Two Anniversaries

My bride and I celebrated 32 years of marriage this week. I think she gave up on trying to fix me up, so she is stuck with what she got. Kidding aside, my wife is easily the best half of us. She is “the girl who holds the world in a paper cup,” meaning she is as genuine as they come.

My wife likes to say we are friends first, when asked about our longevity. The friendship carries us through the ebbs and flows of the relationship. The other is keep a sense of humor. We often laugh at ourselves and can tease each other. Life is too short not to laugh more.

I had another anniversary this week. I passed ten years without a drink of alcohol. The cravings are far fewer and less intense, but they linger back there somewhere. My daughter asked me about my drinking habits as I made her and my wife aware of the anniversary as we traveled. It stunned them by the amount I drank, but at least I did it at home.

The key lesson I learned early in my abstinence is to say the following mantra, “I am not going to drink today.” This is a key reason recovering alcoholics know the number of days. Another piece of advice is to find a substitute – mine were green tea, fruits, fruit juices, popsicles or sorbet. The cravings will remain, you just need to drink or eat something else.

So, let’s toast with your beverage of choice (or necessity) to laughter, love and sobriety, at least for those who must abstain.

 

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Gone to seed

We have a poverty problem in the United States. Too many of our declining middle class did not rise to the next strata, falling instead, to near poverty and into poverty. Yet, we do not talk about this problem enough. We have let their ladders out of poverty, go to seed along with their environment.

Poverty should be succinctly defined, as it is often misdefined along with simplistic diagnoses. Quite simply, poverty is the lack of money. The causes are many and complex, so the solutions must be holistic.

Some like to say it is due to lack of virtue. Some like to say it is due to lack of work ethic, while others may claim it is due to drug use or alcoholism. When I work with people in poverty, I witness hard working, often pious people. I see people with a lesser propensity to do drugs than general society.

If we recognize the simple definition of poverty as lack of money, we can focus our attention on providing ladders out of poverty. We can invest in the communities that have gone to seed, both with economic and social capital. We can start with redeveloping depleted assets. The term coined with a successful program in Atlanta is ABCD – Asset Based Comminuty Development.

ABCD could focus on repairing and not closing a community school, recognizing the during and after school value it offers. Or, it could be redeveloping a gone to seed golf course or empty textile or tobacco mill. Or, it could be repurposing a mall to be a school, church, charity or governmental building. Replacing or refurbishing blighted assets makes a huge difference.

Coupled with these investments must be education and career development, or social investments. Jobs and careers are scarce in too many areas. Opportunities must be introduced and nurtured to make them sustainable. STEM education, apprenticeships, trades skills are part of an all of the above tactical strategy,

But, we must be mindful of four negative trends in areas that have gone to seed – crime, opioids, food deserts  and single families. Community policing by people living in the community is key. Targeted help with the opiod epidemic is important. Better food choices must be available as they may not have a grocery market. And, we must have holistic sex education and access to planned parenthood tools and birth control.

What we cannot have is kicking tens of millions off health care insurance. We cannot reduce an already minuscule food stamps program. We need to think about improving the minimum wage.

These are just a few ideas. But, first we need to address what people in poverty lack – money.

 

 

 

A few preventive health tips

As a former HR consultant and manager of benefit programs for a large company, I have been involved with health prevention and wellness initiatives dating back to 1994. The impact of early detection and intervention is huge for employees, their families and the company who may offer such benefits. In short, we are all train wrecks waiting to happen, so the sooner we can take stock of ourselves, the sooner we can begin some intervention and keep the train on the tracks.

I have written before about this topic, but do yourselves and family a favor and take some action to understand your health. In the US, we are the most obese country in the world and have been for some time. As we age, this obesity will cause us many problems. We are also the most medicated country in the world, which can be good and bad. The bad is we would prefer to take a pill rather than make a lifestyle change. And, note a pill can lose its veracity over time if the problem does not get better managed.

So, here are a few tips, even if you feel healthy:

  • If you do not have healthcare coverage, get it. You are one accident away from needing a “Go Fund Me” page. You may qualify for a subsidy under the ACA.
  • With this, get a primary care physician, preferably one within a larger practice, where the doctors and nurses can see you on Saturday or even Sunday, if something arises.
  • Know your numbers. Blood pressure, BMI, weight, cholesterol, etc.
  • Know your history both familial and geographic. The environment you grew up in can impact you as much as your family genes.
  • If in your 50s, get a colonoscopy – there is no better prevention test out there, as the doctor can fix some things during the test and confirm any future problems.
  • If a woman and in your 40s, or sooner if you have a history, get a mammogram. We ran a mobile mammogram program in the 1990s and tested 11,000 female employees or spouses. The tests found 11 cancers. The testers also showed women how to better do a self-exam.
  • Take your medicines all the way through. People usually stop taking medicine when they feel better
  • Walk, walk, walk more. If you don’t like exercise, walk. After dinner, short errands.
  • If you smoke, find a way to stop. Nothing good comes from smoking. And, for you young folks. it does not look cool. It looks stupid.
  • If you self-medicate with illicit drugs or alcohol, see a counselor or your doctor about stopping. I have not had a drink in eight years, as I was an accident waiting to happen.
  • Do not supersize the fast food and reduce the number of fast food meals. Some of these restaurants, actually have healthier options, so check them out.

