Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Energy Crash

You can always count on teenagers to come up with a new way to drink alcohol. Lately, the fad is mixing it with energy drinks.

A recent study - conducted on about 37,000 students from grade 7 through high school - discovered that 20% had drunk alcohol mixed with energy drinks like Red Bull or Monster. The study was conducted in Canada, but the statistics are on par with findings in the U.S. and Europe.

The habit seemed to be highest among those students who used marijuana (surprise surprise), skipped school or were involved in sports. Students who felt "connected" to school were less likely to indulge in this high-caffeine kick.

Doctors say mixing booze with energy drinks is a serious health concern for young people because energy drinks tend to "mask" the effects of alcohol. Meaning it's easier to get drunk, drive drunk, or make other irresponsible decisions when you're under the influence.

Commercial energy drinks have become more and more popular in the last five years and, subsequently, doctors have seen a huge increase in the number of emergency room visits by people who have "overdosed" on them. In fact, since 2007, people seeking help in emergency wards for symptoms (allegedly) brought on by energy drinks has doubled, reaching almost 20,000 per year. Of these, just under half of the patients had mixed the drinks with alcohol.

Dr. Howard Mell, an emergency room physician in Cleveland who's also a spokesperson for the American College of Emergency Physicians, says most people don't realize how powerful these drinks can be.  A single can contains as much caffeine as three cups of coffee and consuming too many in too short a period of time can cause anxiety, headache, rapid heartbeat, insomnia, seizures or worse . In fact, 18 deaths have been linked to energy drinks - though the manufacturers deny responsibility and say underlying health issues are more than likely the cause.

I definitely sing the praises of energy drinks when I'm cleansing (they've helped me get through more than a couple sober social events!). Even then, I only have two or three in a whole month. So it's boggling to think that people can sometimes drink three in an hour - like one of the patients Dr. Mell recently saw in the E.R. The man recovered, thankfully, but Dr. Mell is convinced that if he had an underlying heart problem, the situation could've been much worse.

Obviously, we're all just learning about the overall effects of these high-octane drinks on our health - and that's a good thing. Because Red Bull might give you wings ... but it should also give you pause.

Especially if you've already sloshed back a couple cans!

CBC News  article on alcohol and energy drinks among students.
And the original article on the rise in emergency room visits connected to energy drinks.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Hey Sailor!

U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced a big change in Naval policy when it comes to alcohol use. Sailors and Marines will now be subject to random blood alcohol tests.

Drinking has long been a part of Naval culture, but after ten years of war, alcohol abuse is playing a growing role in the dismissal of commanding officers, suicides, depression and sexual assault.

The plan is part of the 21st Century Sailor and Marine Initiative which was created to improve the health and well-being of the men and women who serve their country. By May 2013, hand-held alcohol detection units will be issued for about 2,000 commands.

Anyone reporting for duty with a BAC of .04 or higher will not be permitted to work. The Navy was quick to point out the results will not be used to punish sailors, but rather help direct them to appropriate counseling, if necessary.

A pilot program last summer tested the BAC of 7,500 sailors. Only 87 individuals tested positive, meaning the vast majority of service personnel use alcohol responsibly, but it was enough to warrant concern.

After hearing the report, Mother Dolphins Against Drunk Sailing (MDADS) clapped their flippers and let out a collective cheer/squeak.

(I can't mention dolphins without thinking of Fa and Be in 1973's Day of the Dolphins. Here's the original NBC promo for a 1977 Saturday night showing of the flick. Kitsch-factor: 8.5)

Good luck, Sailors!

Source Article: "Random Alcohol Tests For Sailors in U.S."

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Memories - Or Not

In case you were curious ... one of the questions I answered 'yes' to on that quiz yesterday was whether or not I remember everything that happened the night before when I've been drinking.

Tell you the truth - no, things slip by/out/under/through. Occasionally.

But you know what? I don't remember everything that happened the night before even when I'm sober. So ... uh ... that's a relief (?).

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Quizzical Day

Yikes. The statistics are astounding when it comes to how many of us are suffering from drinking problems - even full-blown alcoholism.

