Category Archives: Alcohol/tobacco/drugs

Will Power — It Works As Well On Alcoholism As It Does On Diahrrea


By Bob Aronson

sobriety for opener

Alcohol abuse, especially outright alcoholism is a leading cause of the organ shortage because of its destructive effect on the heart, pancreas, liver, kidneys, reproductive organs and stomach. There are over 123,000 people waiting for organ transplants in the U.S. and with only about 30,000 transplants a year, many on that list will die.

As a former drinker, a heart transplant recipient and the author of most of these blogs, I am always intensely interested in stories or postings about alcohol and drug abuse, so I actively seek the latest information about those subjects.

In that light, I was surfing the internet recently when I came across a group discussion of the issue. What caught my attention was this statement, “If you make the decision to start drinking you can make the decision to stop. Just say, NO, I’m not going to drink anymore, then pray for sobriety and it will come.”

When I saw that my immediate reaction was that the writer was unaware of what it’s like to be an addict and the total misery in which the alcoholic lives. It is a life no one would wish on their worst enemy. It is a life no one would live if they had a clear choice to get out of it. I wish it was so simple as to just, “quit.” or say, “NO,” but more on that, later.

***(A note to the reader. Throughout this blog I refer to the alcoholic as “he” for convenience. Please read it as he/she or him/her because everything I relate here applies to both genders. Also, I can only relate to the disease as a male. Women have many of the same experiences as men, but many more that are totally different. In many ways women suffer even more than their male counterparts)

I am writing this in my role as a recovering alcoholic of some 34 years. I have not had a drink of alcohol in all that time, I am not drinking today and I don’t plan to tomorrow, but I live every moment of every day with the knowledge that I am just one drink away from returning to  the greatest misery man can inflict on himself whether physically, emotionally or both.

This is not one of those “tell-all confessions.” Since the birth of this blog in 2007 I’ve received dozens of requests for more information on alcoholism, but not for the usual fare, many of our readers want to know what it’s like to be an alcoholic. This is an attempt to answer that question, to explain the agony of alcoholism and to help you recognize that the alcoholic can’t “just quit.” I hope it offers some insight into the alcoholic mind and answers at least a few questions you may have about what it’s like to be a drunk.

Those who say, “Just quit,” or, “just say no” have no idea what it’s like to be a full-blown, full-time, uncontrollablejust say no drunk. If it was a matter of choice, a matter of will power, a matter over which alcoholics had control they would not choose to live that way. It is a life of absolute misery, dishonesty and risk. Your best friend and worst enemy is the bottle, it totally controls your life. Every minute of your existence revolves around making sure you have access to alcohol. If you have to choose between eating and drinking, you’ll drink. If you have to choose between bleeding to death and drinking, you’ll choose bleeding and if you have to choose between those you love and alcohol, you will choose alcohol and all the while knowing it’s wrong — totally and absolutely wrong. Worse yet, as you continue to choose alcohol over what’s right, that cloud of oppressive guilt that follows you around  will tighten its stranglehold forcing you to consume more in another feeble attempt to stop the agony.

One other point about “If you can choose to drink, you can choose to stop.” The initial choice to drink is usually made while sober and for many, it is the last sober choice they make. Once the brain is supersaturated with alcohol, how do you get it to make a rational, logical choice? You can’t. The only time choosing to stop drinking might work is if you choose to get HELP to stop drinking, because you cannot do it alone. You must, as the AA Big Book says, realize and admit that you are powerless over alcohol and your life has become unmanageable. Only when you are willing to put your life in the hands of others (usually highly qualified addiction professionals) do you stand a chance of getting it back.

alcoholism definitionI stopped to read the post and comments I mentioned earlier because I have an interest in the subject. Addiction runs in my family. I was a practicing alcoholic for a long time and the practice paid off, I became a perfect drunk. It started when I was a teen who thought a weekend of beer consumption was normal behavior. I realized at that early age that while others could have a can of beer or two and then quit, I couldn’t. I always drank until drunk (sometimes unconscious) or until we ran out of alcohol whichever came first.

My early adulthood was not unlike most other people, I was young, struggling to pay the bills and unable to afford alcohol so my drinking problem wasn’t all that obvious. I knew, though, that anytime alcoholic beverages were available my old pattern continued. Once I started drinking I couldn’t stop. As time went on and there was a little more money, I drank more. At first it was just In the evening and on weekends but before long I was following my father’s habit of having a little “bump” upon arising each day. That progressed to several “bumps” and finally arriving at work drunk and staying that way. I was not a bar fly, I did most of my drinking privately and…I was good at hiding it. From jobs in broadcast journalism to serving as a Minnesota Governor’s Communications Director and then back to broadcast journalism I was a full-blown alcoholic and almost no one knew it. I was under the influence of alcohol even when I was on the air several hours a day and yet, no one ever mentioned it.  Not then and not since. .

