Friday, April 26, 2013
(My latest Addiction and Recovery column in the Times-Herald Record.)
By Bob Gaydos
Nearly seven decades ago, Marty Mann, one of the earliest members of Alcoholics Anonymous (her sponsor was AA co-founder Bill Wilson), decided she wanted to spread the message of recovery and educate the public about the disease of alcoholism. That work is still going on via her creation, the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, a voluntary health organization with a nationwide network that provides information on prevention, awareness and treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction.
Every April for 26 years, NCADD has observed Alcohol Awareness Month, with the goal of removing the stigma attached to alcoholism by educating a public still too unaware of the serious costs to individuals and society of alcoholism, as well as the fact that treatment is available and recovery possible. Of course, the process has to start with acknowledgment that alcoholism may be present.
With that in mind, I occasionally offer a list of questions designed to help individuals decide if they, or someone they know, may be an alcoholic. If that is the case, recognition of the problem may well be the first flicker of hope, rather than the beacon of doom many people consider it to be. Following are questions from the NCADD Self-Test. Be honest.
What are the Signs of Alcoholism?
1. Do you drink heavily when you are disappointed, under pressure or have had a quarrel with someone? Yes No
2. Can you handle more alcohol now than when you first started to drink? Yes No
3. Have you ever been unable to remember part of the previous evening, even though your friends say you didn’t pass out? Yes No
4. When drinking with other people, do you try to have a few extra drinks when others won’t know about it? Yes No
5. Do you sometimes feel uncomfortable if alcohol is not available? Yes No
6. Are you more in a hurry to get your first drink of the day than you used to be? Yes No
7. Do you sometimes feel a little guilty about your drinking? Yes No
8. Has a family member or close friend express concern or complained about your drinking? Yes No
9. Have you been having more memory “blackouts” recently? Yes No
10. Do you often want to continue drinking after your friends say they’ve had enough? Yes No
11. Do you usually have a reason for the occasions when you drink heavily? Yes No
12. When you’re sober, do you sometimes regret things you did or said while drinking? Yes No
13. Have you tried switching brands or drinks, or following different plans to control your drinking? Yes No
14. Have you sometimes failed to keep promises you made to yourself about controlling or cutting down on your drinking? Yes No
15. Have you ever had a DWI (driving while intoxicated) or DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol) violation, or any other legal problem related to your drinking? Yes No
16. Do you try to avoid family or close friends while you are drinking? Yes No
17. Are you having more financial, work, school, and/or family problems as a result of your drinking? Yes No
18. Has your physician ever advised you to cut down on your drinking? Yes No
19. Do you eat very little or irregularly during the periods when you are drinking? Yes No
20. Do you sometimes have the “shakes” in the morning and find that it helps to have a “little” drink, tranquilizer or medication of some kind? Yes No
21. Have you recently noticed that you can’t drink as much as you used to? Yes No
22. Do you sometimes stay drunk for several days at a time? Yes No
23. After periods of drinking do you sometimes see or hear things that aren’t there? Yes No
24. Have you ever gone to anyone for help about your drinking? Yes No
25. Do you ever feel depressed or anxious before, during or after periods of heavy drinking? Yes No
26. Have any of your blood relatives ever had a problem with alcohol? Yes No
OK, here’s how to score the test. According to the NCADD, if you answered two or more questions with a “yes,” you should consider having your drinking assessed by a professional. If you have five to eight “yes” answers, you could have a serious problem with alcohol. This test does not apply to drug use. The test and others, as well as information on substance abuse can be found on the NCADD web site: ncadd.org.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
By Bob Gaydos
Last December, in a burst of, oh I don’t know, foolhardy enthusiasm, I wrote about my decision to re-enter the world of the healthy. No more sugar, salt, butter, red meat, French fries, etc. would pass over these lips. Knock off the bread; bring on the greens and beans. And Greek yogurt. Lots of veggies and brown rice and fruit. Some chicken and fish. And exercise, too. Plenty of exercise. I promised to give updates.
So here it is: I feel great.
People I’ve known for years come up to me and ask: “Did you lose weight?” Yes, 40 pounds. “Are you sick?” No, it’s intentional, thank you. “Are you working out?” Yes.
Oh my god, yes.
The thing about losing weight is that if you don’t do something to tone up your body, you wind up being a thinner person with a bunch of loose skin. Not a good look, and what’s the sense of losing weight and looking sick? I can say in all humility that I do not look sick. Believe me, it has not been a picnic. Nor has it been torture. It has been, as I said in my first report, humbling. But also surprisingly rewarding (to me, not my coach).
I mentioned starting out with weekly walks, one to two miles. I still do that, but not as often, due to physical conditions not related to what I’m talking about here. The walks are still good for the fresh air and sunshine, so they will continue.
It’s the inside workout regimen that is paying tremendous dividends. In December, I dismissed pushups with a “forget about it” comment. Could not do one. Did 60 the other day in six, ten-rep sets. (Even picking up the lingo.) I also talked about crunches being the only thing I had some success with early on. Turns out that’s because I wasn’t doing them correctly. Effort counts, but so does form, my coach informed me. Now that I do them the correct way, they are much tougher. But the results are also more obvious. And I have learned such things as backward crunches (woof!) and bicycle crunches (we’re going to forget about them for a while).
Throw in weight training with barbells (progressing slowly but steadily), leg-lifts, leg-lowerings, squats, 40 minutes on a stationary bike and lots of stretching and, slowly but surely, muscle has appeared where once there was flab. It feels good. I feel good. I have more energy, more endurance and, in fact, a generally healthier outlook on life.
I can’t stress enough that none of this has been a surprise to my coach, who predicted the progress and encouraged me, gently or firmly, as needed.
As for the food, I am still learning, but no longer struggling, to find healthful, tasty, filling choices. I am not a fanatic. I have a slice of pizza from time to time (no pepperoni). I never finished the “Wheat Belly” book, but I try hard to avoid bread and gluten. I have rediscovered the sweetness of fruit and, bless their hearts, Ben and Jerry have introduced a line of frozen Greek yogurt that is as rich and satisfying as any ice cream. Better yet, they have competition in the slowly emerging market for more healthful food choices.
The fast food chains lag in this development, but demand could drive competition with them. Supermarkets are adding more organic and gluten-free sections as people (especially younger people) become more conscious of wanting to eat real food, with no surprises mixed in. Of course, I still can’t figure out food establishments that offer egg white entrees or veggie entrees and pair them with French fries or hash browns. Offer alternatives, folks.
Anyway, that’s my follow up report. So far, so good. Blood pressure in check. Weight down. Muscles emerging. Clothes too big (new wardrobe coming). A deep bow of appreciation to my fantastic coach, because I knew nothing about how to do this. And a final word to anyone who may be thinking about, “some day,” doing some exercise or losing some weight. Don’t wait. Life is really too short to waste on “coulda-shouldas.” Find a source of support and motivation and go for it. Change is not easy, but healthy change can be surprisingly rewarding in many ways. (I know, coach, not to you.)