Saturday, April 19, 2014
I went to see my first sponsor on Thursday. He was doing well that day and was waiting for me to arrive. We sat outside for about an hour before going into the elegant dining room for dinner. He seemed to enjoy the visit. I have to say that I am dreading the day when he is gone from my life. I can accept that his decision is to not continue with chemotherapy.
I re-read some of Dr. Sherwin Nuland's book on How We Die. I need to read the words: “The greatest dignity to be found in death is the dignity of the life that preceded it. This is a form of hope we call all achieve, and it is the most abiding of all. Hope resides in the meaning of what our lives have been.” And then this: “But the fact is, death is not a confrontation. It is simply an event in the sequence of nature's ongoing rhythms. Not death but disease is the real enemy, disease the malign force that requires confrontation. Death is the surcease that comes when the exhausting battle has been lost. Even the confrontation with disease should be approached with the realization that many of the sicknesses of our species are simply conveyances for the inexorable journey by which each of us is returned to the same state of physical, and perhaps spiritual, nonexistence from which we emerged at conception. Every triumph over some major pathology, no matter how ringing the victory, is only a reprieve from the inevitable end.” I needed the reminder that treating a metastasized disease like stage 4 lung cancer is not an option for some people whose quality of life isn't good on chemo.
I missed a week of meetings. I've noticed that some of the meetings which were filled up last year have fewer people in attendance. Some meetings lose their flavor over time and attendance drops. I received an email recently from a person who was concerned about one of her meetings dwindling in attendance. She wrote: "We are sometimes too small a group, and although we talked about this at a group conscience, the only change was that someone new agreed to do some service, but we just have so few people attending regularly. And I'm starting to feel overly responsible. I think the group is not being self-supporting, in a way. Those who do go regularly have told their own stories a lot, and it's starting to feel stale, to me. If you have any experiences with working through this in a group or suggestions about changing the format to make it work better for a small group, I'd really like to hear about them."
My home group is small, with about 6-8 people on average each week. We use a format of a step of the month study, a tradition of the month study, a literature topic, and an open discussion meeting each month. It doesn't seem to get stale because we use a variety of conference approved literature.
In meetings that need rejuvenation, it's a good idea to have a group representative who attends the district meetings and can report on the health of the group. If a meeting needs some help, other member groups in the district could attend and perhaps add an influx of new topics. I am an advocate of being the change that you want to see in a meeting. Chairing meetings, bringing in guest speakers, and having the district representative attend are ways to add new life to meetings.
When I think about how many people are affected by someone else's drinking, it would seem that meetings would be overflowing. That isn't often the case. For the past few days, I've been taking calls on the Al-Anon information service phone line. A lot of people are calling in to find out about meetings and wanting to know how to get help for their loved ones. The idea that Al-Anon is going to provide help in curing the alcoholic is a pretty common one. Explaining that Al-Anon is for those affected by another's drinking seems to be something that is hard for some to grasp. But one of the great things about Al-Anon is that our changed attitudes towards the alcoholic can aid recovery.
Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. We have been invited to brunch by a sailing friend. The rain continues to come down. It has made the trees and bushes burst out in full leaf flush. The catkins have been washed to the ground along with the oak pollen. Spring has arrived here.
Friday, April 11, 2014
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
She was given one shot of Lidocaine and then a 200 lb. nurse pressed on her breast as hard as he could. This was followed by four cores being taken and finally a clip put into the suspicious area found by ultrasound. One of the cores and the clip placement caused her to almost levitate off the table from pain. Modern medicine has come a long way, but it would seem that pain management still needs some work, especially because some areas of the body are more sensitive to pain, such as those with more nerves. And the breast is certainly one of those sensitive areas.
Anyway, she got through all of that but was in a lot of pain on the way home. She wasn't given anything for the pain but told to take Tylenol which she bought at the pharmacy and promptly took. The pain continued on the way home. At home, she was miserable. Finally, after putting an ice pack on the area, she was able to sleep. She will not have results until later today or tomorrow.