I had tried a hundred times to quit drinking and each time I did it with great resolve, but my best efforts never lasted longer than a week  or two before I was back to my old habits. Finally, though, I hit bottom. It was 10 o’clock  in the morning and I had already consumed nearly a quart of vodka and hadn’t eaten in days. I was very sick. Sicker than I had ever been before. While my head was nearly in the toilet bowl I made the decision to get help. I crawled to the phone, found the yellow pages and located a treatment center a couple of miles from my home. I then called my brother, told him what I wanted to do and asked him to drive me there.

It was about noon on Saturday July 17, 1982 and my blood alcohol was 3 times the legal limit. I was so wracked with guilt and pain and so sick I just wanted someone to help me feel good again. I was, “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

The Mounds Park hospital and treatment center in St. Paul, Minnesota no longer exists but they were the right people in the right place at the right time. I have not had a drink since, but I could not have done it alone. “So,” you ask, “Why are you writing this?” I’m doing so because I’m hoping to bring some understanding to the issue.

The first few days in treatment were awful. When I wasn’t in the bathroom emptying my stomach, I spent my time trying to think of a way to get out of there and get a drink, but the papers I had signed had me in voluntary lockdown. Saturday, Sunday and Monday were probably the most tortured moments of my life. I was so sick I prayed for death. Even though they gave me tranquilizers this “purging” period was awful. I later learned that withdrawal from alcohol addiction is among the worst and can be deadly. As I dried out I never left my room, talked to none of the other patients, didn’t eat and drank what seemed to be gallons of water and even that wouldn’t stay down. Anyone who has ever had a hangover, has experienced just a smidgen of what alcohol withdrawal is like for the person who consumes it by the quart or liter every day of his life. It is why the alcoholic needs some “hair of the dog that bit you” in the morning. it’s the perfect way to cure a hangover. If you never stop drinking you never have a hangover. Well — almost.

facts abot deathI’m sure there are many who have been heavy drinkers, made the decision to quit and did. Others counted on God’s intervention and it worked, but for the vast majority of alcoholism sufferers quitting is beyond their ability. That was and is e nature of my condition. I am absolutely convinced that my ability to quit drinking was unrelated to will power. An alcoholism counselor once told me, “If you think will power will work, the next time you have diarrhea, use will power to stop it.” Just the thought of drinking again scares the hell out of me.

So, you might ask how and when you know you are an alcoholic and that’s a great question. In the deep dark recesses of your mind you probably know from that first drunk when you couldn’t stop drinking. The great test of whether there is something amiss is for me quite simple. Most normal, social drinkers can have one or two drinks and quit with no discomfort. I can’t. I know I can’t because I tried it many times. I find it impossible to believe the claims of some who say, “Addiction can be cured.” I will only accept that when they can show me highly supervised, peer reviewed, large group, long term clinical studies that clearly show patients who were cured can drink again and stop after one or two. Anyone or any organizations that claims to have a cure and cannot provide that evidence does not, in my view, have one.

Only others who share my experience will really understand this, but once I have a single drink of alcohol something is triggered in me that is so strong, so incredibly powerful it will cause me to have another and another and another. As the adage goes, “One drink is too much and a thousand are not enough.”

To further the point you might ask, “Well what if you had that drink and then thought real hard about the consequences like, Hey Bob,  you could lose your job, your marriage, everything that is dear to you and wind up in prison for life as well, wouldn’t that stop you?” I guess a rational mind would immediately agree that those considerations would cause you to step back from the bar, but – you must remember the alcoholic mind is not one that is rational. It is driven by a craving so deep and so irrational it will violate every moral and ethical standard you ever had in order to spend more time with its best friend forever, alcohol.

That is not to say the alcoholic has no conscience. Once he has done whatever horrendous thing it was that relieved him of all that he loved he will feel great guilt, depression and sorrow. He will swear to change and to make things right, but when the agony of the hangover (withdrawal) begins he will again turn to the bottle. Does he have a choice to drink or not to drink? Of course, and the alcoholic will vow time and time again to make that choice, to quit drinking and will be incredibly strong in his resolve as long as he is under alcohol’s influence, but the resolve diminishes right along with the influence.

