Survivor Winner's Losing Battle

August 11, 2014
Todd Herzog was just 22 when he won Survivor: China six years ago, and his family says he was on top of the world with his million-dollar winnings and newfound fame. But now, they say he's an alcoholic who drinks a half gallon of vodka every day, and has blood alcohol levels so high that doctors say he should be dead. Former Dr. Phil guests and Interventionists Debbie and Brandon help transport Todd to Los Angeles to meet with Dr. Phil. Todd, who has had multiple failed attempts at sobriety, says he wants to try to detox on his own — without a treatment center. Does he realize the severity of his condition? And, will he accept the help that Dr. Phil offers?







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ToddTodd nowShirley, Todd's momGlenn, Todd's dadChuck, Todd's stepfatherKimmi, Todd's sisterVIP Interventionists Brandon and DebbieThe amount of alcohol Todd drinks in one monthThe Doctors' Dr. Ian SmithSteve Thomason, Executive Director of The Arbor Treatment Center(866) 859-5013

Fighting for His Life

Todd's parents, Shirley and Glenn, say in the six years since winning Survivor: China, Todd has blown through his million-dollar prize money, become an alcoholic and hit rock bottom. They say he drinks at least a bottle of vodka every day, and that on several occasions, they’ve found him passed out and soaked in his own urine. With numerous visits to the E.R. and blood alcohol levels reaching as high as .582 — a level doctors say they've never seen in someone who wasn’t comatose or deceased — Todd's family fears that if something doesn’t change immediately, he'll soon be dead.

"My son drinks from the minute he wakes up until he goes to bed, and sometimes can go through two bottles in two to three hours," confides Shirley. "This is killing me. This is killing our whole family."

Fighting back tears, Glenn recalls a recent conversation he had with Todd. "He said, ‘Dad, I’m going to die,’ and I just said, ‘Todd, I will not let you die.'"

Shirley and Glenn say that as a teenager, Todd was obsessed with the reality show Survivor and began submitting audition tapes when he was 20. "When Todd found out that he was chosen for Season 15, he was just so excited," Glenn recalls. "Todd survived the 39 days because he mentally and emotionally prepared himself for it."

Shirley says when Todd returned from the show, he began to change. "I did notice that after Todd won Survivor, that he started to go to these events, and people drank at every event, and Todd began drinking," she shares, adding that he also was drinking alone.

Glenn says that about a year ago, he realized Todd's drinking had become excessive. "He was at my house, and I just heard this horrible banging noise. He had fallen all the way down the stairs," he says.

About a month after that fall, Shirley says she received a phone call that Todd had suffered a seizure. "Todd was seizing about every eight minutes. He was put into the ICU for five days. Todd’s alcohol level was .577," she recalls. She and Glenn put Todd into a 30-day rehab, but Shirley says within days of getting out, he was back at the clubs, drinking. "It is very ironic that Todd won the show Survivor — I wish that he knew how to survive in life."

"I'm really worried about Todd," his sister Kimmi says through tears. "He will die, and I don’t think it’s going to take long."

Fighting back tears, Glenn adds, "I feel like I can't save my own son."

“This is the end stage; this is when you die.”

“I’ve never talked to a guest who was closer to death than this one,” Dr. Phil says to Shirley and Glenn.

Killing Himself with Alcohol?

Prior to meeting with Dr. Phil, the Dr. Phil show sent VIP Recovery Interventionists and former show guests Debbie and Brandon to meet with Todd's family and assess the severity of the situation. But during the meeting, a surprising turn of events occurred.
 

“Body organs are shutting down, and we need to take action immediately!”


“We’re here to offer you some help.” 



Facing Dr. Phil and His Family

Todd arrives visibly and admittedly drunk. He can't stand or walk on his own, and needs to be escorted to the stage.

Todd is given a breathalyzer test to determine his blood alcohol content. "You are not even almost OK."

“Why are you doing this to yourself?” Dr. Phil asks Todd.

“I have no idea,” he says. “I hadn’t ever had a drink until I was 22.” He adds that at first, it was fun when he was drinking, but that’s no longer the case. “I feel like crap.”

“What’s going to happen to you if you keep drinking like you’re drinking?” Dr. Phil asks.

“I’m going to die,” Todd replies.

“Tell him what it’s going to do to you if you have to stand there and drop dirt on his coffin.”

Dr. Phil introduces Dr. Ian Smith, from the Emmy Award-winning show The Doctors, and asks him, "How much danger are we dealing with here?”

"When I saw the numbers of your blood alcohol concentration, I was shocked you’re still alive,” Dr. Smith tells Todd. “The volume of alcohol that you’re consuming is absolutely destroying your liver. Even though you’re talking, and you’re understanding what we’re saying, that doesn’t reflect what is happening internally. Physiologically, your body is probably 100 years old.”

Ready to Change?

Todd has said that he won't go to rehab and wants to get sober on his own. When Dr. Phil lays out the cold, hard facts, will he change his mind?

“You have to be willing to do whatever you have to do to get a grip and get yourself under control.”


Dr. Phil introduces Steve Thomason, Executive Director of The Arbor Treatment Center. “I want him, along with his nurse, to take you from here, today, to that treatment center to get you not only detoxified, but to also work on every element that you need to deal with that drives this drinking,” Dr. Phil tells Todd. “You’re going to be gone for a good, good while.”

“A good, good while is a long time to me, because I’ve got a lot of stuff going on in my life,” Todd says.

“No, you don’t,” Dr. Phil says. “You have one thing to do, and that’s to stay alive and stay healthy. There is no other priority but that one.”

“I will get myself healthy,” Todd says. “I’m glad to be here. I’m very, very proud to be here.” He agrees to go to treatment.

Update

Todd returns to the show -- see his remarkable turnaround!