Many years later

In 1996 my son at 18 fell and suffered several injuries including skull fractures, torn dura and the obvious brain trauma. He was 'put back together ' and released from hospital . In the next year he recovered physically and went to university but dropped out after a term , we subsequently learned he'd spent much of that time drinking to avoid the panic attacks he experienced in the lecture theatre. Since that time alcohol has continued to be his main coping strategy which has lead to him becoming an occasional bing drinker . He has had and lost several jobs, had a girlfriend and 3 years ago became a father. Two years ago he lost his job and struggled to find another, after a difficult Christmas , he got very drunk and threatened suicide, his girlfriend said he couldn't cope anymore and he came to live with me. I feel a great deal of despair about how he can be helped as I now believe that his problems that are exacerbated by alcohol may actually be rooted in brain damage. He gets depressed, he lacks motivation or starts something but doesn't carry on, he has unrealistic expectations about his job prospects and capabilities, his mood swings, he's self obsessed, socially isolated, he never takes the initiative , he can't concentrate on anything for long. He takes Fluorxitine, quetioprine, tegretol ( as he has had fits) and injects growth hormone daily as it was discovered about five years ago his levels were only 20%. CBT hasn't helped.

I feel that 18 years ago we and he wanted to believe his brain wasn't affected, he still wants to believe that but I feel desperate to find some support and help to him build a life for himself ...... is it too late for the rehabilitation process that I think he missed out on ???

15 Replies

  • I don't believe your son will benefit from rehab. unless he stops drinking. We have a family member who was damaged by steroids a couple of years ago and, having become confused and depressed, he was given antidepressants and other mood-stabilising drugs.

    However, he began drinking more & more heavily and is now in a complete bind because he can't / won't stop drinking, therefore the meds are being compromised by the alcohol in his system.

    Your son needs to stop drinking which, in itself, is an arduous task. But alcohol is a depressant and, ironically, it will be preventing his antidepressants from working.

    You say he didn't respond to CBT, but did he persevere with the sessions long enough to get the maximum benefit ? If so, maybe he needs to be referred to a neuro-specialist for an assessment at least, to decide whether or not he has a discernable brain injury which could have been the basis of his erratic behaviour.

    I'm so sorry for the cards you've been dealt. It's just the hardest thing trying to help someone you love when there are so many barriers.

    But keep pushing for referrals from your son's GP to anyone who might be able to help.

    All Best wishes, Cat x

  • Have you heard of the Oliver Zangwill Centre? They do amazing rehab for people many years post injury who suffer with the sort of issues you describe. Their clients come from all over the UK for initial assessment , and treatment where appropriate. I hope you and your son find some help.

  • Great advice has already been given. It is never too late to retrain the brain but your son has to be prepared to put a lot of work in for what may at first be very little return.

    A good book to buy is " brain rewiring for survivors" they also do a sister book " brain rewiring for loved ones" so that you can support your son and understand what he is facing.

    As Cat says the first step must be to stop the alcohol consumption, easier said than done not only does it interfere with the medication but it actually destroys brain cells, as well as being a depressant in itself.

    Lots of support from the family will help along the way and I'm sure that in time he will start to reap the benefits.

    Keep us updated and we are here to add our support for you too along the way.

    Much love Janet xxxx

  • All too often I come along to this site and simply echo what has already been said. Once again I find myself doing a similar thing. You have already received wise words of advice that I can merely add to...

    It has possibly got to the stage in his life where his brain injury is playing second fiddle to the all too obvious alcohol dependency. Sadly, until the alcohol problem is dealt with there is simply no point at all in trying to come to terms with the long overdue therapy that is clearly required to come to terms with the effect on his life that the initial injury has had.

    Alcohol can and often does make ant medication redundant.

    If your son has had seizures, he shouldn't drink, full stop. I have seizures, and haven't touched a drop since. Fear of the seizure overtook the need to drink.

    If your son has any history of depression, he shouldn't drink, full stop.

    If your son has talked about suicide, he shouldn't drink, full stop.

    There's a theme developing here...

    I am more sorry to hear your story than you can possibly know. I have a brain injury myself and depression has also touched my life through a family member.

    Keep pushing, keep screaming, keep yelling. Help IS out there and you must keep trying to find it. Sadly, only you can do it.

    Yell on here any time, we'll do our best to help.


  • Hi Mummily,

    I could just repeat all the good and sound advice given here and so will just re-enforce the comment that until you're son stops drinking all the other therapys are most likely doomed.

    Does your son acknowledge that he has a drink problem or is he in denial?

    The desire to stop the drinking can only be his. Pushing too hard can be counterproductive. The only thing is that with a BI his decision making is likely to be flawed.

    Is there a local alcaholic anonymous that may offer you advice on how to deal with your sons problems. The CAB may also be able to help here as well, giving you advice on the most local help group that are most likely to have a trained advisor that could perhaps visit and talk with your son.

    On a more obscure route Emmerdale is currently running a storyline about alcahol dependance and whilst the programme may be pants, depending on point of view, usually when covering such issues at the end of the programme there is often a contact number or web address for people either experiencing or being affected by the problem in the main storyline.

    I truely hope that this issue can soon be remedied but from my own knowledge this can be a long process with periods of relapse a regular part of it.

    Hoping this may be of some small help.

