Let me say at the outset, that I’m basically a very private person. I have 37 years of recovery experience that has taught me to share my feelings, and I do so regularly. For the last number of years, however, I’ve been dealing with some significant health issues, and aside from my immediate support group, I rarely share what’s been going on with me. I’m gradually coming to terms with the need to get more support from my recovering friends.

Let me give you a little history. About six years ago after a routine physical, my doctor (who also happens to be a close friend of mine in recovery) noticed that my lab work showed several anomalies. After more testing, he told me that my kidney functions were showing a significant decline. I needed to see a nephrologist immediately. This was the beginning of my journey. I went to a nephrologist who did more tests, including a biopsy of my kidneys. That procedure normally takes a few minutes, but my procedure took over two hours due to scar tissue on my kidneys. At this point I was starting to get concerned.

I anxiously awaited my diagnosis, but the doctor kept sending it to different labs because she felt that the diagnosis was incorrect. She explained that the diagnosis kept coming back as a disease called FSGS which is usually only found in African Americans and drug addicts. It was at this point I reminded the doctor that I had a major history of drug addiction. It all made sense. This was more “wreckage from my past.”

I made major changes in my diet over the next five years, but my kidney functions declined to the point where I needed to look into a transplant or start dialysis. I started attending all the transplant seminars and was placed on the transplant list. I was told that I was a good candidate. At this time, my dermatologist happened to find a mole that was suspect, and after a biopsy, confirmed that I had a malignant melanoma. I had surgery a few days later, removing the melanoma and my sentinel lymph glands, which came back negative for the spread of the cancer. This was great news!

A few weeks later, I got a call from the transplant team at Cleveland Clinic: because of my cancer diagnosis, I had to be removed from the transplant list for at least five years. I needed to start dialysis right away.

My kidneys were only functioning at 6% capacity at this time, and I felt absolutely terrible every day, although when people asked me how I was doing, I’d respond, Fine! I always try to keep a good attitude and I rarely complained. However, I knew that I wasn’t being honest.

I was referred to a private dialysis center where the two nurses’ names were Grace and Mercy. I took that as a sign from above, because I could use a little Grace and Mercy in my life at this point. I had heard from some dear friends in recovery that dialysis was a terrible procedure and to put it off as long as I could (which is what I did). However, once I started dialysis, I felt much better! The toxins were being removed, and I lost over twelve pounds of fluid in the first three sessions. The bottom line? I now go for dialysis treatment three times a week, which takes four hours per session. It gives me time to catch up on work, read a book or watch a video. It’s not as bad as I was told, but it’s no panacea either.

I’ve decided to host a brand new video meeting on In The Rooms called Illness in Recovery. This isn’t a 12-Step meeting, but a place where people dealing with health challenges can find support. A place where we can share things that we wouldn’t normally share in a meeting.  Illness in Recovery will be on Monday nights at 8 p.m. EST. If you need support, I hope to see you there. Be sure to tell any of your friends that are struggling with health issues about this meeting!

20 Comments

  1. I am so glad I received this email. I haven’t been online in the rooms and had to step back away from University. I was sick all the time then I had issues with my breathing. This past Halloween I made 16 years clean and sober. I made it through Hep C early because I let my doctors know of my past drug abuse. So, I found out I have PAH. Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension. I am on oxygen 24/7 and these trial medications that make you hurt every where. My body is adjusting slowly. If this medication doesn’t work I’ll be on a waiting list for a lung transplant. So, I felt can’t like I was the only one. I got this because of my past drug use. I’m so glad I received this email. Thank you for sharing.

    • Been hearing your name around the rooms for years. You are considered, one of the best, among the good guys. Prayers for you Bro.

  2. Thank you, and you are such an inspiration to me. Much love and gratitude for your sharing with us

  3. Great idea to have a meeting like this. I look forward to attending. There are a lot of feelings and fears associated with illness. In my experience, getting sober was a lot easier than dealing with my debilitating illness that affects every system. I was angry and resentful for many years. Every New Year’s, my goal is acceptance but progress has been scant. Glad you are starting this, Kenny.

  4. Kenny, thank you for your share. My goodness how WE can suffer in silence. I know for sure the “fine” has come out of my mouth so many times. Thank you for starting this group. I will try to get to at least to the last half. I have a f2f mtg, ends at 8. I so need this group myself. I have heart and a variety of medical issues that can complicate my journey. Not all can understand, there is a difference between sympathy and empathy. I like the idea of being around like-minded ppl striving for odaat. What a blessing.

  5. Kenny, Thank you for sharing this. I too face physical illness challenges. I really appreciate you starting a forum to share about it. It does indeed affect my recovery. May you be well. May you be happy.

  6. Thank you for sharing your story. This is a God thing for me because I too am dealing with health issues that are hard to understand or swallow and it all comes back to, as you said, believing it must be “wreckage from my past”. I have a hard time wanting to share about it. I wish you well! I have a friend who is now on dialysis after an allergic reaction to an antibiotic given to her while vacationing in Paris! She shares her journey so I do hear how not fun it is. On another note, I head metastatic melanoma myself and was on a tumor cell vaccine program for 8 years before I got pregnant. And sober. Life is a journey. Hugs and blessings to you; I look forward to this new meeting!

