Beating the Bottle
This indeed takes courage, putting pen to paper as I feel I have
become a second class citizen after acquiring a brain injury four
years ago. I had a stroke while on the operating table as a doctor
was clipping an aneurysm. On waking I could not talk or move my
left hand side and the therapy started straight away. I just wanted
them to leave me alone so I could get my jumbled thoughts together
or simply sleep. There were no warnings about the long term
difficulties I would be facing with epilepsy, partial paralysis and
an inability to stay focussed. It would have helped in the early
days to speak to someone who had been through the same things. It
is much harder when you have to work it all out by yourself.
Humour as Medicine
My first real laugh came in hospital when a doctor told me his
name was Livingstone to which I replied "Dr Livingstone I presume?"
The poor fellow must have heard it a million times but it turned a
light on for me as I realised I had strung a sentence together and
that all the speech therapy was starting to pay off.
It was also the first hint that laughter would be the best
medicine and I laugh at myself frequently. For example last summer
I put both my legs in the one side of my shorts and almost fell
over. My pride hates needing someone to help me get dressed but
laughter can help you accept the things you can't do for
Another helpful thing is to keep looking back which gives a clear
picture of how far I have progressed in my journey of discovering
more about myself. I now have dreams and aspirations that I never
held before, that have come about due to this incurable,
frustrating, destructive injury. It changed some behaviour patterns
that were socially destructive- for example I was the chardonnay
queen, always turning to alcohol when depressed, thinking it made
me a happier person more in control of my life.
The High Cost of Drinking
Hard as this is to admit, I was discharged from hospital and kept
having two glasses of wine for breakfast and lunch instead of food,
but one morning my head twisted to one side and no sound would come
though I was trying to scream for help with my whole body
convulsing. I was stabilised in hospital and though any normal
person would realise the danger of this I did it again and again
with massive seizures and hospitalisation every time.
Normally I would not be such a slow learner. My drinking had
already cost me my last marriage so somewhere inside my brain was
the knowledge of how destructive drinking was, more so when in the
tight grip of denial and the effect of selfish insane behaviour on
your loved ones. I had low self esteem, physical pain, poor
mobility, my daughter was disgusted with me and I could not even
cuddle my grandchild.
So there came a time when befuddled as I was there was some
serious thinking to be done. If I continued drinking I could forget
physical rehabilitation and scare away my grandchild who was scared
of my seizures. Some say you can't beat alcoholism with will power
but I am a living testimony that you can. I made up my mind the
drink had to go before it either killed me or prevented me
rebuilding bridges with my daughter and seeing my grandchild grow
One is Too Many
I now lead an alcohol free life and have absolutely no regrets. If
you have something to aim for it helps you to stay positive and
focussed. In my case it was knowing that I was a good person and
alcohol did not have to rule my life, and wanting to be a grandma
to be proud of. These two reasons stopped me in my tracks every
time I even thought of having a drink. One is too many and a
thousand are not enough!
People with brain injuries often turn to alcohol for help. If
any of you are having a swig or two thinking there's no harm done
be warned it is a sly, secretive and destructive habit that will
quickly grab you and make your already difficult world a living
hell. If you can't love yourself enough to stop, focus on someone
precious to you and imagine how empty your life would be without
them in your world.
Help is out there although it is not always easy to access.
Sometimes you knock on doors which just don't open but that made me
more determined to keep trying. I was rewarded with a wonderful
stroke support group. It was run by a fellow survivor and I felt at
home straight away, less alien and very welcome. Meetings were
lightly structured so they flowed well and everyone is encouraged
to participate with a lot of laughter amongst ourselves. If you
have been toying with the idea of attending a stroke support group
then do yourself a favour- stop making excuses why not and enjoy
the fellowship of some kindred spirits. Friendship is one of life's
treasures and a group can help to hold yourself together, set
goals, dare to dream and get a life!
Learning to Read
Alcohol was not the only problem of course. I wanted to enjoy
reading again so I started with the newspaper and Readers Digest as
the articles are short. At first I managed word for word but
eventually these ran into sentences then paragraphs. An added bonus
was my memory improved as I read more. Today I am an active reader
again with a real appreciation for language. They say "talk is
cheap" but it isn't when you have been denied the ability to
verbalise or write down your feelings because your brain can't. You
really learn to appreciate the simple tasks in life when you can no
longer take them for granted!
I am not a miss goody two shoes, having made plenty of mistakes
through lack of judgement but I no longer bash myself up mentally.
All these experiences have led me to value myself more highly
A New Beginning
In a sense my life is just beginning. My granddaughter told me the
reason I can't move my arm is "because you haven't got it switched
on". In a way she is right- while I was drinking, misusing my
medication and verbally abusing others. I wasn't switched on to
love, light, recovery and happiness. My experience is that loving
those around you provides an inner strength and determination to
Although we've never met
I see your sadness, know that hidden smile
And though the familiar ties of the past
Are tattered and torn
Be brave, get a new life, don't mourn.
Believe it or not
Time will bring you some peace
And from your heart
All that pain will release
Let your heart be glad
My wish is you will not be sad
Enjoy the days that God gives you
Find a strategy that helps you cope
Never ever think less of yourself
Or that there's no hope.