A New Experience – Finally

For those reading this blog, you have read about my experience with the complete removal of my top teeth back in January to February. Today, I had the last appointment walking out with my new upper denture. This is going to be a new experience for me.

Like my mother, we both had problems with dental hygiene because of our smoking and coffee drinking. Back in 2000, most of my front teeth were crowned to prevent further decay. However, in 2018, it was determined the crown were failing, I had some loose teeth and it would be best to just pull them and get a full upper plate.

After a series of oral survey appointments, I sat down for my impression for my upper plate. Then COVID-19 struck. I was left with no upper teeth. I thought I would be embarrassed having a hard time eating, talking, etc. In reality, I had to change my diet a little (soft foods only) but managed as best I could day by day.

After a series of more appointments when the office recently opened, I finally received my upper dentures today. As mentioned by the dentist, I have to learn how to eat, how to speak, etc. I can’t even say my last name without slurring the words *chuckle*. One nice thing about these dentures is they aren’t like the old dentures requiring any adhesive. I just put them in, swallow and they’re in. I took them out to sleep and I won’t wear them at work just yet. I should only have to wear them periodically until my gums get use to them otherwise I may get sores.

So now this chapter in my life is closed. Honestly I’m not sure if I’ll return (except for adjustments) to the dentist for further work. He appears to be like others who treat managed care recipients one to do extreme work when its not necessary. But that’s another story.

I’m just glad this whole affair is over, yet a new one begins.

Gratitude for a Second Chance

At fifteen months of sobriety, I didn’t imagine I would be still living in a chemical dependency residential program. One would think by now, I would have moved on. But this just isn’t the case. Matter for fact, I will be here for a couple more months as I continue to take care of some dental issues.

Living one day at a time and practicing patience with the process can be difficult at times. Yet, I continue to believe I am here for a reason. Therefore I’m grateful for the continued support I receive while I go through this process, as frustrating and difficult as it may be at times.

Back in August, I finally stepped in a dental office to take care of some plaguing dental issues. I went through two surgeries, ten teeth extractions to remove “problem” teeth. I thought I was in the clear to move on with a partial denture and the rest of my life. Again, this wasn’t so. After going back to my regular dentist, they decided it would be best just to have the rest of my upper teeth all removed and a full denture placed. Back to the oral surgeon I went to schedule two more surgeries.

Monday, the first surgery was completed. Yesterday, I went for a follow up. I was surprised I was in no pain and cleared for the last surgery to be scheduled on November 20th or sooner (I’m on the cancellation list). Immediately after my appointment I got a call from the dentist to schedule the impression for my full upper denture in early January. There is a four to six week healing period after the last surgery. It’s my understanding after the impression is taken, again there is another lengthy period of time before the actual placement of the upper full denture. So, reality sets in as I may not be moving on until February or March of 2020. Despite this, I’m okay with it.

During this whole time I have seen a lot of people come and go for various reasons. Many leave on their own accord, only to relapse because they thought they were ready. They did what they wanted to do and they failed. I don’t want to be that person – again. As someone reminds me in meetings, “[this program] is the last house on the block for me. Either I stick with this time around or I may not be back and probably end up dead”.

I am not squandering this second change of changing my life, as this may be the last chance. I am grateful I developed “a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty”. I have learned, “Living on Life’s Terms” can be difficult at times. I don’t want to be here, I want to move on. Yet, I have to remember I’m here for a reason. Perhaps there are life lessons I’m getting a chance to refine before moving on. So, every day as I review my day I ask, “What lesson(s) did I learn today?”

The point I am trying to make is, no matter what life may throw at me, I have the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, a Higher Power, a Sponsor and a network of sober people to help me stay sober every day. Without these things in place, I know I would be dead or living a miserable existence. Instead, today I’m grateful to be alive and sober.

Consequences of A Drunkard

In active addiction, many of us don’t take of ourselves. Why? Because our addictions, whatever they are (alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, food, etc.) are more important. Many of us don’t see a doctor or dentist on a regular basis. I was just one of those people. High blood pressure and cholesterol are now managed through my primary care provider. My dental hygiene was another story. Now I’ve taken the steps to start taking better care of my oral hygiene. However, the consequences of a drunkard (me) are quite serious now. By using what people have taught me in Alcoholics Anonymous I can get through this. It’s going to be a bumpy road ahead.

