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Having Fun Without Alcohol

Alcohol gives you infinite patience for stupidity. ~Sammy Davis, Jr.

Having Fun Without Alcohol

Today I will be attending two parties. One will serve alcohol; the other will not. I’ll enjoy both parties. The alcohol-free one will be fun since people will be coherent. I’ll also enjoy the other because although I don’t drink, I appreciate watching the changes that come over people as alcohol apprehends their brains. It makes me grateful that I am sober.

There are many reasons why people choose not to drink. They may be driving, on medication, or have a health condition that doesn’t respond well to alcohol. Whatever the reason, sometimes the lure of alcohol overrides our resolve to skip the drink. To help you maintain your resolve, I’ve provided a few tips that may help you through social occasions:

  • As soon as you arrive at an event, get a non-alcoholic drink so you have something to hold in your hand and to quench your thirst.
  • Focus on conversation. People like to talk about themselves, and if everyone around you is drinking, they may have a lot to say. It may not make much sense, but all you have to do is listen.
  • Find others who aren’t drinking. They will probably be relieved to have a lucid conversation.
  • If you are looking for comfort or warmth, try hot tea, cider, or cocoa.
  • You don’t have to feel deprived. Order something special. Experiment with various nonalcoholic concoctions. Here are some suggestions:
    • A “virgin” version of any favorite mixed drink, such as a non-alcoholic piña colada
    • Ginger ale, a splash of grenadine, and maraschino cherries
    • Tonic with a twist of lemon or lime
    • Club soda or seltzer on the rocks with an olive
    • Carbonated water with grenadine and a wedge of lemon, lime, or orange
    • Non-alcoholic beer with lime (May not be an option for those on a liver transplant list or in an alcohol recovery program)
    • Hot cocoa with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon

If despite your best intentions to not drink, perhaps you have an alcohol problem. Here are some resources that offer help.

Wising you a happy, peaceful, healthy party season.


World AIDS Day


World AIDS Day

Tomorrow is World AIDS Day. Here is a description of this annual observance, as stated on the World AIDS Day website, “World AIDS Day takes place on the 1st December each year. It’s an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day.

The first ever global health day. That is quite a distinction. Now there are other global health days, including World Hepatitis Day.

Diseases have no borders. HIV, viral hepatitis, TB, influenza, and other infectious diseases don’t require passports or visas in order to visit us. It is incumbent upon us to provide health care to everyone. It is the humanitarian thing to do; it is also the right thing to do.

In honor of World AIDS Day, I am reminded of my favorite speech delivered in 1992 by Mary Fisher. A prominent woman with ties to Washington, Fisher addressed the Republican National Convention as a person living with HIV. Her speech was a call to action.

We may take refuge in our stereotypes but we cannot hide there long. Because HIV asks only one thing of those it attacks: Are you human? And this is the right question: Are you human? Because people with HIV have not entered some alien state of being. They are human. They have not earned cruelty and they do not deserve meanness. They don’t benefit from being isolated or treated as outcasts. Each of them is exactly what God made: a person. Not evil, deserving of our judgment; not victims, longing for our pity. People. Ready for support and worthy of compassion.

People. People deserve quality health care. Now. Not tomorrow. Now.


Thanksgiving Blessings

Wishing you the simple joy that comes with giving thanks.

May you be fed.

May you be well.

May you be free.

May you be blessed.

May Thanksgiving be more than a day, especially more than a shopping day. May it be the way we are with each other, on all days, with all people.

Wishing you the simple joy that comes with giving thanks.


Smoking Facts

Are you ready to quit smoking?

Today is the Great American Smokeout. Congratulations ff you are one of the brave and determined souls who put down your cigarettes today. If you are still smoking, it isn’t too late to quit, at least for one day.

Perhaps you are reluctant to quit because you have some preconceived notions about quitting. However, there are some myths about smoking cessation, so be sure you know the facts. Here are some common misconceptions about quitting:

“People gain weight when they quit smoking.”

This is true, but not the whole truth. The majority of those who quit smoking do gain weight, usually less than 10 pounds. However, not everyone does gain weight. Being more physically active can prevent weight gain. The use of medications and/or nicotine replacement (such as nicotine gum) also helps. More importantly, the benefits of quitting smoking far outweigh the health risk of weight gain. Besides, you can build on your success. If you can quit smoking, you can lose weight later.

“If I gain weight I will be less attractive.”

Think about this for a moment. First, nonsmokers often find smokers unattractive. Second, premature aging, yellow teeth and cigarette odor are not attractive. Third, do the benefits of being thin outweigh the risks of lung cancer and other smoking-related diseases?

“Smoking is relaxing.”

Nicotine is a stimulant. The relaxation response is usually because smoking temporarily calms down nicotine withdrawal effects – effects that feel like anxiety. There are effective stress reduction techniques that can help withdrawal symptoms and help you manage stress.

“I can’t quit. I have tried too many times to quit.”

The average smoker has 5 to 7 attempts before permanently quitting. It takes as long as it takes. Keep trying until you find a way to quit for good.

“I am too old to quit.”

Older smokers are 50% more likely than any other age group to quit smoking successfully. Wisdom accompanies age and that can be a powerful tool to help you quit.

“I can’t afford to use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).”

Your medical insurance may pay for NRT. The money saved by not buying cigarettes is likely to cover the cost of NRT.

“I enjoy smoking.”

Ask yourself how true this statement is. Do you enjoy every cigarette you smoke or just the ones that are associated with certain rituals, such as after a meal or with a glass of alcohol? Is the enjoyment worth the risk to your health? Look ahead and ask yourself if you think you will still enjoy smoking if you have lung or heart disease.

“It’s too late. I have already damaged my body.”