Today, she is busy working in the backyard, putting in perennials around the various beds. It is a beautiful day. Spring is glorious here in this part of the world. So many green sprigs, so many azaleas and flowering shrubs, and days that are warm with cool nights.
Please keep my wife in your thoughts. I honestly don't know what I would do without her. And also think of my first sponsor who is having a hard time with the chemo treatment for his lung cancer. He is now being helped through Hospice and has decided to not continue the treatments because of how sick he feels. I haven't fully grasped the outcome of this. Right now, all of us are taking this one day at a time.
Sunday, April 6, 2014
I spent a day at the local medical university and found out that I am okay. My CT scan indicated "no intracranial pathology". Good words...but if only they knew! Seriously, it's good to know that I can do Cross Fit without worrying. Got checked with blood work and a general physical too.
I am concerned because my wife went in for her mammogram and has to have a biopsy on Tuesday. The docs are 98% sure that this is just a benign thing, but both of us will be much happier once it is over. Please keep her in your thoughts.
We had a glorious afternoon on the small john boat yesterday, traveling to meet up with friends in a nearby creek for lunch. The day was warm and fun which is what we needed to keep our spirits upbeat.
I have talked with my first sponsor many times since his diagnosis of Stage 4 lung cancer. He has taken his first chemo treatment and isn't feeling so good. I am hoping his spirits will uplift some. He admits that he is doing the self-pity behavior now. I know that whether he decides to continue with the chemo or decides to go into palliative care is his to make. I have read Kathleen's blog Sittin' on a Porch since she started it. I admire her fighting spirit that wants to live life to the fullest since her diagnosis of Stage 4 lung cancer.
Speaking of fighting spirit, I met a fellow the other day who has pancreatic cancer and is now in his fourth experimental treatment. He has traveled from Tucson to Georgetown University Hospital to participate. This treatment isn't working so he is next going to try another one in Detroit. He wants to live another day so he keeps trying to fight the disease that he knows is going to kill him sooner rather than later.
I don't know what I would do in either case. But I believe that I would want to fight to live. Every day matters in some way or the other. And if a person can have one more precious day that's good. I think though that quality of life is a big factor. Watching both of my wife's parents waste away in their last few months of life was terrible. I know that my sponsor will make the decision that feels right for him. We all have challenges to meet and how we work through them is deeply personal and individualistic.
I have been hoping to get around to commenting on more blogs. You all write a lot! I don't have it in me at the moment. Too much gardening to do, people to think about, waters to roam--indoors is not my favorite place to be as spring comes to the Lowcountry. Soon enough, it will be too hot to enjoy being outside during the day.
So I'll leave you with some photos from the past week.
|Last rays of the sun as night is coming on|
|My good girl on the boat|
|Landscaping almost done|
|We have spent several evenings out here relaxing|
Friday, March 28, 2014
We shared the island with about 35 Scouts from a nearby troop. They were camped in a tent city on the windward side of the island, while we were anchored away from the inlet and a bit in the lee.
We had walks on the beach and cooked Saturday night's dinner over a campfire. It was so relaxing to be there and enjoy the view and the rocking of the boat. I have said this before--I could spend weeks on end doing cruising, dropping the hook whenever I am ready, and exploring new places.
Things got a bit more complex after getting home. My wife had eye surgery yesterday. It was scheduled, and she is doing well. My first sponsor was admitted to the hospital again with breathing difficulties. He has a serious diagnosis so sending good thoughts his way would be much appreciated.
The complications came about because he has his beloved dog and cat living in his apartment. It has been a terribly hard decision for him, but he has decided to give up his animals because he can no longer take care of them due to his illness. Many phone calls and text messages were made to find homes for them. I am amazed at the wonderfully supportive network of people who love animals. It warmed my heart to know that people were willing to drive for 5 hours to get the dog, a greyhound that he adopted through a rescue group. I needed some restoration of good will in fellow humans.
