Friday Firesmith – A Time to Dry

I’ve drank 12 beers in the last two plus months, and not drinking has made a difference in my life. I sleep better without alcohol, it’s easier to lose weight, and my energy level is up. Of course, I’m eating better, and working out almost every day, so there is that, too. But there is no one magic bullet to better health. It’s a process, as most things are. 

When I peaked out at 183 pounds, I was running out of clothes. I had bought a couple of pairs of cheap jeans that had 34 inch waists on them, but my 33’s and 32’s were way too tight. 34’s were heading in that direction. I looked puffy and felt sluggish all the time. 

I cut out all junk food, beer, and started eating kale. I dropped five pounds quickly. Ten pounds went down in the first three weeks, and now the scales seem happy to hang around between 168 and 170 pounds. My 32’s fit again. 

The first surprise at losing weight and talking about it on social media is how many people out there get sarcastic and defensive when it comes to other people’s successes. I’ve always been supportive of my online friends, and would never dream of telling someone they shouldn’t talk about losing weight because there are some people who can’t seem to do it. 

I had a woman tell me that bragging about weight loss was hurtful. I wasn’t bragging. I was relating the happenings of my life on a day to day basis, and hopefully, inspiring others who are trying to reach their own goals. Those people who understand this gathered to share their stories. We talked health while the others complained. 

Potato chips, potatoes in general, mac and cheese, pasta, bread, and a host of other beloved foods are gone now. I’m doing Yoga three times a week, I’m running and walking, lifting weights, and taking cardio classes. I’m training to run a 5K. This is hard work for me. The fact that I have the time to do this is the function of twenty-seven years of my life working on the road. 

I don’t have to be quiet about my accomplishments. I hope they are an inspiration. 

But alcohol. It was easier to stop drinking than I thought it would be. I drink during football games now, if I plan to watch the whole game, and that’s about it. If you have a drinking problem, and I mean a serious one, seek help rather than trying to cowboy it out. Understand why you were drinking when you were. But find someone who knows what they’re talking about. 

I’ve been drinking since 1973, when I was thirteen years old. Almost every important event in my life included alcohol, and some of the worst moments of my life were alcohol related incidents. The idea that I might simply walk away from it, possibly forever, has an appeal that has never been there before. It’s time, I think. 

I suspect there will be, always will be, those people who want to argue this, or tell me if I have to talk about it I’m not going to really do it, and that’s okay. 

This may or may not inspire you, and that, too, is okay. It’s just what’s happening to me, right now. 

Take Care,

Mike

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

16 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – A Time to Dry”

  1. Mike, I’m in a similar situation, although it took me longer to realize beer was a problem for me. I wouldn’t call myself an alcoholic, but I drank beer as a matter of course most days. The impetus for my lifestyle change was my wife’s insistence that I see a neurologist for my memory problems. I was diagnosed with mild to moderate cognitive impairment. My mother died from Alzheimer’s many years ago, and that was not easy to watch. I realized that after a couple of beers, I became lethargic and
    So, after doing some online research, I decided I couldn’t risk killing more brain cells with alcohol. I like beer, so I now drink N/A beers. There are a lot of good ones here in Minnesota, where we have a thriving craft brewery industry. I don’t miss the alcohol at all. I’ve lost over 20 pounds without much effort. Understanding the causes and effects of my behaviors was a big part of the process.
    Thanks for your columns here on Bits and Pieces. I read them every Friday.

    • Ron, I don’t think I was in danger of doing anything really harmful, but during the course of an afternoon, very little productive was finished, writing was left hanging, I couldn’t and wouldn’t, drive anywhere, and so drinking created an island that I was trapped on for hours. If I needed to reset my mind, it wasn’t a bad thing, but at the same time, it created a black hole. The older I get, the less time I can afford to waste. AND losing all that weight was a bonus I never saw coming. Beer belly is not a myth.

  2. It’s your life and only you have the right to choose.
    You’ll get healthy, fit, and live much longer.
    Year after year of kale and water.
    Year after year of no beer, chips, cheese, chocolate… bacon.

  3. I used to drink daily. Now if I drink two beers in a weeks time I’m overdoing it. I don’t know if I had a problem, I always went to work on time, and kept up a daily routine, I just got bored of it. I got bored of the people, and the going out. I have a perfectly good house, why not stay in it. I did not lose weight by not drinking, I have actually gained quite a lot of weight in the past 15 years. I’m not pleased by it.
    I also quit smoking. I was a 35 year smoker. I had an emergency appendectomy, and was hospitalized for 3 days. When I got home I tried to smoke a cigarette, and realized how nasty it seemed to me. I threw every ashtray in the trash and every cigarette as well. I quit cold turkey. Dec 1 will be 6 years since I’ve quit. I haven’t missed it. I convinced both of my parents to quit as well. That was the real challenge. They had both been smokers for well over 50 years.
    I’m working on my eating habits, I do really well for a while, I love salads, it’s my favorite type of food. But then I’ll hear something horribly unhealthy calling me.