There are many more things you could do, but if you do a few of these, you will be better off. Note, I am not a doctor, so please do not construe any of this as medical advice.

 

Happy Independence Day Early

Best wishes all on a festive, but important anniversary in our US history. A few reminders to all, including my family, friends, and me.

– Don’t drink and drive – it is a bad idea anyway, but many police officers will be doing road checks looking for overly imbibed drivers.

– Along these same lines, remember alcohol, testosterone, and fireworks do not mix very well, so please leave the lighting to those who are more coherent.

– Stay hydrated if outside. So easy to forget, so easy to fix.

– Drive safely as many of us will be on the road. If you can read my bumper stickers, you are too close, unless we are at a traffic stop. And, the trucker sticker is true – if you can’t see his/ her mirrors, he/ she cannot see you.

– Remember the sunscreen song that began and ended its many lessons with advice to lather up when you go out – this is particularly true if drinking is involved, as a drunk lobster of a person is not at his/ her best (and will be in pain tomorrow).

– Keep an adult or older teen eye on kids around water. It only takes a few seconds. If you have folks to your pool, lake, river, etc. for a swim, make sure all can as hosts can get caught up in the event.

– Remember to hug loved ones close when you leave. It only takes a few seconds and means so much to both hugger/ huggee.

Finally, let’s remember the true meaning of July 4. It celebrates our freedoms. So, remember your freedoms are as important, as my freedoms. Not more or less. That is what we fought for and our history has been one of making sure that is true for all. Happy 4th of July!!!

 

 

Just passed my seventh anniversary without a drink

People have reacted well to the post I published on my sixth anniversary of being alcohol free. Thank you. I hope it is helpful. I think the acknowledgement that I still want to have a drink resonates with some and surprises others just starting out on their quest. I think they are hoping the feeling would go away. It does subside, but it takes a day-to-day effort of saying “I am not going to drink today.”

Below is a link to the post. Please feel free to offer your comments or questions. I am just another imperfect person battling his impulses, which in my case, when I failed in the battle put me in bad place. I will shoot straight with you on what has helped me, much of what I included in the post. Best wishes on your quest. Don’t let anyone tell you it is easy.

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/six-years-alcohol-free-but-still-want-to-drink/

 

 

Aging into the speed limit

Tomorrow, I will become the lower highway speed limit in the United States. Yes, I will be a pair of 5’s. So, looking backwards from my last day as a 54-year-old, I wanted to reflect on what I appreciate most and what I have learned thus far on my journey.

What do I appreciate most?

  • Clearly my bride of 28 years tops the list. I have noted before she is easily the best half of the marriage and her sense of humor keeps me going. That and her tolerating my many faults.
  • My health of course. I am still here which is good, especially with a past health scare on my 44th birthday when I said God gave me a birthday present by scaring the crap out of me and letting me live another day. Coupling that by being alcohol free for over six years and I am in a better place than I could have been.
  • My three wonderfully, imperfect children. They are all healthy and trying to figure what life is all about. My two boys and a girl are an eclectic lot and I love it. Life is too boring if everyone “conforms” to the same way of being.
  • My mom is still with us. My dad and my parents-in-law have all gone. We miss them and I think of my dad from time to time. I used to call him my 45-year-old pitching machine as he was always willing to pitch batting practice to me. Mom’s memory has some lapses, but she still does daily crossword puzzles and bible study, teaching a class of adults every Sunday. Roseylinn, she would love your “Word of the Day.”
  • My grade school friends. I have three that still get together. I have known each dating back to elementary school. They are the best and we can laugh for hours.
  • My country. In spite of our incumbent leaders who now are beholden to special interest groups, we still have a great place to live and the freedom to do so.
  • My friends, including my blog friends. Thanks for listening, reading and commenting. I met Amaya yesterday as we live in the same state. It is so nice to put a face and voice with the someone whose opinion I value. I need to find time to meet other kindred spirits.

What have I learned along the journey?

  • My old friend Jon said “you can never have enough cups of coffee with people.” Coffee is the metaphor as his point is the getting together part. It can be tea, a drink, a walk, a drive, etc. – just invite someone along.
  • Never miss a chance to say or demonstrate you care about someone. It could be as simple as a fist bump or, better yet, a hug. Or, a kind word or remembrance of a common event or issue they are dealing with. My wife is very good at this and I call her one of life’s “Rainy Day People” using Gordon Lightfoot’s song as “rainy day people always seem to know when it is time to call.”
  • Limit exposure to negative people and influences. Trust me, we all have them and, since we are not perfect, we can be them as well. I can be one on occasion, so I have to remember to check my opinion at the door. Sometimes my passion for a topic can be off-putting, so please forgive my zeal.
  • To the point above, it takes two people to have a communication problem. There are very few instances when a communication problem is 100% one way or the other. Try to see the other’s point. I am reminding myself of this one as well.
  • Life is hard. Marriage is hard. Relationships are hard. Parenting is hard. Guess what, you get out of them what you put in. The more you practice something, the luckier you get.
  • No one is perfect. No family is without problems. Some just hide them better. Since we are all imperfect, there is something always going on or simmering on the back burner. Just when you think life is good, God shows his sense of humor.
  • Helping people in need is one of the most rewarding things you can do. The psychic income is huge and you will get out of it as much as the person you are helping.
  • I am sorry. It is my fault. I will try to remember to do better the next time. Don’t forget these words. Please reread the previous bullets. We all will screw up. Trust me. If you think you don’t ever, that it is always someone else’s fault, I can assure of this – other people know your faults better than you do.

