Dr. Mona Gupta

Dr. Mona Gupta

Board Certified Psychiatrist in Raleigh, NC

When Someone you Love Struggles With Alcohol Use

The Daughter of An Alcoholic

I do not know if anyone reads these but it is somewhat therapeutic to write them. I did not think blogging or writing was for me but for some reason I wanted to do it. I actually want to write a BOOK ONE DAY. It is one of my long term goals. 

This week’s topic is Alcohol abuse and Family. First, I would like to give you all some background. I grew up in  South Florida and both of my parents were amazing physicians. They were immigrants from India and came to this country with their medical degrees and a suitcase. They moved around the country to finally call Fort Lauderdale their home. My father was a Gastroenterologist and my mother is a Psychiatrist. I have one sister who is two years younger to me.

I was a daddy’s girl and my whole world revolved around my dad. He was the most special man in the world to me. To me, He was the most handsome and funniest guy in the world.

My parents were very social and often we would come home from their evening parties at 6 am. In the USA, many Indians would cling to each other and have “Indian parties.” Indian Parties were parties where all the Indians would get together on ALL of the weekends. They would cook Indian food and DRINK all night (well at least the men.) At this time, it was frowned upon for women to drink. The Moms would gossip while the Dads would play cards. The kids would be watching movies or running around. 

My memories consist of the dads having a great time until someone got upset. Often, that someone, my dad, would push another uncle into the pool. Something of this nature became a tradition at these events. Someone would get loud and belligerent but for some reason all the people knew it was in jest. Never did I think it was a problem. The kids would eventually fall asleep and eventually the parents would wake them up. My dad would get us in the car and off we were going back home with the sun rising. 

On those drives, I remember telling my dad to stay in the lanes. I do not think I knew what that meant but knew he needed to be in the lines for our safety.

At this time in the 1980s, drinking and driving was not frowned upon.

We did not wear seat belts.

Kids did not sit in booster/car seats. 

Often, I would see my mom upset and argue with my dad to stop drinking. I did not understand what the big deal was yet. He would only drink while at parties.

He was a binge drinker.

He never drank at work or while on call. I would actually go on rounds with him at the hospital. He would often say to patients ” the ALCOHOL is going to kill you, buddy. You need to stop drinking.” We would leave the hospital and I would think, but how can he say that and then drink at the parties? I was 8 or 9 years old. I would watch him scope people and he would cauterize people varices (veins)  that had burst because of heavy drinking. The hospital would call him and say “we have a GI bleeder for you.” He would go in the middle of the night to save a “drinker’s life.” He would often order liver functions tests and talk about liver cirrhosis.

He was actually a doctor who took care of alcoholics.

As I got older, I realized my dad had an alcohol problem. It did not look like the alcoholics on the TV and movies. He went to work every day and he was an amazing father. He was for the most part a great husband. He was a true family man. He started a Hindu temple for our community. He was well known among the American and Indian community.

He was almost a DON in Fort Lauderdale.

One day, I was home sleeping and my mom started crying. My dad had been in a car accident and the car was totaled. My dad had miraculously survived. My dad had to enter the physician monitoring program. He was to be drug tested and had to do work on staying sober. He stayed sober for over ten years.

He was clean. He was happy. We were all happy. 

Ten years from the day, I guess he thought I could have one glass of wine. He used to drink Chivas Regal on the rocks, I know because he would tell me to get it for him. 

He drank that glass of wine and was never sober again for more than a few months.

He would drink and he would slur his speech. We would ask him daddy did you have a drink and my mom would chase him at those parties. She would beg him not to drink. I would get so frustrated with her because it was embarrassing. He would drink more if she told him to stop. He started to hide it and drink. He was still a binge drinker but it had changed.

He would often drink because he was lonely and because he had a hard day. It was no longer limited to parties. 

I went to college and medical school. Learned about the medical implications of alcohol and other drugs. I learned about all kinds of things. I knew about all the illnesses he would treat and I would understand the labs he would order. I guess I had started my training at a younger age then all the other medical students.

His drinking became more of an issue after my sister and I left to live our adult lives. He would drink more because of his loneliness and his depression. He would drink if he was upset at any of his family. He would drink because he was happy. I never understood why I never drank or was tempted to drink.

I think alcohol became something that I hated.

I never hated my dad.

He was still my hero and my best friend.

I blamed his sadness or his stress. I blamed the actual bottle of wine or my mom’s nagging. I never blamed him. My husband would even take care of him after one of his nights. He would help him get into bed. He would stay with him. We were all somewhat codependent. 

As time went on, my dad required a stay at a Residential Rehab. He was caught by me drinking and driving my four year old son. His decision making was obviously affected. My sister took him to a program in Palm Beach. My dad was livid. He could not even look at us. He did not have a choice. 

My mother, sister, and I had enough and he needed HELP.

My dad thought he was going to be the DOCTOR there and claimed he was going to teach all the other patients. I do not know, even now, if it helped or not. He was able to be sober for a couple of years but then he relapsed. He kept relapsing for ten years. His relationship with his family at times would be affected. We would get so angry at him and stop talking to him.

I would wait every day for the phone call.

I would wait for the phone call that he had died in a car accident.

I would hate myself for thinking this way but I needed to prepare myself for the biggest loss. I did not know how I would live without him. So I tried to expect it and be ready.

I never got that phone call but I did get a phone call from my youngest child that he was drinking heavily, My child was 8 at the time. He was so young and called me to tell me his grandfather was drinking “vodka.” My son had never seen Vodka before this stay. Apparently, my dad moved to hard liquor. My son called me because his grandfather was falling and walking funny. He was also belligerent so I had to finally take a stand. I never left Florida without hugging my dad but this time I had to teach him a lesson. He needed to stop the Alcohol. I went back home with my kids and took my mother with me.

My dad was out of control.

Anyways, my dad felt abandoned. He drank heavily for ten more days and his brothers tried to help him. 

My mom decided to go back to Florida. She felt bad for leaving. She had never ever left my dad. She returned and they talked and he promised to quit the Alcohol. 

I do not know if I made the right decision that day. All I know is I regret it every day. My dad ended up dying from an ARDS (similar to what is seen in COVID – 19.)

I lost my dad to something else, not the phone call I was expecting.

I am writing this because I have made it my life’s mission to help families and people with substance abuse issues, like alcoholism get help.

I want to help people before they regret it. 

If you or your family member need help, please email teresa@guptapsychiatry.com or call our office at (919)870-8409.

Our team at GUPTA PSYCHIATRY & Wellness, is here to help recovery be attainable.

We hope to help patients and their families have a support system locally to be here for your continued recovery or your unfortunate relapse.

We have individual substance abuse therapy, intensive outpatient programs, and partial hospitalization programs. We also have medical treatment for addiction including outpatient detoxification from Alcohol or other substances and we also have medication assisted therapies. 

We partner with our community and work with many hospitals and rehabilitation centers across the country. If we need to find a treatment that is better suited for you than our program, we will.

You and your family are important and deserve it.

                Alcohol and Drugs do not make you or your family member a horrible person.

It is a disease just like Diabetes.

We are here if you need us.

Some links: Samhsa.gov                         www.al-anon.org                                     www.aa.org

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