Category Archives: Health Issues

Baby Boomers Learning to Surf

Not long ago, Alan and I spent week in Hawaii on Waikiki Beach, but we weren’t really surfing those 30-foot waves that were rolling in on the North Shore. Alan attended the annual meeting for the American Association of Geriatric Psychiatrists. As part of his prep, he had to take a self-assessment to see how well informed he is concerning current trends in America, and he shared some of the interesting statistics with me. Those of us in our sixties (as Alan and I are) are surfing, but not on waves of water! We’re riding the crest of the tidal wave of Baby Boomers about to crash as a beach head here in America.   Did you know that some 10,000 Baby Boomers are passing age 65 every day now? Did you know that America now holds the record for the most centenarians in the world: 53,000 and counting?! America is producing sixty-one geriatric psychiatrists per year, which only fills 40% of the need. Who’s going to take care of us when we’re all demented?   Well, for one thing, we can be more pro-active in trying to take care of ourselves! According to current research, the most positive psychological predictors of successful aging include: “Resilience, optimism, personal mastery, coping self-efficacy, social engagement, spirituality and religiousity, and wisdom.” The single most valuable predictor of satisfaction is retirement is adequate social engagement (even trumping cognitive and financial issues).   A couple of psychiatrists at the meetings, who had retired after highly successful careers, were taken off guard by how quickly they went from being highly esteemed to feeling no longer valued by their professional colleagues. I’ve heard this so many times! I think it would be extremely wise for each of us, as we approach retirement (or even if you’ve already retired), to find a compelling avocation to pursue that will require us to continue being fruitful….giving, growing, and engaging with others socially and spiritually. Maybe, if we can continue working on areas of personal growth such as those listed above, and if we’re willing to pursue productivity even after we’ve retired, we’ll find that we can surf into old age with grace rather than being dashed to pieces under the crushing waves!

They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing” (Psalm 92:14).

Open Communication About Alcoholism

Did you know that alcoholism rose 49% from 2000-2010 in America? By 2015, it was reported in Newsweek that one in seven adults had struggled with a serious alcohol problem that year, and that 30% have suffered an “alcohol-use disorder” over the course of their lifetime.* Everybody’s talking about the epidemic of drug overdose, but in reality alcohol takes more than twice as many lives each year.

My oldest son, Aaron, works for the same company as David Flink and sent me a link to his blog. I think it’s probably the best first-person article I’ve ever read on the subject of alcoholism, and if you like to drink or know anyone who does, please read this!

My name is David Flink, I’m a leader in tech, and I’m an alcoholic

David Flink

Woah, let’s put some boundaries around that statement, shall we? No one died, I didn’t burn down the mall, I managed to keep my career going and function at a high level. Yet the fact remains, I’m an alcoholic; a recovering alcoholic thanks to timely intervention and an incredible support team, but an alcoholic nonetheless.

A quick note before we get started. As I discussed the publication of my story with family, friends and co-workers past and present, many of them asked why I felt a need to publish it in the first place. I’ve given this a lot of thought. First, the label doesn’t scare me. As a high-functioning alcoholic, you very quickly learn to identify others fighting their own demons. There are many, and I look forward to advocating for those in my industry suffering from substance abuse. Second, the vast majority of people I opened up to privately already knew or suspected something; a solid reminder that no matter how much of a smooth operator you think you are, you’re likely not fooling anyone. I hope this article puts the concerns of others who knew or suspected to rest.

A recent study shows one in eight American adults is an alcoholic.

It will probably not surprise you the tech industry is heavy on the alcohol (I’m sure this goes for other industries, too; looking at you, Finance). Between launch events, dinners, farewells, parties, off-sites, trips and just late-night hanging around, there was always an opportunity to drink something. I’m not here to lay waste to that culture; many of my peers have a perfectly healthy relationship with alcohol. For a variety of reasons, headlined by some 30 years of unprocessed emotions, I did not, and chances are you may not either. I’m sharing my story to show you there’s a way out. That the path out isn’t easy, I’m not going to lie, but that life on the other side is healthier and clearer, and that you can hit me up here on LinkedIn (or on Twitter: @knilf_i_am) if you ever just need encouragement or to talk to a stranger-who-could-be-a-friend.

I pretty much stopped drinking beer by the time I left college, and over the years I developed an absolutely toxic intolerance to wine (this may have been a good moment to stop). A decade or so ago I discovered my two great liquid loves: first gin & tonic (Hendricks and cucumber, thank you), later tequila (too many to name, but Don Julio Blanco and Patron Silver on the rocks with lime were staples). The better events serve both, the best events will happily look the other way while continuing to serve you. I think we can all agree beer-and-wine-only events are the worst.

