Posts Tagged Health

Fighting Back Against Sucide

This post doesn’t start out with the catchphrase “excuse my logic,” for it is not meant to poke fun at anyone, minimize anyone or in any way make light of the subject at hand.  Suicide is not a subject to be taken lightly and I hope this post offers some insight to anyone who is either considering this action themselves or know of someone who is.

Furthermore lest it be said that I don’t have any experience that would qualify me to address this issue I would like to point out that I have lost two dear relatives to suicide.

The first loss came when I was in my early twenties. My very favorite uncle, Rudy, was living with his two brothers (one of whom was my grandfather) and another uncle who was paranoid schizophrenic and quite simply off the wall more often than not. The schizophrenic uncle was much younger than Rudy and had a penchant for tormenting Rudy to the point where Rudy felt like a prisoner trapped in a hopeless existence.  While it was never documented that Rudy killed himself (no autopsy was done) my parents tell me that a bottle of sleeping pills half full was found next to his body on the night table.  There is another indication that he killed himself in that the night before he died he called up my Dad and asked him out of the blue to make a McDonald’s run (Rudy loved McDonalds but usually never wanted to put anyone out to drive him there).   We believe this was Rudy’s metaphorical “Last Supper.”

The other relative I lost to suicide was a more clear-cut case.  My cousin, in his late teens,  blew his head off with a shotgun.  Here there had been issues of a recent breakup with a girl, divorced parents and as my one aunt observed just a life too filled with rejection.

This brings me to the insight I wish to offer the reader.  I was listening to a religious recording and the speaker cited an informal study that had been conducted on the subject of suicide.  This clergy man didn’t harp on that old adage taught to us that if you kill yourself you’ll go straight to hell.  What he did observe was an offshoot of that adage but one that is more believable and contemporary than the threat of going to hell and burning up in the proverbial fire.

According to the study, a number of people who had attempted suicide and “crossed over” to the other side briefly, before being brought back to life vis-à-vis EMS workers or others, reported eye-opening experiences.  There was a common thread to these experiences.  These people who had near death experiences all reported that when they temporarily entered their afterlife, whatever problem they were trying to escape by killing themselves was still waiting for them on the other side only ten, twenty or even a hundred times worse!

I think this is a very powerful idea and one with practical applications.  Suicide you see is often fear driven.  The person is afraid of losing their job, their family, their home, their position in the community etc.  Their fear overrides their sense of logic and they decide that the best way out is to take their life. They reason that if they kill themselves they will no longer have to suffer the humiliation, rejection or grief that they are feeling while alive.  So you see, if you know someone who is contemplating suicide and you tell them that the problem they are facing here is going to be ten times worse after death my thinking is that you will fight fear with fear.  Then it becomes a question of which fear is greater.  If you want to stop a person who fears this life from ending their life, you must instill an even greater fear into that person of what lies ahead.  If the person contemplating suicide be it you or a loved one, has any sense of reason left at all they may start to rethink their intentions.

I speak from experience on this front too.  About ten years ago, I passed on the information about the crossing over study to a coworker of mine who was intent on killing himself.  He was addicted to drugs, felt misunderstood and completely alone in the world.   Several weeks after I told him of the study he approached me and thanked me.  He gave me his word that he would never think of killing himself again and I believe from that point forward he began turning his life around.

We're all in this life together.

Suicide claims victims of all ages, religions, and socioeconomic status.  How often have we heard someone exclaim about a victim of suicide “Oh he had everything to live for.”?  That’s what makes suicide so insidious.   Some people will exhibit all the textbook signs of depression and suicidal tendencies before actually killing themselves.  Other people who kill themselves leave us gaping open mouthed wondering how in the world it got to that point.

The above information is not meant to be a substitute for professional mental health counseling.  Rather it can be used as an adjunct in conjunction with the services of a mental health expert.   These are tough times.  Many people are disillusioned and/or scared.  If this post even succeeds in stopping one suicide, then it will have served its purpose.  They say that a person who is really hell bent on killing themselves can’t be stopped.  However, the least we can do is make the effort.

 

Copyright 2011; Greg S.

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Rude Awakenings

Excuse my logic but aren’t some forms of behavior rude and downright crass?  I have personally been on the receiving end of all the following types of gaffes in etiquette but have survived to tell the tale.

Listed for your entertainment are human foibles and rude behaviors that can best be described as (excuse the play on words) – “Rude-imentary”.

