Laundry room, Ellis Island hospital

He sat silently weeping in the corner. His hand shook terribly as he reached up to wipe his eyes. Misery was etched across his face.

“You didn’t stay at the treatment center.” He had not even lasted a day. “What happened?”

“My wife cried so hard when she left me there. I couldn’t stand it.”

“What about an outpatient center? A day program?”

“Maybe,” he said, noncommittal.

Each visit, fewer family members came until finally it was just him. 


And each visit there was less of him. His body was swollen and bloated, faded. A once strong man, now made a shadow. It was hard to stand by and watch. Not as hard as living it, though, I was sure. How he could continue to do this to himself was a testament to the power of addiction.

“You’re going to die.”

“I know.” Then he smiled. “This is the one way I can kill myself and the family still gets the life insurance payout…”


87 thoughts on “Cirrhosis 

  1. This post makes my heart and my gut ache for him and his family. This week I am 2 years in recovery…and I know that this could have been me, only younger I think. Sobriety isn’t a bed of roses, it can tear families apart as easily as drinking can. But at least it’s an unraveling that has hope at the end…and a healthy body in order to start a new journey. I am so sorry for this man, for you as his doctor, for his family, for everyone enslaved to addiction. Hugs all around, for what it’s worth.

    Liked by 14 people

      • Sobriety rips bad bandages off of infected wounds. Not everyone has the stomach to look at those wounds, or the will and patience to help them heal. Usually the things we cover up with addiction are more terrifying than the addiction. But at least they are real. I prefer the real. Not everyone can handle that reality. This is why recovery really is a lifelong process.

        Liked by 5 people

      • I haven’t been addicted (to alcohol or drugs anyway–yet), but what you said here and above moved me greatly. I also recognized a connection with something I am learning about in the church I attend; i.e ., “Nepsis (or nipsis; Greek: νῆψις) is an important idea in Orthodox Christian theology, considered the hallmark of sanctity. It is a state of watchfulness or sobriety acquired following a long period of catharsis.” Thank you for this reminder, but especially for your telling about the wisdom that comes from personal struggles.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Our family lived through that. My father was the drinker and my mother was the sober one. He out lived her by 20 years. The stress my mother was under was what killed her at the age of 71. His final years were not pleasant. One got the unfortunate opportunity to see “Divine Justice” play out. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sometimes addiction is the worst kind of pain and private hell. We don’t know unless we’ve been there. This is obviously a form of drawn out suicide. I can’t imagine what he’s thinking, to feel that helpless. Very sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I do so respect your ability to maintain your compassion and humanity during the slow painful dance with this patient and others battling addiction and the sequelae of their end stage disease. In my field, I only see them when they are acutely ill or at the very end, not often able to dive deeper into the nuances of their life story. I know too many primaries who just wash their hands of patients they feel do not want to help themselves. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I just had a friend die of liver failure. He was in his late thirties with a six year old son and lovely wife. . And yes, he killed his liver with drugs and alcohol. It was very sad and I miss him. What a waste.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Is this one of your fiction pieces? Please tell me this is fiction. I’ve hardened my heart towards addicts and alcoholics. I don’t know what’s come over me these late years. I know I should be empathetic but all I feel boiling up inside me is disgust. What the hell is wrong with me? I don’t see the addict anymore. I just see the good people they drag down to hell with them.

    Is that pic from Ellis Island?

    Liked by 2 people

  7. My friend’s husband did the same thing–deliberately refused lifesaving treatment. I couldn’t figure out the exact reason, but it has not been a good thing for her, as she is not well herself. Yes, sad and also malevolent in a creepy way. (K)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I read a few of your posts when I wasn’t in a position to comment. I came back to comment on that one, and then saw this. This post probably impacted a conversation I had with a loved one.

    She commented on some of the things her husband is doing and saying. It felt so similar to something I’d seen/read, but I couldn’t remember what until just moments ago.

    I said, “He’s committing … passive suicide. He wants out, but he doesn’t want out in a way that’ll harm you economically. If only I could see how he’s harming you in other ways, by taking this path.”

    If only it were possible to save someone with love alone … but, no, there has to be a spark from within, not just force from without.

    So sad.

    Liked by 1 person

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