Last week I attended a post-mortem as part of my job. The subject was an alcoholic and I was interested to see the effect alcohol had had on his organs. I expected it to be dramatic and fascinating and revolting in equal measure.
In the event the subject was in surprising good shape. They had a slightly fatty liver but the other organs didn’t show any damage. There was nothing to show that alcohol featured in the cause of death.
When I was drinking I would certainly have used what I had seen as firm evidence that I was being overly dramatic about my alcohol problem and the damage it was causing. After all that person was probably drinking much more than me, was a “real” alcoholic and had been for years but their drinking hadn’t caused any damage. Afterwards I would have had my usual evening tipple safe in the knowledge that it wasn’t really causing me any harm.
My reaction as a non-drinker was different. Although their organs weren’t damaged, the subject had led a very troubled life with mental health issues and a chaotic family background featuring very strongly. They also looked at least 20 years older than their actual age and were painfully thin. I could see that alcohol had had a hugely damaging impact of their life and those around them. Attending the post-mortem was a very poignant experience.
I think I have had a lucky escape and I am so very grateful for that.