The National Health Service in the U.K. reports that one in 13 people are alcoholic. In the U.S. 15% of people are "problem drinkers" (they have concerns about their drinking, but are still able to basically control their consumption). Between 5-10% of American men and 3-5% of women are alcohol dependent. The World Health Organization claims that there are about 150 million alcoholics worldwide. Even more concerning is that 1/3 of all Americans admit to having had an "alcohol disorder at some point in their lives" - and it usually rears its ugly head in a person's early twenties.

That sounds about right. Unfortunately.

Alcoholism is a "chronic" condition/disease (whichever you feel more comfortable with). That means it's a lifelong concern. People who've had a dependence on alcohol will always have to be concerned about it - whether they're quitting forever or just cutting down.

I know my concern over my drinking has not evaporated since I started cleansing. I'm always on guard, always watchful. I never want to get to the point again where nothing else matters in my life but my next drink. Because that's the way it used to be.

But lots of other things matter to me now. (Including my next drink!! Which won't be until tomorrow, since it's a cleanse day.)

But I remember a time when nothing - absolutely nothing - was more important than "How the f*@# am I gonna get drunk today?!!" I never want to go back there - which is why I'm still following this plan ten years after I first developed it. And it's working for me. It really is.

How do I know this? Not only did my score on the famous National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence quiz reverse substantially (I first saw this quiz in Chapter 8 of Drinking: A Love Story), but I just took an entirely new test. The 20 question Alcohol Abuse Screening Quiz developed by the addiction experts at Johns Hopkins University Hospital.

The test helps drinkers determine the level - if any - of their "problem." It's designed to single out people who need help with their drinking, either for abuse or addiction.

Guess what?

I only answered 'yes' to 2 of the questions! And you need to answer positively to at least 3 before your drinking is a concern.

Whew ...

Obviously, my relief means that I do still think about how my drinking affects my life. But that will never end. And I don't expect it to. I just love knowing that I'm in a better place now than I used to be. It makes me feel happy. Proud. And safe.

In fact, I feel so good, I feel like celebrating! But it's a f*@#ing cleanse day! Wahhhhh!!


Take the quiz. Good luck!

Medical News Today article on worldwide alcoholism rates.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

House of Lies

I caught the premiere of Season 2 of "House of Lies" last night. It's the first time I've watched this show and it was kind of like trying to figure out what happened after a bad blackout.  Because ... uh ... that's what the episode was about. Trying to remember what happened when two of the main characters got drunk together.

Stars Don Cheadle (fresh off his Golden Globe win for Best Actor in this role) and Kristen Bell are colleagues in a questionable 'consultancy' firm. Hence the term "House of Lies."

From what I could figure, in the finale last season, Don and Kristen got very drunk ... and mostly naked ... in a hotel room together ... they puked on each other ... passed out ... peed in public (Kristen might've even helped 'hold') and possibly ... possibly ... might've "done it." Not even they're sure - at least not yet. The snippets of memory are just coming back to them. But the rest of the staff have a bet on the fact that they "did."

(Maybe they were drugged ...? Will have to stay tuned for that one!)

I imagine a lot of sober people would not think this makes for very wholesome TV. Understood. But for young professionals who party a lot, this episode is going to ring true. Because fully 1 in 6 Americans admits to "binging" four times in the last month ... "binging" being defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism as having at least five drinks in two hours. (Though in this report, the average was 8 drinks in two hours! Zowie! Don't try that one at home, folks ... or in a bar ... or anywhere!! Come on, peeeeple!!!)

To tell you the truth, like anyone in recovery (though my "recovery" is a lot more lenient than most!) I was a bit wistful remembering the bad old days. I'm definitely glad they're behind me, but in this what-the-hell-happened-last-night-anyway context, it seemed so ... fun (?) and ... harmless (?). 

But I also kept thinking: "You know, it's amazing how accepted super-hard-heavy-drinking is in our culture." Even though from accidents to alcohol poisoning, it really can be dangerous. So pace yourself!! These people aren't really alcoholics! They just play them on TV!!

Here's more about House of Lies from Showtime.

