Advice for a friend with cirrhosis (alcohol induced)?

Hi, I joined Health Unlocked as I have PBC but on this occasion am posting for a friend to see if any of you can offer me/her advice. We have known each other since we were 18 (now 48) and in the last 5 years have seen my friend become alcoholic - she has recently admitted to starting the day with wine, drinking through the day, going to bed in the afternoon, waking up, drinking more until she passed out on the sofa, then when she could not sleep in the night, would have another glass of wine, often 3 bottles a day. Symptoms took her to the GP in November where blood tests and scans have shown cirrhosis. I don't know know exact test result numbers, or any staging of her condition, but she is so low now and doesn't know how she can live with the burden of what she has done to her health, worry for her future outcome, and if she will be able to abstain from alcohol. We're all upset to see a friend in such a depressed state and don't know how to help her? Her GP has advised AA but she refuses. Any pointers please?

11 Replies

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  • Her only way of improving her health is to begin the process of abstaining from alcohol. If she is able to make this decision (she's the only one who can) then her doctor should help her as it is often not safe for an alcoholic to go 'cold turkey' - a medically aided de-tox programme is best.

    You can offer her all the support in the world (you could contact Al-Anon which is a support system for friends and loved ones of alcoholics which should give you the advice and support you need to help her) but she is the only one who can actually make the decision she wants the help and wants to stop.

    Al-Anon are at:- al-anonuk.org.uk/

    AA would support your friend in her journey but they arn't the only support group of that type and maybe she could find alternative help. Sadly she has to be the one to access these services, no one else can decide for her and all you can do is give her the love and support to seek help.

    If she doesn't stop the alcohol a.s.a.p. she's on a slippery slope with a diagnosis of cirrhosis already.

    All the best, Katie :)

  • Katherine,

    She's fortunate to have a friend who cares and can see from the outside what she is doing to herself.

    I'm sure you've heard this before "nobody can make somebody stop drinking - they have to want to stop' Well that's mostly true. The following is addressed to your friend.

    I will firstly say where I am coming from.

    I'm now 62 and I drank for most of my life and thought all was well until late 2014 when I was diagnosed with Alcohol Related Liver Disease ( ALD).

    I mostly stopped drinking but sadly didn't take it seriously enough as I didn't actually feel unwell. Within two months I began to feel the beginnings of a severe downward spiral and by March 2015 I was physically unable to drink alcohol. Then began the first of 80 nights spent in a hospital, mostly with Hepatic Encephalopathy ( HE) which is a dreadful brain condition caused by a failed liver. Then I was diagnosed as diabetic and had to take insulin by injection 4 times a day.

    Finally, my liver was struggling to work on an unbelievable 7% of normal function ( well that's what my consultant told me ) I was pretty upset when I was told the only effective treatment left was a transplant. Fortunately, having stopped drinking in early 2015 and having tried hard to keep as healthy as possible, I was referred to a London based transplant centre. Two weeks after being listed I received a donated liver.

    From diagnosis to a liver transplant was just 14 months.

    So your friend, from what you are saying, if she follows my pattern of disease progression, doesn't really have much time left to begin to turn things around.

    You're in an excellent position to help and support as you are in the same boat as, regardless of cause the prognosis is going to be similar. Although, as your condition was not alcohol related you have a head start in beginning to live with your condition.

    I don't want to frighten you, my example was an extreme case, not everybody gets as ill as I did.

    I dont know if you can call it luck, but I was perhaps lucky that my illness made it so that I had no choice about stopping using alcohol. You're friend has to understand that the ultimate therapy of a liver transplant simply will not be an option if she continues to drink.

    AA is not to everyones taste, but there are other services that can help people with alcohol problems. As a condition of being assessed for a transplant I had to attend a local service. I'm glad I went even though I resisted going as I had stopped drinking without aid. Bu the transplant team needed to know I was genuine about being alcohol free both before and for the remainder of my life post transplant. I continue to attend as a volunteer giving support to those in a similar situation.

    Your friend has to accept that life is possible without drinking.

    Perhaps you can simply copy everything I've just said and show her. Also, might be an idea to introduce her to this forum and to the British Liver Trust website.

    Take care of yourself as you have your own liver problem to deal with.

    JIm

  • Hi Jim, your story gives me great hope. I'm about to go to be tested but I fear the worst given my blood sugar issues and history of drinking. I don't feel like I need AA either but do you think it would help? I didn't realise you could be considered for a transplant if you had alcohol related liver disease. I'm going to do everything I can to make myself healthier.