  7. Thank you for telling your medical story and starting the meeting. I have chemo on Monday, but I hope to get to join you.

  8. Donna wolfe Reply

    You are an inspiration. Sharing what’s inside always is the gold. The struggles are real. Sharing it connects us to you and me. Connection. You are not alone and either am I . Thank you Kenny. I know you have a blessed support team and you have the best care, and you use your time wisely. Keep going your doing great. Prayers to you.

  9. Susan Barbini Reply

    Bless you for sharing, this will help so many people 💟I am sharing this with a friend sending light 🙏
    Susan

  10. Sorry to hear of your medical issues. Best I can say is hang in there 1 day at a time.
    Like many our age, I think I may be a few years older than you. So let me tell you a story of my last few years of health issues, briefly. I have 35+ years of recovery and almost 72 years of age. I have Sleep Aonea. About 5 years ago I had 20 inches of my colon removed and was diagnosed with Diabetes. I have had my Gall Bladder removed last year. I have MRSA on top of that so am prone to infections. I have had Cataract surgery in both eyes, torn ligaments in my left knee, torn rotator cuff in my right shoulder, I constantly bruise and my skin is like paper and tears easily mostly due to my Diabetes. I have, like many in my profession, Hyper Tension, arthritis in my hips and hands. I have had 4 back surgeries, 3 in recivery. Another friend and I joke about what’s gonna fail next.
    I check my blood and blood pressure daily. Take my meds for HTN, Asthma (forgot to mention that since I have had it since a kid). I control my Asthma with medication twice daily, walk at least 1 mile every morning and strictly control my diet to control my Diabetes (3 years running with A1C staying around 5.5 without any meducation). I stretch and take an anti inflammatory for my Arthritus. I use my CPAP every night for sleep (not a sexy look). I experience bouts of depression and am ADHD (of course)!
    Yet, I do my own gardening including cutting bushes and trees, cutting hedges and lawn, etc. I still work 30+ hours per week. But thanks to having had Cataract surgery I no longer wear glasses except on the computer (I had been wearing glasses since elementary school ). There are many things I can do and quite a number that I can’t (no surfing allowed).
    I take hope from others, like Kenny. I continue to help others (I work with Severely Mentally Ill and Addicted, often homeless) and carry the message of recovery. I don’t take drugs or alcohol, and if I have to, NOT to get high. I tell way too many people way too much of how I am doing and of my experiences. Still, all in all, 72 years old, 35 years in recovery, living on Maui, and having truly blessed relations with my family. Not too bad for an old Addict.

  11. Hi Ken
    Thank you so much for sharing this. I, too, have been facing significant health challenges that are said to be attributed to my past. Ten years ago I suffered a stroke, and. then was diagnosed with early Parkinson’s disease (meth) and prinzmetal angina. I also discovered that I had blown out approximately 30% of my heart (meth). Several years ago, I was diagnosed with COPD stage II and last summer with an aneurysm in my ascending aorta. Each day continues to be a gift. I, like you, don’t share with many my health issues. I will check out your group. Again, my thanks!!

  12. Hey Kenny, I know you through a mutual high school and program friend yours as well as via Facebook. I just want to say, I read your revelation and was heart broken to learn of your illness as it is affecting your life of sobriety. It sounds like the kidney transplant is off the table. I am sending prayers and healthful thoughts. Peace & love. Namaste.

  13. I have lived with a chronic illness since the 1980s – an unnamed autoimmune disease that is extremely unpredictable on a day to day basis. Three years ago it was given a name – mixed connective tissue disorder – and I am one out of 200,000 in the US who have it. It mimics lupus, Hashimoto’s, Menier’s Disease, and I am at constant risk of complications. Until 2 years ago I led a fairly ordinary life – work, socializing, meetings, travel, family and friends. Two years ago life got a bit haywire, my medications stopped being effective, and my quality of life began to decline.

    I feel I am on the other side of the decline now, putting things back in and finding joy in the small things. Yet, as I grow older, my body does not snap back, and the frustration is tremendous. Having a group like this is a wonderful way to access shared experiences and receive support from others.

    Thank you for getting it going.

  14. Hello from London, England! Many thanks for starting this up and sharing with us. I believe it will be 2am over here and as I suffer from many different things including chronic fatigue syndrome I may find it hard to stay awake! But I will set my alarm and meet you there, God willing. PS I have had kidney pain for years but never got any answer from my GP. Now I can ask if I have caused damage during my active addiction. Bless youxx

  15. Thank you for your sharing your health concerns and for starting a new support group for those specific issues. I am glad alcoholics with other health issues have a forum in which to share. Stay blessed, and God Speed.

  16. im new to to this group and in the rooms. Im not new to recovery. Hindsight is a great thing. I cam into recovery in 1989 at the age of 34. I had 15 years . Ten frank for two. another eight years. then drank another three years.the patter, I would not accept I had physical illnesses. caused through lifestyle I now have COPD had breast cancer and drank on that three ears ago.i have have 16 months .
    Iam so very grateful that I have found this group and I can actually hear that this stuff does happen. I was told to pray and and not be drama quuer. i WILL DEFINITELY LOG IN. iM UK BUT i WILL BE THERE

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