And more sobering info about binge drinking from the Centers for Disease Control. cdc.gov

(Of course, it was still a hell of a lot more interesting than watching a show about people who remember to charge their Blackberries and tuck in before The Daily Show every night.) 

Monday, January 14, 2013

The British Evasion

It seems there's a trend in the U.K. for people to go "on the wagon" in the New Year. Two organizations - Alcohol Concern and Cancer Research U.K. - are both marketing a "dry" January to help counter the effects of too much partying over the holidays.  Of course, lots of people cut down in January. But if today's report in BBC News Magazine is any indication, it seems to be even more popular in the U.K.

However, abstaining from drinking can also pose problems. Lubricating social life with alcohol is such an ingrained part of British culture, that some people can be lost without it.

I've done a lot of socializing on cleanses and I think I've got it down to an art.  The important thing to remember is that you can have just as much fun with family and friends when you're sober as when you can drink. Honestly!

However, sometimes it can be a challenge to interact with drunk people when you're totally sober.  So be a good listener! Drunk people love to talk, so don't interrupt them. Just smile and nod and try to find some way to stay interested in your crazy Uncle John's story about how he sunk the Bismarck. Even though you've heard the story ten times.

btw, listening is an important skill any time, whether you're on a cleanse or not. Here are some really great tips from Dr. Raymond Morris of York University about how to be a good listener - whether or not there's drinking involved. Because it's amazing how easy it is to get caught up in your own mind chatter and forget to just listen. And being a good listener is a big part of being a good friend. :)

Active Listening by Dr. Raymond Morris.

And here again is the full BBC article about the dry bandwagon in Britain.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Naked and Nuts

Red-letter week for hard-drinking celebs.

Randy Travis, beloved country singer with sixteen #1 singles behind him, hit a major roadblock in his career today when he was officially charged with DUI in connection with a bizarre accident in Texas last August. Apparently, the country crooner was found lying by the side of the road full of scratches and bruises, his vintage Trans Am nearby, crashed through a set of construction barricades. 

Par for the course, you say? The clincher is that he was in the buff! The totally nude Travis wasn't cooperating very well when he was put - still nude - into the back of a police cruiser where he allegedly threatened the officer who arrested him. Meaning he's also charged with retaliation and obstruction. Though the charge is recent, here's the original RollingStone.com article, complete with must be one of the sorriest looking mug shots evurrr. 

Not to be outdone, Miss Lohan has brought her own drunken nudity to the headlines, too. She was not-so-hard-at-work on the low-budget Bret Easton Ellis flick, The Canyons, when the trouble began. Meaning, she wasn't showing up for table reads and she missed the first day of shooting because she slept in. After begging the director at his hotel - sobbing outside his door for forty minutes - she was forgiven. 

But matters got worse when shooting began. The movie, a salacious look at the lives of sex and ambition-crazed 20-somethings in L.A., co-stars porn star James Deen. Maybe that should be our first clue that this might not be an Oscar contender. But if a 14-minute four-way sex scene is any indication, it should be rather spicy. 

Before the scene, Lindsay was so nervous, she had (more than) a few cocktails to calm down. Then she locked herself in a closet for a couple of hours. She only came out after the 66-year-old director, Paul Schraeder, agreed to take his own clothes off to show her nudity was " no big deal." Zowie. Just another day at the office.

After the scene, Lindsay was so loaded, they wanted to send her home in a limo. But she refused and took off in her Porsche. Which she'd already crashed last summer. Sure, friends don't let friends drive drunk. As long as your friends don't work in film. 

Here's the whole article - including a few pics of Lindsay having trouble focusing ... on anything. And a shot of her in bed with her porn-star pal, Mr. James Deen. I was looking for a pic of him to include - so I Googled him. Only a sincerely naive person would hit a porn star's blog without knowing what she's in for. Put it this way ... I'm pretty sure my computer's not a virgin anymore.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Da Rules

For those of you who missed it, I briefly updated yesterday's post to explain why I was fighting a craving for a glass of wine, only to have one later in the day. It wasn't a cleanse day. There's just no drinking at home alone on the plan!!