I am feeling a lot of concern about my sponsor. But I know that he is being taken care of in the hospital. Things happen so quickly with illnesses. One day a person is doing okay, and the next there is some life-threatening illness occurring. I have learned how important it is to have all affairs in order. One never knows.
I had my own appointment yesterday. Last week, I had a "thunderclap" headache after doing a Cross Fit workout. It came on so quickly and was so stunningly painful that I could barely move. Thankfully, the terrible pain subsided after about two minutes. And gradually the headache went away after an hour. The trainer thought that the episode needed evaluating, so I saw my doctor yesterday. I am getting a CT scan next week. I am sure that I am okay, but it doesn't hurt to check. Thunderclap headaches can be associated with blood leakage in vessels in the brain. Nothing to mess around with.
Today, my wife goes in for her post-operative checkup. She is tired from the anesthesia. But we hope to have lunch after the appointment and then come home to relax. Both of us are ready to sail away again!
I am thankful for the calmness that I have learned through Al-Anon. So many of these things would have had me in knots years ago. I still have concerns but realize that panic isn't an option.
Hope that your week is stress free. Or at least the stress is manageable. Later....
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Sunday, March 16, 2014
- Saint Patrick's Day madness has gripped the town this weekend. It all started on Friday with a continuous party going through Saturday. Peace has returned to the land and the villagers are happy once again. The streets are now clear of drunken partiers. The drunken crackers, drag strip officials, NASCAR losers, vacant fratboys, vapid sorority chicks, dudes that have a Budweiser as an appendage, and loutish jerks are now a thing of the immediate past. This town isn't as crazy as Savannah, but the streets still smell like a frat house after a wild beer bash. I was glad to get away from the city yesterday and head back to the sublime silence of the island, punctuated only by the sound of waves breaking on the sandbars and birds singing and performing their morning concert.
- The blue glow of the moon has ushered in a new day that promises to be beautiful and peaceful. The seabirds fly in the sea breeze and dolphins cruise just beyond the breakers that gently lap the shore. There is a hint of rain coming. Today will be an inside day to work on furniture in the workshop. And at noon, I am meeting an old friend from college that I haven't seen in many years. We are going to catch up on life.
- Two of our dogs, Deacon and Tobias, decided to take off around 11 PM on Wednesday night. He and the rest of the dogs were out for their evening pee. The rascals must have gotten scent of something so they decided to head down the drive. We live a mile down a dirt road--lots of things to smell. So C. and I drove the road calling for him until 2 AM. I found Tobias walking along, looking sheepish. But no Deacon. Early on Thursday morning, we put flyers in mailboxes in the area, called people, put up a large sign on the front fence and drove the roads every couple of hours. I think that we both gave up by Friday morning. We knew that it was going to be a body recovery, looking for buzzards in the sky to give us a clue. Our hearts were leaden. Neither of us could eat much. I thought--here we go again with death and grief. On Friday night around 10:30 PM, we got a call from a neighbor at a nearby plantation telling me that she thought she had our dog. I had called them on Thursday, and they kept the information. Evidently, Deacon had followed their beagle Woody through the short cut wooded trail to their plantation. He was happy relaxing with Woody in their house when we got there. None the worse for wear, we hugged Deacon and the good people who took him in and called us. Extra precautions are being made to make sure that Deacon and Tobias don't go out for their evening walk without a leash on. After getting the wayward boy home, we slept soundly for the first time in a couple of days.
- The anniversary of my father's death passed without sadness. I thought of him many times that day. Now, I am concerned about my first sponsor who has been diagnosed with lung cancer. I am hoping that it can be treated. More will be revealed for him. For now, he is accepting of the diagnosis.
- At the District Al-Anon meeting yesterday, I volunteered to do additional service work for the District. I was really motivated by a speaker at the convention who was inspirational in what she does. After the meeting, a group of us went out to lunch. It was great fun to have a meeting after the meeting and enjoy some great discussions.
