The Heart is Willing … or maybe not?

It’s been a while since my last post. Suffice it to say non-blog related things have been stealing my attention. The latest being the most impacting.

I was in a Kiwanis meeting May 4th, when I began to feel ‘not right’. I became light headed and felt like I couldn’t catch my breath.

I politely excused myself, took some deep breaths, thought I had it under control and rejoined the meeting.

It was no more than five minutes and I excused myself again, this time I took my things with me.

The light headed feeling persisted. I kept trying to clear my head with deep breathing, but kept getting weaker. I checked my Fitbit and my heart rate was around 100, which didn’t make sense considering my level of inactivity. We have good conversations, but not that exciting.

I was lucky enough that the meeting was in conference room at a Mansfield Methodist Hospital and I walked myself down to the Emergency Room. By the time I got to the service counter, I was struggling for breath, I was near fainting, and my legs were about to go. I was able to give them my name and they were catching me with a wheel chair.

In minutes, they wheeled me to a room, got me on a bed, attached a number of leads all over (chest, abdomen and legs) and put an oxygen feed under my nose. While I was half fainting, I became strangely emotional, like I was about to cry and I said so. Just the weirdest thing. I normally handle stressful situations calmly.

I was struggling to tell them medical history while it felt like the right side of my head was becoming extra tingly, like I was losing circulation on that side of my head. I was scared. I thought it was my end.

They hooked up an IV, ran saline and monitored my heart. My BP was 180 over 110 and my heart rate was easily 100 or more. I was having a hard time, but they let me keep my cell phone and I called my wife. She insisted on coming to the ER.

I texted members of Kiwanis to let them know. A small cadre of them were allowed to hang out with me while I went through whatever this was.

And I texted my kids that I love them, but I didn’t let them know more than that. If this was the end, it was important. But I didn’t want them doing anything rash, like jumping on planes when there was nothing they could do.

My biggest fear was that they would rush me into surgery and crack my chest open.

The rest was a blur of emotions and trying to make light of a situation with humor. That’s my coping mechanism. My wife arrived and I know she could see the uncertainty in my eyes. We shared hopes for the future and I professed my feelings again.

Then there were several hours of imaging, evaluation, ekg’s that eventually led to a conversation with a very good ER doctor. You know the kind you hope for that will take the time to converse rather than do a brain dump and leave you confused.

He explained that the lower left chamber of my heart had been beating uncontrollably and after consulting with a specialist, they put me on a script to keep my heart from running out of control.

When they were sure my heart was under control, they released me and I drove myself home.

Thinking about this, in the back of my mind, I’m reminded of the ‘holiday heart’ and wondered, did my drinking cause me permanent and irreversible damage?

I’m not sure I’ll ever know for sure, but… it makes one think.

 

 

 

I Planned, Fate Laughed

Somewhere around 593 days of alcohol free (late February 2018) and in my 51st week of training for 5k’s I developed a soreness in my knee.

Naturally, I had been pushing myself to try and get a decent time for the last 5k to complete the ‘5K a Month’ for a Year challenge. I had also taken it for granted it was in the bag and had already begun thinking of goals immediately beyond that, like a 10K and a half marathon and dreams of a marathon in the next year.

Unfortunately, I believe I over trained. So for the final run of the year, I intentionally cut Continue reading “I Planned, Fate Laughed”

Alcohol and Pain Management – Day 609

It’s been 609 days since my last drink.

In retrospect, I look back not because I feel myself tempted, but to understand why and how I unwittingly used alcohol. And I realize that I occasionally used it as a means of dealing with pain.

My life is no different than anyone else and I’ve gone through some of life’s difficulties. But, I’ve had to ask myself, “did alcohol ever really help?”

I recall spraining an ankle and spending an evening with the guys hanging out and getting trashed. That was a rum and coke night. They were pouring and got amused as I slurred and struggled to stay balanced with my crutch. I remember single leg hopping to the rest room and struggling to get to bed. Next day I conveniently forgot the hang over.

Then of course are the other pains.

There was the pain of my 24th birthday. I was in the Navy, in the shipyards, working Monday through Friday with twelve hour shifts overlaid on top of that covering all seven days, with one rotational day off. The luck of the draw meant I had the day after my birthday off so I took advantage of it.

I was at a low point. I was finishing a divorce from my first wife wondering if I would ever have a chance at love again. (Clearly the naive viewpoint of youth). It had been more than a year since I saw family. And I was feeling the oppression of ‘Dogs and sailors keep off the grass’ from the Navy town atmosphere and felt really isolated. And the work regimen was such that you really didn’t have much opportunity to connect or befriend anyone outside of work. So I pulled up a stool at the enlisted club with one goal in mind. Drink to drown it all out.