“One more drink,” he says, “will get me back on the road to sobriety,” and he really believes it, but one leads to six and to ten more and then to a repeat of the very behavior that caused all the guilt and there’s only one way to deal with it, more alcohol. It is a powerful drug and while it can cause one to lose his inhibitions (read that “good sense”), it also helps one forget, until you start getting a little sober and then you start all over again.

So you see, the alcoholic knows he has choices and he is willing to make the right one, but he never gets to a point where he feels good enough to make it, unless he is drunk and then even his alcoholic mind knows he has failed again.
drunk in trashAlcoholism is not only the failure to say “no” to the drug, it is also a complete abandonment of all that you know is right —  a behavior change so great as to be unbelievable. The image of an alcoholic that many have is of a foul-smelling bum in dirty clothes who sleeps in a cardboard box in a dark, trash cluttered alley. He is inarticulate, uneducated and offensive. That’s the stereotype, but you know what? That’s only a partial picture.

The rest of the story is quiet and invisible. Every day millions of alcoholics get dressed for work in a stylish suit, and works right alongside you. When I was drinking heavily in the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s I wore expensive clothing, drove very nice cars and was always presentable and functioning. I anchored TV and radio news shows, hosted a radio talk show and functioned as the press secretary to a state Governor. Few  who knew me would call me a drunk. They might know that I drank a little, but no one would suggest I was an alcoholic.

Like many alcoholics I was pretty good at functioning while inebriated. Even the people with which I worked moshiding a bottlet closely had no idea that I had a secret life. They didn’t know that the double wide briefcase I carried was not full of office work. H, it carried a quart of vodka and a carton of cigarettes. They didn’t know that when I arrived at the office in in the morning, I had already had several drinks or that I had slept in a chair in the clothing I wore the day before. They were unaware that I hid my bottle in the bottom of the men’s room waste basket so whenever I wanted a drink, I just went to the men’s room. They didn’t know that behind the wall mirror in my bathroom at home, I had built a carefully hidden compartment to house my liquor supply. It was constructed while my wife was at work to ensure secrecy. The hidden latch on the wall mirror let it swing open to reveal several bottles sitting on a 2 X 4 shelf. It is where I got my first drink of the day, just a little something to get the hair off of my tongue and get my heart started. Neither friends nor family knew about the sandpit about six blocks from my home. It had a bottle of vodka hidden under the “No trespassing” sign that was only recoverable under the cover of night. There may have been other places as well and the bottles may still be there because I forgot where I put them.

Not all, but many alcoholics suffer from “Blackouts” and I was one of them. I know one fellow traveler who says he missed the “entire Carter Administration.” Blackouts are periods of time that cannot be remembered. They are periods when you can walk, talk and work and remember none of it. There are huge gaps in my memory of those years and it is attempting to recollect them that threatens my sobriety even though they were a long time ago and I might have just fallen asleep. It is not knowing and suspecting the worst that beckons me to have “just one.” The flashing red, white and blue neon “Liquor” signs act as strong magnets that seek to pull my car into their parking lots. I shudder to think of what I might have done that I cannot remember. So far, though, my recovery program and support system have proved to be a stronger force and I fear the liquor sign more than I fear the memories.

liquor sign
When you are a practicing alcoholic you have to spend a whole lot of time making sure you have an uninterrupted supply of alcohol. There’s a lot of planning that goes into being a drunk because our greatest fear is running out of liquor. In Minnesota you can’t buy hard liquor or even strong beer on a Sunday. The liquor stores close at 10 PM on Saturday night and don’t open again until 8 AM on Monday. It is critical that the flow of alcohol not be impeded. An ample supply must be available at all times in a place that is always accessible.

We drunks spend a whole lot of time hiding our addiction, even to the point of having a hidden secret stock that can be consumed privately so when attending a party you can be seen drinking a Coke or Pepsi not liquor, wine or beer. During that time I had many people comment on the fact that I rarely “Drank” and I always agreed.

When I was Anchoring a regional network radio news show five mornings a week, I sat across a desk from my producer. We were almost in each other’s faces every day and I was never sober. One weekend I called her and said, “Christa, I won’t be in on Monday, I’m in treatment.”

“C’mon Bob, is this your idea of a joke? Why are you calling?” She was quite indignant.

“I’m in treatment for alcoholism, Christa,” I said.

“I told you it’s not funny,” she responded.