Your body starts to reverse the damage in as little as 12 hours. Everyone can get some benefit from quitting. Even the elderly who have smoked many years gain some health improvement from quitting.

“Quitting smoking is uncomfortable.”

This is true. However, it is short-term discomfort that improves over time. Lung cancer and breathing problems are much more uncomfortable.

“My grandmother smoked until she died at 95 and she was never sick a day in her life.”

Your grandmother was very lucky, but she was an exception to the rule. Is this really a chance you want to take?

Perhaps a few more facts will help you see the value in quitting. 

  • Nearly half a million people die annually in the U.S. because of smoking.
  • Smokers who continue to smoke have a fifty-fifty chance of dying a smoking-related death.
  • In the U.S., one in five people dies a smoking related death .
  • More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined..
  • Children who breathe secondhand smoke are at risk for asthma and other health problems.
  • Smoking is the number one cause of fires and accidental deaths from fire. Contrary to popular belief, this is not due to falling asleep and smoking, but rather from improper disposal of smoking materials.
  • There are roughly 4,800 chemicals in cigarette smoke. Some of these are in wood varnish, insect and rat poison. If you are a smoker reluctant to undergo HCV treatment because you do not want to “put chemicals into your body,” you are already doing this with each cigarette you smoke.
  • Each cigarette smoked shaves 7 minutes from smokers’ lives. Nearly one day of life is traded for each carton of cigarettes that is smoked.

One half of all people who have ever smoked have quit. Perhaps you will be one of them?


The Great American Smokeout


The next Great American Smokeout is November 16, 2017.

For 40 years, the American Cancer Society (ACS) has waged the Great American Smokeout. Held on the third Thursday in November, the goal is to encourage smokers to refrain from smoking for one day. The ACS hopes that one day of abstinence from smoking will lead to a lifetime of freedom.

Quitting smoking was the single hardest thing I ever did. It’s been about 30 years since I picked up a cigarette, and it has been 30 years of freedom. When I quit smoking, I vowed I would not become a preachy ex-smoker. I believe I have kept my promise. I am sympathetic to the hideous and all-encompassing nature of this addiction.  However, compassion does not mean silence and if there are any smokers still with me at this point, I hope you will consider quitting.

According to the CDC, “Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, including more than 41,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure. This is about one in five deaths annually, or 1,300 deaths every day. On average, smokers die 10 years earlier than nonsmokers.”

It is hard to quit. Withdrawal is very unpleasant. Some claim that smoking is a way to cope with stress. Some have had trouble quitting in the past. However, just like drugs and alcohol, there is help for tobacco dependence. There are many free resources for help in quitting (see Resources). Medicare offers smoking cessation coverage for some individuals. Many health insurance companies cover treatment for it. There are books, groups, telephone services, and online support. Acupuncture, acupressure, hypnosis, biofeedback, massage, and stress reduction may also help.

Experts agree that success is most likely to occur with the use of simultaneous tools. These include prescription and non-prescription interventions, counseling and support. Studies show that people who seek outside help are more likely to quit smoking permanently than those who try to quit on their own.

People can and do quit on their own. Whether you do this alone or with support is your choice, with “choice” being the important word here. Has the addictive nature of tobacco robbed you of the freedom to choose health over smoking? If you are ready to reclaim your freedom from cigarettes, I suggest you make a plan. The resources at the end of this article can help you formulate a plan. It has been said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Make a plan, stick to it and you increase your chances of success. If the plan does not work, make a new plan. Never give up. The average smoker has five to seven attempts to quit before doing so permanently.

Seven minutes of life is lost with each cigarette that is smoked. You do the math. Life is short enough. Mark your calendars. The next Great American Smokeout is November 16, 2017.



ACA open enrollment ends December 15, 2017

I buy my health insurance though the Health Insurance Marketplace courtesy of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. A year ago, I kept hearing about rising medical insurance costs, and quite frankly, I was nervous about how this would affect my budget. However, one important fact was not making news: the federal subsidy was also increasing. In 2016, I paid $156 a month. In 2017, my monthly bill was $22.00.  My budget liked that.

This year, there has been a lot in the news about soaring health care costs. I tried not to speculate on what my medical insurance bill would be. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that ACA premiums would be higher. However, the average subsidy would rise more than the average premium.

Open enrollment began on November 1st, so I went to the site to learn my fate. My monthly bill is dropping to $1.00. Incredible. Granted, I am getting the lowest level of coverage. I am healthy and don’t need the silver, gold, or platinum level of protection. So I opted for the bronze level, which I call the costume jewelry plan.

What’s New and Important About ACA in 2018

Here is important information about the latest changes in the 2018 ACA marketplace.

  • The enrollment window was cut in half in the 39 states that rely solely on HealthCare.gov. Previously, people had 12 weeks to sign up for ACA coverage. The enrollment period is longer for the 11 other states and Washington D.C. who offer their own marketplaces and websites.
  • The government is spending substantially less money on getting information to the public about ACA. You may receive little or no information reminding you about the enrollment window.
  • If you are concerned that President Trump’s decision to cut the cost-sharing reduction means your insurance premium will increase, it won’t. Insurance companies will have to bear this burden, which means it may affect their willingness to offer ACA in future years, but for now, it will not affect you.

The Bottom Line:

If you buy your insurance from the HealthCare.gov, don’t wait too long to enroll.  You must take action by December 15, 2017 to have coverage in 2018.

If you need expert help, you can call the HealthCare.gov hotline at 1 (800) 318–2596 to speak to a trained professional or visit https://localhelp.healthcare.gov/#/ for in-person assistance.

Please spread the word.

Click here to read today’s NPR news story about ACA.