Archives for August, 2012


How My Alcoholism Revealed My Depression

Fourteen years ago today I took my last drink. I'm not sure exactly what it was because much of that night remains a blur - in and out of a blackout. I remember going to a party where there were massive martini glasses on each table filled with goldfish. I was determined to SAVE THE GOLDFISH! when the clean-up crew started flushing them down the toilet. Ah, the joys of being the last one at the party.

I have a few other snippets of drunken debauchery from that night but I clearly remember waking up and my neighbor coming over and asking if I was okay because my front door was wide open when he went out to get his paper that morning and some of my clothes -- the kind of clothing that neighbors usually aren't privy to seeing -- were strewn about my front yard.

I stumbled into a 12-Step meeting later that day, sat in the back and realized I was in the right place -- even though I thought it was insane that these people could be laughing at stories like mine from the night before! How dare they take this so lightly! Can't they see how much pain I am in? What is wrong with these people?
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Mindfulness and Mental Illness: A Little Dharma Goes a Long Way

A guy from Flagstaff, Arizona called me the other day out of the blue. He wanted to talk about some of my writings and we covered a lot of ground. A co-worker and I had a smorgasbord of a conversation yesterday - discussing parenting, quirky, brilliant friends and investigative journalism.

What struck me about both conversations is that the topic of mindfulness came up. Seems kind of weird because mindfulness isn't a topic that gets dropped into  conversations with strangers and co-workers. I'm taking it as a sign that I need to bone-up on my mindfulness practice.

I first learned about mindfulness when I got sober 14 years ago. As part of my 12-Step journey I decided to research some of the world's great religions. I was brought up by a devout Irish-Catholic mother and attended a Catholic elementary school. I figured between mom and mother superior, I had the Catholic thing down. But I had never read the Bible. Parts of the Bible had been read TO me. But I had never read the whole thing.
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Coping with Depression

Food & Nutrition: Getting the Brain Chemistry Right

There is something to be said for food.

I'm about halfway through a 24-hour fast for my colonoscopy tomorrow and my mood is turning -- fast. One of the first things we learn in a 12-Step program is HALT: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. When you want to indulge the urge to pop a few Xanax or pour a stiff one, ask yourself if you are hungry, angry, lonely and/or tired. I apply the same thing to my depression, especially lately since I have had a couple of losses - relationship ending and my daughter going back to college.

Right now, it's hunger that is messing with my head.

I have food issues anyway. When I am in a depression I stop eating. I have no hunger. I just forget to eat. The longer and deeper the depression, the more weight I lose. I don't feel I'm starving myself. I just don't want to eat. So, I stop eating, which makes my depression worse.

When I am not in a depression, I can spend waaaaaaay too much time thinking about food. I feel hungry all the time, I crave sugar, I want chocolate. I work out like a fiend. I always feel fat, even though number-wise I'm just right. I weigh myself a lot. It's called anorexia.
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Suicide, Guns and Free Speech

I live in Florida. Land of the profoundly weird and frequently stupid. Like the guy charged with illegally feeding an alligator after the gator bit off his hand. Or an image of the Virgin Mary appearing on a grilled cheese sandwich. We have wild pythons big enough to eat deer and a wanna-be plastic surgeon who injected women's derrieres with Fix-a-Flat (Don't try this at home.)

On July 30, we learned that the Florida Department of Health - with the blessing of Gov. Rick Scott - would appeal a federal judge's recent ruling that blocked the implementation of a new law that barred physicians from asking their patients about guns. With this appeal, Florida has set the gold standard for government-sanctioned waste and stupidity.

Why would a doctor ask a patient about guns, you ask? There are a lot of reasons. Maybe a doctor wants to know if there are guns in a patient's home because 2,793 children and teens were killed by firearms in 2009. About one third of those deaths - 938 - were accidental or suicide. Maybe the doctor wants to know if the guns in a child's home are trigger-locked or safely stored in a gun safe.

Maybe a doctor stitching the busted lip of a woman abused by her husband wants to know if there are weapons in the home. Or maybe a patient has depression and the doctor knows that about half of the 36,000 people who commit suicide every year do so with a gun and most of those people have a mental illness. There are many good reasons for a doctor would ask these questions.

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