After the whole fiasco trying to get this oral surgery done, I ended up talking to other people who said, “Why don’t you go somewhere else and get a second opinion?” Duh! The worst outcome is I would be responsible for an office visit charge. However, another oral surgeon may have other options for me. This was so true which leads to a bumpy road ahead.

I called in the insurance company finding another oral surgeon in my area. After scheduling an appointment at the end of September, they also put me on the cancellation list. To my surprise I ended up seeing the oral surgeon on Friday.

My dentist noted seven teeth need to be extracted.

Black X – missing Red X – needs extraction

It’s unbelievable what technology can show you these days. Usually you get single films of teeth or a panoramic x-ray. These days some oral surgeons do CT scans. Honestly, this may have saved a lot of complications for both the oral surgeon and myself in the future.

First, the oral surgeon(OS) says I have really strong teeth. Thanks Mom for making me drink all that milk when I was growing up! Then he got into the meat of all my problems. It’s not a pretty picture.

Teeth #2 and #15, the molars on the upper right and upper left have two complications. The roots are fused to the bone and “extremely close to the sinus cavity. Short story – lots of drilling and he may have to do some extra work if the sinus cavity is breached.

Tooth #10 is in the front of my mouth which use to have a crown. The crown fell off several years ago and is now decayed to the gum line. While looking at it the OS noticed something going on with #8 and #9. Both have crowns on them, however he noticed both have large abscesses too. His suggestion, “Both of those teeth need to get pulled too! Now rather than later because the infection can get a lot worse, real quick!” Therefore, he wants me to see my primary dentist to discuss replacing them with a partial denture after surgery.

The OS is also NOT going to use general anesthesia but “lots of Novocaine”. Scary, yes. But instead of doing all at once, he is going to do all this surgery in the series of five visits. So I’m looking at a couple months of going back and forth.

To be honest, this plan is fine with me. It is important I take care of this now while I have the opportunity. Whatever I have to do to ensure this happens is what I must do. The chemical dependency program I live in may not like it, nor Department of Social Services (an assumption). I’ll cross those bridges when and if it happens.

Another reminder for me to live “One Day at a Time”!

The Ping Pong Game

As mentioned on many occasions, I’ve set a priority to get better grip on my dental hygiene. During my addiction I didn’t take care of myself. Now in recovery I am dealing with those consequences. It frustrating when its obvious I need services and can’t get them done because dentists want to shuffle me from one place to another.

With any provider I see I also disclose past medical programs: 70% loss of hearing in right ear, a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or known as a “mini-stroke” in May 2011, chronic kidney disease – Stage III, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and of course, my remission of alcoholism. All medical problems are under control but I thought it would be best to let all providers know. I guess I’m wrong.

In late June, I made an appointment with a new dentist. She noticed several teeth which need to be extracted. The internal oral surgeon says, “With all these teeth, the complexity of surgery and your health condition, it is best you see another oral surgeon.” Ummm, okay.

I’m referred to Wilson Dental in Syracuse – the only oral surgeon in 50 miles to accept my insurance (Medicaid/Fedelis/Dentaquest). Despite my bias against their office in Binghamton, I reluctantly make an appointment. After the consult we make a date for the surgery.

My medical doctor calls me a week later scheduling me for an appointment for a medical release for the surgery (which Wilson Dental didn’t tell me about). Two weeks later I’m in her office. She doesn’t understand why the oral surgeon is so concerned and clears me for surgery. She warns me in the future not to disclose past medical issues, just current ones – people or other doctors get scared and confused.

Finally Wilson Dental receives my medical release, after three attempts by my medical provider. Yet, I’m told the oral surgeon wants me to see a neurologist. Why? I’ve never been under the care of a neurologist. A week later I suddenly get a call saying I’m referred to Stone Memorial Hospital Oral and Maxillary department.

Last week, I received a call from Stone Memorial asking me to call for a consultation. I delayed it for days because I was on the fence of whether I should continue on this path. I finally called them today receiving the following response, “We’re really busy and can’t schedule you right now. Someone will call you when something is available.” Ugh. Why did you call me in the first place?

I’m just done playing this ping pong game; I’m done fighting. I’m not going to be part of it.