 

  • The person who is on the self checkout lane at the supermarket.  The sign says “15 items or less”.  They have a dozen bottles of Vitamin Water but count this as one item.  They have six containers of yogurt, all the same flavor so they count this as one item.  You get the picture.  In reality they are checking out 40 or 50 items but they’re in no rush and figure you shouldn’t be in a rush either.
  • People who during big snowstorms put garbage cans to mark their parking spot on the street.  This isn’t like when someone reserves a seat at the theater and the person it’s being reserved for will return in 10 or 15 minutes. The snowstorm people think they are entitled to have that parking space unoccupied the entire day while they are at work.  Newsflash to these people – you may own your house, but you don’t own the street!
  • How about dog owners who let their canine pee or poop on your property and don’t bother to clean up afterwards.  I once saw this guy allow his dog to poop on my parents’ front yard.  When I caught him in the act, he treated me as if I owed him an apology!

  • This one is my personal least favorite.  Someone you know has the cold or flu, invites you over and then doesn’t tell you about their illness until after you’ve come in close contact with them.
  • People who borrow things and think they don’t have to return them.  I have had a DVD of my favorite movie (“Swordfish”), other DVDs, a fishing net, and cash borrowed and never returned.  On top of this, I was dating a young lady years ago and she borrowed my car just to go to the corner store and buy some gum – so she claimed. She didn’t return the car for 3 days!
  • People who can best be described as “one uppers.”  Whenever you tell a story they have a story on a similar subject that tops yours.
  • People who say “I told you so.”  Need I expound on this one?
  • People who leave their cell phones on when attending religious services and then it rings and destroys everyone’s concentration.
  • Road Ragers.  You simply forget to put on your blinker.  We’re all human and make small mistakes. That fat head behind you blasts his horn, flashes you the finger and practically runs you off the road.  Then to top it all off when he passes you, you spot a United We Stand bumper sticker on his car. 
  • Airheaded people who pull up to the exact change lane at the toll, and then take five minutes trying to find money they should have had counted before arriving at the toll.
  • This last act of rudeness you may have never seen, however, I have.  I was sitting in a gynecology clinic waiting room while overseas. There were many pregnant women waiting to be seen.  In the middle of all of them is this man and he’s smoking a cigarette.  Maybe he mistook the pregnant women for obese women and thought he was at the fat farm!

 

Copyright 2011; Greg S.

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“Lights” Out

Excuse my logic, but did you ever notice how some people will buy “light beer” or “light cigarettes” and then drink or smoke double the amount they would normally do, the net result being that they still consume the same amount of alcohol or tar and nicotine?

Let me put it to you plainly.  These types of people are the bread and butter for the alcohol and tobacco industries.  The math is simple.  Assume a pack of light cigarettes costs the same or even slightly more than its regular cigarette brand counterpart. If you smoke double the amount of light cigarettes than you would regular you are putting twice as much of your money in the tobacco company’s coffers as you would by just sticking with the full flavored variety.  It’s the same with beer.  A six pack of light costs just about the same as regular.  So if you drink two six packs of light figuring it’s better than one six pack of regular, you will be spending double the money.

The worst part of this twisted equation is the actual “health benefits” companies tout when promoting their “light” brands. 

Let’s start with beer. The reason I start with beer is that the news isn’t quite as grim as it is with cigarettes.  Yet it is nevertheless eye opening to realize how people are being duped by the beer companies.  According to the web site personal-nutrition-guide.com, the first light beer was marketed as “diet” beer but it didn’t go over well with men who are preconditioned to think of dieting as feminine and unnecessary for themselves. Since the men represent the much larger market share of beer sales, the beer companies had to go back to the drawing board and think of a new marketing ploy. They came up with the concept of calling lower calorie beer “lite.”  The beer companies didn’t hawk their new light beer by pitching potential customers that its fewer calories that would keep a man thinner.  They sold men on the idea that since it was “light” you could drink much more of them in a single session.  What beer swilling man doesn’t want to be able to drink more beers in a sitting? 

What "ales" them?

It’s interesting to note that if you consume two 12 oz. containers of light beer you will have ingested approximately 50 more calories and 1.2 percent more of alcohol than if you drank one 12 oz. container of regular beer. 

