Here you will find answers to a couple questions that I anticipate you will ask. If your question isn’t answered here, go to the Connect Page to find my email address and email me. I will get back to you as soon as I can, and as we go I will add more answers here, so feel free to check back often.
What is Cystic Fibrosis?
Cystic Fibrosis is a genetic illness. I was born with it, and diagnosed at 2 years old. Some people have more severe cases than others, and there are many different types of mutations that cause it. My explanation here will be basic. If you’d like more info you can contact me and ask.
The best way to explain CF is with this simple metaphor:
Picture a car engine. A car engine has lots of complicated moving parts that all work together as a whole to produce energy to run your car. If just a little piece of it is out of order, the whole thing might not work correctly. Now, a car engine is lubricated by oil. We all know that if your car is low on oil, it’s a bad thing. We also know from staring at the wall of different choices at the service station that there are many different types of oil. 10/30, 15/40 blah blah blah. You know what I’m talking about. Well when you put the wrong type of oil in your car’s engine, it doesn’t run as efficiently. In fact, in cold or hot weather, it might not even run at all with the wrong oil. Your body is actually the same, only…(prepare yourself if you get grossed out by discussion of bodily fluids) it is mucus that lubricates all of your organs. Yeah, that’s right. The snot in your nose is also in your lungs, your digestive tract, stomach, pancreas, etc etc. Now, in your body, the mucus is thin, clear and helps protect, lubricate and facilitate positive health. However, in the body of someone with Cystic Fibrosis, the mucus is thick, viscous, and essentially just gums everything up and gets in the way. In the lungs, it provides a perfect breeding ground for bacteria, and diminishes lung function over time. Because there is currently no cure for CF, patients usually end up dying from respiratory distress as their lungs fill up with fluid, or get so scarred from infection that they just won’t work anymore. The “mucus problem” also prevents the pancreas from producing its digestive enzymes that break down food. That means that if I don’t take supplemental enzymes when I eat, my body can’t absorb the nutrients, causing malnutrition, stomach pains, bowel obstructions, and so forth. Also, because of the excess mucus in the pancreas, some CF patients suffer from infections in the pancreas, known as pancreatitis in medical jargon.
Makes sense right? (if not, email me)
My own case of Cystic Fibrosis is moderate. It isn’t as severe as some nor as mild as others. At this point in time, I have a lot of work to do to maintain and improve my health. If I don’t, the consequences include diminished lung function, weight loss, infections throughout my lungs and body, and eventually, an early death in just a few years. If I make progress and improve my health I will have to face these consequences, but they will be much more gradual, less severe, and probably much further in the future.
What is Addiction?
Addiction is, by my own definition, the physical and psychological dependence of a person upon a substance.
Physical dependence simply means that if you stop using a particular drug or substance, you experience negative physical symptoms. The symptoms are different for every drug. Usually, the person who has stopped using a substance on which they are dependent will experience the direct opposite of the effects the drug has on their body.
For example, someone like me, who uses heroin or other opiates, experience these effects when the are using the drug: drowsiness, relief or numbing of pain, slowed digestion or constipation, itching and a feeling of warmth, euphoria or an out of proportion sense of well being regardless of the circumstances.
When they stop using the drug, an opiate addict like myself will feel the opposite of what I wrote above: insomnia or inability to sleep, constant, persistent pain throughout the body, diarrhea, goosebumps and cold sweats, and depression.
Psychological dependence is more difficult to understand and more difficult to combat. It involves the mental compulsion addicts feel to keep using their drug of choice no matter what the cost to themselves or others. It is a feeling of immense anxiety and inability to focus on anything until the need to use has been satisfied. In other words, as an addict myself, when I am using my drug of choice, all my energy goes toward using or figuring out how I am going to get more of my drug. Only when that need is satisfied can I do anything else. It is an all consuming disease of the mind, and it can only be treated by maintaining abstinence and working a program of recovery – in other words, you have to stop using, and you have to find a recovery method that works for you. Some people choose AA or NA for their recovery program. Others see a counselor or therapist. Some do both. If you want to know what my recovery program is, send me an email.
There is a ton of information on the internet about addiction and how to treat it. It is a sadly under-served strata of our society. It is a disease that is poorly understood and carries a deeply ingrained social stigma that makes people not want to talk about it. But it is real and it is deadly. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction and you need help and don’t know where to turn, try calling your county’s mental health crisis line. They often have information that can lead you or your loved one on the path to recovery.
What is an Opiate?
An opiate is a natural or synthetic substance that stimulates a certain chemical receptor in the brain. It dulls pain, causes sleepiness or drowsiness, and generally induces a feeling of well being in the person who uses them. The first opiate was opium, made from the gum of Opium Poppies. All others are either created from one of the many components of opium or synthesized by humans in a laboratory. The most common medically used opiates (given for severe pain) include morphine, oxycodone (aka Oxycontin or Percocet), hydrocodone (aka Vicodin or Lortab), hydromorphone (aka Dilaudid), and Codeine (aka Tylenol 3 and also in many prescription cough medications). The most common street opiates are heroin and opium.
Why are you eating a Vegan Diet?
First of all, a lot of experts say it is healthier. Animal fats and proteins carry a lot of substances that are actually harmful to the human body. I’m not an expert in nutrition, so don’t quote me on any of this. The way I understand it, most animal based proteins, including dairy, are difficult to digest at the best of times, and downright harmful at the worst. So cutting all meat and dairy from my diet seemed to make sense.
Besides that, I’m also steering clear of gluten and any added chemicals or sugars. In this way I hope to improve my health in a natural way, by being intentional about the substances I put in my body.
I want to say publicly here that I am currently unable to maintain my vegan diet. During a particularly bad flare up of my CF, I lost nearly 20 pounds in less than 2 weeks. My nutritionists in the hospital prevailed upon me to increase my calorie intake, and the only way to really do that effectively while in the hospital has been to add back in some foods that I would rather not eat. Thus I have eaten some chicken, some fish, and some dairy (primarily yogurt, as the live cultures help my digestive process). But I plan to revert to my vegan diet as soon as I leave the hospital (hopefully soon)
Do you drink Alcohol?
In a word, No. Why not? First off, because I don’t like it. But also because it changes the way my brain functions and the way my body feels. I am determined NOT to use external substances to try and change the way I feel. I have a whole host of other options that I am using to improve my physical health and mental acuity. Why resort to something as harmful as alcohol instead of drinking a cup of tea or spending some time in meditation?
Do you smoke or otherwise ingest Marijuana?
My doctor and I recently explored medical marijuana as a potential resource for me and as an alternative form of pain relief. I went through the correct channels and obtained a legal and legitimate medical marijuana card through the OMMP program.
My doctor said that I could probably smoke a little bit a day without doing any significant damage to my lungs, but I really can’t smoke, it is too painful and counterproductive.
I experimented with eating and with tinctures and lollipops and other preparations. I also tried the concentrated BHO form. All of these were too difficult to figure out how to dose effectively. I found that they all either had no effect on my pain, or were so overwhelmingly powerful that I found myself glued to the couch or asleep for half the day.
I still have the card, but it really just doesn’t seem to be my thing.
Why Tai Chi?
I chose Tai Chi as my main exercise program because I wanted something that addressed both mental and physical strength. I was also attracted by the philosophy behind it: that practicing Tai Chi helps you be as strong as rock but flow like a river. The whole focus of the martial art from which modern Tai Chi originated was to let an attacker expend his energy by flowing with the attack, and when the enemy is off balance and the attack loses its momentum, to strike back with the strength of a rushing river. I think it is a fascinating way to exercise all parts of my being and find a new center of balance in life.