And So It Goes…


This Part IV of this series.  If you have not read Parts I, II, or III, please click those links and take time to read them as well.

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The M Factor

The circumstances had dictated that I alone must change my life, but I did have some unexpected help.  On the day the walls caved in, I received a text message from, M, the girlfriend of a friend of mine.  M (not her real name), me sent a text message to say goodbye.   She and my friend had broken up and she assumed the breakup would estrange us from one-another.  M also knew I wanted to quit drinking.  As she exited my life via text, she asked how I was doing with it.  I replied by telling her what had transpired earlier that day, and a cheerleader was born.

Over the next several days, M called me, emailed me, and texted me to stay connected.  During the first few days of this transition she stood behind me, in front of me, and beside me.  Mostly, she helped keep me aware of the task at hand.  She was an unexpected angel on my shoulder, and I will be forever grateful for her hand in this. 

Unique Vantage Point

I make a point of warning all weight loss clients to be cautious of expecting any degree of success.  The CDC defines successful weight loss as having lost 30 pounds or more, and keeping it off for more than one year.  Even by that liberal definition, the success rate among sincere weight loss attempts I have been involved with is under 10%.  The notion of weight loss is easier to conjure, than tangible results are to achieve.

People who attempt weight loss often seek structure to aid them.  Systems such as Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, or NutriSystem are sought.  Though these may have utility, at the end of the day it is not those means which enable successful weight loss.  I argue that successful weight loss is primarily the result of the level of commitment exerted by the individual – that success is the result of the commitment, not the methods.  Too often we praise these systems for someone’s success more than the commitment an individual poured into reaching the goal.

When I chose to quit drinking many of my friends suggested I attend AA meetings or join a 12-step program to help me stay on track.  Similarly, the success rate of AA is relative to the success rate of many weight loss systems.  Though many people do succeed with the help of AA and similar organizations, the much larger majority fail.  My experience in weight loss gave me a unique vantage point where I could see the parallel between losing weight and stopping drinking.  I knew this change had to come from within.  This would not be about the system.  This would be about my commitment.   

Also, I have never been able to accept two primary tenets that AA and similar programs teach:

–          That alcoholism is a disease

–          That the term “addict” is a lifetime assignment as it apllies to alcohol. 

If addict is a synonym for decision maker, then color me an addict.  Once you’re a decision maker, you’ll always be a decision maker – that I can accept.  Every drink I ever chose to take, I chose to take.  Cancer is a disease.  Drinking is a choice.    

Also, such programs teach addiction will be with one for a lifetime.  In my opinion that ideal only teaches weakness, and offers a built in excuse to relapse.  There is no room for relapse here and weakness is not an option – my potential is at stake.

Monster. Energy. Drink.

When I stopped drinking, my fear of not sleeping was the monster whose shadow still frightened me.  From May of 2000 until recently, I had come to believe that fair sleep would only come my way with a liquid head start.  My first night without alcohol I slept just over an hour.  Still, my business was at stake so the next day I nailed a 12-hour workday on just 1 hour of sleep and I survived.  The next night I enjoyed nearly 2 hours or so of broken sleep and nailed another workday, as well as survived my taxing bicycle commute. 

By day 4 of this pattern I was beyond exhausted and knew I needed a better plan.  I decided I would begin to eat dinner late – just before crawling into bed.  Prior to eating I would allow myself 2 over the counter sleep aids, and let my late dinner work them into my blood stream quickly.  The first night, that resulted in 5 hours of fair sleep.  I woke up feeling refreshed and positive.  Five hours of fair sleep is enough.  A new protocol was born. 

No, it’s not perfect.  Yes, I have substituted one fix for another.  I will hope in time I will successfully wean myself from the sleep aids.  If I never do, honestly, I’m good with it.  I have energy these days – real energy.  I have enthusiasm, optimism, and bravery in the face of bad circumstances.  I am alive.  Over the counter sleeping pills notwithstanding, I feel like me for the first time in over a year.