Now as mentioned, since alcohol contents in beer are much lower than that in “hard” liquor, the news isn’t all that bad.  I have known many people who are big beer drinkers who went on to live long and happy lives.  The main downside is the weight gain and accompanying strain on your heart that heavy beer drinking can produce.  If the average 12 oz. container of beer adds 150 calories to your diet, than a mere six pack represents a whopping 35 percent of the calories suggested for normal daily intake.  Add three average meals to that beer consumption and you may soon be ready for the fat farm. 

Furthermore, the beer companies take great pains to avoid putting calorie totals on the labels so as not to scare you off from imbibing their product.

This brings us to cigarettes, one of the biggest public health hazards ever visited upon mankind.  For several years, in an effort to bring my own consumption of Nicorette gum under control, I attended Nicotine Anonymous meetings.  Personally, I suffer from a condition where my brain’s neurons don’t produce enough dopamine and it has been proven that nicotine enhances dopamine production.  So I will chew Nicorette until I exit this world. However, I can tell you my nicotine consumption is a textbook case of how switching to a lower strength version actually increased my total consumption. When I switched from 4 milligram to 2 milligram, I just ended up chewing twice as many pieces. 

At Nicotine Anonymous, I recall two particularly poignant stories of people who smoked.  One concerned a woman who claimed to smoke seven packs of cigarettes a day.  She was asked how she could actually have enough time to smoke 140 cigarettes in a day.  “I don’t sleep,” she answered.  I wonder if this poor soul even wasted her time eating.

Another heavy smoker related a story of how she used to smoke in bed.  The ceiling above her bed which was white when originally painted turned a dark brown over the years. When she tried painting over this spot it took NINE coats of paint to make it disappear!

I transgressed from the original point of this blog in order to drive home the insidious addictive nature of deadly cigarettes with the two examples above.

"I swear I'll quit tomorrow."

When a human being smokes a light cigarette, there is no appreciable difference from a regular cigarette in the amount of smoke, tar and nicotine absorbed into your system.  When establishing rates of tar and nicotine that a smoker of light cigarettes will take in from their brand, cigarette companies test the cigarette on a smoke machine. This machine is measuring the so-called smoke to air ratio.  The fallacy of these test results is that the machine “smokes” a cigarette in a different manner than a human.  The light cigarettes are manufactured with vented filters and these filters are uncovered when being tested on the smoke machine. The result is that a good deal of the smoke passes out of these vents before it reaches the measuring devices.  A human smoker however will block these vents with pressure from their lips or fingers, meaning that a higher dose of smoke and carcinogens reaches their system than the readings recorded on the smoke machine for this same light cigarette.

Furthermore, as I indicated above in my own situation, taking in nicotine increases the production of dopamine.  Dopamine acts on the part of the brain that produces a sense of pleasure.  This is what makes cigarettes so addicting. Who doesn’t crave pleasure? A smoker who became used to the amount of pleasure generated by smoking a pack a day of regular strength cigarettes upon switching to a light cigarette with less nicotine (and admittedly nicotine levels are on average .5 milligrams per cigarette less) will find that he needs to smoke twice as many light cigarettes to achieve the same nirvana.

And therein lies the crux of the matter. The good intentioned nicotine addict who thought downgrading to a light cigarette would decrease his or her nicotine consumption ends up smoking twice as many of these cancer sticks, the net result being that they are still poisoning themselves at the same level as when smoking regulars.   

In conclusion, light beers and light cigarettes are not a panacea for their consumers.  Instead, they are more like a modern day snake oil veiled in the false promise of producing a healthier you.

Copyright 2009; Greg S.

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Debunking Cliches

Excuse my logic, but aren’t some clichés and other forms of “conventional wisdom” sometimes off the mark?

 Submitted for your approval is a dissection of some clichés which we think as the sarcastic suggestion regarding clichés goes ‘should be avoided like the plague.” Following those is a short list of clichés which in this writer’s opinion still get high marks.

“At the end of every rainbow is a pot of gold.”  You ever notice that the person telling you this forgets to tell you which end of the rainbow?

“Behind every cloud is a silver lining.”  Does this apply to a mushroom cloud as well?

“He who hesitates is forever lost.”  What about someone who was planning to commit suicide?

“It’s a certified, pre-owned vehicle.” Excuse me, but isn’t that just double-speak for what is nothing more than a used car?

“Think outside the box.”  Isn’t it funny how people who use this phrase often don’t do it themselves?

“I’ve been working like a dog.”  Interesting to me since every dog I ever had never did an ounce of work.

“Quitters never win.”  Recovered alcoholics and people who have quit smoking, gambling or adulterous behavior might challenge that one.