- Friday is my wife's birthday. We are going out to a play on Thursday evening. Friday we leave for a cruise up the waterway to another favorite anchorage. Some other boats will be joining us there.
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
In healthy meetings, no one tells any one else what to do. No one person is supposed to dominate. And I've learned by working with those I sponsor that I can't enforce the unenforceable.
But I do know that if people are to get better and approach anything like serenity, half measures won't work. Half measures don't avail us half results; "half measures avail us nothing" (from Alcoholics Anonymous). I heard this in a meeting a while ago: "I have to tell you from my 4 years of Half-Assing and No Musting, I think the folks that Get In, Do It, and Get Better are a WHOLE Lot Smarter than I found myself to be."
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
- The state Al-Anon convention was a great experience. The speakers were inspiring. One workshop was exceptional. These conventions are run like those in AA with speaker meetings and workshops going throughout the day. We have several raffles which are fun. Each group brings a basket filled with all kinds of things. One of the groups I attend did a dog theme basket. There is also a general meeting theme, and this year's take home message was service. I came away with wanting to do more service work. Thinking about starting an Alateen meeting on the nearby island and a downtown meeting at the city hospital (only one downtown meeting now). I actually contemplated putting my name in for the District Representative, but decided that the time spent on the road to the state capital would be more than I could bear for three years. Made that road trip too many times in my career. So I sent in a resume to be on the regional literature board. Do more, get more.
- The anniversary of Mom's death was Feb. 27. The day passed quietly on the boat as I thought about the feelings of grief we had last year. It seemed at the time that we would never feel good again because everything was so overwhelming. Pop was sick. We were grieving. The house needed to be sold. So much all at once. I'm glad to have moved past that difficult time. She isn't forgotten, but the acuteness of the grief is gone. We can look back and take comfort that Mom lived a long life, and we have the memories of her to smile about.
- The birthday of my cousin who died last June from glioblastoma multiforme is tomorrow. His wife has moved on with her life, reconnecting with old lovers from her past. I'm glad for her because she had no life for the 8 years that she cared for my cousin. She has also been caring for her 96 year old mother for years, but she has finally decided to move back to her country home in Virginia and has told her sister that she can no longer be the caretaker for their mother. Sounds to me like she is now taking care of herself.
- Landscaping has been moving slowly with the weather. It's either rainy or miserably cold. So the back yard is all torn up. The birds are going crazy with feeding and mating. Male cardinals are seeing their reflection in the glass and flying into windows all day trying to drive off a competitor. We call them the "crazy cardinals" because they seem to not get that there isn't another male.
- Speaking of crazy, the town is all fired up over a new reality TV program called "Southern Charm" that stars a bunch of characters that live the high life in the old city. One of them, Thomas Ravenel, was the state Treasurer until he was indicted and convicted of cocaine possession. Now he spends time playing polo and living the life of a wealthy bachelor. I wish that some of the intellectuals of the city had been featured, but I suppose people would much rather watch a train wreck than learn something about the train.
- I have come down with a cold and am generally feeling lousy. This too shall pass. In the meantime, I am drinking hot tea and not doing much on these rainy chilly days. I did build a fire yesterday which pumped out heat. And I took a nap on the couch.
- Last night, I chaired the Al-Anon meeting. It was on Step Three--Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. I don't think of my Higher Power as being a male or female but rather something greater than me. I am not religious, but I believe in the spiritual connectedness we have to each other, animals and Earth. A lot of people in meetings are religious and take comfort in religion. I think that is good. It took me a while to come to believe in something other than myself. I share honestly about my struggles with finding a Higher Power--at first, it was the group, then my sponsor and eventually, it was a feeling of freedom and release, of empathy and compassion, and connectedness to others.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
I received an email from Rachel and asked her if she was interested in sharing her story here. She sent the following about her experience with drinking. I am sure she would welcome your comments.