No Butts

For many addicts we have one vice we have a hard time just letting go. For many in recovery it is smoking. As non-smokers can understand, you arrive or leave an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting only to be overwhelmed by all the smokers who tend to hang out at the front door. I was one of them. But I, just like alcohol, made a decision to stop for the rest of my life. It’s not easy saying goodbye to your best friend you’ve had for 37 years. But I can relate. It’s just like any other addiction. For me, it’s “One Day At a Time”.

To my surprise, the first day without a cigarette was relatively easy. Honestly, I had three strong cravings all day. The first walking to my first AA meeting of the day. The next after I ate dinner at night. Finally the last, when I was done with my day and heading off to bed.

I did not go cold turkey, as I immediately have put a NRT patch upon waking up. Based on my own experience of trying to stop smoking in my past, the patches helped me “stay stopped” successfully. The challenge right now is filling my hands with something to do when the cravings start.

As I shared at a meeting yesterday, I am applying the same principles of AA to quit smoking. While I’m looking for some positive reinforcement in my decision to do so, many dismiss me. Doing so just makes my determination stronger. An old timer, who’s been smoke free for many years now, pointed to the toothpick he always chews when at an AA meeting. I responded with, “I’ll try that…I’m being honest, open-minded and willing, just as I am in AA”

Just like when I quit alcohol, the first few hurdles are the physical craving and mental obsession. The cravings come when my body says, “Hey, we’re missing something here.” My body is expelling those toxic chemicals, just like alcohol, that in the end want to kill me. For those who quit cold turkey, I applaud you because without the NRT, I highly doubt I would have gotten through the first 24 hours. The mental obsession as we know from our addiction takes time. Dammit, I want it all to go away, NOW! **great laughter** . I’ve been down this road before haven’t I?

Right now, it’s all about Step 1 to Step 3. I know I’m powerless – if I smoke one, I’m off to the races again and I can’t stop. Step 2, I “believe in a Power greater than myself WILL restore me to sanity” – I trust this will happen, giving it time. Lastly, Step 3, I “turn my will and my life over to the the care of God (or Higher Power) as I understand Him”. I’m not alone, my Higher Power is there to help me, if I let Him.

I say this as another craving sets in because I’m about to walk to outpatient treatment. Typical routine – smoke a cigarette. But just writing those three Steps, the obsession is NOT there, the physical craving has already lessened and I’m not even out the door. I know the program works, I just have to trust the process.

A Few Surprises in Life

As mentioned yesterday I reached a minor milestone of eight months sober. I’m filled with a lot of gratitude for where I am today. As I went through my day, a couple things happened. I have made a conscious decision to quit smoking. My roommate is finally getting out of his depressed state watching a few episodes of the The Shannara Chronicles with me and dropped some news about our possible future. New York State Department of Taxation and Finance sent me an “Overpayment Notice”. During the Winter I fell off the healthy lifestyle not going to the gym, so has my roommate – that is now changing. Last night, I signed up for a membership at Planet FitnessLastly, at a sister Fellowship meeting (CoDA) the message was clear, “Trust in the process . . . “

I Quit Smoking

Just like my drinking, I have tried to quit smoking. I’ve never made a conscious decision to “stay stopped”. For the last couple of days I’ve been questioning “why” I’m still smoking giving myself excuse after excuse after another excuse. I recognized I’ve been increasing my smoking because of stress (14 meetings or more a week, Sponsorship and just living life on life’s terms). When I walk to the local Price Chopper up the street or take other long walks I become extremely short of breath, sometimes having to stop and sit. I know I’m killing myself and it needs to end.

After writing and posting my Daily Readings, I sent a note to my doctor asking for her to call in a prescription for NRT (nicotine replacement therapy). I had three other scripts waiting for pickup at Walmart. I wasn’t sure the process but got a email back later in the day, it was waiting for me at the pharmacy. I also had to make an appointment in June for a follow-up. So I picked all my scripts up later in the day.

At around 11 p.m. last night I smoked my last cigarette. I prayed to my Higher Power to help remove the craving and obsession. I literally said, “Goodbye, old friend. I’m done!” as I walked back to the house. This morning I promptly put a patch on and have not had a craving yet but I feel a need to walk, so after I get done with this post, that is exactly what I’m going to do.

