Why I became a non-drinker

No more of this for me

No more of this for me

I am not trying to tell anyone to stop drinking alcohol here. Neither is this a help for anyone trying to quit drinking (at least I don’t think so). I just wanted to write a little about why and how I myself stopped drinking, and how I now look at alcohol (hint: I have nothing at all against it).

I am 47 years old when I write this, and I have been a heavy drinker since my late teens. Most people that I have ever met in my life would probably picture me with a beer bottle in my hand if asked to visualize me right now :)

Am I an alcoholic? I would say no, but I have come to realize that this depends on how you define the word. The stricter meaning of the word alcoholic (which is the one that I have always used) is someone who is addicted to alcohol. That, I am not and have never been – I just like to drink and I really like beer.

However, you can also use the word alcoholic in a broader sense, where it for example also includes people who are not in control of their drinking for other reasons than addiction. In that sense I would have to call myself an alcoholic. This is not how I use the word, but I wanted to be clear about what I mean.

So, I don’t call myself an alcoholic, but i have been an alcohol abuser for a very long time.

This didn’t use to be a problem for me, but as I have grown older and been burdened with other problems as well (that I may or may not talk about in a later post), I finally realized that my drinking was indeed becoming a serious problem. The most obvious aspect of this was that I drank so much that I couldn’t make it out of bed to go to work the day after. Not just once or twice, but increasingly often. I should perhaps add at this point that I have been open with problems, and my employer know all about it now.

I tried to simply drink less of course, but that didn’t work for me. I would tell myself that this night, I will absolutely not drink more than one or two beers. But after those beers, there was always that feeling of, “Hey, this feels good – how bad would it really be to take just one more?” After that, there was no stopping me. You can call it stupid if you like, I just see the fact of it, and the fact is that couldn’t stop myself once I had started drinking.

“Fine, but if you couldn’t stop drinking once you had started, then why not just stop going out so often?” I tried that too of course. Didn’t work. I just couldn’t stay away from the pub, which was where I always met my friends. That is how we had “always” socialized, and just stopping was not as easy as you might think.

At least I have slightly more hair than Homer...

At least I have slightly more hair than Homer…

Anyway, one day last summer I woke up with a massive hangover. The only thing I could remember from the night before was telling a friend that I had an important meeting at work the next morning, so I would just drink one beer and then go home. Right. That meeting had been a couple of hours earlier while I was still sleeping, fully clothed, on top of the bedspreads.

That was that. Now I had to do something, but what? I had tried to stay away from the pub and failed. I had tried to drink less once there and failed with that too. So I ended up talking to a doctor I was seeing for other reasons and asking if he could write me a recipe for Antabus, which he did once I had explained my problems to him.

Antabus pills

Antabus pills

Antabus is something that you typically give to more serious abusers, for example to repeat-offenders that commit crimes when drinking. But I thought it might help me to just keep away from drinking altogether for a while so that I could get my act together.

Antabus is a rather clever thing; Alcohol is a poison, but we humans have a natural “immunity” to it through different glands that produce enzymes that helps our bodies to break it down. What Antabus does is to inhibit the production of some of those enzymes. The end result is that your body suddenly realizes that alcohol really is a very dangerous poison, to which your body then reacts violently. If you drink even a very small amount of alcohol while taking Antabus, you will get really, really sick very quick. Feeling dizzy and throwing up is just the start of it. Just knowing about these symptoms was enough for me. No way that I would take even a sip of beer while “on the pill”.

At the same time as I started taking Antabus, I also started seeing a substance-abuse doctor regularly. He actually wasn’t a real doctor, I just say that since I don’t know what else to call him. He had worked with alcoholics and other drug addicts for over 30 years, so he really knew what he was talking about. The Antabus helped me to stay away from the pub the first couple of months, but it was these sessions that really helped me with my drinking. I have learned a lot from this guy. About drinking and more importantly, about myself. His deal was to give me new ways of looking at things and see things for what they really are. Not to tell me to do this and don’t do that. It is difficult to explain this in words, but it really worked.

So that was the why and how of it, but what about now?

The last time I drank alcohol was at a party at my pal Chongen’s. This was 31st of August, 2013, which is more than ten months ago as I write this. I wasn’t really going to attend that party since I was just waiting for the all-clear to begin taking my Antabus pills (which I did the Tuesday after the party), but then I thought that this might be the last time that I ever drank anything, and that I would rather remember the last drink as having a good time, than not remembering what I did, as was the case of the next-to-last time. I had four or five bottles of beer and a really good time at that last drinking party, so that was a success I suppose :)

Well, that’s not entirely true… I did have two low-alcohol beers (less than 2.25 volume percent), or “lättöl” as we call it in Sweden, at dinner at my work’s summer party a couple of weeks ago. It actually affected me, so no more lättöl for me. Non-alcohol beer (less than 0.5 volume percent) is fine though. They have a really good non-alcohol Staropramen at my favorite pub and restaurant, Mörners, so now I can go there and have a beer (sort-of) with my pals again.