It took a while to convince her. We had worked across from each other for three years and she never knew I drank even though I was almost never sober. While on the air I labored mightily to keep my enunciation crisp and to be an errorless reader. Face to face I interviewed Governors, captains of industry, super stars of entertainment and men and women of the cloth while at the same time increasing the profitability of not only the liquor companies but also the businesses that make, distribute and sell Certs breath mints, and Binaca breath freshener.

I think I mentioned that it takes a lot of planning to stay drunk and hide the fact that you are. I worked hard at keeping my drinking preferences and practices secret so I made sure I didn’t frequent the same liquor stores too often. I did not want to be seen frequenting bars and nightclubs, so I didn’t go to them. I almost never drank in a bar. I knew the hours of all the liquor stores, their locations and their prices. I even went so far as to deposit my empty liquor bottles in someone else’ trash cans and often not even in my neighborhood. At work I once put an empty vodka bottle in the corporate President’s waste basket.

Sobering up as I mentioned earlier was not easy. It was terrible. When finally the alcohol was out of my system I sobriety quotevowed to go public with my addiction as a means to help me stay sober. Treatment, AA meetings, being public about my problem helped, I’ve not had a drink since a little before noon on that day in ’82.

While I respect those in the scientific community who insist that alcoholism can be cured and that drinkers can choose to stop, I vehemently disagree. I know scores of sufferers just like me. We talk, we relate, we empathize and our stories are nearly identical. Furthermore I have attended hundreds of AA meetings and read scores of books on the subject. They all verify the fact that those who suffer from alcoholism also suffer with feelings of helplessness, depression, resentments and most importantly — overwhelming guilt.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on addiction I am but a single case among millions. My evidence is anecdotal and not scientifically acceptable, but I know that my story and my experiences are repeated thousands if not millions of times every day. I don’t know why people become alcoholics and I don’t understand the psychology behind it I only know it very nearly ruined my life, hurt my friends and family immeasurably and affected the lives of many others as well.

If someone in your family or circle of friends has a problem with alcohol you can try to help, but don’t be surprised if your offers are perceived as threats and you lose your relationship with that person. The alcoholic didn’t drink for you and is not going to stop for you or for anyone else. He will only stop when he hits rock bottom and can no longer stand living that way. Then he will either seek help and keep seeking it for the rest of his life, or return to drinking and alcoholic bliss where unpleasant memories are washed away in a sea of 90 proof alcohol.

Alcoholism is slow suicide. It will kill you one way or another. Either you will succumb to some disease, or you will drink yourself to death. It’s suicide but very slow, very painful and very effective.

My closing thought is the same as the one with which I opened this posting. The life of an alcoholic is a life of misery, shame, guilt and fear. No one, no one, would choose to live like that if choice was really an option.

Below are some resources for Alcoholics,  their families and friends.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services AdministrationExternal Link—For information about substance abuse prevention and treatment services:

National Institute on Drug Abuse—For information about other drug problems that often co-exist with alcohol problems: 301-443-1124.

National Institute of Mental Health—For information on problems such as anxiety and depression that can co-exist with alcohol problems: 866-615-6464.

bobBob Aronson of Bob’s Newheart is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder of Facebook’s over 4,200 member Organ Transplant Initiative (OTI) and the author of most of the nearly 300 posts on this site.  You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.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. You can register to be a donor at http://www.donatelife.net.  It only takes a few minutes. Then, when registered, tell your family about your decision so there is no confusion when the time comes.

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Quit Smoking You Damn Fools!


This will be short.  I’ve already had a heart transplant and now because of 37 years of smoking I have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).  I can’t breathe very well, especially if I move around.  Do you have any idea what that’s like?  Do you know what its like to be exhausted and gasping for air after putting on your shoes?  Do you know what it’s like to have to drive a little electric cart around the supermarket because you can’t tolerate the walk?  Well, if you keep on smoking you are in for that and a hell of a lot more.  My case is mild compared to others, I don’t have to do breathing exercises every morning  just to get my day started like Cystic Fibrosis patients do.  I don’t have to use oxygen yet, I’m not in a wheelchair or confined to a bed or recliner at home but that could easily be my future and yours, too.

When you bend over to pick something off the floor you probably feel nothing.  Here’s what happens, though.  When you bend you compress your diaphragm which affects your breathing.  As your lung condition worsens that one simple move can leave you feeling as though you’ve run a mile at top speed.  I cannot bend over to pick up anything without having to sit down immediately to catch my breath.  That means I can’t pick up my shoes, I can’t check the air in my tires, I can’t even bend over to pet my dogs.

