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I've been lurking around this forum for the past few evenings. I must say the information, advice, encouragement and so on has been quite helpful to me. As of a week ago today I thought my life was in ruins.
Where to start. Well, I'm 44 years old. I've been drinking since my teenage years. Drinking heavily from age 16 to about 25, socially from about 26-35, and then I ramped up to heavy again over the last 8-9 years to the point where I've admitted to alchoholism. The last 2 years being the worst as I've been drinking anywhere from a six pack of beer to 2 standard bottles of Sake or Wine AND a six pack beer nightly. Over the last 3-4 years I believe I've been self medicating with alcohol to relieve symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks. Over the last two years I've even begun morning/day drinking to aliviate these anxiety symtoms. Even though I knew this was a serious problem I never did anything to stop it. Never looked to get help, never went to a physician (I was terrified of seeing a physician as I thought I would have a panic attack, or be diagnosed with something horrible and die) Such an irrational psycosis, I know. Honestly, I hadn't seen a physician in over a decade and have never been hospitalized. My drinking was at it's worst last last year and over the holidays. And then, suddenly, I started feeling some pains. Stomach pains, wierd sensations around my adominal area. Particular on the left side under my ribs. Not a sharp pain, a dull pain - but predominant. I also started feeling extremely bloated all the time. And my stomach area up to my rib area looked swollen. I was also gaining weight. During these last two years I wasn't getting nearly as much exercise and have been living a much more sendentary lifestyle. Needless to say I started to worry.
Didn't go to the Doc just yet. Thought I could fix this myself. Started dieting, walking more. Tried cutting back on alcohol - but honestly, wasn't cutting back much if any. Lost some weight, but not belly weight. And the pain just wasn't going away in my abdominal. Still felt bloated all the time and I had really lose and watery stools.
Now, I was starting to worry. Started thinking the worst. Obsessed now that I had liver disease with ascites. I've never felt so concerned for my health in all my life and at this point felt no other choice but to make an appointment to see a doctor and express my concerns. I'm really scared continously telling myself to expect the worst and hope for the best. I started tapering off the alcohol using the HAMS method I found online as to avoid (in my mind) having a panic attack in the reception area of the clinic.
I finally went into Urgent Care last Friday. I was down to 3 drinks at night, but had probably 6 the night before my appointment because I couldn't sleep as I was raddled with nerves. I made it to my appointment. I expressed to the doctor my concerns (the bloating, the abdominal, the dull pain on the left side, the loose stools) told him all about my alcohol abuse and my concern that my liver was damaged. He felt around and indicated that there was nothing that he felt that was enlarged. No masses, abdomen normal to palpation, spleen normal, liver normal. Nothing there. He thought perhaps It might be a bleeding ulcer. Asked to do a rectal exam. No gross blood present. So we did a blood and urine test. Surprisingly the results are done in like 15 minutes. My nerves are shot by this point. He walks in states my blood counts are normal. However, I have abdormal results of the liver function studies (tests) In his words "they're not horrible" still, I felt as If I was about to pass out. He also mentions that I have slight hyperglycemia with some urinary ketones (early sign of diabetes?) he gives me some recomindations for a gastroenterology clinic to look into my liver and asked me to see my GP about the hyperglycemia, hands me my blood test results and then sends me on my way. At the time I had no idea what any of these blood test meant (since then I've probably done 100 hours of excrutiating internet research trying to figure these out) Anyway, here are what I believe are the important figures:
GLU: 123 (high)
ALP: 39 (low)
ALT: 98 (high)
AST: 76 (high)
TP: 8.2 (high)
I was now in full panic mode. The only person I told all this to was my girlfriend (of 9 years) and she was a super supportive. I was worried sick and she was optimistic? I tried explaining to her that I probably have liver disease. I started the inevitable hole of google searching information endlessly about liver disease, blood tests, symptoms, chirrosis, and expected life spans. I felt resinded to the fact that doom was in my near future.
Over the next day or so I started gaining some hope. I wasn't experiencing many other symptoms. I wasn't fatigued, wasn't nausious, no yellowing. I read that my AST and ALT levels might be skewed due to the fact that I had 5/6 drinks about 12 hours prior to the test. Also, I did not fast. Before the test I had a banana, protein bar, vinegar water, two Bayer asperin, and Rhodiola (an herbal supplement for anxiety) I didn't tell any of this to the doctor, nor did he ask. I found this forum and some others and have been reading through them religiously. I found some hope here just by reading the stories and encourgment. I know things will never be the same for me. If I have something wrong, I feel I can get through it. If not, the doctor, those internet searches, these forums, have scared me straight.
By Monday I picked myself up and with the help of my GF got back on track. This week I've taken my dog for 2 walks a day (about 2 hours a day) cut my sodium intake (my BP was a very high 145) started eating scheduled healthy meals (lots of greens) drinking lots of water and finished off my tapering. I glass of red wine up through Tuesday. And now the last two nights with zero. Zero drinks for the first time since, well, I can't even remember.
Surprisingly, the side effects of withdraw have been minimal. I have my appetite, and I feel clarity. I've stayed up late. But I've slept really well. I'm guessing, for me, the tapering really helped with this adjustment. My bloating has gone down and the adominal pains are minimal. I've even lost a bit of weight. I made an apointment at the GI clinic (though the first available isn't until May 22nd) and I'm dead set on retesting my blood work after detoxing to see how/if things have changed. Again, reading this forum has helped me so much as far as coming to terms with what to expect. As much as I regret and wish I would have done things differently (seeing a physican) much sooner. I can't go back. I'm just thankful that I went when I did. It may have saved my life as I'm now ready for clean living regardless of where these future results lead me. Just a few questions:
1. How much would the drinking the night before effect my blood test? Also, how much, if any, would the foods I ate, and aspirin, effect the test?
2. When should I go retake the test? Given question 1, if my numbers were skewed should I go straight away? Or should I wait the recommended 30-90 days of abstinense? (I'm really anxious to re test as to give me peace of mind but don't want to rush it)
3. I cannot figure out for the life of me why my ALP is so low (39) I know it's for protien levels. And a low number could be signs for malnourishment - but I've always, even while drinking heavily, eaten quite healthy. Even took daily supplements including B12.
4. My A/G ratio is right at 1.0 which is from what I read right at the minimum cutoff. Thoughts?
5. The whole slight hyperglycemia caught me off guard. Is this an effect of alcohol and can it be reversed or is it a sure sign of upcoming diabetes?
6. I've started taking milk thistle. Any other suggestions for repairing the liver and/or to help with hyperglycemia?
And just in general, based on everything I've stated - how damaged do you gather my liver is? Chances of liver disease? I know the definite answer won't come until I do the ultrasound and/or liver bioposy. I'm just very impatient and curious as to any thoughts based on where I currently stand.
I haven't made an appointment with my newly appointed PCP as of yet. So I'm unable to ask such questions. I wanted to make my initial appointment when I feel ready to take the follow up blood test. So in the meantime any insight, advice would be so helpful.
Thank you so much to whomever read this long post!
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