I was going to get up early this morning so the OH could get into the bathroom and out again to the gym.  He is, however, going to give up the gym today in favour of sitting at home nursing his gout.

Considering I haven’t got it myself and hope never to have it, gout seems to have played quite a bit part in my life. 

That is, in fact, how I might categorise the lives of those whose family and friends suffer from the disease of alcoholism; their numerous aliments including gout, road rage, moodiness, fiduciary incontinence, fiscal irregularity, malfunctioning of the heart, lungs and liver and, if they get that far, dementia, impinge upon your own sober and responsible life in a way that cannot be ignored.  Your own life can become unliveable long before their physical symptoms become obvious.

Gout, for example, affected my mother long before she had her first sip of alcohol.  To this day, aged 91, she always shuts doors quietly.  This, for someone who never enters a room she cannot command, seems out of character until you hear the stories of her father sitting with his foot up in his gout stool, sipping his whiskey (can’t help feeling the answer lies embedded in the question here, but never mind) shouting at her for slamming the door so the draught (it was that wide, that wide and pointed, no doubt) sliced across his toes like a knife.  She still does a good impression of it all these years later; her face becomes enraged and overbearing (yes I know, more overbearing than normal) as she shouts in a loud deep voice ‘Put the wood in the hole, you stupid child!’  She is acting out an injustice done to her.  She was the youngest of five, still a child when her older siblings were at work.  Full of youthful enthusiasm and high spirits and running and pouncing into room only to be shouted at by a crabby old father in pain and topping up his withdrawal.

Gout is a progressive and chronic illness, a type of arthritis, in which uric acid crystallises and forms needle-like structures in the joints that pierce the sufferer from the inside every time the joint is moved.  Sufferers, especially sufferers who are drinkers, will be very keen to tell you all about dietary causes. ill-fitting shoes and the like.  Nevertheless two of the most significant triggers for the deposition of purines in the blood (which are normally filtered by the kidneys and passed out of the body harmlessly) are dehydration and beer consumption.  There are folk with gout who have had blameless teetotal lives, if you are one and reading this, I am very sorry, jolly bad genetic luck, have this nice glass of cherry juice, I hope you feel better soon.  Their numbers are considerably outweighed by those who, waking the morning after the night before find that three glasses of water first thing simply don’t reach as far as the big toe anymore.

I have had an interesting few days examining the contents of a box of old photographs that came from  my mother’s house.  To save them from disintegrating I have purchased a 12 inch scrapbook album into which I shall stick them.  There is not much of great age from my mother’s side of the family, she was, after all the youngest of five but I did find some notes about my mother’s father’s father.  He was a ship’s steward who was killed when he fell between two ships when boarding.  His wife received no financial compensation as some local busybody said that he had been drinking.  But, said the note, it was known that he had gout and was unsteady on his legs.

You could expand this story in any direction you like; it’s difficult not to do so.  The aspect that strikes me most is the suffering of his poor wife.  If he was an habitual drinker and therefore his gout was so bad he had difficulty walking, I cannot imagine he would have been a sweet tempered individual.  Having put up with years of that, she then had to suffer financial hardship being penalised for a disease that she was powerless to control or prevent.  Poor woman, it’s a hard enough life sitting at home taking care of the children while the person who should be helping you is out drinking the money but then to be fined for doing so seems a wicked injustice.

There was no help in the dim and distant past for the families of alcoholics, there wasn’t any help for the alcoholics either, who were considered to be morally degenerate rather than people with an inherited disease.

Fortunately these days there is help for both parties.  Around the world AA, Alcoholics Anonymous, is available to help people who have chosen to live with the disease rather than die from it.  For families and friends there is Al-Anon Family groups which exists solely to give comfort and support to families of alcoholics.  It’s not there to tell you how to stop the alcoholic drinking; I don’t think there is a disease where shouting at the sufferer creates a magical cure, I wish there was but there ain’t.  It’s there to give you the support so that you can find ways yourself of living a happy life despite being surrounded by people who are so ill they are drinking themselves to death and blaming you for it.

If you have been shouted at by someone with a glass in their hand and gout in their foot you might want to go and have a look


this is the UK web resource which has a geographical drop-down menu to help you find the nearest meeting to you.  Al-Anon is a world-wide organisation which exists only for the benefit of its members, you can find a meeting anywhere in the world by putting Al-Anon Family groups into a search engine.  If, like the family of my great grandmother, you find yourself short of cash, you’ll be relieved to know that membership costs nothing; the group I meet with hires rooms to meet in, so we all make a small voluntary contribution that covers the cost of room hire.  If you meet in a member’s house anywhere in the world, it may cost nothing at all.  You don’t have to learn anything, or do anything at all but turn up and keep turning up for a hug and some ears.  In time you’ll discover how to give a hug and provide ears yourself.

For those of us who grew up being shouted down and shouted at it’s the revolution that can turn your attention from someone else’s gouty feet or damaged brain to your own wonderful life just waiting for you to live it.



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