Where It Fits In

But I didn’t really stop drinking — I stopped drinking myself to sleep.  Since that Friday morning I hit critical mass, I have enjoyed and appreciated a glass of wine here, a beer there, and even a smidge of Ouzo while traveling in Greece – without feeling the need to pile on and load up.  I have not had multiple drinks, or even consecutive days of drinking since I crawled out of bed.  I have been tested to be sure, but not tempted.  Life is still life, relationships are still messy, and finances are still evil.  None of these though, have been reason for me to drink.   This all began with, and had everything to do with sleep.  People have challenged me on this and suggested those social drinks will set me on a dark course.  Those people, I suspect, would find fiendish pleasure in seeing me fail.  If addict is a synonym for decision maker, then color me an addict.  Be well.  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from the Candy Skins — one of my all-time favorite covers of a classic song.  Enjoy…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdfFVBMXJHE&ob=av2e

17 responses

  1. Roy, you know I always just want the best for you… I am hoping that is what happens & I hope writing here has helped you work thru this even more. I might say this & sorry of it pisses you off, ;-), but the friends that say & your comment here: People have challenged me on this and suggested those social drinks will set me on a dark course. Those people, I suspect, would find fiendish pleasure in seeing me fail. ….. I say maybe some of them just really care about you & that is their true feelings…. it is the norm out there – many that do what you are doing eventually fall back so maybe they just care. We all care! 🙂

  2. Thank you Jody, for your good thoughts and intentions — always appreciated. I wrote that statement because there are more than a few people I know who have made it clear they want me to fail — because they have loved ones who have relapsed, and as they say, misery loves company. There are truly people in this wolrd that, despite that they are friends, want us to fail…

  3. I watched my mom’s liver fail her and, by some miracle of God and the selfless act of a stranger, she received a transplant that saved her life. Not sleeping has to feel like a living hell…I honestly can’t imagine what that’s like. But I can tell you from watching my mom that you never want to go through cirrhosis. Nor do you ever want everyone who loves to watch you ruin yourself. Because it is a pain that is intolerable. Keep that in mind when faced with the decisions you must make. Great essays. My mom is doing better than ever and I feel so blessed to have her in my family’s (especially my kids’) life!

  4. Thank you Heidi. It’s important for me to read things like this — to have that constant reminder. I had a physical not long after I quit the bedtime drinking. Liver is good. All is good. I guess all the good eating and rigorous exercise did help offset things more than a little. Still, I have dodged a bullet thus far and am enjoying the confidence of a healthier path.

    I can’t imagine watching your mom go through that. Again, thanks for the reminder that others need me….

  5. During a dark time in my life, a good friend was there and she was that great person that helped me through it. After I thought it would be nice if there was some kind of great people business who would step in when others needed that extra support to get to the light.

    I believe it has been need one, be one, teach one at this point 🙂

    There may be one thing more rare than failures, and that is the person that feels they can heal themselves without help. Just don’t be either of those, OK?

  6. PGP…PGP…PGP!!! Just kidding; hang in there Roy – as always appreciate your articulate thoughts on both fitness and life. I know you’ll continue to flourish despite this bump in the road…thank goodness the Holly Inn isn’t still in business.

  7. Roy, sounds like you’ve come a long way from those days of leaning on 44-ounce Big Gulp mixers for sleep aids. Regardless your means of getting sleep and energy where you need it and getting back to feeling like yourself again, all will be well as you well know that success is the result of the commitment, not the methods (your words).

  8. Ah, working the many aspects of life alone is the hardest part. I’m glad M got a hold on you and that you allowed M too. This is a really moving post. I’m truly glad you’re finding your commitment and strengthening your own bonds with yourself. That weight loss system, the methods, you’re absolutely riiiiiight. (< – I'm guilty of this.) It never works for long, unless one keeps going and going and going standing alone with dignity and diligence.

    I have faith in you and your brand new track record. You aren't a statistic and wouldn't allow yourself to become one.

    You're a brilliant man. Gutsy and Golden.

    ROCK FOREVER!

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