My transplant docs tell me I’m doing very well, that with the exception of my lungs I am in pretty darn good condition.  I know my mind is ok because I am more intellectually curious than I’ve ever been and I love to learn and write (some who have read my writing may think I’m a little loony but it’s a healthy loony :)).  When I am sitting down and at my computer I feel better than I have in 25 or 30 years but that bubble bursts as soon as I get up and walk across the room.

Smoking is killing me even after having quit two decades ago.  Smoking may also share some of the responsibility for my needing a heart transplant.  There isn’t one damn good thing about smoking.  People say, “It relaxes me.”  Sure it does, it relaxes you because you are addicted to nicotine and you were going into withdrawal.  Having a cigarette is a lot like the alcoholic (yes, I’m one of those too 30 years sober now) who has a drink to cure a hangover.  There isn’t any difference.  There isn’t one excuse (there are no reasons) you can give me for smoking that I cannot destroy in a second.

I have COPD, I lost my father to Chronic Bronchitis and a wife to lung cancer.  I know first hand what smoking does and it isn’t as though you are only hurting yourself.  Smoking not only will kill you it is killing those around you, your friends, your loved ones, your kids, even your pets.  All of them will suffer because of your selfish desire to satisfy a craving.  I smoked up to four packs a day for 37 years and quit.  It took a lot of tries but with the help of nicotine gum I quit in 1991.  If   I could do it you can, too.  I’m not tolerant like a lot of smoking cessation counselors are, I won’t accept the BS that you can’t quit.  You can!  You are just to much of a wimp to experience some temporary discomfort.

Get some guts, sure it’s hard to quit smoking but to give up by saying, “I can’t quit.”  BS!  Do you remember the story about the man who was caught alone in the wilderness with his arm pinned by some debris?  He cut off his own arm to avoid death and walked a great distance to get medical attention.  That’s experiencing real discomfort and showing a will to live.  Allowing yourself to die because of a simple “craving” is wimpish, gutless and suicidal.

If you don’t like my harsh comments that’s too damn bad.  I cannot sympathize with anyone who has the power to save their life and the lives around them but refuses to do so because its not “comfortable.”  Shame of you!

Oh yeah…one more thing.  Don’t count on getting a lung transplant to solve your problem.  There’s a long line ahead of you waiting for a new lung or lungs and they won’t all get them.  The best way to solve the organ shortage is to take care of yourself so you never need one.

Please view our brand new video “Thank You From the Bottom of my Donor’s heart” on You
Tube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifyRsh4qKF4  This video was produced to promote organ donation so it is free and no permission is needed for it’s use.

Also…there  is more information on this blog site about other donation/transplantation issues.

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.

Please  comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.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.

Alcohol and Drugs — Cunning, Mysterious, Deadly


They kill your organs slowly and painfully.  They make your organs useless to you and for transplant.  Up to 60 people could benefit from one organ & tissue donor.  But when alcohol and/or drugs (including cigarette poisons) destroy your organs, they also destory the hopes and often the lives of many people who desperately need them.  

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Readers of this blog have shown an extreme interest in the effect of alcohol and drugs on human organs.  For that reason I offer my third and most comprehensive post on the subject.  While a recovering alcholic I am not anti drinking, just opposed to the destructive use of alcohol.  I have received many emails from readers who want to know if they are alcoholics.  I cannot answer those questions, only an expert in the field can determine if you have a problem.  Throughout this blog you will find several on-line resources for your convenience.

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Substance abuse is the nation’s top health problem, causing more deaths, illness and disabilities than any other preventable health problem today, according to a major report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (www.samhsa.gov)  

The SAMHSA report indicates that, “Of the more than 2 million deaths each year in the United States, about one in four is due to abuse of alcohol, tobacco or illicit drugs,” the report says. “The economic cost of the abuse is estimated at more than $414 billion a year.”  That means a half million people are probably taken out of the organ donor pool every year.  If even 5 percent of the half million could provide healthy organs, 25,000 new organ donors could be added to the list. 

 

The 2006 survey reveals that an estimated 22.6 million persons (9.2 percent of the population ages 12 and older) may have had either substance abuse or dependency problems in the past year.  Of these, 3.2 million were dependent on or abused both alcohol and illicit drugs; 3.8 million were dependent on or abused illicit drugs but not alcohol; and 15.6 million were dependent on or abused alcohol but not illicit drugs.

