Now is the time to be vigilant

The good news (if any of you are interested) is that I’m recovering ok from the operation.  Nearly all my dressings are off all my wounds and they look to be healing ok.  Each day this week I’ve gone for a walk and each day gone a little further.  So all good.  I’m still occasionally getting a bit of pain in my abdomen, like a stitch feeling if I move or lay a particular way or when I breath in deep.  However it has been getting better each day.

For me now is the time to be vigilant.  I know too well that I’ll think I can lift up the garage door, or a full watering can or I’ll walk too far, too fast, too soon.  I need to remember for me that the recovery is a journey that has a pace I can’t accelerate no matter how much I want to.

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Pain medication and alcoholism

I am an alcoholic.  I came to that conclusion really years before I admitted it and stopped drinking.  I may not have drunk alcohol for a little over 12 years now but I’m still an alcoholic and I’ll always be an alcoholic.  That is my position on it – particularly after my last year or so of drinking which had periods of respite but then when I started to drink “normally” (It never was normal frankly … ever!) soon it was back, way off the scale, as bad if not worse than ever before.  The simple premise behind the AA programme that the first drink is the one that gets you drunk allows me a simple way to deal with my addiction.  Don’t drink, I don’t then crave the next and the next and the next and therefore I don’t get drunk.  Simple.

If only it were that easy.  My drug of choice was alcohol, it did the trick for me in numbing me from emotions, fuelled my delusions and allowed me to abdicate my responsibilities to myself, my life, my family, my friends, my career etc.  But having listened to all sorts of addicts talk about why they used whatever mind altering substance they chose I relate to it all, apart from the drug of choice.  I’m an addict who chose alcohol.

For me this was drilled in my earliest recovery at a 12 step rehab with people with a plethora of first choice addictions.  We did some complicated questionnaires whilst I was there.  From this it was shown that alcohol was my number one issue with addiction (no shit Sherlock!) but also food was up there, I food binge when stressed or alone I know, there were others.  However for me drugs were never much of a feature in my life or in my addiction.

But I now know that I’m an addict and am very wary of my clever addict brain finding a way to trick me back into active alcoholism of something else.  Exile of Pain Street asked me about this in my current recuperation from my operation.  The answer is Yes I am wary, very wary.  Perhaps too much so.   Here’s my experience in recovery.

You’ll be aware if you’re a regular/long term reader that I’ve suffered with tinnitus and vertigo problems for ages, since shortly after I got sober.  There is a good chance I suffered before with the vertigo but never noticed just blaming it on the booze!  Anyway.  First diagnosis was Migraine Associated Vertigo and I was prescribed a combination medicine with paracetamol, codeine and something to help the nausea of the vertigo.  Codeine.  I’d heard about that from many alcoholics in recovery about how as a prescription medication that became their new love, Achilles heel. etc.  It is an opiate, in the body it is converted to morphine… so essentially has the same effect as heroine.

The box had loads of warning about not using for more than so many days at a time.  I was worried.  Petrified actually!  I avoided taking it at all.  That was considered dumb by some of the doctors.  So I tried again using it only as prescribed.  I’ll be frank here I only took it when I was feeling somewhat spaced out in an attack anyway but realistically for me it didn’t seem to do very much.  I’ve taken it sparingly for that condition over the last decade with no need to worry about it.  I can happily not take it for months and months then just for a couple of days.  However with the new diagnosis of Ménière’s Disease that isn’t considered an effective treatment anyway.

Up to date.  I come around from my operation last week.  I felt bloody awful.  I had a memory of being violently sick which the nurse confirmed.  Was I in pain?  Well yes but not the worst I’ve ever know at all.  They rigged up an IV of a paracetamol solution.  After an hour or so on the recovery ward they transferred me to a ward for overnight care, removing the iv before doing so.  On the ward they asked again and checked my notes.  They asked if I wanted paracetamol or codeine.  I went for paracetamol.

