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December 9, 2013

Frontal Lobe Dementia

by Brendan

At the New Freedom A.A. meeting today, we finished up our year-long reading of the Big Book — reading the not-so-interesting appendices, today including the “Twelve Concepts.”    Not much there to spark an interesting, personal discussion, so people in the meeting  bloviated about how grateful they were that A.A. had all sorts of layers of administration, advisory councils, committees, etc.  As for me, I’m just not interested in committees, committee meetings, passing resolutions, all the administrivia that goes along with what is to me, over-organization.

But my friend Ruth shared something interesting: Her mom, she said, suffered from frontal-lobe dementia for about 10 years until her death, and the symptoms of Frontal Lobe Dementia more-or-less mimicked the symptoms of Ruth’s alcoholism.  (When the Big Book was written in the 1930’s, the medical profession as well as society was slow to come to terms with the fact that alcoholism is a disease, not a moral error.)

Ruth’s comments interested me because in 2002, I had surgery and then radiation treatment for a Temporal-Frontal Lobe brain tumor (an Atypical Meningioma).  During the run-up to my hospitalization, everyone who knew me simply attributed my strange behavior to drunkenness.

This included my physician, who noted the awful tremor I had in my left hand but diagnosed it as a hereditary tremor, late onset in my 40’s and 50’s.   Even worse, I was in detox in March of 2002, and my doctors didn’t think to order an MRI for a brain tumor — though one of them is now the Medical Director of the Florida Recovery Center (our local drug and alcohol treatment facility) and the other is a neurologist in recovery, they thought my symptoms were due to alcoholism.

A spectacular illustration of the saying, “If your only tool is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail to you.”



The happy ending is that, unnerved by my increasing tremor and problems with balance, and having slipped and fallen pretty badly while hiking down Blood Mountain in northern Georgia in the summer, I’d scheduled an appointment with a neurologist.  Before the appointment, though, on the morning of August 6, 2002, I was running with the dogs in the woods as usual, slipped and fell, couldn’t get up.  I crawled out of the woods on my face, mostly, the dogs alerted my neighbor, Glen, and I was off to the hospital.  After the MRI, I was stabilized for a few days (I’d had a seizure in the woods, causing the fall and inability to get up), then had surgery.

My friend Tom said to me in the hospital, “Lucky you had that seizure warning.”  Lucky, indeed.

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