Drinking managed to numb my emotions almost immediately (I’ve been fighting depression since roughly the age of 10), taking off the highs and lows without some of the drawbacks of medication. Life rapidly became about maintaining a drinking schedule; at least 4 daily double drinks (mostly) after business hours to function and not feel, Pedialyte at night (a pro-tip from your friend David), Advil and eye drops to get going in the morning. On the weekends and on vacations, anything went.

My rigid schedule kept my career on the rails (courtesy of my project management skills paying off in an unexpected way), and I believe that when the cracks did begin to show (they always do), my organizational velocity encouraged most people to look the other way. (On that note: don’t. “If you see something, say something” applies to substance abuse, too. Look around you. I know I will going forward.) Three people talked to me about my alcohol use. One got through to me. It only really took one.

My decision to give up drinking was inspired by this conversation and two other things. First and foremost, my kids, who had memorized my drink order at ages 12 and 7. Second, drinking felt like work, something my peers will happily tell you I’m allergic to. Deviating from the drinking schedule had heinous consequences, my body reacting violently to any unannounced changes. Managing my body’s destruction became increasingly difficult, and all the fun associated with having a drink was long gone.

In the opening paragraph I casually mentioned no one died. This is actually a small miracle. I’ve blacked out on more than one occasion, and I’ve found myself in a variety of situations (to be clear: all outside of work) in which in hindsight my life was in acute danger.

Yet no one died and so, in December of 2017, I made the decision to first cut back, then stop drinking within a matter of days. I had a couple of “farewell” drinks with good friends (these turned out to be incredibly important, as they formed somewhat of a formal ending to my drinking period), I informed a small but dedicated group of people of my intent to stop (I cannot stress the importance of this enough), I started walking around a lot just listening to music and I started working out again. I survived weeks of absolutely insane headaches and insomnia (told you: not easy), followed by a wild (wild!) period of roller coaster-like emotions and feelings. This last part, by the way, is something I’d highly recommend to anyone, I just don’t know how to trigger it without going full alco for a while. (Don’t.) As of now, I’m 100% sober, and the fog in my head I’ve walked around with for years has started to lift.

It’s too early to declare victory, if that’s ever even possible. As with cigarettes when I quit smoking, I know I can’t ever have a drink again. This is daunting; for years, my social self has revolved largely around alcohol and I genuinely liked (and was interested in) tequila and gin. I’m taking things one day at a time, talking about events long suppressed, reconnecting with old friends and consuming godless amounts of mineral water. I’m confident I’ll be ok (and with me, the Perrier and San Pellegrino people).

If any of this sounds familiar to you (bonus symptoms: jitters, cold sweats, sober slurring, lapses in your memory), there’s help out there. The NIAAA has some excellent resources, Alcoholics Anonymous has meetings all over the US and Canada (by phone: 212-870-3400) and your company may offer an internal or external support group. Your doctor, therapist and health insurance company will also be able to help, as will friends (this includes your work friends), family and this random dude on LinkedIn.

Let me remind you to consult with a medical professional if you’re considering giving up alcohol, especially if you’ve been hitting it hard for a while. Quitting cold turkey may have some unintended side effects (including, you know, organ failure and death).

I hope you find the strength to be honest with yourself, and wish you the best of luck on your journey.

PS. Don’t worry, you can still get your freak on with a glass of water in your hand, even though it may take you a little longer to start dancing. That’s probably for the best.

 

Thank you, David! For the original blog or more insightful articles by David Flink, check out his blog:   https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/my-name-david-flink-im-leader-tech-alcoholic-david-flink/

*http://www.newsweek.com/30-percent-americans-have-had-alcohol-use-disorder-339085

You Must Strengthen Your Core!

Here is a meditation and some beautiful photos that my friend Charylene Powers shared with me, with a spiritual analogy that the Lord gave her during her morning prayer time recently. As the end of 2017 approaches and we consider where we’ve been and where we’d like to go next year, perhaps this will encourage us.

