I am an alcoholic, and would first like to confirm to all reading this that people like me suffer from a very misunderstood disease. I have had a very blessed life, but I found comfort and release from even trivial problems by self-medicating with alcohol. Alcoholics come from all religions, cultures and tax brackets, and perhaps the most common ailment resulting from alcohol abuse is Cirrhosis.
My Cirrhosis Diagnosis:
When I tell people that I was diagnosed with advanced-stage Cirrhosis at 30 years old, they exhibit one of two reactions: the first being shock and disbelief followed by the question ‘how?’ The second response is to ask what exactly is Cirrhosis.
Cirrhosis is a late stage of scarring of the liver caused by many forms of liver diseases and conditions, such as hepatitis and, in my case, chronic alcohol abuse. The overall composite score the health of your liver is called the ‘MELD’ score. It is a combination of over 25 factors from the ability to balance minerals such as potassium, sodium and iron naturally to the the number of white to red blood cells to the presence of ammonia in your system. A healthy adult generally has a MELD score around 6. At my worst, I had a score of 41. This score was given while I was in a medically induced coma in the hospital. This was not from alcohol poisoning. I actually hadn’t had a drink in a month. It was due to a spike in ammonia which causes brain function to almost cease. After ten days of tubes running through me filtering every drop of liquid in my body, I was released from the hospital.
From Fine Dining to Hospitalization:
I studied hospitality management at the University of North Texas and was employed for years as a Sommelier (wine professional) in fine dining environments. I over-immersed myself in my work and became obsessed with alcohol in all its forms. I had access to the the rarest of the rare wines, spirits and other potables from the world over.
I dismissed symptoms such as loss of appetite, insomnia and irritability, thinking they were a side effect of the stress of the job. I began to wake up nauseous and sometimes in a cold sweat. Within a month, I found myself shaking while carrying a tray of drinks to a table. I nearly dropped the tray of $14 martinis in the middle of the restaurant on a busy Saturday night. I eagerly awaited finishing my checkouts and closing responsibilities each night so I could race to the bar before last call. I’d order a double shot of whisky and follow it with the most potent beer I could find. Only at that point did I start to feel comfortable.
Eventually, a shot before work became a necessity to quell the tremors caused by the hypertension of withdraws. I became less concerned about quality, and more with quantity. I carried enough breath mints to fill my front pocket. I was always well liked and many times my managers showed me mercy over and over until they finally had no choice but to let me go.
Nothing had changed regarding my habits. I would have a two-shot flask on me in case a shift ran long. It wasn’t to catch a buzz. At this point, it was to not shake or have a panic attack. I once had a seizure in the middle of a very busy shift because I opted to not drink that morning. In the weeks following, I couldn’t sleep, was lucky if I had the appetite to eat once a day and my usual loving, playful spirit was dulled to a quiet, terrified persona.
One night, while cooking dinner with my roommate and another friend, I heard a knock at the door. In walked my friends from my hometown, Denton, TX. My best friend said, ‘Ian, man, you look like shit. Your roommate is worried and I see why just looking at you. You’ve been saying you want to go spend some time in Louisiana with your mom, so here’s a ticket for tomorrow. She’s got a room made up. Don’t worry about the money. I talked to your dad and brother and they’ll be by to pack your stuff up and store it back in Denton. Pack a bag and let’s roll man or stay here if you want. We will love you either way but your light isn’t shining! Quit the job. You’ve always been one of the best, and that sort of talent is something you will always have.” I packed a bag and left within a half an hour.
During Detox I went into a COMA:
I detoxed for two weeks and was feeling semi-normal for another week or so when I got dizzy in the car one day. I forgot where I was. Everything was foggy like a dream. Three days later I awoke from a coma to sets of shocked eyes. I was not expected to come out of it. They asked my mom if she wanted me resuscitated if I flatlined. There was a lot of head shaking and ‘don’t get your hopes up’ stares.
I went back in and out of the coma a few times, and two months later my blood had been drained and refilled twice. I had become well known in the hospital. I would walk in for an appointment and would get a ‘Hi, Ian’ from nurses and doctors I couldn’t recall meeting, I was so out of it at the time of introduction.
Six months later, Food & Prayer had played their part:
Upon my last visit to my doctor, six months after the whole ordeal began, my MELD score was down to 12. I was considered well enough that I was no longer eligible for the national transplant list, which is a very good thing.
Two things led me to this point. First of these was God’s grace and endless prayer. Beyond that, it was my appropriate use of foods. I feel strongly that anyone with the will to press forward can begin to heal themselves through a very simple diet. Through abstaining from alcohol and starting a liver detoxing diet, I am perhaps more fit than most of my old friends.
I have found my knowledge of food and the culinary arts more useful than ever. Today I am about to publish a book on the renal diet with contributions from RNs, RDs and chefs and line cooks from 4-star restaurants from NYC to NOLA.
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Read more from Ian:
If you are struggling, remember that none of us are perfect. I truly hope that sharing some of the darkest parts of me may be an inspiration for those who suspect they may have an addiction and to those that do not, take care of yourself always. Anyone can get blindsided, and so few come back from such a hard fall as mine.
Want to learn more about how to beat cirrhosis and fatty liver? Read Dr. Hyman’s Eat Fat, Get Thin Cookbook
Note: PLEASE consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medications. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.