That's how I got into such trouble in the first place. At least it didn't help. When I started working from home it gave me plenty of time to drink by myself. Sometimes I started drinking as early as 8:30 in the morning. And then of course, my prime directive for the day was to get to the liquor store and stock up on the day's supplies.

Not. Cool.

And I hated myself for it. Because it's real damn easy to drink all day - and then all night if you're addicted. Which I was.

So when I started developing the plan for myself I made 'No Drinking At Home Alone' one of the important behavioral rules. And it works for me. It's not such a sacrifice, believe it or not. A real sacrifice would be never being able to enjoy a glass of wine again.

My thoughts & good vibrations are going out to everyone who's trying to get control of their drinking in the New Year. Whether that means cleansing, quitting or just cutting down.

By the way, if you live alone, you can have 'your limit' when you're home alone (only you know what that is), but you still have to honor the cleanse days and cleanse months.

If you need to brush up on Da Rules, check out the How tab above.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Weight and Wait

I'm not a big New Year's Resolution person. But I will concede that I'm hoping to be more "tidy" in 2013.

But I know lots of people make resolutions - and losing weight is a major one. The World Cancer Research Fund has just gone on record as saying that if you really want to keep the weight off, cutting down on alcohol is a great place to start. Apparently, we consume about 10% of our calories from alcohol! (I bet some of us drink even more than that! Personally, I'm not gonna do the math.)

At any rate, they've created a cool/handy little page in which you can input how many glasses of wine/beer/spirits, etc. you drank - or plan to drink - and it'll calculate how many calories are in that booze, how long you'll have to walk to burn it off, and even the equivalent calories in cookies. It's actually kind of fun ... if a little sobering. It's amazing how much walking you have to do when you drink. Of course ... I actually do walk a lot. Happy coincidence. ;)

Check it out @ Alcohol Calorie Calculator.

I've also got a confession. Friday morning was a challenging one for me, craving wise. Usually I don't have a problem with massive alcohol cravings - at least not the way it used to be in the old days - but for some reason, Friday morning was ... well ... hell, I wanted to drag a throw pillow in front of the fridge and make love to that bottle of pinot grigio. 

I didn't.

Because it's not allowed, remember? No drinking at home alone on the plan! 

So I did some yoga instead. It passed in a hurry and I enjoyed a glass of wine when I went out for lunch later in the day.  

As I said, this is an unusual occurrence for me. But I think it was coming off that relatively long drinking period over the holidays. This year, just the way Christmas and New Year's fell - and my husband's vacation days turned out - it was a rather lengthy string of drinking days together.  I think my pleasure receptors had a post-holiday tantrum when life went back to normal. 

"Hey, wtf?! The party's over? No waaaay!! Waaaaah!! What about Ukrainian Christmas? What about Greek Christmas? What about your birthdaaaaay?"

"My birthday's ten months away."  

"So? Mine isn't!"

"You don't have a birthday. You're pleasure receptors. And if you do have a birthday, it's the same as mine."

"You SUCK!!!" 

Finally, I had to play tough love. "Grow up, will ya? Have you ever heard of the term delayed gratification? Very, very important! All you have to do is WAIT for crissakes!!"


"Okay, that's it. Downward Dog time for you all you jerks. See how much pleasure you get in that!"

(Actually, it was pleasurable. But tell that to your brain before you actually drag out the mat.)

I sincerely have no idea how people stay on the wagon for-evurrrr. Gaaad. No wonder you need group meetings and sponsors and drugs and therapy and self-talk and Herculean will power. You have to delay gratification ... forever. 

By the way, 'delayed gratification experiments' are famous - in particular the 1972 Marshmallow Experiment conducted at Stanford. For those of you who missed Psych 101 - or were too hungover to remember that lecture - this experiment consisted of telling 4-6 year-old test subjects that they could have a second marshmallow ... if they could just sit there for a few minutes and not eat a first marshmallow right away. The Evil Scientist then left the room and the kids were left squirming in front of a big, soft, squishy marshmallow for as long as they could take it. Perty cute. 

The ability to delay gratification - rather than snarf the mallow immediately - is apparently a very important part of a successful life. It helps us be more patient, self-disciplined, adaptable, and even leads to higher SAT scores. 