I was on a ward with a bunch of generally younger guys, most in 20s/30s.  They all asked for oral morphine.  One was refused as the prescription on his notes had run out.  He was offered codeine instead until he saw a doctor in the morning.  A while later they are waking me up, wanting me on my feet moving and going to the toilet.  The question of more pain relief was asked as I winced getting back on the bed.  I said paracetamol refusing the oral morphine.  The nurse took my notes with her.  She returned with tablets and water.  She asked again if I didn’t want the morphine.  I declined.  She said this was codeine and that she’d monitor my use carefully.  She slipped my notes back in the holder at the foot of the bed and asked or more stated really “Alcoholic?”  I nodded.  “Don’t be too brave.  Take the medication”.   I have to say I was impressed.  I know I always tell medical folks when they ask.  It clearly is in my notes then and someone can put two and two together.

I was discharged with some codeine, enough for about a week.  I’ve taken the lower dose as instructed and tomorrow a week after the op I’ll stop.

Sorry Exile a long ramble from me (as ever!) but this is like a bunch of things for me in recovery a topic I have to be cognizant of at times like this, always vigilant about and honest about to myself, my family, my friends and to medical professionals.

 

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Recuperating

I had my gallbladder removed on Wednesday 13th July.  I ended up staying in over night coming out the following afternoon.  Good news is the op all went well, all is out and sorted no follow-up procedure needed and it was done keyhole no need for open surgery.  So I’m at home recuperating.  I need to take this time to do very little.  Not easy for me sometimes.  And to let my body take its time recuperating not force it a long.

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Uncertainty

What is one thing that a lot of alcoholics don’t like?  Change.  Uncertainty.  That is my impression of listening to hundreds of people talking about life in their recovery in my dozen years within the recovery community.

And I identify with that.  Change is a challenge, can be an opportunity etc.  I’ve taken risks in my life in my recovery.  I accepted redundancy from an extremely high paid job and again subsequently decided to go part time in a much less well paid job to train as a counsellor – a career which by the way many working in the UK only get paid expenses for by the organisations they work for.  So I do embrace change and challenge and accept risk.

I hope this blog doesn’t become me bitching on about the state of the UK economy and politics but I was continually labelled during the referendum campaign as a scaremonger and someone who didn’t value the greatness of Great Britain.  I pointed to researched facts and also that I thought there was much to be immensely proud of within this country that we achieved very much as part of the EU.  I pointed to the sector I work in – research intensive universities.  We have several in the top ten.  We outperform for a country of our size consistently.  Now some of that is historic given Oxford and Cambridge’s longevity as institutions of repute.  But UCL, Imperial, Kings, LSE etc. don’t have that heritage as such.

So two weeks on from the referendum what do we have?  A tussle to become prime minister, currently the short list is only at the behest of the 300 or so Tory MPs.  Then the leader is elected by the 150,000 members of the Tory party.  Hmmm… where have we taken back democracy?  Our lead negotiator in our exit picked by less then 0.05% of the electorate with a majority government based on our first past the post system which has a commanding majority elected by less than 25% of the electorate carrying out a referendum mandate given by 52% of those that voted, in a 70% turnout, so if my maths is right 36% of the electorate.   Isn’t democracy great….   hmmmm….

Oh yes remember our unelected House of Lords will also need to support every new law rapidly if we’re to get out of this mess in the 2 years we need to.  Unelected… where did I hear that in the campaign?

I read an article about trade negotiators.  Whitehall has 20.  The EU has 550.  We outsourced this activity 40 years ago now we need to take it back rapidly.  Would you come and work for the UK if you were an EU negotiator?  Where on earth are we going to get them so we don’t get screwed over on every deal?

