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Approximately 88,000 deaths a year are caused by excessive alcohol use in the U.S. alone. Elizabeth’s family worries that she will contribute to that grim statistic if she doesn’t stop drinking – but can an intervention save her life?
“I drink all day long, every day,” Elizabeth admits – about a fifth of vodka a day. Her ex-husband, David, says they married 25 years ago, when he was 21 and Elizabeth was 17. They have two children, and Elizabeth says she didn’t drink or smoke during her pregnancies. But five years after the wedding, the couple divorced and David took custody of the kids.
Elizabeth says, “I was single, I started social-drinking.” And after two more failed marriages, her drinking began to spiral out of control.” Daughter Amber says that “When I was in eighth grade, I knew something wasn’t right. She would talk to inanimate objects. People would find her naked on lawns.”
“About a year and a half ago, the man she was with was kicking her out,” says David. “She had no other place to go, and me and her kids thought maybe coming up here to be with her kids would be the best way for her to get better.”
Elizabeth says that she stayed sober for a month and a half in her new home, “But Thanksgiving came, got a box of wine. That just started it again.” At first Elizabeth tried to hide her drinking, but things got worse. “Holes punched in the walls,” says David. “She put me down a lot,” says son Blake. “Numerous times it has gotten physical between me and my mom,” adds Amber. A month ago, David and Elizabeth’s children asked her to leave their home.
“I know where I’m at,” Elizabeth tells ER Physician Dr. Travis Stork. “I’ve hit rock bottom. A doctor told me that if I don’t stop drinking, I could die.”
Her family is here to support Elizabeth. She says, “I know they love me, but they can’t take it. I can be an awful person.” Blake says, “I know that if she would stop drinking, everyone would want to be around her. She would be the light of any room.”
“When she came back, it seems like it took two weeks – I fell back in love with her right away,” David says. “But now I’ve lost her again, it seems like.”
Elizabeth says she wants to get sober, and she’s looked everywhere for a treatment program, “Even five hours away from home. I’m on waiting lists everywhere.” However, despite the stress and frustration, she hasn’t had a drink since last Friday.
Psychotherapist Dr. Mike Dow tells Elizabeth, “Good job for being here!” But, he adds, “Consequences shape behavior. You say you’re at rock bottom – but you’re not. There could be another rock bottom.” Elizabeth still has a relationship with her children, but that is another thing that she could lose. “And your next rock bottom may be death,” he adds.
Dr. Stork explains to Elizabeth that “You have, probably, severe inflammation of the liver, but you don’t have cirrhosis yet. Cirrhosis? Irreversible. Up until that point, the inflammation can be improved.” He adds, “Tell your children that you’re ready. That they’re more important than alcohol.”
Dr. Damon Raskin, the chief medical advisor at Cliffside Malibu Treatment Center, is on hand with an offer for Elizabeth. He tells her, “I can definitely help you. In fact, I want to personally supervise your care.” He offers her a minimum of a 30-day at Cliffside Malibu, where she will have a team of specialists working with her to overcome her addiction – at no cost to her.
There’s a car waiting outside to take her to Cliffside Malibu, and Elizabeth says a tearful goodbye to her family and to Dr. Stork before leaving to begin reclaiming her life.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction please call the confidential and free National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP or visit their website.