    Congratulations on your healthy lifestyle changes. It’s actually inspiring. I for one know how difficult it can be in the South, there are too many rich, unhealthy foods all over the place and people always want to feed them to you. It’s just the way everyone was raised, food is love and good manners dictates you offer everyone some.

  4. I quit drinking ‘cold turkey’ back in 1988; I had been drinking pretty heavily for ~6-7 years; Literally drunk almost every day and in many cases was walking around still drunk at work the next day. the last 4 of those years I was overseas; in the Philippines and heading out to the bars after work every single night was ‘the thing’ to do…

    I was a few hours into my flight to my next duty station when I just decided that I’m no longer going to drink and will no longer ‘hang out’ with other people that drink… I didn’t touch another drop of alcohol for 16 years and haven’t been ‘drunk’ since. (although I did get close the night my father died in 2018)… Now I drink on rare occasions (usually just wine and no more than one glass) but never to a point where I’m intoxicated and even that is really rare occasions.

    I had tried to quit drinking a few times before but had just never been succesful at all but THIS time it was really easy and I am certain that it was largely due to moving & changing my entire social network at the same time. It was a fortunate and unique opportunity. It’s hard to really see while you are in it just how much ‘peer pressure’ and just the habit of drinking with friends keeps some people locked in that pattern but it’s really obvious once you break out of that orbit.

    I do love visiting distilleries, vineyards, meadery’s; breweries etc. – I find the process fascinating; enjoy the tours and especially love the scenery and just walking around vineyards of different wineries. Georgia has quite a few vineyards now; I’ve been to around 30 of them in North Georgia in just the past few years (I highly recommend Montaluce, Kara Vineyards, Three Sisters, Yonah Mountain Vineyards and a hard to find hidden gem on top of a mountain called “Terra Incognita” – they all have spectacular views and excellent wine) I’ve yet to visit any of the vineyards in south Georgia but there are quite a few there as well.

    I’ve got plenty of weight to lose and I appreciate stories like this; I find it inspirational and it helps keep me motivated. motivating myself is the main reason I do “trail magic” for thru hikers on the AT… I let myself go too far and need the extra motivation to get moving. my day to day work has me stuck sitting at a computer for hours on end and it’s a chore to drag myself up and get moving after being stagnant all day… years of that have really taken a toll so the extra motivation really helps.

    I do love hiking, kayaking and other outdoor activities; getting the chance to meet with and talk to people that are doing something I’ve always dreamed of (hiking the entire length of the Appalachian Trail) helps keep me motivated to get out and hit the trails myself…

    I will probably never thru-hike the entire trail (certainly not in one year) but (over the past 45 years) have hiked all of the GA/TN/NC sections of the AT and a few sections in Virginia, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. (plus lots of other trails; mostly in North Geogia but also the Grand Canyon (over 240 miles below the rim including two ‘rim to rim’ hikes and ~180 miles of less traveled trails; Big Bend, Wimenucci Wilderness Area; parts of the Continental Divide Trail, Rocky Mtn National Park, Yelllowstone (favorite park!!!); Glacier NP; Grand Tetons, Zion, Bryce, Acadia, Shendandoah’s and others)

    I also lovewhitewater kayaking and have been on the Oconee, Chatooga (don’t stop if you hear banjos), Etowah, Tallulah, Tuckaseegee, Nantahala, Little Teneesee, Pigeon and Toccoa rivers.

  5. (Quoting Mike) “But alcohol. It was easier to stop drinking than I thought it would be. I drink during football games now, if I plan to watch the whole game, and that’s about it. If you have a drinking problem, and I mean a serious one, seek help rather than trying to cowboy it out. Understand why you were drinking when you were. But find someone who knows what they’re talking about. ”

    My cousin and his wife are both addiction counselors with decades of experience; That cousin lived in Georgetown MD and worked directly with multiple members of Congress for decades and was one of the founding members of the Betty Ford Clinic. His wife has published a few books on Addiction therapy as well.

    They both adhere to the “12 steps” method pioneered by “Alcoholics Anonymous” which is certainly a common approach but it isn’t the only option out there.

    “12 Step” programs are inherently religious and if that works for you great but that approach doesn’t work for everyone and frankly their entire premise of “you are powerless without ‘god’s help” is a showstopper in my opinion…. YOU are the ONLY person that can change yourself. That change comes from within… There is NOTHING wrong with getting help from others and a positive social reinforcement group can be incredibly helpful but ultimately YOU are the one that makes the change and YOU deserve that credit when you succeed.

