One path on an uncommon journey

Monday, June 18, 2012

"I'm not a friend of Bill W's, but I sure could use a drink." 

I'm not sure when it happened. I'm not sure how it happened. But somewhere along the line I became an alcoholic. It was a gradual thing, the signs were never apparent. I went from the occasional social drinker to a "functioning" alcoholic to a full blown, 100% alcoholic.

I became the "classic" alcoholic, most my friends did not even realize that I was. I drank alone, early and often. I will spare you any of the gory details.

 I asked Dawn if she would mind if I touched on this in a post and she calmly stated "if you can help one person, save one family what we went through, do it." Now I'm not doing this for redemption, (although if I wronged anyone while I was drinking I am truly sorry) I'm doing this to help that one person. 

 In the title I made a reference to Bill W, founder of AA, in a lighthearted manner. I have the utmost respect for Alcoholics Anonymous, but never had much use for it. It has helped a tremendous amount of people, but it just wasn't for me. I refused to let God  be responsible for my problem and there were too many whiners.

 I scoured books, websites, peoples' minds and anything else I could to find an answer. I ended up finding my own unconventional-conventional method. I found my answers within, using all of the aforementioned resources, as well as a very strong support system.  

 The first and most important thing is that you have to want it and want it bad. And, you have to want it for yourself. It will not work if that isn't reason that you're doing it. It's the battle of your life, for your life and your life depends on it. I focused on myself and my family. You got to want it deep. Nothing else mattered. Not work, not bills, not friends. 

 Next, you have to have a plan. What are you going to do when the urge hits. And it will. How do you avoid a "slip". I don't believe it's okay to slip. That was one of the issues that I had with AA. It's not okay. You are trying to stop the most destructive thing you are doing in your life. There are no slips. As Yoda says, "Do or do not. There is no try." 

 My plan became a list of 10 things that I could do to avoid drinking. I put them on a card and I kept the card with me at all times. I referred to it almost every time I had an urge.  My ten things (in no order): 

1. Call someone (anyone, just call and talk about nothing or something, whichever, whatever you need) 
2. Meditate 
3. Exercise 
4. Cook 
5. Go to a bookstore 
6. Read 
7. Go for a walk 
8. Visit my Sons/Granddaughters 
9. Help someone online (there are a ton of sites where people are chatting online, looking for a rope) 
10. Music (listen to it, go to a store....anything but 'I Drink Alone') 

 Embrace the urge. You have to believe that when the current urge passes you are one step closer to becoming a "normal" whole person. You can't fight it, it just makes the battle so much tougher. You just go with that and pick one of your substitutes.  

 Finally, you should talk about it with your family and friends. There is a time when you'll need all of them and it's important to discuss it with them, but not burden them. They need to know what's going on with you and in your head, but don't let it consume you or your relationship with them.

Ask for help. There are a lot of good people, like me, who will help. I'm the friend in the following anecdote.

"This guy's walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can't get out. A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, 'Hey you. Can you help me out?' The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on. 

Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, 'Father, I'm down in this hole can you help me out?' The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on.

Then a friend walks by, 'Hey, Joe, it's me can you help me out?' And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, 'Are you stupid? Now we're both down here.' The friend says, 'Yeah, but I've been down here before and I know the way out.'"

I don't know my 'quit date', I never felt like it was something to be celebrated. But, I am haven't had a drink in over 8 years and I am better for it. I still don't understand why anyone would Christmas shop sober, but that's a different story.

Enjoy and let me know what you think!

(And, I was being facetious in the title, I haven't had even the mildest urge in many years. It does get easier, much!!!!!!!!)

Monday, June 11, 2012


(08,04,2008,51,247,1 1/2, 30, 236)

Grouped together like that they do not mean a lot. Broken down, they mean bad news. On August 4th, 2008 my life changed forever. I was a little over 51 years old, weighed 247 lbs. and, although I had recently quit, had smoked 1 1/2 packs of cigarettes for 30 years. My cholesterol was 236 and I was referred to as 'mildly obese' by the cardiologist.

After a little bit of a push from Rhonda Reiderer and Beth Mongielo I went to the hospital and had three stents put in. They saved my life by forcing me to leave work and I am not saying that lightly. (Thank you, ladies. You will always be close in my heart and thoughts!)

Flash forward to July 6th, 2009. 52 years old, no smoking for 1 year, 198 lbs., cholesterol 108. Cardiologist and primary doctor ecstatic.

Flash ahead to May 30, 2012. 54 years old, no smoking for 4 years, 237 lbs., cholesterol 206. Cardiologist and primary doctor pretty pissed. At least they didn't refer to me as mildly obese this time (slight smirk).