Other clichés which I find quite irritating are as follows: “The early bird catches the worm.” Yuk.  “A rolling stone gathers no moss.” So what?  “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”  You think?  “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Big deal. What does a penny buy anymore?  “No good deed will go unpunished.” Too cynical for me.  “Where there’s smoke there’s fire.” Maybe it’s just grandpa indulging in his favorite cigar.  “A leopard never changes its spots.” Neither does a Dalmatian and there’s nothing wrong with it.  “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Tell that to the ever increasing number of octogenarians getting their first college degree.  “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”  Very few make house calls anymore anyway.   “Time heals all wounds.”  There are combat veterans and amputees who would debate that point.

Cliches which in my opinion still have some merit, are as follows:

“Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”  Whether or not God would agree is beyond my knowledge, but striving for his approval and being tidy seem like good traits to me.

“Practice makes perfect.”  Yes, it is used way too often, however it is true in so many of life’s endeavors that repetition is the foundation for eventual success.

“You are what you eat.”  It has also been proven almost beyond debate that one’s diet is a major contributor to their health.

For those readers who are interested in this topic, most local libraries have many books on the subject.  Also, the internet has a wealth of information on clichés.  Just Google the word clichés and you’ll find more articles than you can shake a stick at.  Did I just write that last line?  OMG.  Now I’m using worn out and dated phrases too!

Copyright 2009; Greg S.

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License to Kill?

Excuse My Logic, but isn’t there something quite hypocritical, contradictory, farcical and almost bipolar about pharmacies such as the ones pictured below? Isn’t a pharmacy a place you turn to when you need help to feel well?  Or maybe I’m missing something.  Perhaps alcohol and cigarettes are actually good for your health.

Pharmacies such as these that peddle alcohol and the wider spectrum of pharmacies that hawk cigarettes are just contributing to society’s ills.  Alcoholics Anonymous defines alcoholism not as a character defect but as a “sickness.”  Therefore pharmacies selling alcohol are in some cases making people sicker.  Alcohol seriously affects the liver, pancreas and other organs.  Cigarette smoking too is a kind of sickness.  It is an insidious addiction.  For example, I have heard people who were cross addicted to cocaine and nicotine declare that cocaine was easier to quit than cigarettes.  Doesn’t that sort of tell you what a serious addiction cigarettes are?  Yet almost all the chain pharmacies sell cigarettes.

Getting back to alcohol, it is a known fact that most prescription medications come with a warning label telling the patient not to mix them with alcohol.  So what do some of these pharmacies do?  Not only do they have the gall to sell alcohol but in many cases the alcohol is displayed prominently right near the cash register making the temptation to buy it all the greater.

Perhaps a few analogies are in order.  I equate a pharmacy that sells coffin nails and booze to a person who sells you a house and candidly tells you about the leaky basement but deliberately neglects to tell you about the termite problem.  Or a romantic partner who confesses to having cheated on you but conveniently fails to let you know they have contracted an STD.

Doesn’t it occur to the people who run pharmacies that sell alcohol that some people just might mix booze with pills?  Or don’t they care?  Famed guitarist Jimi Hendrix died from mixing sleeping pills with alcohol.  Comedian/Actor Freddie Prinze shot himself to death after mixing methaqualone with alcohol.  More recently put perhaps not recent enough to be relevant to the pharmacy business types, Brynn Hartman murdered her famous husband comedian Phil Hartman and then shot herself after mixing cocaine, Zoloft (a prescription drug) and alcohol.

I can tell you my own personal experience as a reckless youth who thought it might be interesting to pour the contents of several dexatrim tablets (diet pills) into a glass of scotch and then down it (I beg any and all readers not to do this). It was as the sixties counterculture people called it a “horror show.” My speech became slurred like a stroke victim and my eyes were practically bugging out of my head with some sort of psychotic reaction.

This also leads me to another question in this day in age where the seemingly impossible becomes possible every day.  Are we far off from a time where alcohol and cigarettes, by mere fact that they are sold in these stores, are going to be covered by Medicare and Medicaid?  What a bonanza that would be for the already well-heeled pharmacies.

Pharmacies that sell alcohol and tobacco need to step up and ask themselves whether they are just in it for the almighty buck or to help better peoples’ lives.  To quote a college buddy of mine “Drugs may bring you joy. But they may destroy.” I think this saying holds equally true for the purveyors.

Copyright 2009; Greg S.

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