It was a quite a shock for audiences to hear that the actor, Michael Douglas, has Stage IV throat cancer. What was even more alarming was to learn that it most likely was caused by drinking alcohol and smoking. At least three quarters of people who have mouth or throat cancer consume alcohol frequently. Statistics also report that people who drink alcohol often are 6 times more likely to develop mouth or throat cancer. In addition, people who both drink alcohol and smoke even have a higher risk than people who only use tobacco alone.
We are so bombarded with stories of young starlets like Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton getting arrested or going to jail due to some sort of substance abuse issue, it is shocking when a story hits the air waves related to an actor who is dealing with the health consequences of substance abuse rather than just the legal issues.
I remember as a child my brother and I holding up large poster size signs saying STOP SMOKING as a way to get our parent’s attention. Both my parents were smoking and thank god they quit over 25 years ago. My father definitely had ramifications from his smoking when he had a heart attack at 51 and later had to have open heart surgery. He also suffers from emphysema. What is so ironic is that my brother became a major pot smoker (quit 20 yrs ago) and I became addicted to cigarettes (quit 16 yrs ago) even though we were staunchly against our own parent’s smoking and we knew you could become seriously ill from smoking.
Again, it illustrates the insanity of addiction. We will go to any length to deny the consequences of our behavior in our disease. What is saddening is when I continue to see young, as well as older people, continue a slow death by drinking and smoking. I am very sorry this has happened to Michael Douglas, as I would be anybody with this diagnosis. Although, his doctors say his chance of survival is 80% with eight weeks of radiation and chemotherapy. That’s great news.
Five years ago before I began working in addictions, I was a hospice social worker. I saw many families watch their loved ones as they went through the dying process from cancer and other life threatening diseases. It is excruciatingly painful to watch someone die, especially some of the younger clients I worked with. The ones that had the more peaceful deaths were those who had a spiritual foundation. At least, that was my experience.
Although, this is very scary about Michael Douglas’s diagnosis, I hope it is a wakeup call for those who still suffer from the ravages of alcohol and smoking addictions.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW, is a Psychotherapist and Life Coach and Recovery Coach specializing in addictions, trauma, anxiety, depression, and helping her clients find their life purpose. She is the author of “The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery.” She is a sought after speaker, and frequent contributor to anthologies, blogs, and newsletters. Visit Sherry at www.sgabatherapy.com for information about life-coaching programs, teleseminars, and webinars.