As a manager, when I hire someone, the first thing I tell them is that if they have something important to tell me or something I need to remember, that they need to “write it down”. I jokingly tell them how I “fried my brains in the 80’s”. This is not far from the truth.
In addition to the much-documented damage to the liver and heart that alcoholism causes, the brain does not escape alcohol’s wrath. There are several long-term brain disorders associated with alcoholism.
Alcoholic dementia is a catch-all for alcohol-induced brain disorders. This type of dementia is similar to that which accompanies Alzheimer’s disease and is irreversible. Alcoholic dementia is marked primarily by memory loss and the ability to learn new information. If a sufferer continues to drink, the dementia will accelerate, resulting in changes to the personality, confusion, and inability to function normally.
Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome is a form of alcohol dementia and is actually two diseases in one. Korsakoff Syndrome is a form of memory loss whereby the sufferer knows that they are missing information. This “metamemory”, or knowing that you don’t remember, is supplemented by fabricated information, sometimes extremely detailed, which fills in the memory gaps. Wernicke Disease is caused by physical long-term damage to the nervous system due to the malnutrition that is present in most alcoholics. The lack of Vitamin B1 causes this damage.
I doubt I am suffering from any severe memory dysfunction, but I do know that there are lapses in my memory. A number of my childhood years are completely missing. People that I apparently knew quite well at some point in my life are ghosts to me now – I couldn’t remember their names if I tried. I do know, however, that if you don’t write it down, I won’t remember it.