Tag Archives: Health

My Last Vice

Riedel Sommeliers Single Malt Scotch Glass

Sometime last week I realized I was my own worst enemy.

I’ve been suffering from insomnia and migraines but I haven’t stopped drinking. Any idiot knows that those three don’t play well together.

The problem was that until recently I couldn’t see the affect the alcohol was having on the migraines because it was so slight. It bumps an existing migraine about 0.5 on the pain scale. You know that scale. The one the doctor always asks you. “On a scale of 0 to 10 how much pain are you in?” When you are having daily migraines in the 7-9 category the increase in magnitude of a 0.5 just isn’t enough to register.  

My daily migraines are closer to a 1 so now I’m noticing.

It is the insomnia that is the real kicker. Some days a single drink will cause me to wake up every hour or so. But wine and scotch are part of my lifestyle. They are part of how I view myself.

Funny – I’m sure that is similar to how smokers feel.

We have so many hang-ups around drinking in our culture I have a feeling many of you are out there labeling me. Label away. I’ve been referring to myself as the “family alcoholic” for some time now. I’m one of the only ones who drinks.

At least I’ve discovered that I’m not addicted, but I don’t have an addictive personality so that wasn’t a surprise. I can stop and I can limit. I just like to drink. I love the adventure of tasting new wines and visiting old scotches. Only now I need to make the decision about when and when.

It’s all about health.

Health is one of those things that I like to manage myself. Now I know that for me to sleep well and limit that minor bump on the migraine, I have to limit my consumption. Sometimes one drink is too much but often I don’t know until the next day if I’ve caused a negative impact.

Logic says that I should be saying good bye…

The thing is I’ve changed my diet, my exercise program, where I go and who I go out with, all to limit my need for drugs to manage my health. Alcohol is my last food related vice. I never had many but they are all gone. The fried egg sandwiches, nachos, soft drinks, aged cheese, fresh baked bread, and goldfish crackers are all things of the past. There is nothing left to comfort myself with or use as a reward system.

That was what the scotch was for.

Scotch is the ritual that allows me to relax. It was what helped me handle the stress when everything in my life was falling apart. Just the smell of a good island scotch makes me smile. There is enormous power in the wafting scent of peat and seaweed, a strange sort of something that my brain responds to with pleasure.

My scotch brought me happiness when few things in my life did. Often it was less than a glass. Sometimes when I had a migraine I would simply pour enough in so that I could smell it.

I need sleep, but I love my scotch. I wonder if there is any way I can keep my vice and still provide my brain with its much needed downtime?

Moderation in all things I suppose.

We shall see.

~ Tess


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Leave me alone – I want to stay in bed!

The alarm went off with plenty of time for a snooze yet I didn’t want to get up. It is so nice to not hurt! My back, which has been cranky for the last five years, is feeling great. My neck is still having issues – but that is a pillow problem not a mattress problem. I feel great when I get up… I just don’t like getting up.

This is all because after 10 years I finally purchased a new bed. I’ve decided that is my excuse for sleeping in this morning not a lack of discipline. I’ve always loved bed. Not necessarily sleep – I just like lying in bed. When I lay there my mind wanders I come up with ideas and work through problems and issues. For me my bed is a second office.     

Yet – how many of us feel inferior to those souls who need only a few hours a night? The average adult needs between 7 and 9 hours. I’m more of a 9 hour girl myself, yet every once in a while I dream of only needing 4 hours so that I can be more productive during the day.   

But sleep is important!

But I digress – what amazes me most is that after multiple doctor visits about my back I don’t remember anyone telling me I needed to get a new bed. Now they may have – and I may have ignored them. But the bed is magic! And I’m wondering if pressure from the medical profession might have tipped me over into getting one sooner.  

We seem to be in a transition between “here’s a pill” to “let’s look at your lifestyle”.

One of my doctors recommend, and threatened to prescribe, having someone clean my house. I’m allergic to dust mites and mold. I am also allergic to cleaning products. My reliance on drugs and the number of days I felt sub-par because of allergies has decreased. I truly believe that when we are having health issues we need to look at all the factors – and not reach for the medicine cabinet.

Changing behaviors takes effort, taking a pill only means remembering to take the pill.

It’s funny because it is a matter of degree. I once dated a guy who dealt with his allergies and asthma though drugs. His house was filled with dust and mold but no matter what was causing it he found it easier to mask it with drugs then deal with the root cause. Being with him was causing me to go back to using medications to keep me healthy – that didn’t last long. I left preferring my health over his company.

This leads me to wonder about the medical profession.

How many of us are willing to change our behavior if a doctor tells us to? Most of us still feel a reverence for the profession and put a lot of weight in what they tell us. But so much of what I’ve read about healthcare talks about doctor’s unwillingness to look at behavior – often because they don’t believe it will work.

Maybe it is just the people that I hang out with – but I was surprised to learn how many of them responded to their doctor’s request to alter their life style. A couple I know are the most religious of gym goers – three times a week without fail. No whining, no complaints. All because a doctor told them to.

Another friend has altered her diet multiple times as she tries to sort out what might be affecting her migraines. A co-worker, who had multiple serious injuries in the last year, is recovering faster than average because she does the physical therapy prescribed by her therapist at home. Oh, and then there was the couple who one of them was having insomnia and the other discovered he had sleep apnea – the hope is once the sleep apnea is resolved his wife will be getting better sleep.    

