If you are suffering from organ failure and you are an addict you can be eligible for an organ transplant but you have to be clean and sober first and most transplant centers require at least six months of sobriety before they will consider you.
Yesterday I posted a blog “My Last Drunk..” about the time 30 years ago I checked myself into treatment for alcoholism. It was not a particularly outrageous story but it was significant to me because it was my very last drunk.
I write a lot about addiction because it is one of the primary killers of human organs and because this group is dedicated to ending the organ shortage I’m hoping that stories about addiction and recovery will help those suffering from the disease find their way into a recovery program. If we can do that the demand for organs will decrease and those who remain on the list will have a better chance of getting a transplant.
I realize that there are many who refuse to believe that addiction is a disease and many who think addicts even if they are in recovery should not be eligible for transplants because of what they did to themselves. And I will be the first to admit that addicts do the damage to themselves but it’s not on purpose, it is not because they choose to destroy their organs, their families and their careers. Who would be crazy enough to do that? The life of an addict is pure hell and readers will just have to believe me when I say, “No one would choose to live like that, no one!”
When you are an addict you are totally out of control and you don’t set out to harm anyone including yourself but the power of the disease is so great it is irresistible. When the demand for your drug of choice invades your body you must respond to it no matter who gets hurt along the way. You will lie, cheat, steal and in some cases even physically harm anyone who gets between you and, in my case, my bottle.
Being an addict also means you spend inordinate amounts of time trying to figure out how to feed your habit. With alcohol money is not as much a problem as with illegal or prescription drugs. Alcohol is easy to get and relatively cheap but you still must plan. In most places you can’t buy a bottle of booze on a Sunday so you have to make sure that you have enough booze on Saturday to take you through Monday. Then in many cases, especially if you have a family you don’t want to know about your addiction, you have to have a place to hide your drug of choice. I had a secret panel in the wall of our finished basement, a cubby hole In the garage, a special place in a sand pit near my home where I could hide and then dig up my bottle, inside an old tire in the garage and the bottom of the waste basket under used paper towels in the men’s room at my place of employment.
If illegal drugs are your problem then money becomes a huge issue and you will either steal it or con your best friends or family out of it by manipulating them in any one of a number of ways. No lie is too outrageous for the addict and in many cases no action is too outrageous. That’s how powerful the addiction is. You will literally sell your soul to get what you need and the worst part of it is that you can’t even really get high anymore, you use to try to feel normal but all you really get is sicker and sicker both mentally and physically until either you are hospitalized, treated or die.
Addiction will overwhelm your sense of ethics, pride, morals, self-worth and will to live. I remember having a conversation with myself once in which I said, “Bob you have to stop drinking, you are killing yourself!” My response without thinking and without pause was, “I don’t care.” That’s the power of the drug.
When I drank I sometimes consumed up to two quarts of vodka a day. I was a big man 6’4” and 250 lbs. I could hold a lot and miraculously I functioned. I got up every day, put on a suit threw a quart of vodka in my oversized briefcase and went to work. I drank my way through four years as a Governor’s press secretary and appeared to many if not most to be sober, I almost never was.
In the four years I anchored Morning Edition on the Minnesota Public Radio Network I rarely drew a sober breath yet I interviewed people, had impeccable timing, read news and performed all the other duties an on-air person can do. Sometimes I struggled mightily to keep from slurring words and to walk straight but I was able to fool most of the people, most of the time.
But it all catches up with you and at some point you find yourself in places and with people you would not normally associate with. It is as though the rest of the world can’t see you. All the while you know it is wrong but you just keep sinking deeper and deeper into the bottomless pit of despair and the more you realize how you have degenerated the more you use your drug of choice to help you forget what you have become.
Addiction is a horrible disease and as I mentioned in yesterday’s blog it cannot be overcome with will power it takes help, a lot of help from a lot of people and then it takes superhuman effort and the help of those same people and even more to stay sober.
One of the toughest parts of recovery is following the Alcoholics Anonymous step that dictates that you make amends to those you have harmed. It means you must apologize and it also means your apology may not be accepted and you have to learn to live with that. It’s part of the soul and conscience cleansing process and it is difficult but necessary.
Recovery from addiction is on-going. You are never recovered because one drink, just one, will send you right back into that deadly spiral into the depths of living hell. As the expression goes, “One drink is too many and a thousand is not enough.”
I’ll close with this. If you are an addict, there is hope and there is help. It isn’t easy and it isn’t quick but it can work and you can live a normal life again but you cannot do it alone. You need help. You can start by calling your local chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous or any accredited treatment center. In most cases insurance will cover treatment. If you are uninsured there is still help available through AA and NA. It is only a phone call away. You just have to take it one day at a time, sometimes, it is one moment at a time but it is always moving forward, sober!
f you are an addict, think you might be or know someone who needs help here are some resources.
Bob Aronson of Bob’s Newheart is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder of Facebook’s nearly 2,500 member Organ Transplant Initiative and the author of most of these donation/transplantation blogs.
You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.
Please view our video “Thank You From the Bottom of my Donor’s heart” on http://www.organti.org This video was produced to promote organ donation so it is free and no permission is needed for its use.
If you want to spread the word personally about organ donation, we have another PowerPoint slide show for your use free and without permission. Just go to http://www.organti.org and click on “Life Pass It On” on the left side of the screen and then just follow the directions. This is NOT a stand-alone show, it needs a presenter but is professionally produced and factually sound. If you decide to use the show I will send you a free copy of my e-book, “How to Get a Standing “O” that will help you with presentation skills. Just write to email@example.com and usually you will get a copy the same day.
Also…there is more information on this blog site about other donation/transplantation issues. Additionally we would love to have you join our Facebook group, Organ Transplant Initiative The more members we get the greater our clout with decision makers.