My sector is in panic.  I’ve heard much evidence of pretty much a wholesale removal of UK partner bids from the Horizon 2020 fund.  That is the large researcher and innovation fund in the world.  Whilst statements from Jo Johnson (brother of Boris) who is the minister responsible states that legally we are still in the EU until 2 years after Article 50 is enacted and therefore legally we cannot be discriminated against let me ponder this.  You are a researcher in Germany and normally partner with a top UK university.  You are applying for a multi-year grant from Horizon 2020, beyond the UK’s like final divorce date.  Would you think you are strengthened or weakened in your bid with your UK partner there?  If you knew you and your wife were getting divorced would you take out a new loan together?

The pound is at a 31 year low, imports will cost more.  We will exit the single market.  There is no option to that at the end of the 2 year divorce we can start to negotiate back in but not until we are out of the EU – the rules are plain and simple and designed to make countries consider that risk too high.  But we voted for it.  I accept that.  However I am increasingly depressed by the whole thing.  We have no clear idea where we are going, the 3 remaining potential candidates of the Tory party say wildly differing things.  Some say in the single market with immigration control (can’t see that happening, it is a fundamental that all members of the EEA inc Norway and Switzerland have had to accept) other say total free trade not in the single market.   I predict 10 years of instability before we start to revive again.  In that time bright young things like my son will potentially decided to go elsewhere.  He already has filled in a Canadian visa application to see how his skills are rated.  They’d welcome him with open arms.  He’ll follow the funding in his field of research/expertise in three years of so once his first post doc position completes.

Other things I was told I was only scaremongering over… a two point credit rating downgrade of the country – that wipes our contribution to the EU saving off the map once we have to negotiate a new loan deal.  Gilts lower than I predicted – the 10 year yield has never been beneath 1%.  Stock market, if you value in the base of dollars which most international traders would follow as the true value, down about 9%, property development funds suspended due to concerns over investors pulling money out….  I could go on all day.  Frankly the plug has been pulled out of our bath and we are going down the plug hole, meanwhile the so called leaders are either leaving the bathroom or deciding which shade of bathsalts we ought to put in the diminishing water that is running away.  I’m worried, anxious, angry and concerned about it all.  Uncertainty I don’t deal well with it.

In other news.  I am going into hospital for my long await operation and have completed all my coursework for this year.

My son has nearly submitted his thesis and has landed a peach of a job at a top London university as a post doctoral researcher.   My daughter completed her second year with a first on her undergraduate degree.  Currently looks like two graduation ceremonies to be attended next year.

 

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Where to now?

So the process of democracy now means I’m living a new country from the one I was living in only a few days ago.  The UK will be leaving the EU.  I type that with a heavy heart since whilst the EU is (was) far from perfect I firmly believed in the power of unity, collaboration, co-operation etc.  However that is hard, 500 million people from a wide bunch of cultural backgrounds and with a load of history between us trying all to work together and agree… that is tough.  Sadly the majority of my fellow Britains don’t take my few that the pain and the compromises necessary are in the long run better for us, economically, culturally and simply in the matter of peace in Europe in our time.

I was very active on social media before the vote, particularly as I’m want to do as a Specialist in Belbin or a Sage in Jungean archetypes, finding research pointing out the facts as I could uncover them etc.  But the leaders of the exit campaign told us this was not the time to listen to experts but to be brave and bold.  So we have been.

But what now?  We are leaving the EU… well technically (sorry to point out the facts again I know it pisses people off but… ) we aren’t as we’ve not triggered Article 50 in the EU treaty.  Once that happens two years of acrimonious divorce negotiations.  My assumption I can’t see how when you’ve told 27 other countries that you think their club is rubbish how else it will go – how many amiable divorces do you know of?

We’ll have a new PM, selected either by a small cadre of backbench Tory MPs if they produce a shortlist of only one or voted on by less than 150,000 members of the party.  Isn’t out democracy great – 17 million say out and the choice of the lead negotiator is left to less people than live in my council area.

One thing I’ve noticed a lot of on social media this week is the refrain from many that we need to stop whining about losing and get on with working at it.  I’ve been thinking about this as I feel sad, depressed, let down etc.  Here’s my point… Why should I?  Nigel Farage has campaigned for 20 years to get out of the system we were in, he didn’t pull together to make it work in the EU why should I pull together to make it work out of it?