From the side of the therapy pool my Back Splash instructor looks down at me with compassion and understanding in her eyes and says, “You MUST strengthen your core.”  It is a bone chilling January morning. As I back out of my driveway, the snow crunches under the weight of my car tires. I’m leaving for the MVP therapy pool in the darkness of early morning. My back pain has pretty much put a halt to life as I have known it. Immersing myself in the warmth of the therapy pool every morning is about all I can do.  One morning a week, I am attending a Back Splash class offered at MVP. There are usually ten ladies in attendance; all of us with muscle and joint problems. Our instructor directs us to the deep end of the pool, which prevents us from touching the bottom of the pool.  She continues to instruct us saying, “place the swim noodle under your arms and hang straight down, straight as a pencil, back straight, legs together. Look straight ahead; your head is the eraser.” These instructions sound easy enough. However, as I try to follow her directions, my legs float off to the right. I struggle in the water trying to control my body, and I attempt the pencil formation once again. This time my legs float off to the left….and this is when I hear, “You MUST strengthen your core!”   After weeks of daily trips to MVP and attending my Back Splash class, faithfully practicing all the exercises that I am being taught, I am finally able to hold a perfect pencil formation as my instructor counts off the seconds.  Spring is approaching, I am back on my bike….riding down the bike path, enjoying a strengthened core and the freedom that brings.   I have another core: My spiritual core. How do I strengthen my spiritual core? The same way that I strengthen my physical core. Daily, I must practice the spiritual disciplines that keep me on the path that God has asked me to walk. “Not turning aside to the right or to the left.”  In Celebration of Discipline, R.J. Foster tells us “God has given us the Disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of receiving His grace. The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that He can transform us.”  ……hence as I practice spiritual disciplines, it is God who strengthens my spiritual core.   As I read and mediate on God’s Word, the Psalmist tells me, “His Word is a lamp to my feet, a light to my path.” The path God has chosen for me. “The Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” This is my powerful promise from God.  Prayer is how I communicate with God. I hear His “gentle whisper” and feel His “Divine nudging.” In Luke one of the disciples asks, “Lord teach us to pray.” The Lord will teach me to pray as He taught His disciples. When I do not know what to pray the Holy Spirit directs my thoughts. The more I pray the more, I long to pray and “praying without ceasing” becomes a reality in my life not just a desire.   Fasting has been a part of the Christian tradition for centuries. It is a discipline that Christ talks about in Matthew… “when you fast.” Why am I not pursuing this discipline like I do the other disciplines? Probably because I think it sounds like too much work and sacrifice. Maybe this is the discipline that would bring me closer to God ….. The key to my success in strengthening my physical core has been my daily trips to our health club and practicing all the exercises my caring instructor has given me….hence leading to the healing of my body and the freedom that brings.

The key to my success in strengthening my spiritual core is the same: Daily coming to my heavenly instructor and embracing the spiritual disciplines that He is teaching me….hence leading to the healing of my soul and the freedom that brings.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice
behind you saying ‘this is the way; walk in it’.”
(Isaiah 30:21).

 

A Time for Heaven Contrived By God

 A Time for Heaven is one of those “fact is stranger than fiction” stories that would seem contrived and “too good to be true” unless it is, and they say it is!! A Time for Heaven is definitely advertised as being “based on the incredible true story about a tenacious nurse who helped people that had reached the end of their lives come to terms with God and heaven.”  I couldn’t find any more information on line to test just how closely the story line followed the realities, but I did learn that the real nurse was fired from the hospital for being too open about her faith.  A Time for Heaven (2017) is G-rated and has a 7.6 from IMDb, so it’s a well done movie your whole family could enjoy together (or at least those old enough to deal with the issue of impending death).  It showcases hospice care at its best, starring a compassionate young nurse who is assigned a very grouchy patient.  Although he’s hard on her, she’s up for the challenge, and eventually the patient is loved into peace and contentment about his imminent death.  Despite (but also because of) the amazing coincidences, A Time for Heaven is a beautiful story about life, death, abandonment, forgiveness, and hope, and it has a wonderfully happy ending.                                         So, what’s not to love about that?   Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).

Thanksgiving, Thanksgetting, or Both? (With Illustrations from India and Nepal to Give Perspective)

I have four of the world’s best daughter-in-laws, and my one and only son-in-law is right up there with the best of them too! He is warm, quiet, affectionate, generous, always helpful, devout, ingenious, artistic, and usually has a bit of a smirk on his face, which I presume is his creative imagination kicking in to add a bit of humorous (albeit silent) commentary to life.    I wouldn’t trade him for a barrel of monkeys or anything else you might offer!  All this intro is so you don’t misinterpret his wry pseudonym for Thanksgiving, which is (as you’ve probably guessed) “Thanksgetting.”   So, what are you doing for Thanksgetting tomorrow? Lord willing, we’ll do what we most often do: Gather with those of our family who are able to come and share a Thanksgiving “feast,” and then we’ll sit in a circle around a candle-lit coffee table in our living room and play “The Thankful Game.” Do you ever play that game? It’s a time of reflecting on all the blessings we’ve received over the past year from God, and we go around the circle sharing one by one, round and round until we all seem content that we’ve remembered to give thanks to God for all the most important things we’ve gotten from him. It’s really an opportunity to recognize God’s goodness in our lives and a great way to worship Him, whether you’re alone for Thanksgiving or in a big group.
However you celebrate, I hope you focus on what you’ve gotten rather than what you’ve given this year, and if it’s been a terrible year where you’ve suffered great loss, perhaps you can think about what you still have.  I have a number of friends who’ve had serious physical problems this year, and some who have lost someone precious to them, and my heart grieves for them.  Still, after visiting India and Nepal recently, I am reminded of how “good” most of us have it in America.  King David suffered terrible losses in his life, and yet he wrote beautiful psalms of praise to God for His goodness and graces.  I pray that whatever your circumstances, you’ll be able to say with David: “I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord” (Psalm 116 :17, emphasis mine; notice that sometimes it is actually an act of sacrifice to believe in God, surrender to him, and find reasons to give him thanks in the midst of anguish). Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms” (Psalm 95:2). Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name” (Psalm 100:4).   And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing” (Psalm 107:22).   “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content” (1 Timothy 6:8).