When I stopped drinking, people around me became cautious about drinking in my presence. That is very considerate of them of course, but there is really no need for that (which I try to tell everyone). I might miss the cold beers in the summer, or a warming whiskey on a cold winter night, but I have absolutely no problem in staying off the alcohol even when everyone around me is drinking.

I am not against alcohol at all. If you cannot handle your drinking it (like me), you should probably stop (though I won’t be the one telling you that), but apart from that I consider alcohol to be a part of our culture – embrace it :)

I might some day decide to have a glass of wine or a beer at dinner, or a whiskey after. That would not be a failure for me (though getting drunk would). Being sober is just a choice I have made, and for the time being it feels absolutely right.

Edit: January 2015. I finally got around to correcting a a couple of bad character conversions in this post from when I moved my site to a new hosting service a couple of months back. Also wanted to add that I have now been sober for 16 months – still no problems :)

My Thai vacation booked

Chaweng beach, Koh Samui, Thailand

Chaweng beach, Koh Samui, Thailand

Finally, everything is decided and booked for my Thailand vacation. This time I will travel with my friend Masse, but we split up in Bangkok and he will arrive in Koh Samui sometime after me.

We fly with Norwegian from Arlanda airport on Thursday July 24 and arrive in Bangkok early on Friday morning. From there I take a Bangkok Airways flight to Koh Samui, where I stay in a garden-view bungalow at Tradewinds by LAWANA on Chaweng beach. The return trip goes the same way on Sunday August 10, which means that I spend 16 nights in Thailand.

I’ll be back in my flat late Sunday evening and start work again the next morning. From experience I know that this is not very… comfortable, but since I only work 25% I think I can manage it :)

As usual, I haven’t planned any activities, and I will probably spend most of my time there reading on the porch of the bungalow or somewhere in the shade by the beach. The perfect vacation for me is when I can just relax and do nothing – pretty much what I would do at home except in a warmer climate, with nice views, and with wonderful Thai food.

I travel light this time. No luggage to check in. The most important thing I take with me is my Kindle Paperwhite, loaded with books :) I used to be skeptical about e-book readers, but I love my Kindle which I have had for about two years now. I have looked at other e-book readers, but none of them comes even close to the Kindle in my opinion. I used to stuff my bag with pocketbooks, but now I just put my Kindle in my pocket instead and have all my books available directly – and buying new ones is ridiculously simple.

As I write this, it’s 22 long days until it’s time to jump on the train to Arlanda airport. Can’t wait…

My memory investigation revealed…

Don't forget

Don’t forget… what the hell was it again?

…a big fat nothing :(

As I described in my previous post Living with no memories, I have serious memory problems, and the doctors have performed a “memory investigation” for a couple of months now. Last week I had an appointment with the doctor in charge of the investigation to get the final results: Nothing. Or to be more specific:

  • More blood samples than I care to remember tested for all kinds of deficiencies and illnesses. Result: All is well.
  • A CT scan of my brain to look for tumors, aneurysms, signs of dementia, etc. Result: All is well.
  • An “extended memory and dementia test” performed as an interview with a lot of questions and exercises. Result: All is “within parameters”.

I am of course happy that the CT scan didn’t show anything. Regarding the blood samples I have mixed feelings; On one hand I’m happy to be healthy, but on the other hand, if my memory problems were to have been caused by say a substance deficiency, then it would probably have been rather easy to amend…

I was very surprised to hear the results from the memory test. In my case, “within parameters” means that I scored right on the lower limit of what is considered to be “normal” for a man of my age. Well, if the test says that I am “normal”, then “normal” is not good enough for me.

As I mentioned in the other post, I used to have very good memory, and to go from there to constantly forgetting what I was talking about before I can finish a sentence, and always forgetting why I went there when I get to another room – that is just not acceptable to me.

What happens now is that the doctor has remitted me to the memory clinic at the Linköping University Hospital. I don’t know when they can make time for me, but I’m hoping that they will be able to tell me more about what is wrong with me than this investigation did…

No mobile phone…

Picture of a Samsung Galaxy S3 mobile phone.

My dead phone was a Samsung Galaxy S3 like this one.

I overslept this morning and woke up annoyed at 07:50. My mobile phone was (supposedly) charging by my bed, and was set to wake me up at 06:00, but the alarm didn’t ring. I soon discovered that the phone was completely dead, and when I think back to when I went to bed, I think that I noticed that I didn’t hear the usual “ok, I’m charging now”-beep when I connected the charger, but I didn’t think about it at the time.