I had a very depressing conversation with my son yesterday.  He has just, luckily, landed a 3 year contract at a top London university as a post doctoral researcher.  However I work in that sector and know how much funding and support comes from the EU esp since 2010 and effectively a freezing of research budgets in the UK.  I fear for his position in the future more than my own, although frankly I doubt I’ll now get to retirement without seeing massive redundancies in the sector.  However my son is someone who on this occasion as rapidly moved through the change curve (you can tell I’ve not!) and was talking about how he needs to use the next 3 years to line up opportunities in the USA and Canada.  Note he excludes EU as he doesn’t feel after we exit he’ll be welcome.  Frankly for me personally I’m extremely sad and angry about the whole decision to leave and the crisis our country is now in is frankly not of my making so you know what… Think I’ll accept the things I cannot change and look to have the courage to change the things I can.  At 53 emigration is unlikely to be honest and I’d rather not risk a move into the EU only to be forceably returned here when the exit completes if UK nationals are not allowed to stay.  But maybe I’ll start the UKinEU party and in 20 years be celebrating in front of Westminster?

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Specialist

Firstly I should write some lines.

I will not get involved in EU referendum debates on line
I will not get involved in EU referendum debates on line
I will not….

Ok… let’s get involved in the EU referendum debate on line!   I went to see the Ear Nose and Throat specialist yesterday.  I arrived a little early for my appointment, was told I was the first for the clinic and to wait.  So … I waited.  In a waiting room full of native English people all bar one young lady older than myself, that was my presumption given how they looked and spoke – I know hugely judgemental of me but there you go.  I finally got in to see the specialist after over a 45 min wait.  She apologised, the Prof was “never there on a Monday” and another member of staff was not there too.  That meant she was running a clinic scheduled for two people and also the only ENT person available to be on-call in the hospital.  Her phone rang twice whilst I was talking to her.  She was frankly stressed, but polite and courteous to me and tried to clearly give me time that was in precious supply to her that day.  I’m rubbish with getting people’s origins correct but one thing she was I suspect, due to her accent, an immigrant.  So you know that Leave campaign advert?  I saw exactly the opposite. The NHS only managing to deliver me a service due to immigration and the pressure put on it was due to low staffing levels and, frankly, an ageing indigenous population (in which I include myself btw).  I know…

I will not get involved in EU referendum debates on line
I will not get involved in EU referendum debates on line
I will not….

Anyway – I didn’t arrive in the best shape.  I’ve not had a bad vertigo attack in 5 or 6 years.  So waking up at 4am with one on the day of seeing the specialist with a bad one wasn’t terrific news.  It went off after a couple of hours but I was still very wobbly when I got dropped off by my daughter for the appointment.

What’s the diagnosis then?  Probably Meniere’s Disease which I self-diagnosed 7 years ago.  The hearing test confirmed my worst but expected fear, my left ear is severely impaired now.  I can barely hear through it and the tinnitus in it means whatever is there is hardly useful.  All classic Meniere’s – vertigo, tinnitus, loss of hearing… blah blah.  She advised me to go back on a tablet my doctor prescribed before for the next 6 months and go back and see if it has stabilised and have a low/no salt diet.  Another set of dietary needs, along with the original migraine stopping list and my gallbladder list… I can eat… apples!  There was talk of a hearing aid but shrugs as to whether it’ll help.  So now I have to stop saying to myself “This too shall pass” and accept the situation as it is however much I hate it.  I may have to change the title of the blog as my days as a guitar player are looking numbered too unfortunately.

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Barcelona

Oh too much to say in a short post ony phone. Loved Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia inside is more stunning than the outside!!!   just been to a great Spanish guitar concert in a church…  I love Barcelona!!
Oh and daft art installations made as you eat tuna steak in a square!

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