Quitting Drinking – It’s Not As Hard As You Think

The following article is a contribution of my good friend, who survived alcoholism. I am certain that a lot of people, who struggle with this topic will benefit from his experience and thoughts. Here it is:

There are two types of people in this world: those who can drink in moderation and those who cannot. You know very well which group you fall into. Even an alcoholic in the deepest stages of denial knows somewhere in his or her heart that they have a problem. If you fall into this latter group, then this article is for you.

Make no mistake: I am not against alcohol. I think it’s one of the greatest inventions of humankind. Just imagine how bland our parties would have been for the last 100,000 years or so without a bit of grog to loosen things up. However, as long as there has been alcohol, there have always been a few people who cannot get a taste of the stuff without wanting to get absolutely plastered. Their reasoning goes something like this: “If one drink is good, then fourteen must be even better.”

I know very well what I’m talking about, because I’m one of these people. Or, to be precise, I used to be one of these people. It’s now been over eight years since I had a drink of alcohol and I can tell you two things: 1) my life is immeasurably better since I quit drinking, and 2) my social life hasn’t suffered one bit. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that it’s actually better – I find myself hanging out with better people and I don’t wake in the morning with the dreadful feeling that I made a fool of myself or caused grievous offense to someone.

I’m not going to waste too much time discussing what defines an alcoholic. As far as I’m concerned, if you find alcohol to be a problem in your life, then you should quit drinking. It’s as simple as that. Of course, if you pressed me, I’d say the most accurate definition of an alcoholic is someone who, once they start drinking, cannot stop until they either run out of money, or booze, or pass out, or wind up in jail or the hospital. In my case, I can count on one hand the number of times I had just one or two drinks and then called it quits. More often, when I started drinking, it was like I was embarking on an adventure in a foreign land – I had no idea where I’d end up. The only certainties would be that I’d wake the next day with no money in my pockets and a wicked hangover.

So, the obvious question is this: How did I quit? Rather than focus on me, let’s broaden this a little and change that to: How does someone with a drinking problem quit drinking?

First, let me reassure you: It’s not as hard as you might fear. Think of it this way: Quitting drinking simply means not doing something. Climbing Mt. Everest is doing something. It requires effort. Quitting drinking means not doing something. It requires no effort. You just don’t bend your arm at the elbow when you’ve got a glass of booze in your hand. This may sound glib, but it’s the truth.

For some people, especially those who have years of deeply ingrained drinking habits, it’s probably best to seek out the local chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous. You can find them on the internet and in phone books. Failing that, most doctors, psychiatrists and priests can direct you to the local chapter. In my case, I attended a few meetings, but I didn’t really go through the program (the 12 steps and getting a sponsor etc). To tell the truth, I wanted to forget all about alcohol, I didn’t want to quit drinking but spend the rest of my life talking about booze. But, AA has been shown to be very successful and if it helps, then by all means join your local chapter and work the steps. The point is, whatever works is what you should use. After all, anything is better than drinking if you’re an alcoholic.

In my case, I tried a different approach. I happened to live in a country where you could buy disulfiram (Antabuse) over the counter. This is a drug that you take in the morning (when you have your willpower intact). It has no conscious effect whatsoever. In fact, you will feel no physical or mental effects from the drug. But, if you take so much as one sip of alcohol, you will suffer the most unpleasant allergic reaction imaginable. It won’t kill you, but you might just wish you were dead.

I found that disulfiram was extremely useful for getting me over the first few weeks when I actively craved alcohol. The simple knowledge that you cannot drink without getting horribly sick is a very powerful motivator.

I should also point out that alcohol is a very powerful central nervous system depressant. If you’re like most alcoholics, you have probably been using alcohol to fall asleep at night. You’ve also probably been using it to calm your nerves. Once you quit drinking, you may well find yourself very wiry and shaky and you might find it very difficult to fall asleep. Unfortunately, there’s very little you can do about this except for suffer through a few sleepless nights (which is why it helps to start quitting at the start of a holiday so you don’t have to face work on no sleep). I can also recommend over the counter antihistamine sleep aids like Unisom etc. These are often enough to push you over the brink into sleep. Just don’t get hooked on them. After two weeks or so, your central nervous system will have reverted to normal and you’ll be able to get natural sleep.

The final step – and perhaps the hardest one of all – is changing your social life so that you’re not constantly bombarded with offers to drink. Stay out of bars for several months or even years until you are absolutely sure that you can go into a bar without feeling tempted to drink. And tell all your friends that you’re quitting drinking. Those who continue to try to push booze on you are not true friends and you should lose them. A true friend looks out for your welfare and does not drag you down. But, you might be pleasantly surprised that most friends readily accept the fact that you’ve quit drinking and will support your decision. And, one thing that I noticed is that that when I stopped drinking, many of my friends did too. It’s not like I was preaching about the evils of booze. Rather, they saw that I was still having fun without booze and they thought they’d give it a try, too.

In closing, if alcohol is causing problems in your life, you should definitely consider quitting. It’s never too late. Your life will be infinitely better for it. Just remember: Quitting drinking simply means not doing something. It’s not like exercise that takes real work. In fact, it’s anti-exercise: Just don’t bend your elbow when there’s a drink in your hand!