Hoping that the problem was with the charger I tried it with my work phone, but that worked just fine. I then tried to remove and reinsert the battery a couple of times, but no luck.

As I got ready to go to work I realized that I was about to miss my 08:00 appointment at the company health care center, so I picked up my phone to call and tell them that I was going to be late. Darn it! But wait! I can call from my work mobile! Darn it again – I didn’t have the number there. I called another nurse that I know there, but just got her voice mail. So I left a message for her to let “my” nurse know that I was late, but would bee there soon.

When I was about to leave home, I remembered that I had an important 09:00 meeting, and cussed a bit for not hearing the reminder. Oh, right – no mobile… I was still going to make it, but I would have to hurry. So I called the health care center again and left a new message saying that I would come there directly after my first meeting instead.

The meeting went well and after it I jumped up on my bicycle ant went to the health care center. The doors were locked. Darn it yet again!

I went back to my office and sat down at my computer. It took me almost an hour to log in, but that’s another story. When I finally got in I opened my private web-mail (Gmail) to inform my friends that I had no mobile today, but that didn’t work either. I have activated the Google two-step verification which means that when I log in from an “unknown” computer, I have to enter a six-digit code generated by an authorization app in my mobile phone. Yeah, good luck with that!

Ok, fine – I’ll just install that app in my work phone too! Didn’t work. In order to do that I had to perform a step on an ordinary computer, which involves entering an authorization code from the phone where the app is currently installed. But for f*ck’s sake!!!

Picture of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 phone

The new phone I bought today was a Galaxy Note 3 like this one (black)

Since I was only working until noon anyway, I just dropped it. Instead I googled a while to find a new phone. I have had a Samsung Galaxy S3 since they came out, and have been very happy with that choice. So I looked at and compared the S3, S4 and S5, but in the end I decided on a Galaxy Note 3 instead. At 11:15 I clocked out and bicycled back to town, bought my new phone at Teknikmagasinet down town and went home.

I have only inserted the SIM card and battery, and it is currently charging beside me. I don’t know if this matters with newer batteries, but I want to charge it fully before starting it up the first time. I think I have at the most an hour left to wait…

Living with no memories

I have been meaning to write about this for a while, but I keep forgetting (pun intended, but also true).

“No memories” is a strong exaggeration of course, but I really do have a serious memory problems. It wasn’t always like that. I actually used to have better memory than most – remembering whole conversations, meetings, etc. nearly word by word. But that was years ago, and as an example of what I mean by “memory problems”; I remember it being like that at some point, but I couldn’t tell you when even if my life depended on it. As in; “How long have you had this problem with your memory?” “I honestly have no idea whatsoever.”

You know when you come in to a room to do something, and can’t remember what it was? When that happens once in a while, you probably just laugh about it. When it happens every time you come in to a room, it’s no fun at all – I can promise you that. Sometimes I stand there for a while and try to remember what I was supposed to do, and then I give up and turn around to go back, only to realize that I have forgotten what I was doing before I got there. And let me tell you – that is scary.

Some things I remember quite well. Other things just disappear as soon as I hear them. There doesn’t seem to be a pattern to what I remember and forget. For a while I thought that it was easier to remember stuff that interested me, but if there is, it is probably just because I make more of an effort to remember it.

Stages of Alzhemer'sMy father had Alzheimer’s disease, which is really frightening stuff, and also hereditary. So when I noticed that I was starting to forget things, I of course worried that it was the first signs of an early onset of Alzheimer’s. The doctors calmed me down in that aspect though. They told me that Alzheimer’s didn’t begin that way, and that my memory problem was in all likelihood just a symptom of my stressful job. That sounded likely, because I have had continuing problems with that for years.

I’m not so sure about that anymore, though.My problems are too severe for stress to be the only cause. A couple of the doctors have suggested a small brain aneurysm or even a tumor. I don’t know how to feel about that prospect…

Remembering things that I hear or read is not the only problem. I regularly miss appointments and meetings. Reading a book is hard – I need to back up all the time. I find it very difficult to keep focused on anything for more than a couple of minutes. And so on…

A couple of months back, I finally got to talk to a doctor that actually took what I said about my memory seriously. He gave me a ten minute memory and dementia test, and didn’t like what he saw. So he remitted me to the memory clinic at the Linköping University Hospital. They quickly responded that they were swamped with patients and requested that a “memory investigation” of me was first performed to see if they should prioritize my case. This was in early February.

At this point I can almost hear you thinking “Seems to me like he remember these things perfectly”, but unfortunately that is not the case. I have kept a journal since January, and this is me picking tidbits from that. Anyway, I feel like I’m drawing this out too much already, so I’ll try to keep it brief.

