are inherent within us via our genetics, or if they are simply the biproducts of our vices. One cannot become an ‘end stage’ addict without there being a discernible prior stage. That is another difference between something like cancer and addiction. Many of us know people who have discovered, much too late, that they have an end stage disease, such as a deadly cancer. However, we all know just as many, and more, who are currently using alcohol, or drugs, in a seemingly benign fashion. However, depending on the person, what we may actually be witnessing is a very slow, decisive, suicide attempt, or, at the very least, the onset of a serious illness.
In my view, and in spite of the fact that I enjoy drinking, alcohol is the most destructive drug there is, or ever was. It is not the nature of the alcoholic to keep it to themselves. Yes, some do. They are the exception. Most enjoy spreading the pain around. If they didn’t enjoy it, they wouldn’t do it, now would they? Drunks are, commonly, a violent lot and usually have little insight into the fact that they are being consumed by a disease of misery and self loathing, even unto death.
Many changes take place in the end stage alcoholic. They often lose control of their bowels and bladder function. They stop eating. They are shaky…their memory goes. They begin to show signs of dementia. They bruise easily and they bleed freely. Their bellies often swell due to gastritis and other stomach problems. It’s not for the faint hearted…end stage alcoholism.
I think I’ve over used the words ‘end stage’. But, that’s what I’m talking about. And, I think that I’m having a very difficult time with those words, and, if I ‘say’ them enough, I’ll really begin to understand them. When someone is in the final stages of cancer, for instance, loved ones gather and try to lend help and support. When someone is in the last stages of what amounts to suicide by booze, people judge them more harshly than ever, hoping it shakes them to wakefulness and that the person will change their wicked ways. It’s disgusting. It’s cruel. Because nobody consciously sets out to die of addiction. Nobody. But, I have to think that, on a subconscious level, that’s exactly what’s happening. Something…some seed planted long ago…took hold and the person decided they weren’t worth the air they breath. So they set out to kill themselves. I think. ? Suicide by pleasure, until it isn’t. One day, you’re holding your own, the next, all Hell comes down on you and you’re shitting yourself, trying to get the shakes to stop and hoping you don’t have a seizure. Just like that. Boom.
I’ve known many alcoholics and other addicts in my lifetime. I’ve always found them to be amazing people. They are normally smarter than others…more sensitive…more creative. And there is always this magic about them in the beginning. But, that starts to fade somewhere between the ‘party’ stage of their addiction and the ‘I need to score so I’ll have some when I wake up’ phase. What comes after that is the ‘always loaded’ stages of addiction. Nothing is ever nice about that. But nothing…and I mean nothing…compares to the final stage. It’s like watching Satan, himself, take someone you love and drag them to Hell. I hate it. I fucking hate it. You can’t save someone who doesn’t want to be saved, no matter how bad you want to. And, at some point, even if they do, they find out that nobody can save them, anyway, because they are far too near the end of a very successful suicide attempt.