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Cancer and Alcoholism

Positive_Mental_Attitude's picture
Posts: 454
Joined: Jul 2014

This is not kidney cancer specific, and I have posted over on the head and neck cancer forum too.  Has anybody had to deal with (either personally or with friend/family) recovering from cancer and alcoholism at the same time?

My brother has throat cancer and he had a partial laryngectomy last week. He will be going home this week, and he will be on a nasogastric feeding tube for 6-8 weeks.   Visiting nurses will check on him.

He lives with a roommate in a rural part of Vermont.  He is not married and his relatives are all 5-6 hours away. 

A complicating factor that we have discussed with his team is that he is an alcoholic.  Does anyone here have any experience or suggestions in coping after surgery and the pain meds wear off?  His nurses at the hospital say he is not going through withdrawal. I am trying to connect with his primary care physician to get him into a program and get help to deal with alcoholism.

Since he will not be able to ingest anything by mouth for a while, I hope he will not try to drink.  Ultimately, he has to do this on his own will, but we (his family) are hoping that effectively being cut off may help him on his way to recovery.

Any thoughts, guidance or resources would be appreciated.

2016 was suppposed to a better year after a crappy 2014 and 2015.  Wahhh, so far it is not, but we press on and look for brighter days ahead.

Thank you.


APny's picture
Posts: 1998
Joined: Mar 2014

Can't offer guidance and resources but just wanted to say that I'm so sorry your brother has throat cancer and that your year started off with the sad news of that. Hopefull he'll be able to stop drinking; it's a very good sign that he didn't go through DTs. Perhpas his physical addiction is not so severe. Maybe the social worker at the hospital is someone to approach about this.

Jan4you's picture
Posts: 1327
Joined: Oct 2013

First of all, I am sorry your brother has such a serious cancer. I can appreciate you worrying for him. Even though he is probably not detoxing medically, he can eventually get triggers and cravings  to drink again. AND he's alone! Not sure what his drinking pattern was, but I wonder if he has any booze at home? And can he drive to get some?

There is AA (alcoholics anonymous) and he could get a sponsor. IF he wants to stop and get help. Does he? (I don't need to know). I would go that route. I bet some would come to visit him or even take him to a meeting is he wants. Again, HE has to WANT to stop.

Keep us posted. Thanks for standing up for him.

I will pray for him too.


Posts: 482
Joined: Dec 2013

it was not clear from your post whether your brother was in recovery or still a drinker; if the former, my suggestion is that he connects with his sponsor yesterday.

if he is still drinkin, sadly there is not much that you can do; the medical profession are lacking in knowledge of alcoholism and there is a real danger in giving your brother pain meds which can combine with alcohol for a bad ending 

i am sorry that you are going this; perhaps you can make calls to get guidance from recovery centers. It worries me that he is so isolated.



Positive_Mental_Attitude's picture
Posts: 454
Joined: Jul 2014

Thanks for all of the answers.  He had a total (not partial) laryngectomy last Wednesday.  He has a tracheotomy tube in right now, and he will go home with the tube and continue feeding on a nasogastric tube for another 6 weeks.  He is unable to eat or drink anything.  I spoke to nurses on Saturday when I visited him and again today, and they both said the "scores" (whatever that means) show he is not showing signs of withdrawal. 

I have investigated various options near where he lives, and I briefly touched on these options with him today, and he said he was not interested now.  He has a new reality in that he has no voicebox, will have a permanent hole in his throat, and he is going to have to learn how to eat and talk in a new way.  Hopefully the 6 or more weeks he is on the feeding tube keep him further off of alcohol.  His pattern prior to this was that he would consume 8-15 beers per day.  That was his normal, and he functioned reasonably well on this.  He drank beer like I drink water. 

It's heartbreaking to see this happen to my little brother--he is only 43.  But we are in a bit of a hard place right now.  At least in Vermont, he gets free health care.  If he was living in closer to home, he would not have ready access to health care.  His entire procedure and treatment were covered at no cost to him in Vermont.

He has a long and hard road ahead, and I am going to do what I can to keep obstacles out of his way, but Jan said it correctly--he has to want to do it HIMSELF.  I have known plenty of addicts and alcoholics, and I have never seen a forced intervention work.  The person has to want to make the change on their own.

Sorry for the non-kidney cancer diversion. 

What's next?

Footstomper's picture
Posts: 1238
Joined: Dec 2014

I'm inclined to think that if you've got cancer a drink problem is the least of your problems, but then I drink too much anyway

Jan4you's picture
Posts: 1327
Joined: Oct 2013

FYI: If I might add, when you drink more you can dilute the effectiveness of medications/treatment and the sugar FEEDS cancer. Just keep that in mind.

Now if you are actively dying then you are no longer using medications, most prefer alcohol if they can stomach it so to speak. However, there are risks for falls and alcohol and pain meds interfere with each other. Again the effectiveness of pain meds would be affected by the alcohol.  Most prefer to just drink alcohol.

( I used to work in drug and alcohol treatment hospitals/clinics).


Tim Wisneski's picture
Tim Wisneski
Posts: 17
Joined: Jan 2016


I cant help but agreeing with you on that, everyone is always on me to stop smoaking and dont drink. Before joining this club I would at times kill a bottle of JD in a night, I DONT DO THAT ANYMORE as ive came to the reality that im not bullet proof. But at the same time I feel its important to be happy, JD and coke is out mostly becouse of the taboo coke. But with that said a few beers now and then or a few glasses of wine sure does take the edge off and I think its important to be as happy as you can.


Jojo61's picture
Posts: 1310
Joined: Oct 2013

It is heartbreaking to watch a loved one become dependent on alcohol or drugs. I feel for you, and wish you and your brother the very best results all around.




foxhd's picture
Posts: 3183
Joined: Oct 2011

Let's hope that after several weeks of his n-g yube, he loses his apetite for ETOH. It may all come down to how badly he wants to live.

Allochka's picture
Posts: 946
Joined: Nov 2014

I don't have practical advise, but I have 2 examples of people completely quitting drinking and smoking after serious (not cancer though) diagnosis. So, people CAN be prudent and change their lives if, as Fox said, they want to live.

Sorry to hear about your brother, good luck to him and to you!

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