Anatomy of the brainMy doctor at the district health care center was put in charge of this investigation, which is still ongoing. They started by taking a whole array of blood samples for testing all kinds of stuff that may have relevance to my symptoms, but they didn’t find anything there. I was also put through a more thorough memory and dementia test, but I haven’t heard anything about the results. The same goes for the CT scan that they made of my brain last week. I assume that all results goes to my doctor, who will then put together a report. I have a meeting booked with her on April 9, and I hope that everything is done by then. Kind-of scary, but (almost) anything is better than not knowing.

I’ll try to remember to report back after the meeting ;-)

No more Windows 8

What a relief! I have been using Microsoft Windows since version 3 came, ages ago. Back then, you always waited with great expectations for the next Windows version, but after XP it has basically just gone downhill. Yeah, that was an exaggeration, but instead of “I wonder what great improvements they have come up with now” it has become something of “I hope they haven’t messed it up too much this time”.

It took me a while to get used to Vista, but after that I actually really liked it. The main problem for me was that it was much to heavy a consumer of resources. Windows 7 had some major problems when it came out, mainly due to the lack of working drivers. But when that got sorted out, it was great! Probably the best version so far, though XP is tough competition.

Then came Windows 8. Long before it even came to beta testing, there were rumors. Scary rumors. I laughed at them of course – “how could anyone believe such nonsense?” I thought. Microsoft may have made some bad decisions lately, but a complete restructure of Windows to make it look like your mobile phone? Ridiculous!

Unfortunately, I was wrong – they had really done it :-( Well, no biggie. I was perfectly happy to skip a generation and keep using Windows 7.

But then I bought a new stationary computer and forgot to add the “downgrade to Windows 7″ option. Blast it! But the damage was done, so I thought that I could at least give it a try – this was in August 2013, I think. The first thing I did was to download a start-button replacement, which also had functionality to “hide” the Metro crap. That made it bearable for a while, but that didn’t last for long. I actually feel nauseous thinking about all the problems I have had with Windows 8, so I’ll just leave it at that.

About a month ago I finally got frustrated enough to run down to the nearest computer store and by a new Windows 7 Home Premium disc. It cost me €80 and a lot of work, but I was smirking with happiness the whole time. Die Windows 8, die! Mwuah ha haaa!

I have had no problems at all after that, and I’m very happy running the old familiar Windows 7, with the wonderful little Start-button. So I have been as happy as can be since then. Until a couple of days ago that is. Then I dug up my ASUS Zenbook laptop for the first time in a couple of months, and saw the hated Windows 8 start-up screen once again :-(

Darn it – I had forgotten that my laptop also ran Windows 8. Still, it felt heavy to have to pay for one more downgrade, so I decided to see if I could stand it at least on the laptop (which I don’t use all that much anymore). Nope. Today I made another trip to Webhallen and coughed up another $80, and I have just installed it.

This turned out to be a rather interesting experience. The Zenbook UX32VD model has a 24 or 32 GB solid state drive used to speed up operations, but you can actually use it as an ordinary SSD and install Windows directly on it, which makes the computer even faster. With the 32 GB version the memory is quite sufficient, but unfortunately mine had only 24 GB, so I had to improvise a bit.

Google is your friend on the Internet. This time I used it to find out how I could remove a bunch of stuff that I do not need from Windows. The fix that made the biggest difference was to turn off the hibernation function. By using the SSD for the OS, my computer starts so quickly that I don’t really need it anyway. I also moved the user directory to the secondary hard drive, which made no significant difference bow since the installation is new, but it is better to have done it from the start before giving different applications the chance to hard-code the path instead of using the system alias as they should.

I now have 8.5 GB free on the system disk (out of 24 GB – or rather 20 GB after formatting it). Not incredibly much, but it gives me hope that I will be able to run it like this without having to move the operation system to the much slower hard drive.

So I’m happy again now :-)


Rebuilding my web site

I have been using the eHoster.se web hotel to host my iseborn.eu web site for over a year now, and have had no serious problems with them. However, two days ago, I noticed that the HTTPS security certificate for their web-mail had expired. I created a support ticket, but nothing happened until just now. They renewed the certificate just minutes ago, so that works fine now. But still no response at all to my ticket.

To me, the security certificate is no big deal in itself, but I don’t like how they handled the problem. If it was just that, I probably would have let it slip, but since I created my site in 2013 I have found that some things that I wanted to use on my site was not available, I also am not very fond of the Plesk dashboard that they use. So, when taken together, this problems made me look for another  hosting service.

I decided on using JustHost.com which have received good reviews and seems competent. And so far so good – registered an hour or so ago :)

I also decided to use WordPress for my site this time around. I am completely new to that so I guess we’ll see how that turns out, but my first impression is that I like it :)