 

One of the most disturbing effects of alcohol abuse in particular is that it can result in fetal alcohol syndrome, permanently scarring children and can range from increased aggressiveness to a lifetime of brain damage.   http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Real-World-Health-Effects-Of-Drug-Abuse—Overview&id=486086

 

Finally, alcoholism and withdrawal from it can be deadly.  According to WikiPedia 

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delirium_tremens) five percent of acute alcohol withdrawal cases progress to delirium tremens.  Unlike the withdrawal syndrome associated with opiate addiction (generally), delirium tremens (and alcohol withdrawal in general) can be fatal. Mortality can be up to 35% if untreated; if treated early, death rates range from 5-15%.

 

If you want more comprehensive information visit the following sites.  The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) http://www.drugabuse.gov/NIDAHome.html, The Partnership for a Drug Free America (www.drugfree.org/) or your local treatment center.

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If you are a parent and concerned about your children, some great resources are; Parents, the Anti Drug http://www.theantidrug.com/drug_info/, or the Office of National Drug Control Policy, http://www.mediacampaign.org/   

 

 

The “Smoking” Gun


The Airbus A380-800, is the biggest airplane in the sky.  It can carry 555 people, maybe more depending on how the seats are configured.  What would you think — how would you react if two of these monstrous planes crashed every day for evermore?  I imagine the public outrage would be monumental.  “But wait,” as the commercial says, “There’s more.”  What if these disasters were totally preventable?  What if the planes were crashing because of a faulty switch that everyone knew about but ignored — and the planes just kept on crashing killing 438,000 Americans a year — year after year.  Would there be outrage?  Would congress act?  Would there be demonstrations in the streets?  Count on it! 

Far-fetched as it may seem the equivalent of two fully loaded Airbus A390-800’s are crashing every day. 438,000, that’s the number of Americans who die as a result of cigarette smoke each year.  And — these deaths are almost totally preventable, like fixing the switches on the airplanes.  This disgraceful situation is a national tragedy, a crisis that cannot be allowed to continue. 

I’m writing this because there is a clear and present danger to every one of us, even the unborn and those not yet conceived.  There is also a direct relationship between smoking and organ transplantation.  Simply put, if fewer people smoked, the need for organs and tissue would be greatly diminished and there would probably be a corresponding increase in the availability of tissue and organs.  Wow! 

Cigarettes are like bullets only far more deadly.  Bullets generally harm or kill only the people they strike.  Cigarettes not only affect anyone who inhales the smoke, they kill you slowly and painfully. I started smoking in 1954 at the age of 15.  There were no warnings then and almost everyone smoked.  Cigarette advertising even alluded to the beneficial health effects of smoking, “XXX brand cigarettes relieve scratchy throat…etc. “ 

I’ve seen the effects of smoking up close and personal.  My father died of emphysema and I lost a wife to lung cancer.  Both were smokers.  Now I am suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).  COPD is progressive and cannot be cured.  Four months ago I had a heart transplant, probably necessitated in part because of 37 years of smoking three or more packs a day.  My heart is working exceptionally well but my lungs are in a weakened condition.  Even though I quite smoking 18 years ago the effects may slowly be killing me.  But — had I not quit I would probably have died long ago.

Smoking affects every part of you.  According to “The Scoop on Smoking” (http://thescooponsmoking.org/), smoking has a negative effect on the following: Respiratory system (lungs), Skeletal system (bones), Muscular system (muscles, joints), Circulatory system (heart, arteries), Urinary system (kidneys, bladder), Digestive system (stomach, intestines) Nervous system (brain, nerves), Endocrine system (thyroid, hormones), Female reproductive system (uterus, ovaries), Male reproductive system (penis, testes), Immune system (t-cells, anti-bodies), Skin, The senses (eyes, ears, nose, mouth, throat) and mental health. 

While the number of deaths caused by cigarette smoke is appalling, the cost in dollars is also extremely disturbing.  Smoking costs taxpayers nearly $200 billion a year in health-care alone.  Can you imagine the good that would come from properly spending that $200 billion on medical research and education? 

I have but three messages.  1) I know it is hard to quit, it took a dozen tries for me to do so but you can do it!.  You owe it to yourself, your family and all the people affected by your second hand smoke.  2) Don’t start, it’s not cool and it likely will kill  you and maybe some of your family and friends.  3) Spread the word.  Out of love, encourage and help friends and loved ones to quit so none of them are in my position and feel compelled to write a blog on how smoking may be killing them.

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 bob@baronson.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 bob@baronson.org 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.