Pumpkin Pie Pancakes

If you love punkin’ pie (as we used to call it when I was little) as much as our family does, then you might enjoy this moist, pumpkin pancake recipe. I developed it in honor of Thanksgiving coming up this week. Actually, I was also trying to imitate a favorite autumn breakfast from a nearby restaurant, where they serve “pumpkin pecan pancakes” each fall. Mine turned out a little more like pumpkin pie than regular pancakes, but I think they might also be a little healthier (being half pumpkin and nuts), and the home team gave them two thumbs up, so I want to pass along the recipe and see if you like them as much as we do!

Pumpkin Pie Pancakes
(Makes eight, 4-inch pancakes)

1 15-0z. can pumpkin (or two cups of homemade pumpkin puree)
1 cup of your favorite pancake mix
1 egg
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup roasted, salted pecans (optional, but I think they really add!)
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamonMix all the ingredients together thoroughly by hand (don’t whip), and fry on a well-buttered griddle at medium heat for about two or three minutes on each side. (This is a lower heat than needed for regular pancakes, but you also have to fry them longer.) Pat them down and make sure they’re cooked through on both sides, crispy and brown but not burned (of course!). Serve them piping hot with butter and syrup…and possibly bacon and/or eggs. I usually eat an egg and a slice of bacon with three pancakes, but pumpkin pie pancakes are more filling, and I was completely full with just two pancakes and one strip of bacon. (Just if you’re estimating how much to make relative to how many regular pancakes you might eat.) Let me know if you try them and like them, will you? Or, please let us know if you experiment and find something you like even better. Thanks!

Psalm 100 (NIV)

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
    Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his[a];
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4 “Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

Tastes of India? Pure Foods and Pure Water

I think the strangest things I’ve eaten in this past month were crickets and bone marrow…   but these weren’t items we were expected to eat on our trip to India and Nepal!   These were some of the upscale tapas offered on the menu of the Ox and Tail restaurant in Rochester, NY, where Alan and I had dinner with our son, Stephen last Saturday night.

Did I like them? Actually, no. Would I order them again? Definitely not!
But, did they make me sick? Believe it or not, the answer is “no.” So, how is it that I can eat disgusting (sounding…and tasting)
food in America without getting sick,  whereas Alan and I ate a lot of gourmet-appearing food  but were still sick the entire time we were in India and Nepal,  despite eating in extremely elegant places that catered to Western tastes? Part of the problem might have been that,
although we ate at some amazing venues  —including some palaces and UNESCO world heritage sites—  we were on a “discovery tour,” which included picnics on river banks in jungles,  buffets in over 100°F. heat under tent awnings in remote areas, steamy dinners in the jungles of Nepal,  and some gracious dinners prepared and served in local homes.We were always careful to drink only bottled water  and tried to choose our food very carefully  (although sometimes I wasn’t really sure what I was eating…), and we tried to make sure all the meats were well cooked. Unfortunately, these precautions weren’t enough.

I usually have a stomach of steel, but not this trip! I assumed it was simply that Westerners aren’t used to the types of bacteria in India, but after returning homeI learned that sanitation and water pollution is a huge issue in India, not  just for foreigners, but for everyone. Diarrhea is the fourth highest cause of death in India today…way ahead of any type of cancer! Several of the men on our trip required prescription-strength medications to recover, and about halfway through the trip, I began to worry that Alan and I might be too old for this type of travel.  After returning and thinking about things, I would like to offer this brief list of ideas for any adventurers who want to travel to India or other very remote areas of the Eastern world:
*Only use bottled water, never tap water, or ice cubes made from tap water.
*Take seriously all the precautions suggested by your travel guides
*Carry and use hand sanitizer before eating
*The one couple who never got ill took acidophilus tablets, which are an over-the-counter probiotic; I plan to use them too if I ever go again.
*Before you go, get a prescription for ciprofloxacin (or whatever medication your physician recommends for you in case of serious diarrhea and dehydration). Finally, I’d like to suggest that not only do our bodies require pure water for good health, so do our hearts and minds!

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him” (Proverbs 30:5).

And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely” (Revelation 21:6).