He knew the only way to save his life was to stop drinking, but he just couldn’t stop no matter how hard he tried.
His name was Bobby. He wasn’t my best friend; He was rather everyone’s best friend. Everyone enjoyed their company, sense of humor, and incessant teasing. I don’t remember anyone who didn’t like Bobby. He was one of those people you felt right at home with.
Everyone loved Bobby.
I don’t remember seeing Bobby drunk, but I never saw him sober either. You may know what I mean: he could drink all day and you could never tell by the way he looked, acted, or spoke. I suppose it was because he was always drinking. Nobody could tell the difference.
It was more likely that he had developed such a tolerance to alcohol and that it no longer had any external effects on his behavior.
“Stop it or you will die”
On his way to work that morning, he drove into one of his friends’ backyard, slammed the trunk, got his fifth whiskey, and took a long swig straight from the bottle. He would get back in the car and drive to work. Every morning.
Then he could still work. When he began to have health problems, the doctor immediately diagnosed cirrhosis, a type of alcoholic liver disease. They told him to stop drinking or he would die.
Jaundice and still drinking
God knows he tried to stop. He kept trying to work the 12-step program and saw the inside of more than one alcohol treatment center. After 28 days without alcohol, a balanced diet, and megadoses of vitamins, Bobby would feel much better. He would celebrate by having a drink – as soon as he was released.
The medical hospitals came later. When jaundice set in, he was forced to have a full blood transfusion, which helped for a while. Six weeks later, Bobby would be back and need another transfusion.
He swore he didn’t drink
After his second hospital trip and second transfusion, Bobby came to me looking for work. He had been laid off at least once from every dealership and mobile home in town and had few options. Because he swore he wouldn’t drink – and because he was a great salesperson with his great personality – I got a job in our sales department. He seemed to be doing much better.
A few weeks later I was at work one morning before everyone else. I was up in the break room fixing a pot of coffee and looked out the window to see Bobby pull into the back alley parking lot. He got out of the car, popped the trunk, got his bottle, and turned it on.
Nothing had changed. He was just trying to hide it now, even from his oldest friends. It is painful to see someone you care about keep drinking when they know they are killing them.
Farewell to a friend
The last time I saw Bobby he was back in the hospital. His skin was completely yellow and his eyes had sunken into his head. “Bobby, you have to hurry up and get out of this place, I want to go fishing!” I told my friend about more than 30 years. Then I put my hand on his tired head and told him that I loved him and that God loved him too. I knew I was saying goodbye.
As I left the room, I called all of his old friends, “If you want to see Bobby again, you’d better go to the hospital. Quick.” Most of them got there on time.
They buried him four days later. He was in his 40s. One of the survivors was a four-year-old daughter.
Too much alcohol for too long
Bobby had had too much alcohol for far too long for his liver to stay healthy. An estimated 25,000 people die each year from complications from alcoholic liver disease.
Alcohol abuse can cause a condition called “fatty liver” or another condition called “alcoholic hepatitis” – both can be treated, but only if alcohol use is stopped. If drinking continues, these conditions cause cirrhosis of the liver.
Hardening of the liver
What happens is that the liver starts to harden. Scar tissue develops in the body’s largest internal organ, which hinders its ability to filter blood. When the scar tissue develops to a certain point, the liver can no longer do its job.
The problem is, the liver performs more than 1,500 functions for the body, including more than 300 functions that are believed to be vital. When the liver stops working, all kinds of health problems develop quickly and death can be quick.
Functions of a Healthy Liver
The liver detoxifies toxins, both those produced by the body and those externally. filters bacteria from the blood; regulates lipid metabolism; stores and produces vitamins; regulates and produces cholesterol and fats; synthesizes proteins; maintains the body’s water and salt balance; secretes bile for digestion of fat; stores energy (in the form of glycogen) helps regulate the entire body metabolism; converts the highly toxic ammonia (produced by physical activity and the metabolism of proteins) into urea, which is excreted in the urine; produces lipoproteins for fat and cholesterol transport; and metabolizes alcohol.
If the liver stops doing any of these or many other jobs, it can be fatal.