Recovering From Open-Heart Surgery

One of my friends is in pretty impressive condition but when you know what he has gone through, the condition he is in is nothing less than awe-inspiring. Here is the story:

About seven years ago, I was diagnosed with severe mitral valve regurgitation. This means that my mitral valve, the most important of the four valves in the heart, was not closing properly and a significant amount of blood was flowing backwards into the left atrium. This, in turn, forced the heart to work harder and was causing it to enlarge. If left untreated, this would have eventually led to congestive heart failure and an early death. So, basically, I had only one choice: open-heart surgery.

Luckily, my cardiologist had trained at the Mayo Clinic, the finest hospital in the United States, and he referred me to the best heart surgeon at that hospital. While many surgeons treat leaky mitral valves by replacing them with artificial valves, my surgeon used a technique whereby he fixed my native valve by carefully trimming the excess tissue and inserting a ring around the valve to prevent it from enlarging. By repairing rather than replacing the valve, my surgeon saved me from a lifetime of taking blood thinners (which pose a definite risk of stroke and other complications).

I was 39 at the time of my surgery and I was in excellent physical condition, so I was not particularly worried about whether or not I could bear the surgery. And I had an insurance policy that would cover the surgery, which cost a total of US$63,000. Needless to say, as an American, this was no trifling concern.

When I woke from the surgery in the step-down unit, I was literally a different person. You cannot have your sternum sawed down the middle and your heart stopped for 20 minutes without it having some deep effect on your being, even if you have no conscious recollection of it. I was up on my feet 24 hours after the surgery and I remember shuffling to the bathroom in my room and looking at myself. I had a strip of tape down the middle of my chest. And I felt like I had been run over by a Mack truck. But, I was alive.

I stayed in the hospital for four days and then I was released to a nearby hotel. I remember stepping out of the door of the hospital for the first time. It was fall and the cold Minnesota wind seemed to blow right through me. I know right then that I was much, much weaker than I had been when I walked into the hospital.

But, when I got home, I started my rehabilitation right away. I went for walks in the woods, going a little further and a little faster each time. I also did breathing exercises with a device that the hospital had given me.

Then, exactly one month to the day after my surgery, I climbed a small 350-meter mountain near my house that I used to climb every day before my surgery. I climbed at a snail’s pace and I stopped frequently for rests, but I made it. For me, that marked a major step in my recovery. From that point on, I stopped thinking of myself as an invalid and started to think of myself as a normal person.

Slowly I stepped up my workouts, adding swimming and biking to my usual hiking routine. While I feel that I have lost about 10% of my former aerobic capacity, most likely due to deformation of the left ventricle that occurred prior to my surgery, I don’t feel any major deficits. And I take no medicine and require no special precautions in any activities.

Since my surgery, I have climbed 4095-meter Mt Kinabalu in Borneo, and I have crossed a 4700-meter pass in the Himalayas with a heavy pack. I felt no unusual strain and I feel like I could probably get up to 6000 meters given enough time to acclimatize.

In closing, my advice to anyone considering mitral valve surgery is this: Find the very best surgeon you can. Go for a repair rather than a replacement. And, whatever you do, don’t think for a moment that open-heart surgery means the end of your active sporting life. After open-heart surgery you can run marathons, climb mountains and live life to the fullest.

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Now, what causes the increase of HDLs – the “good” cleaners of the arterial plaque caused by LDLs?

Increasing the HDLs will ensure that you have never again a problem with High Blood Cholesterol!

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Cholesterol – What you need to know! Part 2

Part 2

What is scientifically known to increases LDLs – the “Low Density Lipoproteins” that stick like glue to the arterial walls, narrowing and hardening the blood vessels?

These are the “bad guys”! You want to avoid anything that causes them to increase…

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There is a lot of talk about cholesterol and that it is either bad or good for us and so on and so forth….

As there seems to be a lot of confusion regarding cholesterol, lets summarize the most important facts about cholesterol and what you can do to get healthy and well soon.

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Obesity Pains & Solutions – Part 2

Made for Moving

Also, the majority of sedentary people do not seem to comprehend that our wonderful body is meant to move. We are physically designed to be active. We live in a highly adaptive organism (our body) that is constantly striving to change and accommodate for physical stress we place upon it.

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The majority of people with BMIs 30+ suffer from their being obese. Their pains are physical, mental and emotional.

The physical pains are obvious, they include the full range of medically proven reasons for coronary artery disease (CAD) such as high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, high fasting glucose levels as well as joint and bone pain, breathlessness, chronic exhaustion and many others.

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From Fat guy to Hot guy in 12 easy Steps!

From Fat guy to Hot guy in 12 easy Steps!

When I browse through “b4” pictures, I am amazed…How could this happen so fast? How could this be so painless? It was actually easy…Who would ever believe that losing over 72 lbs (33 kg) in 8 months could be easy…

I don`t really recognize myself anymore on these “old” pictures.
Mind you, these pictures aren`t actually so old…

Just over a year ago, I was at a wobbly 240+ pounds (110+ kg) at a height of 5.83 feet (1.78 cm). My pants size was 46 and the pants were getting tighter. My Body Mass Index (BMI) – as I found out later – indicated that I was at Obesity Level II. And I was even gaining! Continue reading

Obesity Worldwide & The New Normal

The number of people who are classified overweight to morbidly obese is increasing at an alarming rate worldwide. Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States are among the countries where almost 2 out of 3 people are overweight. And 30% of the overweight population are in the obese categories.

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