I said when I started the blog that we'd learn together and I'd pour out some gory details. That's as gory as it gets for me. I joke around about my weight, but it's really no joke after 08/04/2008.

Other than my freshman and junior year of high school, I have battled my weight and food addictions. I've always had a bit of 'baby fat' around my waist. I have a terrible time with food. I eat when I am nervous, angry bored, happy or any other emotion apparently. I love food. And, what's worse, I love BAD food. Not a good combination with the aforementioned.

So, we'll begin this trip down the path together. A path to a healthier life style. I am making myself accountable to all of you and myself. I've done it once and I'll do it again.

Why share this? The reasons follow:

1. Learn from me
2. The copays for my prescriptions are $250.00 per month. And that doesn't include any doctor's visits. It ain't cheap.
3. The insurance I have is all I'll ever have. No one will touch me. And I hit another threshold of 55 this year, can't wait to see what that costs me.
4. Every form that you fill out is more complicated. Whether it's a drivers license, a first time visit to a masseuse, a carnival ride, whatever. They all want to know your medical history.
5. Everything is more complicated. Pulling a tooth, cutting your finger, lifting things.
6. Accountability. It's out there and now I'll have to own it.
7. You NEVER want to see the look of fear in your loved ones eyes when they look at you in the hospital. Not sure, afraid and with so much love. Never.
8. Many more that escape me right now.

I  do not want anyone to feel sorry for me. My intent is education and information. I'm a big boy (no pun intended) and I have owned up to what I did.

So, here's my plan in a nutshell (all daily):

1. Meditate
2. Pray
3. Cardio 1/2 hour
4. Stretching/yoga 15 minutes
5. Eat right
6. Drink water

I am gonna share my successes with you from this point on. I'll give you little weekly updates on the blog site and share tidbits and motivation. If anyone cares to join me, challenge me, make a bet or whatever will benefit both of us, please email me at dennis.digesare@gmail.com., PM me on Facebook, text or call.

So, join me on this journey and let me know what you think!

P.S. My first goal is 219  lbs. by my birthday, July 6th, 2012. It's aggressive, but doable. Check the page at theaginghippie.com titled 'Numb3rs' for updates.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Jerks We Encounter or the Teacher of Yesterday

One of the hardest things I find everyday is how to deal with the people that make life difficult. I struggle daily with the gossip, the bully, the stupid (God, I said it!), the incompetent, the whiner, et al. It is by far and away the most trying aspect of every day for me. It is very easy to anger, to fight back, to fix or to ignore when I encounter them.

More difficult is to understand the person and the lessons that are there for the learning. I am still a student, learning from reading and practical application. We are going to add two books to the bibliography this week. They are 'Everyday Enlightenment -The Essential Guide to Finding Happiness in The Modern World, by His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa and The Accidental Buddhist, by Dinty Moore ( I don't think he's the stew guy).

In the book 'Everyday Enlightenment,' we are told: 'It is very easy to love pleasant people and situations. But the true test comes when you are faced with the most unpleasant situation or people, whether you can take it or not. here, we can practice something on a day-to-day basis that really requires our attention. It is important that we try to make an effort, and so, if someone says something negative about you, as an acknowledgement, say something good about them. If you can't manage to do that, just keep silent.'

Practice love and compassion, stay on the path. Pretty simple in theory, I'll let you know the next time someone is going 50 in the left lane on the 190. Seriously, it is a great book, one of the best I have read. Gyalwang Drukpa is a Tibetan Buddhist.

Now let me preface anything else with this, I am a child of most religions. I have always been very spiritual and have found religion wonderful, intriguing, enlightening and the hottest topic of all. I just can't limit myself to the Roman Catholic beliefs I was born into. I have read a lot of Eastern religion, Catholicism and a lot of Judaism.

So, in 'The Accidental Buddhist,' Moore writes 'Jesus, Nhat Hanh points out,  "Jesus did not say that if you are angry with your brother, you will be put in a place called Hell. He said that if you are angry with your brother, you are already in Hell. Anger is Hell."'  Moore highlights his journey through religions in an entertaining and mostly enjoyable book.

The moral is that the negative thoughts and mental formations bind us, keep us miserable when there is so much more. It is more important to focus on the good, what matters.

All that being said, as Jack Nicklaus recently stated 'Sometimes you have to fish or cut bait.' I made that choice today. Rather than to be dragged into a war of words, I wished someone well and moved on. I did, also, unfriend someone that falls into the difficult category (Gawd how I love quotes), because, as Doc Holliday said, 'My hypocrisy only goes so far.'

Today was a good reminder for me and I hope enlightening for you. Let me know what you think!