Please help me help my uncle
May 27, 2009 10:37 AM   Subscribe

Please help me help my uncle, who is drinking himself to death.

I have an uncle in Canada - Alberta, actually - who has had an alcohol problem his entire adult life. Apparently things have taken a turn for the worse, even for him, and his wife and kids are concerned that he could be heading towards severe physical damage if not death.

I have no problem confronting him and performing some sort of intervention, and as there are a number of alcoholics in my family, I know that they can't be helped unless they want help. So I don't need that pointed out to me. I think, based on what his wife tells me, that given the right push from his relatives, he could get some help. What my concern is, is this:

I'm an American, and I don't know what resources apart from AA meetings are available to him in Canada. Are detox centers covered by national health, for example? Any and all information would be very helpful and much appreciated. Thanks in advance.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (7 answers total)
I am a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for sixteen years. I don't live in Canada so I cannot answer your national health question, but I just wanted to offer my availability, to you and/or your uncle, to talk any time. Email is in my profile.
posted by netbros at 11:03 AM on May 27, 2009

My mother's close friend is drinking herself to death and has already had a few near misses that landed her in the hospital. For years, Mom tried to be supportive, lending her money when she lost her job, giving her rides when she lost her license, and helping her out when she got out of rehab the first couple of times. This has been going on for over a decade. She lost her car and her house and sold all the nice things she'd spent years working hard for, all for the drink.

Mom recently severed ties with her because she just can't do it any more. We're just waiting for a phone call one of these days. At this point, she has nothing and she has nobody.

Your uncle isn't here...yet. He obviously has a concerned family. If you think you can't help him, guess again. If you have no problem confronting him (which it took my mother YEARS to do with her friend) then do so, as soon as you possibly can. True, he has to want to quit, but all is not lost.

A quick Google search gave me this. Hope there's something helpful in there for you. Good luck. Your uncle and his family are lucky to know you.
posted by futureisunwritten at 11:41 AM on May 27, 2009

Concerning coverage, some places are paid for by the health system. There's also places where you have to pay, but they're more ... as a comfortable environment to recover (they don't let someone in unless they've been sober for at least 3 days, so those are not exactly detox since the first 3 days are the most risky).

I'm only familiar with Ottawa and Vancouver (BC CareCard, ON OHIP), but I imagine it's much the same across Canada, and care is provided inter-provincial.

There should be provincially funded medicated withdrawal management centres somewhere nearby that can provide anti-convulsants (ativan/valium) to prevent seizures / thiamin (vitamin B12)/ IV saline drip / etc. to help with the withdrawal.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 1:01 PM on May 27, 2009

The resource you want to connect with in Alberta is AADAC - or whatever they called now that they have been amalgamted back into Alberta's Health Services (I work closely with them, and I'm not clear.)

Here is their main website, and here is a searchable directory of services.

In terms of fees, its going to depend on what type of service is being sought - many services are free, like counselling, but accessing a long stay treatment bed can involve a fee that varies depending on who is offering the service (AADAC or one of its funded agencies).

Hope this helps - if you need more help, feel free to drop me a MeMail and I can do some more digging into the corners of Alberta and the system if needed.
posted by never used baby shoes at 1:19 PM on May 27, 2009

Another note:

AA is just a place for people to talk about their own experiences, to other people, who have nothing better to do or just want to kill the time so they don't head over to the liquor store. It has nothing to do with withdrawal (preaching doesn't stop the physical dependency issues), which is the main problem. Once sober, yes, for some people it may help, but talk doesn't fix body chemistry gone wrong.

Seeing a doctor may get a prescription, that depending on his dependence may be enough to keep him out of the ER and indignity that may occur.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 1:30 PM on May 27, 2009

AA meetings are only the tip of the iceberg for what that program is about. There is a lot of work done one-on-one with a sponsor who has (presumably/hopefully) gone thru the 12 steps and is generally someone who's living sober, happily. That said, I shouldn't get too into what AA is about, and try to simply give information he might find useful or reassuring.

If your uncle does choose AA, he might have a strange time getting used to the tenor of the meetings. If the program is good in his area, he should be able to find other men who will fall all over themselves to help him.

A little poking around the AA website got me this info on who he can call for meeting schedules or to just talk and ask questions:
403-777-1212 -Alberta central office in Calgary
Edmonton: 780-424-5900
Fort McMurray: 780-791-4025
Grand Prairie: 780-532-1772
Lethbridge: 403-327-8049
Medicine Hat: 403-527-2065

Depending on his location, he might be able to get a '12th step call' - a home visit from a fellow drunk, or a ride to a meeting. A big tenet of the program is to be helpful to the other alcoholic who seeks help. I only mention this in case he has cold feet about stepping into a meeting but still wants to know what it's about.

That is my own experience with how he can get help via AA. As for treatment centers, he should consult his regular physician.

His family might look into Al-Anon, it's a group for family members of alcoholics.

If you want more info you can Me-mail me.
posted by wowbobwow at 3:07 PM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have been going to Al-Anon for 20 months now and it has helped. Please go to this link for Al Anon and find a meeting. There are regular and specialized meetings (like men's only meetings, adult children of alcoholics, etc). TRY MANY DIFFERENT MEETINGS (my big mistake many years ago). This is for YOU to find serenity. I believe you going to Al-Anon CAN help the active alcoholic indirectly since you learn to both NOT be all over their case about it (they do feel bad about it which often drives them to drink) and NOT bail them out of the consequences of drinking (calling in sick for them, getting them out of jail, car out of impound, paying for lawyer, rent, mortgage, etc.) which are the very crisis that Alcoholics site as their imputus for their recovery. Don't worry that its one of the worst days/weeks/months of your life at your first meeting; every member's walked into their first meeting the same way. No one will tell you what you should do, no one will judge you; they have done the same things and made the same mistakes. You will find love there; yes love. I feel love for every new member who comes in and that is from someone who hasn't felt anything in a very long time.

The only thing I regret about Al Anon is not starting sooner.
posted by CodeMonkey at 4:22 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

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