    There are some alternatives that don’t push a religious agenda:

    https://www.smartrecovery.org/

    https://www.sossobriety.org/

    https://americanaddictioncenters.org/rehab-guide/evidence-based

    https://americanaddictioncenters.org/alcoholism-treatment/moderation-management-programs

    (Women only) https://womenforsobriety.org/contact/

  6. (Quoting Mike) “But alcohol. It was easier to stop drinking than I thought it would be. I drink during football games now, if I plan to watch the whole game, and that’s about it. If you have a drinking problem, and I mean a serious one, seek help rather than trying to cowboy it out. Understand why you were drinking when you were. But find someone who knows what they’re talking about. ”

    My cousin and his wife are both addiction counselors with decades of experience; That cousin lived in Georgetown MD and worked directly with multiple members of Congress for decades and was one of the founding members of the Betty Ford Clinic. His wife has published a few books on Addiction therapy as well.

    They both adhere to the “12 steps” method pioneered by “Alcoholics Anonymous” which is certainly a common approach but it isn’t the only option out there.

    “12 Step” programs are inherently religious and if that works for you great but that approach doesn’t work for everyone and frankly their entire premise of “you are powerless without ‘god’s help” is a showstopper in my opinion…. YOU are the ONLY person that can change yourself. That change comes from within… There is NOTHING wrong with getting help from others and a positive social reinforcement group can be incredibly helpful but ultimately YOU are the one that makes the change and YOU deserve that credit when you succeed.

    There are some alternatives that don’t push a religious agenda:

    Smart Recovery – http://www.smartrecovery.org/

    SOS Sobriety – http://www.sossobriety.org/

    (Women only)
    Women for Sobriety – womenforsobriety.org

    (reposting – I think the site won’t allow comments with multiple links as the prior attempts did not appear)

  7. I can only add comment to the losing weight part – since I don’t regularly and never have been a drinker.. but the part about people being sarcastic and defensive that you shared your weight loss successes makes me sad/mad/upset. I lost 35-40 lbs a couple of years ago after a bad blood test – I had high triglycerides like my dad did. And I know how hard it is to be successful at losing weight. I feel like the people who didn’t like you sharing were simply jealous – and that sucks.
    I’m proud of you, Mike. And I’m proud of me too. 🙂

  8. On the other hand, 2 years ago I lost 65 lbs and didn’t feel any reason to tell anyone, maybe that’s why I avoid social media. People I saw in person would say “you lost weight”. My reply was “yeah”, end of conversation. People who “share” about losing weight are put in the same column as people saying their vegans.

    But Mike’s blurb wasn’t about weight loss that was just a side effect of a lifestyle changes with a goal of getting healthier, feeling better, and slowing the age toll.
    His attitude has always been work up a good sweat with the axe rather than knock it out quick and easy with a chainsaw, for being healthier.

    • Not at all, you’ve always enjoyed the feeling you got from a strenuous workout like cutting brush or road running miles. Both the physical glow and the feeling of accomplishment.
      As far as sharing the weight loss it’s not my thing, but you’re a writer, it what you do, and writers always put a piece of themselves into their work one way or another.
      I don’t think what I wrote was critical, or demeaning, just my 2¢ from what I’ve witnessed.

  9. Chick, nothing worth doing is easy. It took me two years of trying to quit smoking, but in 2005 it took. Drinking was always something I did, something I was known for, something people expected me to do. I would arrive and someone would hand me a beer, or put the beer I brought in the refrigerator. I was known for great Scotch and Irish Whiskey. I knew my wines. But right now, at this very moment, I would much rather have a salad.

  10. Keith, at some point those things you love to do and alcohol are going to clash. My time on earth gets shorter every day, and I don’t want to be toasted and too drunk to paddle when I could be on the water, or writing, or rescuing a dog, or composting. The list doesn’t end, but life does.

  11. Kris, thank you. I’m very supportive of my friends, online and off, and it hurt my feelings when people started telling me how easy it was for men to lose weight. It is easier, but is it not easy. This has been a journey, and I have enjoyed it, but easy it is not.

  12. I agree with you, Mike, and Krisgo. I see no problem with someone being proud of losing weight, stop drinking, etc. It can be overdone like the crack about vegans, but mentioning it is fine.

    I was holding steady on my weight until I had a major health problem and major surgery in May. Not eating much of anything for about 5 or 6 weeks caused me to lose about 35 pounds. While I needed to lose the weight, the issue with losing it so fast is that you look sallow.

    The best weigh to lose weight is to lose it slowly so your body can adjust. I worked with a guy who used to be a professional tennis player and still worked out; his suggestion was to lose the weight at the same speed you gained the weight.

    Mike, and the others that have lost weight, slowed down or stopped drinking, and/or stopped smoking: I am glad you are taking care of yourselves.

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