Do we still listen to experts?

I had a long hard chuckle at a recent Twitter discourse involving Douglas Carswell (the only sitting UKIP MP) and a leading scientist where Mr Carswell insisted that the sun causes the earth’s tides.  I loved Prof Paul Nightingale’s put down.  “Douglas, this isn’t a controversial point. Its in Newton’s Principia.” published in 1687.  Glad to see our elected representatives keeping abreast of the latest scientific literature.  This comes of course on the back of the Leave Campaign during the EU Referendum claiming that “people in this country have had enough of experts”.  Well this seems again true given the new PMs latest policy to ignore pretty much any educational expert of the last 50 years and determine to re-introduce grammar schools.  I live where there are grammar schools, indeed I’m a product of one as is one of my children, the other attended a secondary modern.  Frankly the best education and the most inspiring teachers we experienced were not at the grammar school in my opinion.  Those schools seem to take the best and frankly do little but beat them over the with expectations of high grades, Russell Group University places etc. etc.  My son’s secondary modern treated him as an individual and inspired him to a point where he has submitted his thesis, will soon get his PhD and is working at an internationally renowned university as a post graduate researcher.  Shows to me that grammar educated or not between 11 and 18 what is really needed is to inspire and show belief in the individual.

Against this background then I wonder whether it is even worth drawing attention to this interesting study from Sweden.  Quitting Alcohol Can Be Easier To Maintain Than Cutting Back determines that “total abstinence from drinking may be easier to maintain in the long run than trying to cut back”.  Any one who knows me will know I’m likely to agree with this.  I’ve been abstinent since 2004.  For me I’d tried repeatedly to control, manage, limit etc. my drinking and I had repeatedly failed finding myself once again wildly out of control beyond the limits I’d set for myself and once there it wasn’t simply a point of stopping and controlling again.  No that took time and effort to get back to some point of abstinence.  Guess what.  And then I’d start believing I could control it and… the wheel kept on turning.

Previously the most widely accepted position is that an agency agrees with the users of the service what their goal is, reduction, abstinence or control and works in consort with that position to help.  This study seems to refute some of that indicating those with abstinence as their chosen path are more successful long term to maintain it.

But then let’s find an MP with a degree in Imperial History willing to offer their tuppenceworth…😉

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Days into Months, Months into Years, Years into Decades

I was privileged to hear someone talking about a milestone in their recovery.  35 years sober.  35 years!!!  For me to have hit that achievement I’d have had to stopped drinking when I wasn’t quite 19!  This person though is far from unique in my recovery circle I know plenty with 20 years or so even one venerable fellow who is closing on 50 years.  He stopped drinking about the time I first went to primary school!

What is amazing about these people is that they don’t rate their achievement any higher than a person who has a day, a week, a month or a year sober.  It is the old adage “one day at a time”.  For those that follow this path frankly each day ought to be as miraculous as the first.   But for me I’ve grown accustomed to being sober, to not drinking, to not even thinking about drinking other than in relationship to my own alcoholism and my decision that for me the best solution to my problems was to adopt total abstinence.  I can take it a bit for granted and that is something I feel guilty about when I sit there and hear someone talk about their sobriety with such great humility.

I also have the privilege to meet someone who is a bit further down the counselling journey than me.  We talked about addictions.  We talked about food addiction.  I stated my belief that overeating is a really difficult addiction to address.  I feel that since many (alcohol, drugs, gambling etc.) abstinence is no burden on life.  However with some, food being the most obvious example, you have no option but control.  You can’t abstain from food can you?  You have to eat so that having to control your addiction through necessity must be so so hard.


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Human effort

It was the last stage of the Tour of Britain in London yesterday.  Not one of the “grand tours” that last for weeks and weeks in the baking Mediterranean sun and up and down huge mountain ranges.  However a week cycling the length of Britain is tough, some of the climbs in the Lake District and Dartmoor rate alongside some of the Tour De France stages in the Alps.

Anyway my wife and I went to meet my son and his girlfriend and stood in Whitehall to watch the last stage, 16 laps around the centre of London.  It was really impressive.  These guy hum along at 30 – 40mph, when the peloton of 100plus riders come passed you at that speed it is startling that there are not more crashes and serious injuries.  Seeing them on a stage like this was great as they did 16 laps and we could see them both come down and go back up Whitehall.  In the end Steve Cummings maintained his 20 second lead to win the race overall capping a great year for British cycling with a Brit winning our major home race.  And I can say I watched the last stage of the last race by Britain’s greatest ever Olympian, Sir Bradley Wiggins.  It was obvious that he wasn’t fit for a race like this, being heavier than he should be after focusing on the velodrome for his last Olympic triumph recently.  He stayed with the peloton however but towards the back.

I was struck though by the shear enormity of the effort put in by these guys day in day out.  I know cycling has had a bad reputation regarding doping etc. but putting that to one side it is remarkable what the human body can do with training and effort.  Watching some of the paralympics has only confirmed that to me – watch Hannah Cockroft win the 100m final.  Simply – incredible!



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Back in harness

Hello local followers… er follower… oh well I’ll just talk to myself then!

Sorry I’ve been away but the recovery from the operation made me somewhat lazy.  I ended up watch a great chunk of the latter stages of the Tour De France, the Olympics and listened to a lot of test match cricket.

But the summer is waning as I begin to see leaves falling from the trees, acorns dropping on my head and the colour of summer fading with the evening light.  And so I’ve returned to work – nearly needed a map to find the place.  But my desk was still there with my nameplate on it which was grand and a pay check arrived a day or two after my return so looks like I am still gainfully employed.

Not much happened over the summer given I was getting better.  I did walk a lot, starting soon after I got out of hospital as I was worried I’d lose all fitness.  The first few days were a meagre shuffle around the local roads in my surgical stockings and shorts much to my daughter’s dismay, apparently fashion should come before health in her view.  However over the weeks I built up to a reasonable distance and pace so my return to work, which involves four 20 min walks a days to and from train stations has been fine.  Also it was interesting to walk parts of my local area I rarely do.  Often it is said that in modern life there is no community, no one speaks etc.  I can say that is because you are all stuck in your cars not walking.  If you walk the majority of folks you pass bid you good morning or comment on the weather etc.  I felt more enlivened by community spirit than I’ve done in a long time.

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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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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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