Heavy drinking and health module
Heavy drinking and health module
Preferred Name: Anthony
Anthony lives by himself in a rooming house in Sydney. He works casually in hospitality for several entertainment venues. He describes his ethnic background as ‘Australian’. Both of his parents were born in Australia.
Anthony started drinking when he was a teenager and over the years his drinking gradually became heavier. Anthony has tried to stop drinking many times. He was admitted to the hospital with total liver failure and almost died; and has cirrhosis of the liver. At the time of the interview, Anthony hadn’t had any alcohol for three months and was enjoying work and hobbies such as cooking.
Over the years Anthony has tried to stop drinking many times. On one occasion, he stopped drinking for four years, but started again when he went on a holiday overseas. He says he’s been to several detox and rehabilitation clinics but they ‘don’t work’ for him. He struggled to avoid drinking and would purchase alcohol on his way home from treatment.
Many years ago, Anthony contracted hepatitis C, he thinks through injecting drug use. He received Interferon treatment through a specialist liver clinic and was informed that he had the beginnings of cirrhosis of the liver. While he no longer consumes heroin, Anthony says he continued to drink himself ‘under the table’. He was informed later by his clinic that he had significant scarring of the liver. After this, his drinking became heavier still and he says he did little for several years but drink, sleep and wake up. He was eventually admitted to the hospital with total liver failure. The doctors who looked after him told him he was on his ‘way out’ and would likely not survive. However, he managed to recover and get better. When he left hospital, he continued drinking heavily and was readmitted earlier this year with alcoholic hepatitis and severe liver impairment. Anthony says that he was ‘given many options’ for help and assistance from the clinic and medical staff over the years and thinks there was nothing more they could have done to help him. He says that a specialist doctor at the hospital eventually gave him a ‘brow beating’ and this, along with not wanting to die, prompted him to stop drinking and ‘get proper help’. He continues to see his local GP, the specialist, and a dietician at the hospital, to look after his health.
At the time of interview, Anthony hadn’t had any alcohol for three months. He says he feels a lot healthier now and enjoys going to work. He takes pleasure in cooking good meals and eating nice food. He continues going to his appointments at the hospital and also goes to First Step recovery support groups.
Anthony [late 50s, Australian, works in hospitality, no drinking in last three months], describes himself as an ‘alcoholic’ because he drank daily and experienced mental and physical cravings.
When [my alcohol use] became a problem, I was actually working in a [sports] club […] just up the road. So yeah you know, I would drink in the morning before I went to work and then I would drink during the day and I would drink when I went home you know […] Because I thought I had to, you know, because I was an ‘alcoholic’ […] I just needed [it] you know … not just like the physical craving, but the mental craving as well. If I didn’t have a drink, I would just be thinking about it all the time, until I actually had a drink.
Anthony [late 50s, Australian, works in hospitality, no drinking in last three months] also says regular heavy drinking meant he struggled to complete routine tasks such as cooking dinner.
No [I couldn’t have looked after my health when I was drinking], because I probably would [have] set fire to the place or something. I don’t know, I’d fall asleep or leave something in the microwave for too long and whoosh, the microwave [would overheat]. I would be too drunk to do stuff like that, you know. I would attempt it, but it wouldn’t normally […] end up very nice or something, or I’d put the wrong thing in.
Anthony [late 50s, Australian, works in hospitality, no drinking in last three months] explains that he continued to drink heavily despite being told he had the beginnings of cirrhosis of the liver.
I normally end up with an injury [laughs]. I always find something wrong with me. Look […] when it was mentioned to me […] that I had just the beginnings of cirrhosis of the liver, I didn’t have any scar tissue. I was actually first made aware that I could […] end up with scar tissue, [and that] it’s a problem, and it’s susceptible to cancer […] I just drank myself under the table and the next time I actually had liver function tests, that’s when I was told – I had another MRI, one of the numerous things they did to me – then I found out that I actually had scarring of the liver […] And like it got really bad where I just drank and I didn’t eat and I just, you know, I’d think I was all right and, you know, I think I looked all right, but I was yellow and, you know, I was almost dying and, you know, I’d just have another drink and go to sleep and wake up and do it all again.
Anthony [late 50s, Australian, works in hospitality, no drinking in last three months] explains that regular heavy drinking was repetitive, ‘like a revolving door’.
In the couple of years before I finally stopped, yeah, I [drank] quite heavily. You know, I would drink bottles of vodka and casks of wine and you know, made sure that I had wine left for the next day so I could go to the bottle shop after and get some more vodka or whatever. You know, it was just like a revolving door, yeah just drinking […] I’d have a meal and I’d think ‘Wow that’s good, I’ve had a meal, I must be doing all right’.
Anthony [late 50s, Australian, works in hospitality, no drinking in last three months] explains that he had previously tried to stop drinking but began to drink again when he was on holiday.
One time I stopped drinking for about four years […] Yeah, yeah, I did actually and then I fell for the oldest trick in the book, you know. I was going over to Vietnam with my lady friend and you know, I thought to myself and I knew anyway, I knew for sure, but I thought to myself ‘Oh I’ll have a couple of drinks on the plane and then when I get to Vietnam I’ll have some there […] and then when I get back to Australia, I’ll stop drinking’, but then I got back to Australia and I went straight to the bar you know and that was the end of that four years.
Anthony [late 50s, Australian, works in hospitality, no drinking in last three months] says that over the last three months, while not drinking, he has taken more pleasure in cooking meals and eating regularly throughout the day.
Well, obviously, [good health looks like] eating. like I enjoy cooking. I’m a good cook. So yeah, I’m going to make some shepherd’s pie tonight […] Yeah, and then just to be able to get up and have a really nice breakfast and, you know, have lunch [too]. Things I take for granted [now]. [Before], I wouldn’t normally have [had] breakfast or lunch, you know. Sometimes I wouldn’t even have dinner.
Anthony [late 50s, Australian, works in hospitality, no drinking in last three months] describes how the nurses would always manage to find him even if he had moved house.
Yeah, I would still get [the appointment reminder] […] even if I changed phones or […] lost my phone because I was drunk or whatever. They would eventually track me down, you know, by the address […] They’d send me a letter or they’d send a letter to my doctor. You know, I couldn’t hide.