Here's more info on delayed gratification and the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment. But even better, visual aids! This must be one of the most popular scientific experiments of all time, judging from how many YouTube clips there are about it. It's definitely the cutest one. I couldn't decide which to post, so here are two. If you can only watch one, I'd say the second one. Less explanation, but more squirming cuties. With the added temptation of ... chocolate sauce!

If you like kids - or marshmallows - cancel your next couple appointments. 

btw, this is much more entertaining than trying to watch me not attack a bottle of wine. But not much. ;)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Beer-Battered Russia

A new revolution is taking place in Mother Russia: Beer is no longer considered 'food.'

As of today, it's official. Beer will be classified as 'alcohol' and will no longer be sold every twenty feet in street-side kiosks.

And it won't be sold between 11 pm and 8 am, like other alcoholic beverages.

Plus you won't be able to drink it just any place in public anymore. 

All this in attempt to curb Russia's epidemic drinking problem. Alcoholism is such a big deal in Russia that the World Health Organization doesn't expect most school age children to live until 60. And fully 50% of all deaths under 55 can be attributed to alcohol-related diseases. 

Yikes. Here's hoping the new legislation helps this great nation get a handle on its health. At least when it comes to drinking. 

Read the full Associated Press article about today's policy changes here. And more about Russia's ongoing alcohol challenges at WorldLifeExpectancy.com.

Looks like Ms. Functional is going to have to learn Russian. ;) 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

You know, one of the bad things about being Ms. Functional is that the more I learn about drinking too much ... the harder it is for me to drink too much. So here I am, about as bright-eyed and bushy-haired as any person has a right to be on January 1st. At least anyone who's not on the wagon for whatever reason.

The hubs and I cancelled our New Year's plans at the last minute last night and decided to hibernate. We flipped through the New Year's fare on the tube, landing more often than not on CNN for Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin. I get the feeling Andy puts his neck on the line every time he drags out his kooky red-headed pal in public. She can definitely get bizarre. I wondered if she was drunk ... but, as she mentioned last night, she doesn't drink.

Really?! Was she alcoholic? Was her dad? Was she allergic to booze? A born again Christian? I had to find out why. So here she is chatting with Marlo Thomas on YouTube about why she doesn't drink.

If you're not into watching Kathy and Marlo talk about anything - including booze - skip down and I'll spill the beans.

(She was ten years old and started choking at the dinner table. Her dad, Merv - smooth with a cue card but maybe not so good with the paternal instincts - gave her his big stein of beer and said "Drink this!" So she took a huge mouthful of beer and ... well ... she never touched a drop after that.)

In Googling Ms. Griffin, I also found an interview she did with Perez Hilton in which she mentions drinking again. Only this time, it's about how her BFF Cher never drinks either.  Yes, Cher is Kathy's best friend. She says she doesn't believe it half the time either. Without the normal libations of Lalaland, I guess they must just lounge around Cher's house in Malibu ("Cher Island" they call it) and, you know, chat, laugh, and be gay icons together.

Who says you need alcohol to have fun, right? Especially if you're Cher's BFF.

So as the New Year rings in fresh and crisp and (hopefully) not too hungover for us, here's a list of the 17 Best Alcoholism Blogs of 2012.  These are blogs about the struggles of sobriety for the most part. Funny, dark, honest, fascinating. I've already discovered some of them, but there are many more I'll be reading and introducing in the New Year.

I imagine most of these bloggers are waking up clear-headed this morning, too. Just like Cher, Kathy and ... moi. Blink, blink. I didn't even pop bubbly at midnight last night. I just finished my glass of red, necked with my husband and tucked in.

However ... there is a bottle of Veuve chilling in the fridge. Meaning New Year's Day will be merry and bright! I love drinking champagne on New Year's Day. It feels like a really special way to begin the New Year. Especially since tomorrow is my first cleanse day in almost two weeks. But ... as the intrepid Ms. Functional, I'll be ready for it. :)

Just in case you missed it, here's that kooky Kathy Griffin trying to give her other BFF (also a gay icon incidentally), a blowjob live in Times Square last night ... Like I said, she got bizarre.