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British Liver Trust
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Any statistics or info on Life span after quitting alcohol? Friend is panicking

I firmly believe that the bottom line is that health and life quality improves after quitting alcohol. How could it not? At the very least the odds of a healthier, longer improve .

My friend has been sober for 6 months and was never diagnosed with full blown cirrhosis ( which doesn’t mean he’s out if the woods, just never showed up on any blood tests so far) He was a heavy drinker.

But now hes wavering, keeps fretting about all the people he knew, including former drinkers who “died young “, even if they quit drinking. He’s very depressed by this, feels “doomed”.

He hasn't gone back to drink yet. I think if I had any positive statistics or studies it could bolster his spirits. I also realize he may just be looking for an excuse to drink again but I feel hopeful because he’s made some very positive changes, works with a therapist weekly and goes to support groups, is addressing the root causes of his anxieties, etc .

I thought maybe this group would have info about studies or even anecdotes about those who’ve gone on to live long lives after quitting. I haven’t been able to find any info myself. If so, I could share it. Again, if he’s just looking for an excuse to drink, I know it isn’t likely to make a difference.

But what’s the harm in my trying to provide hopeful info?

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There are a couple of things l wish to point out here. Firstly your friend really needs to be able to understand the reason why he drank so much in the first place. All too often, alcohol is used to try and blank out a traumatic experience, or to use it as a form of self-medication for depression. Either way, the reason behind this needs to be known.

It has to be remembered that liver disease is known as "The Silent Killer", this is because the liver doesnt contain any pain receptors, so can't tell a person when it's being damaged. Here lies a danger. Here, because your friend hasn't had a drink for six months, his liver function blood test may show up as being perfectly normal, when in fact he may have liver damage. This false result may well be seen as being a green light to carry on drinking. When in fact there could be real damage being done.

I would recommend that your friend goes back to his GP and confessess to his earlier life style and of his willingness to want to change. He should then ask for a ELF blood test with markers. This is a fairly new type of blood test that give a better picture of the state of the liver. The GP may also consider doing a fibroscan or other type of scan.

You sound like you are a dear, caring, friend. Offer to go along with your friend to the GP. Don't hold anything back, as the more information the GP has, then the better the treatment that can be offered.

Good luck to you both.

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Thank you. He may need to see another GP because his current one wasnt open to an ELF or Fibroscsn, noting that the liver function blood tests were “ good enough.” And this was after he was open about his drinking!

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I disagree with part of Richard’s answer. I drank alcohol because I enjoyed it. That was the reason. Others may drink due to physical or mental pain, but if not, it’s for enjoyment’s sake. Your friend’s given up, is attending groups and having therapy. He’s doing all he can.

Not sure your friend’s motivation for fretting. As an ex-drinker, my risk of cancer will be higher. I won’t lose any sleep over that as there’s nothing I can do about the past. I can (and do) watch what I eat and exercise, and that’s all I can do to stay as healthy as possible.

If he drinks again, even in so-called moderation, he’ll be a heavy drinker again in no time. Then he’ll really have cause to fret.

Confused why he’s asking.

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Thank you. He hasn’t been asking me for life span statistics but has been obsessing over any news he hears or reads about celebs or others who were alcoholics and died...and then he focuses on their age.

I’m no therapist but it seems to me that he could numb any of his concerns and fears when drinking but now that he’s sober he frets about what he’s done to himself and what he’ll face.

But that’s unpredictable, as his doctor stresses ( (although he won’t discuss mortality lifespan consequences) His GP focuses on what CAN be controlled: a good diet, exercise, avoiding situations that tempt him to drink, etc. The therapist works on destructive thought patterns.

. I feel fairly certain he’s not drinking again because he doesn’t have a “ hollow leg” or ability to function or hide it.. He has to shut himself off and drink or hang out with others who overlook his clearly drunk behavior . And he’s never tried to hide his drinking from me, no pretenses. So,there’s that.

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Bit of a curveball, but which famous people have quit alcohol at, say, 40 and 50 through choice and not diagnosed medical problems, and died years later as a direct result of alcohol? I can only think of examples of celebs drinking heavily until becoming ill and then dying, e.g. Sean Hughes.

It makes no sense to think too much about it. And in any case (repeating myself) you can’t undo the past. Well, actually the liver can regenerate I guess, but this would take years. I reckon (pure guesswork) my own mild fatty liver will take five years to be good as new. I’d like to help it as much as I can as it’s earned a nice rest.

N

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Only going by what you have said, he sounds quite down and possibly wanting to do the ‘oh well they quit and still died young so I may as well drink again’ . I am not sure there are any stats as such which would help. You could give examples of what you have read from people here who have quit and are doing well. You sound a really good friend and in a difficult spot as some of the partners who come here for advise are also, you are trying to find that one thing that will stop him. Would he be happy for you to go with him to the docs and see a different GP? You could help explain what you know and maybe get some help via medication regarding his sense of doom. I’m sorry I’m not sure I helped there but you are doing what you can, you can only go so far, the rest only he can do. I wish you both all the best.

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Hi there. Michael Caine is 86 and had a period of heavy drinking in earlier life; Billy Connolly is 76; Richard Harris reached 72. It's natural to have worries about long term damage, but if he's very depressed or anxious, then hopefully his therapist can help on this issue. From all I've read and been told, blood tests only give part of the story, so I would say he should push for a fibroscan and possibly other tests as well. Of course, if there is extensive damage, that might add to his anxiety, but sometimes not knowing is worse. But at the end of the day, the future is uncertain for all of us, and we all have to find a way to deal with that... Best wishes

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It's not about what might happen!

He might live to be 100, he might die next week.

None of us know how long we have left on this world.

What matters is the way we live right now.

I was a heavy drinker, I liked it, it was my best friend and because it harmed me I gave up 2 years ago.

I had that "wobble" where I wanted to drink again (many times) but now I can 100% say that I wish I had quit years ago.

Life gets better eventualy but it takes time.

I might have a month or I might have 20 years but at least I will be aware and live respected.

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Thanks everyone. This gives me perspective. I hope I can convince my friend to get further and more specific tests, speak openly with the doctor and maintain perspective. Having a “ whatdifference does it make?”. attitude will lead only in one direction and not a good one.

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