Banishing the Booze. By Rachel Black
I don’t drink. Never. Not at all. None. One year ago things were very different. As a professional woman it was normal to unwind with a glass or two of wine in the evening. Precious ‘Me Time’ equated to ‘Wine Time’. Very quickly, wine o’clock arrived earlier and earlier, the quantity consumed gradually increased, the second bottle was opened. Drinking crept under the radar to invade my life. Very quickly the couple of glasses that started as a treat, became a coping mechanism for the stresses of daily life, and latterly, became a need. I thought alcohol was the solution, rather than the cause of my problems. The worse things got, the more I drank.
I don’t know if I am an alcoholic but my drinking was certainly problematic and I accept I had a psychological dependence on it. This was not always the case: my relationship with alcohol was typical of my peers throughout High School, University and until I was around 30 years old. At that time things changed and I began to want and need more wine, more often. If I was not drinking I was certainly thinking about drinking. I don’t know how this started but I do believe I have inherited a pre-disposition to alcoholic tendencies from both parents.
Children grow up believing the ways of their family is the norm; it is all we know. I was no different and grew up unaware of the significance of alcohol in our home. I watched my parents laugh and joke over who had had more than their share from the bottle. I remember other couples coming round for a boozy evening: I would be up early and alone the next morning and would wash, dry and put away every glass we owned, making the kitchen neat and tidy for my parents. I was never aware of them being hungover, or never recognised it as such, my father was always strict, irritable, easily aggravated and had little time for us. My mother was better and I was surprised when she announced mid 50’s that she was becoming tee-total. She continues to cite ‘health reasons’ for this change and will change the subject whenever the conversation moves towards asking why. Only when I saw my life was following a path I recognised from my father, did I see the problems they both had, for now they were occurring in my life. My father continues to drink excessively each day and I knew I did not want to become like him and decided I had to change.
After a few years of trying and failing to moderate the amount I drank, I decided to take the path of my mother and to give up alcohol completely. I thought this would be all about doing without and deprivation. I resigned myself to a life of straight-laced misery, missing out on all the fun. I did not consider what I would gain when alcohol was removed from my life.
One of the biggest differences is time. I have loads of time, in the evenings and in my head. My evenings are not truncated at 6pm, my productivity disappearing with each glass, I can concentrate to do online banking and sensible shopping. I have started a Spanish class as I am no longer reluctant to drive. My brain kicked back to life and I started to write and published my first book: Sober is the New Black.
My head is no longer pre-occupied with drinking. No planning nights out and organising taxis, no buying wine or suffering monster hungovers the following day which render me fit for nothing until they pass.
Life seems so much simpler and relaxed now. There is no rush to get to wine time. There is no anxiety if things run late. Life just happens.
18 months ago I was making my family miserable with my constant irritability, antagonism and over-reaction. I was ‘stressed’ about everything from making packed lunches to putting up the Christmas tree. Now I am calm, measured, pleasant. My moods are appropriate. I am a better wife, a better colleague and a good mother who happily drives her kids to clubs and has time for a chat at bedtime. They will not see me drinking wine nor see me drunk and I hope I can be happy and believe I have set them the best example I can possibly give.
I need to continually remind myself that my life is now as good as it always looked on paper only because I continue to choose not to drink. I was so reluctant to give alcohol up, worried I would miss all the fun, scared of words like ‘forever’ yet here I am, relieved to be free from the clutches of alcohol, knowing I need never drink again. Why would you?
Contact me: email@example.com
Follow my blog: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @SoberRachel
Sober is the New Black is available on Amazon:
SOBER IS THE NEW BLACK is being price slashed on an Amazon countdown deal from wednesday 26th Feb-Sat 1st March.
I am on the boat for a few days. Next post, I'll tell you about the State Al-Anon Convention.
Friday, February 21, 2014
Friday, February 14, 2014
Her goal is to go to college and then nursing school. She has overcome so much in her short life. If you can donate a few dollars towards helping her achieve her goal, it would be much appreciated.
My wife and I know her family. I can tell you that they are wonderful people. And they are appreciative of being in this country. If you have any questions, email me. Thank you!