    Kindest regards


  • Thank you for your replies , it is a great relief to have someone understand . I know that the drinking needs to stop but yes , he is in denial most of the time. There have been so many disasters related to drunken bouts upsets, friends lost, accidents, huge amounts of money rashly squandered , job losses , his home girlfriend and little girl lost, and most recently his car and driving license together with his independence.... but he doesn't stop, could the BI be interfering with him making that logical decision?

    I am concerned about raising the issue that his problems are to do with BI ... I tentatively raised the possibility recently and he provided me with lots of 'evidence' to refute that... held down jobs, the tests before the endocrinologist showed he was above average intelligence. ....I worry that he'll get even more depressed and hopeless and turn to drink as his 'escape'.

    He so desperately wants to be normal like everyone else ... which means as well, having a drink. Sadly as he has lost good friends, now the pub and pool teams are his only social contact and he is very lonely.

    I do want to scream and yell but not sure who to! I spoke to his GP and asked could his problems be as a result of BI or the drinking or an inherited personality and predisposition to depression, a reaction to our family breakdown when he was 14.... and he shrugged his shoulders and said 'we can't know...' And I got the feeling that it made no difference as he'd still be being treated in the same way.

    How can I help someone if I'm trapped in :

    'You have a drink problem.'........'no , I don't'

    'You have brain damage' .......'no I don't'


  • All the best to you both, no point in me adding anything to that that has been already said on here! Good stuff in my opinion, but will say it louder, ALL THE BEST TO YOU BOTH! :) Neal

  • Agree with everything everyone says on here, it's the drink that's ruling his life. Really hope he can find a way to stop

    You'll go through some tougher times when he does, bull it'll be so worth it in the end, you'll have your son back

    Here is a great place to scream and shout and most importantly get the support you need

    Best R

  • I agree drink is got to be the first thing to help him, and then he and others can see what else can be done.

    will not be easy but doable

  • lots of good advice,i echo it,i hope that things start to go better soon,PLEASE take more care of YOU! hugs

  • Hi there

    It's not too late!

    One of the first things you guys have to do, is accept that there IS brain damage, and then you can go accordingly.

    Try and find a Headway near you, that you can both attend, and I hope that you may then go forwards. (This is the typical case of ' one step back, and then two forward'!

    Good luck!


  • Your son has all the signs of brain injury. Understanding what damage the brain injury has done to him, how it affects his life and what you all could do to make things more manageable could help.

    BUT, drinking only makes things worse. He has to see that not drinking could enable him to have a better life. Most of us don't touch it or just have a glass to toast the bride at a wedding.

    I tried CBT, it would have been more useful if the whole group had been BI people, my memory is so poor that I forgot a lot of it, but it did show me how things can escalate because I let them escalate, rather than think 'I'm not going to waste my precious time on this jerk' or 'life's not fair'.

    A Mindfulness group of just BI people run by a BI occupational therapist has helped a lot, myself and others were surprised at it's success. I had my doubts in the first few weeks but I would recommend it.

    He has to give up the grog, and the incentive might be to do it on the understanding that someone would sort his life out for him. That if he stopped drinking he'd have a program of several activities to do during the structured week and some of it would be learning about brain injury and how to help the things that trouble him the most. That there is a worthwhile life out there for him.

    Best wishes for your family.

  • Let me just add that a BI does not mean reduced intelligence, my GP recently told me that my BI is in an area that means my intelligence is not affected. I have physical problems, balance, sight, and fatigue, my short term memory that was affected is improving and I am 62 , my BI occurred at 59 and I am hopeful that I can still make improvements physically.

    I have a nephew who has had years of battling alcohol, I do know the struggles your son must face, hopefully he will be able to conquer it, but I was told under no circumstances to drink after my BI.

    Many folk live with Differing degrees of BI, I hope your son can come to accept his and then move forward xxxxx

    Janet xx

  • How do I suggest that he has BI when I'm afraid of his reaction?

  • As a TBI survivor [1967] I started drinking heavily in 1982; this continued until 1996'ish when I started to wind down. I didn't have much of an opinion about myself and saw me as a total failure. I was lonely and although I have two friends and a wife and splendid caring offspring; I'm still lonely and I don't know why.

    I attended a private session with a psychologist and her analysis was that I am socially and sexually lonely. It's a real misery.

    TBI survivors should not drink, especially with the medication taken; personally I stopped taking my medication years ago. I felt no better but I certainly haven't felt any worse!

    Anyway I hardly drink at all now, occasionally with a meal to top it off [50ml Glenmorangie last Saturday after going to the theatre - Beyond Bollywood - and a restaurant meal after]. That is it. If I am offered a drink now I drink tonic water, helps with cramps too.

    You ask "How do I suggest that he has BI when I'm afraid of his reaction?" My dear now late Mum cared for me. I was a nasty piece of work on my recovery and my Mum actually asked the doctor how she should deal with me. He advised her to stand up to me and give no quarter and she followed his advice.

    Being a TBI survivor is difficult for both parties, each recovery is difficult with some of the experiences text book.

    If you stand up to your son and he gets severely agitated make sure you are at least two arms length away from him and preferably in a door way with the swing of the door behind you for easy shutting of it.

    I hope your son stops drinking; it's a real curse and solves nothing and causes more problems. He won't stop until he is ready, feasibly when he realises the futility of why he drinks and that it solves nothing. Your son will need to recognise the cause of his drinking, only then will he cease.

    Good luck.

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