One high point out of that. I was joined by a shipmate just by chance and I proceeded to get pie-faced. Completely blotto. I don’t remember how I got back to my room.. I think he helped, but it’s lost on me now.

The next morning (surprise duty) I was roused from my bunk. The guy that woke me had to jump back from my breath. Surprise, they changed the schedule, I had to go in and I was to lead a training session on something that was very detailed, intricate and involved in front of about 45 of my peers. I gave everyone fair warning that since this was unplanned it was anyone’s guess how this would go. An hour later, when it was done, I got a lot of compliments on how well it went. It became obvious that someone had heard about my night before and thought they would mess with me. Fortunately, I was still a bit buzzed while presenting so any pretense of nervousness in front of a crowd was gone, I knew the information cold and the presentation flowed comfortably. I even fielded a few questions intended as gotchas, but I crushed it.

As I look back, this was one of those moments that made me think drinking was something easy to handle. That it might actually have some positive impacts. How silly that was.

I’ve used alcohol for pain suppression through surgeries, broken bones, sprains, strains, worries over kids and family, health scares, heart aches for break ups, divorces, loneliness, funerals, jealousy, work stress just to name a few. I’ve also used it to fit in with the crowd socializing and ease my own nerves. And in every sense of the word, it would bring a momentary relief only to frequently have the pain redoubled or complicated by the symptoms of a hang over.

Fast forward to 2016 and it’s very obvious that I was using it to deal with so many little minor things that were ‘pains’ that there were few things I could look at positively.

In fact, I’ve realized that many of the ‘pains’ that I was drinking to deal with turned out to be conditions complicated by the drinking.

In the past 609 days I can honestly say I’ve never been truly ‘sick’, where before it was a matter of weeks between bouts of severe diarrhea or sinus issues that would make me useless. And I know longer suffer ‘mysterious’ joint swelling or pain. Any joint pain I suffer now is because I did something strenuous.

Am I pain free? No. I’m in my upper 50’s with normal aches and pains.

At the end of the day, when I’m sitting around with the wife, we will look at each other, a knowing look will pass between us. Almost without speaking we acknowledge that our lives are so much better without the fuzz, haze and side affects of alcohol. It’s so much easier without it now.

 

 

5K a Month for a Year

In early 2017, realizing the positive health progress I was making with sobriety, I decided to set goals. I needed something to strive for. I’m not sure if everyone is like this, but I’ve come to recognize that I appreciate things more when I’m challenged. Something that comes too easily is just not very rewarding and can easily be taken for granted. Continue reading “5K a Month for a Year”

Guilt from 1983

This is personally a hard post. I’ve started this numerous times. In 1979 I signed up for the U.S. Navy. That’s how, as a scrawny 6 foot tall awkward fairly athletic young man, I found myself deployed off the coast of Beirut on board the USS Virginia in 1983 with 550 other guys. As I understood it the Russians, Iranians and Cubans were working together to incite civil war in Lebanon. Our ship and others were intended to provide necessary support if called upon. Little did we know what was to come.  Continue reading “Guilt from 1983”

To hear the whisper of angels wings ….

This was a phrase I heard while in the military.File:Peter Paul Rubens - Music Making Angels - WGA20442.jpg

The context was that when you near death’s door you may hear the whisper of angels wings.

It’s a sensation of realizing how close to death you were. And how thankful you are that it was a close call rather than a foregone conclusion.

I can say I relate to moments when I might have been close to deaths door. There aren’t many of those moments.

The most poignant time resonated I felt this way, after drinking for years at an ever increasing rate, I realized that I was slowly killing myself. That was a Bingo. At that realization, that point of clarity of how definitively I was hurting, punishing and committing unintended suicide, I forced myself to cut back and eventually quit altogether.

Day 561 sober, feeling pretty dang good and still here.

 

The Pocketwatch

After my father passed, I received an old Waltham pocketwatch from his belongings. The story behind it was that he found it and attempted to find the owner. He even went so far as to contact the pocketwatch company and attempt to track the owner with the serial number. His effort failed.PocketWatch

As I thought about it, my dad was filled with a lot of conundrums. On one hand, he was a successful accountant, trusted by a lot of clients, carried a certain amount of prestige in our small two and was a president of the state CPA institute. And the pocket watch showed his desire to go above and beyond with honesty and pursuit of truth.

On the other side, he spent years in an affair while married to my mother. When discovered, instead of being clear about what he wanted and honorably facing up to his Continue reading “The Pocketwatch”