Now there are also folks I know who aren’t doing quite so well… but they are at least beginning to understand that they are their own worst enemy. Having chronic insomnia and heading up to play computer games at 11 at night with a two liter bottle of regular Coke is a recipe for another sleepless night. But most of us are taking our health more seriously and understanding that our environment and habits could be responsible.

Now there are plenty of times when I reach for medication – my allergies are only under control with daily drugs but I’ve cut down on the need for Benadryl. I have severe migraines but have successfully moved off of daily meds to Imitrex as needed. My back was fixed by my bed and regular exercise, however my insomnia would be much better if I didn’t drink – but we all need a vice.  

I hope that I always start with the root of them problem and then work out – leaving medications as my last course of action. And think more of us would if we were given the information to make that choice.  

So where do you sit on this spectrum? The pill or the behavior or someplace in-between?

 ~ Tess


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Happiness –

So I’m going to be self-indulgent for a moment.

Below is a poem that I wrote after a lovely day with my new beau. I have a point – so if you react to poetry the way my friend Brian does, please just skip the poem (Brian this means you) and move down to where the words are in paragraph form again. You will be happier and so will I.

Ever had one of those moments?
A moment of sheer uncomplicated happiness?
Where somehow
all sorts of pedestrian things line up
and become magical?
I had one of those moments today.
Just a day. A Fall day
in Oregon. Rain and cloud breaks…
driving I-5…
an adventure…
and a man.
There was nothing exceptional about it
except for the confluence of events
and the company.
I don’t want to over state it –
I don’t know where this is going.
All I can say is today was perfect
in its own way
and that I wouldn’t have missed it
for anything.
It isn’t like I have expectations
– I don’t.
I have lived long enough to know
how fleeting things can be.
But I thank the universe for today
because if I had the choice
of how my life would go
it would be filled with this.


So my point – I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness lately. Nine months ago I’m not sure I could have had a day like the one described above. As my doctor pointed out, corporate life was killing me. My friends put up with me and the broken record of my observations of all the things that were wrong and that I wanted to fix – but only because often they were in a similar space. Trapped on the treadmill of too much work, too little time, poor direction, and blurred lines of responsibility. All the things that makes Dilbert so comical and corporate life so unbearable.

But I wasn’t going to talk about my ex-job – except to say that even with the great people I worked with and the good product we had most days I felt like a failure. I was Sisyphus. Working every day without making any progress – trapped in my own personal Hell.

I don’t mind hard work, if it goes somewhere.

Recently a friend sent a link to an article about how uncertainty in your work life is an indicator of health. It made me think of all the uncertainty out there – the rounds of layoffs my friends have been through (both as survivors and those cut). I’ve been both. I was so grateful to be cut this time rather than be one of the survivors with the extra workload and the increased hours and the uncertainty. Once I survived three rounds of layoffs in eighteen months – everything got harder, everyone more unhappy and resentful.

Now just so that everyone doesn’t think I’m anti-corporate life – my best friend loves her job! She works for a global company and has found a niche. Other friends have too – so it is out there. But how do we get there?  

Dr. Daniel Gilbert – in his work on happiness – found that our “future selves” did not always agree with our assessment that being “richer/slimmer/married/divorced/employed/retired” would make us happier. His studies suggest that most of us trip over it – but we don’t make it. 

Four years ago, when I started reimagining my life, I didn’t think of happiness. I started with trying to figure out what I valued and how to stay true to those values. Since then, every decision I’ve made (with the exception of a brief stint that I someday hope to get enough distance on so I can write about it) is based on those values. It has taken me four years and some help from the economy to find this place. Amazing that you can imagine something, plan it, and achieve it.

I have to take a moment and thank the three people who inadvertently gave me the tools to start on this path four years ago. Funny enough – they were teaching project management classes Tonia McConnell, Jeff Crow, and Paul Spindel.

I’ve found a place I like – work I like – a pattern of ebb and flow to my life that I like and that I’m desperate to keep.

Gilbert also defined four rules of happiness, and after rereading them for this post I’m amazed at the ongoing truth I find in them 😉

  1. Bingeing is bad, except when it isn’t.
  2. Happiness often comes from what you don’t know.
  3. Keeping your options open won’t necessarily make you happier.
  4. The things you fear are not as bad as you think.

Bingeing! Well nothing could be more of a binge than writing a novel in three days! It still leaves me breathless. I don’t know who that person was or where she came from but I keep hoping she will visit again soon. 

What you don’t know! Who would have thought that I would like doing a blog? I wouldn’t have… every day I get to research things I don’t know, write things I’m thinking and learning about, and explore the world of the internet as it continues to impact us.

Keeping options open. This is one of my greatest problems. I like to keep my options open. My mind is usually brimming with ideas and possibilities. But I’m finding that constraints can actually increase creativity and narrowing your focus can bring delight.

The things you fear! Well for all my planning and work on my exit strategy I was unable to make myself leave my job because of its security. The economy went bad and pushed me out – like a chick leaving the nest. It was fortuitous. And then the job market was so limited that I had to find things to fill my days with – since there just aren’t many jobs out there – so I continued my plan. Because what I had feared – leaving – happened.

I wasn’t looking for happiness – I was looking for solvency, autonomy, and creativity.

What I’ve found is bliss.

~ Tess

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