Well, I could go on, but feel I am being redundant. I have been fortunate. I am an imperfect person and managed to live this long and remain reasonably healthy. And, one final piece of advice courtesy of Anne Murray in “Danny’s Song.” Please insert the gender of choice in the song. “Love a girl who holds the world in a paper cup. Drink it up. Love her and she’ll bring you luck. And, if she helps your mind, you better take her home. Don’t you live alone. Try to earn what lover’s own.” I got lucky on this one, but I have to remember to do my part.

Six years alcohol free, but still want to drink

I am an alcoholic. Yet, today is the sixth anniversary of my last drink. I have learned a lot about myself along the journey, but don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, stopping a habit is hard work. The thing I most learned is from an old colleague where we were waiting for our respective flights in an airport restaurant in Cincinnati, shortly after I stopped drinking. She gave me the best piece of advice courtesy of her husband who had stopped earlier that I will share with you now – I am not going to drink today.

You see, while I do not drink anymore, six years later, I still want one. The urge is still there as a faint echo at times and as a stronger urge at other times. Usually, the stronger urges occur when I do something like cook on the grill on Sunday afternoon while watching the golf tournament, football, etc. As an alcoholic, you eventually don’t screw around, so I was drinking scotch on the rocks. Many at a time. Yet, with that said, there are many people with habits off other kinds of drinks. Chris Mullen, the great NBA basketball player spoke of being a beer alcoholic. Tom Watson, the famous golfer, almost derailed his career with wine.

Two things happened that caused me to do something about my problem while I still could. My doctor told me that taking action before it was too late was a major plus in my favor. Many wait until the train wheels come of the track.The first thing is the wife of a colleague of mine, who I knew and was one of the most vivacious people you would ever meet, died in her late fifties from complications due to alcoholism. To hear the diagnosis after she passed, when no one else knew she had an issue, was staggering. I wanted to see my kids become adults and witness their many life events. I wanted to be there for my wife. I knew I had that problem.

The second thing is what I started noticing at work late in the day. You see, I was what is called a “home drunk.” I would only drink when I got home after work and on weekends. Being a big, tall guy, I could hold my liquor, so I would easily down five or six doubles a night. I mentioned the scotch on the rocks. The scotch and waters drinks diminished the amount of water used over time until it the water was no longer necessary. What I noticed late in the day at work is my body would begin craving the alcohol and I would get over-heated and red-faced. I was already on blood pressure medication in a stressful job, so I was a train wreck waiting to happen. It did not help matters that my father was an alcoholic before he quit late in life.

So, I had to stop. I started with a drug called Campril which is designed to wean you of your craving. I did that for a few weeks, but stopped that as well. The key is to substitute a new habit for the old one. If you do not, you will eventually drift back into the old one. I am now a green tea aficionado and drink a lot of fruit juices. At parties, I don’t mind ordering a nonalcoholic beer or tonic water. I don’t mind being around people who drink. Plus, you need to exercise as your sweet tooth can get out of hand due to the craving for sugar. But, the key is the lesson that my friend shared with me in the Cincinnati airport – I am not going to drink today.

It is a daily journey. The craving is still there. You just have to say, I am not going to drink today. People trying to stop drinking know the number of days they have not had a drink. This is the reason. It is a daily struggle. Over time, it becomes weeks, then months and now years of tracking the absence of alcohol use. It is hard, but it can be done. This is one reason people find places like Alcoholic Anonymous. The support group is amazingly helpful. I chose not to go that route, but that was a personal choice. The stressful job did not go away and, most importantly, I wanted to be there for my wife and children, so not going to AA was a time issue for me. If I had not stopped, I would have become a liability. Plus, it has given me a platform to talk openly with my kids about being aware of their medical history in me and my father.

A couple of other benefits of not drinking is your weight (again with the caution about the sweets) is easier to maintain. Alcohol has a lot of calories, so when you don’t drink, you can lose weight. The other is the money. Alcohol is an expensive habit. Take the time to add up what you spend per week on alcohol – the beer, wine and hard liquor. I estimated I was spending over $6,000 per year on alcohol. That can add up. Plus, the other stuff goes away and your health improves

Please feel free to share this with others who may have my problem. They should start with being truthful with themselves, their spouses and their doctors. Doctors have said when a patient tells them how much they drink, the doctor knows when the patient is understating the amount. Tell the doctor the truth. He or she cannot help you if you don’t. Do something while you can. It is hard, but if you do try to stop, remember these words – I am not going to drink today.