  • Hi Glen, anything is worth a try and you have nothing to lose re AA; but there are other alcohol services too, if AA doesnt suit you; research your local area; your council probably has a service. You must be 6 months alcohol free and provided you abstain totally, you are entitled to a transplant. Everyone deserves a 2nd chance.

  • Is that always the case? I'd read it generally is in the event of cirrhosis but if its due to Acute alcoholic hepatitis damage (ASH) then you do not qualify in the event you survive 6/12. Admittedly many recover to the extent they don't need a transplant

    Also isn't it dependent on when if you received previous professional advice to cease drinking. I think there are lots of factors. Its never a right but a privalige to receive an organ.

  • My understanding is that it's from the time the consultant tells you that if you do not stop drinking you will not get transplant. However. This may vary. I'm not sure. I don't think it's quite as black and white as that. Though in many cases it probably is.

  • hi Katherine,

    first thing is she has to stop drinking...if she does she has a fighting chance-plenty others on this site can attest to that. Of course that wont be easy. She's going to need some help-there are alternatives to AA but whichever way if she definitely has cirrhosis then ceasing alcohol is the only route otherwise its a one way ticket. She's quite young and even with cirrhosis she could live for quite some time. Once you stop drinking the liver can recover and improve in function to some degree.

  • Hi Katherine; you have been given all the good advice here to support your friend; she may be lucky, and her cirrhosis might still be decompensated; in which case, usually, provided she stops, totally forever; she can still most likely live a long life without need for a transplant; if its decompensated she will need a transplant at some stage; but must remain abstinent forever. I hope she has the strength and will to want to do this. Your support to her is good. x

  • Hi there..unfortunately sobriety is no t for those who need it..it's for those who WANT it.

    It's killing her. Yet she is still drinking.

    Of course she does not want to go to AA..she might have to actually give up drinking!

    Glad to hear that an English doctor even recommended it. Over in the states it's always the fist choice for doctors..that's because it has the highest success rates since the 1930s.

    I was told I would die, over and over. I was in 25 plus rehabs. Still did not want it bad enough..finally, I did. That was 81/2 years ago. I did not get sick untill I was 31/2 years sober. I also had Hep C which continued destroying my liver.

    I've had my first transplant, now waiting on my second. The one I got a yeAr and two. Months ago is failing.,so now I need a kidney And another liver.

    I'm sorry about your friend..I know Addenbrookes has weekly groups for those in need of recovery.

    Statitcally woman need to stop drinking by 50 or 60 at the very latest, because we die younger from alcoholism.

    Guilt kept me drunk too. So did grief, oh, and any other day of the week with the word day in it.

    Denial is not a river in Egypt, lol, it's the alcoholics state of being.

    Sorry. Go to Alanon, friends and loved ones of alcoholics.. the best thing you can do is get on with your life, and let her drink. Seriously..you don't not need this trouble, I don't care how close you are. Or for how long..it's just not worth the trouble and heartache.

    Tough love often drives an alcoholic to their bottoms..and that's what you can hope for, a fast bottom.

    If she still has people around helping her, feeling worry or sorrow for her etc. then she has no reason to get sober.

    Sorry to sound so harsh..but we all have some kind of sob story.

    Alkies especially.

    But even if she were to need a transplant soon, they won't give it to her if she's drunk or has been in last six months at the least.

    Sadly, man,y of us have to die.

    We have a terrible wretched disease.

    Steer clear of it..that bottle will win every single time until she surrenders..or does.

    Good luck,

    Kimberly

    Ps. I can tell you this, other that my health issues I have an incredible life today, a caring loving partner, etc..great relationships with my adult children and my 2 year old grandson . I have never been happier!

    Aa saved my life..see it is not about how much or how little you drink..it's about changing as a person on the inside..the steps do that! Otherwise you'll probably have a resentful angry dry drunk! It's great to have real friends that you can relate too!

  • I'm glad you wrote your history I was concerned that if people had had professional advice previously and relapsed at some point it made them ineligible for tranplants. I'm aware you had a long period sobriety before your first. You are blessed with your family.

  • Relate could offer her one to one counselling (time for you) which may help her understand why she drank the way she did. She can then work on addressing that aspect of her mental health out and can overcome the need to drink.

    Others will no doubt say the same and I'm sure she knows this, she can have a life, see a dietician so she knows what to avoid and eat, best of luck to her and you xxx

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