Wednesday, December 02, 2015


It's been a minute since last I wrote here - so let me opine.

Last month I had my annual physical, which, truth be told has never really been annual.  My doctor was surprised to see that it had been in fact five years ago, when I turned forty, that I had last paid him a visit.

There was lots of good news, I'm lucid, mobile and feeling pretty great overall.

Some fair to middling news, I strained my shoulder so I need therapy and I have a weird rash on my face that anti-biotic cream now seems to be helping.

And of course a modicum of bad - namely my weight.  I have struggled mightily over the years, and seen it fluctuate from a height of 240 in 2008 down to 160 only 2 years later (thanks to Jenny Craig), then back up to 255 by this year, after I couldn't take diet food anymore.  255 is where I was when I visited the doctors office.

My doctor was frankly astonished when he looked at the chart and saw how heavy I was, he had first looked at me and didn't seem too concerned - I don't look quite as heavy as I actually am.  So we talked about solutions. I confessed it has been a long struggle for me; I am a man who loves food, especially the processed kind, the garbage that is engineered to taste incredible and stoke desire for more and more.

The good doctor suggested I might try a new medication, just 6 months on the market, that had shown great results for reducing appetite and cravings.  Best of all, it didn't appear to have any effect on the cardiovascular system and/or heart, unlike some other notorious appetite suppressants of the past.  I was ready to try anything at this point, so he wrote me a prescription and I planned to pick it up.

A couple days later, I hadn't done so because it wasn't covered on my insurance and was a bit expensive, but my lab results came back and the doctors office called me to tell me that my blood sugar was a bit high and my vitamin D was low.  Vitamin D, no problem, just pop a couple gummies every morning.  High blood sugar?  Crap.  I must be pre-diabetic.  Immediately I lost all desire for sweets and picked up my meds right away. (Thankfully I had a coupon which helped bring the price down.)

Almost 3 weeks later I'm happy to report that the pills work very, very well.  Almost too well.  I can have a small plate of food and I feel almost uncomfortably full.  When meal time rolls around, I might forget if not for the clock or my wife bringing it up.  I am cautiously optimistic about this, as the potential for lasting weight loss seems to be very real at this point.  Getting motivated to exercise is the other part of the equation, but with this first half apparently taken care of, I hope to focus more on getting active on a more regular basis.

As it turns out, my 'high blood sugar' was actually my triglycerides, which is part of the blood sugar thing, but it was only a single point above normal.  Thankfully though, with my resolve and now this medication working, I haven't had a single sweet of any kind (cookie, cake, chewy granola bar, pudding, anything) since my doctor's visit, and they are all freely available at my house and my work.  I'd say, for the first time ever, I truly don't have any desire for dessert, which is pretty crazy.

I also noted, that the big possible side effect, aside from the usual litany of headaches, dizziness, constipation, etc. that accompany almost any medication (none of which I've had) is suicidal thoughts.  Reading more about the medication, I learned that it doesn't work on the body per say, it works on the brain.  Kind of trippy.  Thankfully, I am still a very happy person and haven't had a whiff of depression or daydreams about doing myself in.

After telling my brother about this medicine (in case you didn't know, he and his wife are both psychiatrists - medical doctors who routinely prescribe this kind of thing) I learned a heck of a lot more.

He told me that the medication, which is called Contrave, is a combination of bupropion, which is an anti-depressant, and naltrexone - a drug that is often used in Europe to treat alcoholics and their cravings.  Side note - alcoholism is treated differently over there.  Here in America, we encourage the idea of going 'cold turkey' on alcohol.  In Europe they say to pop a bupropion before having a glass of wine.  Apparently it works fairly well.

Well all I can say, is this cocktail has worked very well on me as far as the food thing.  I do get hungry if it's been awhile, and food still tastes amazing (though so far these 3 weeks I haven't had any fast food) but like I said, after a small plateful I am very full and completely disinterested in having more.

But it also appears that this drug goes even further.  Thankfully, it seems to be all positive developments.

I have a litany of other vices, some bigger than others - and this medication it seems has reduced them all.

First and foremost in my life is poker.  I have always maintained that it is just a fun hobby that I enjoy a lot.  Truthfully, if I am being honest with myself, over the past five years or so - the game has really become a bit more of an obsession than I would like.  Every opportunity that arises for me to play, I take it without hesitation.  If my wife and kid are at a Girl Scout meeting, I am on my way to the casino, 45 minutes away.  I lay awake at night thinking about when and where my next session will be.

I crave the action, the buzz I get from dragging a pot and stacking chips.  Poker for me is like a really fantastic cheeseburger - it is an intense high, fueled by making moves on my opponent and getting them to lay down a stronger hand or pay me off when I have a monster.

I'm assuming it's the medicine, but my white hot lust for this great game has finally, finally cooled off a bit.  Actually more than a bit.  I cannot remember the last time in my life that I had literally zero interest in driving to Inglewood or Commerce to play in a tournament.

This is a good thing.  A very good thing.

Cashing is great, bluffing is great, but these places are not that nice, and can be rather unpleasant, and they are far away from my family.  I've always put up with the smelly degenerates around me, because, turns out, I was one of them - and my quest for a tournament cash could never be sated.

Now, don't get me wrong, I imagine I'll still play every now and again, in my mind somewhere I still love poker, it is truly magnificent.  But right now I have no burning urge to go to the card clubs, and my plans that I had made only a month prior to kick up my home game into high gear by playing nearly every week - now seem rather absurd to me.

This, more than anything, is a bit of a shock to me - that I could be so altered as to be able to recognize for the first time in awhile, that this game, as rewarding as it can be at times, is nowhere near what matters most - which is being a good husband and father and spending as much time with my wife and child as I can.

For this revelation, I am very grateful.

I have two other things in my life that have also changed.

First - you probably know by reading this blog and if you are my Facebook friend, I dig a good political fight.  Well I guess I must have been getting a buzz off of that too, because right now - as crazy as the world is with acts of terrorism and college students trading out their universities for daycare centers, I have very, very, very, little desire to get into it with liberals over issues that I know I won't be able to change their minds on.  I have too many friends and family who I love and are far to the left of me - it seems the height of futility and yes, arrogance, to think that they will come around to my point of view.

As of starting Contrave, I have posted exactly ZERO political articles on Facebook in nearly 3 weeks.  That, is a minor miracle.

The second thing, and this is very personal, so personal I don't want to get into details at all, but I haven't watched any porn since I started these meds.  I still have a healthy libido, but again, I don't crave that buzz - the same buzz I get from poker, food, politics, as severely, and I hope my disinterest continues.

Anyways - I didn't mean for this post to come off as an endorsement for mind altering medication - I have long been suspicious of people who are 'medicated' and never thought I was a candidate for being on 'meds'.

But it turns out, the foibles in my life, poker, food, politics, sex and others, were all kind of driven by the same addictive behavior; and now for the first time in a long time, they have been reigned in.

I truly feel very happy with my life now, though I have been happy my whole life prior as well.   As I said, I'm cautiously optimistic that this next chapter will continue this new pattern of moving away from potentially self-destructive behavior and moving towards healthier means of expression and emotional connections with those I love.

I plan on relying heavily on my faith as well, to help me maintain this positive turn in behavior.

We will see.

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