No Expectations – Little Disappointment

My roommate has not been himself for the last couple of weeks. He’s been isolating in his room, not going to meetings, basically being a recluse. Why? Because his recent break up with a woman was especially hard on him and he thinks believes he’s an unworthy human being, “. . . a complete piece of shit”. Of course my codependency wants to kick in but I’ve been working on that since I’ve met him in so many ways. As painful it is to watch I’ve keep my mouth shut only to open it at times to say I’m here for support if need be.

Yesterday he and I spent some quality time watching the Shannarah Chronicles as both of us like this genre – fantasy, science fiction. I actually enjoyed his company and he appeared different. Not once did he mention “the other woman” or made comments of himself. It was just nice to see him emerge from his extreme depressive state.

Yet, at the same time, he always tends to tell me things last minute. At first, we had plans to move out, get jobs and move on with our lives as roommates in August. This was delayed, his own decision, until the first of the year. Now, he tells me, certain entities are “pushing him” to leave in the next couple of weeks. I “suggested” he advocate for himself, telling the truth he doesn’t feel ready to do so getting all entities involved in that decision. However, I did remind him, “It’s not happening today is it? Let’s just watch Shannarah”. I really do feel it helped.

How does this affect me? It does and doesn’t. Part of me will be disappointed, yet part of me has a plan if things fall through. I applied for college at Penn State for my Bachelors in Software Engineering (awaiting entrance approval). It’s a four year online program where I would be able to stay where I’m at, get a job but also live with the various supporting organizations, at least for a while, to help me through the transition. I’ll be disappointed we won’t be living together because we both have been through a lot, supporting each other in our new journeys. But if it comes to us living separately, I’m okay with it. He knows I’m just a phone call away, I’m willing to go to meetings and no matter what I’ll still be a supporting friend in all his endeavors. Perhaps, just maybe, my Higher Power’s plan all this time is for me to learn from my experiences with him and grow from them.

NYS Tax Department – Impending Dreed

After filing my taxes this year, NYS withheld them. I conveniently forgot about a large tax bill back in 2014-2015 when I cashed out a retirement plan. My alcoholic mind convinced me I had paid those back taxes. However, yesterday I received a letter. A sense of dreed come over me – what now? As I carefully glanced over the notice it stated an overpayment. I had to read the notice THREE TIMES to make sure I was understanding it. Apparently with last years tax refund, I paid the remaining balance and they owe me a partial refund (**dances with excitement**). When and how it will get paid, I don’t know. It’ll happen when it happens. It was just some unexpected news in so many ways.

Back to the Gym

Back in Winter, my roommate and I were going to the gym. The weather got really cold, my roommate didn’t go, so I couldn’t go either as he had the membership, so i was his guest. Planet Fitness sent me an email about $1 down and $10 a month. I had to really think about it but late last night made a decision to sign a two-year contract. I’m doing this for me – period.

I still have goals to lose a few pounds and want to gain muscle strength. I walk everywhere I go, so my weight has not changed drastically. The point of going to the gym with my roommate was to turn the fat into muscle – tone the body. The problem now is that my roommate tends to go and do his own thing on the spur of a moment. I’m a more organized, planning type of guy. I do things according to my schedule. It’s hard for me to just get up and go do something. Now with the membership I’m no longer dependent on him. I know I can do this and I’m willing to. The struggle for me is getting comfortable getting in a routine and sticking to it. But in a way, this is what sobriety has taught me – getting comfortable with the uncomfortable part of me – becoming a accountable and responsible with myself.

Finally – Trusting in the Process

Last night at my CoDA meeting, the message I heard was, “trusting in the process”. Since I’ve been going to CoDA meetings and concentrating on my codependent behaviors, I have seen within myself some dramatic changes. I trust in the process of both AA and CoDA. I “believe” in the principles of both programs having seen them work in my own experiences. But this work is never ending, I always have to be aware of what is going on taking action when needed. I have been given a chance of a new life, so I’m using those “spiritual gifts that are laid at my feet”. I trust in the process.

Looking Forward to 2018

As I grow older, years come and go quickly. As many of us do, I make “New Year’s resolutions” only to fail miserably. I did so last year. While another year passes, we ring in the year of 2018 and I’m looking forward to it.

Honestly, I have regrets in 2017. However, I am reminded of the AA Promise, “We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” In other words, I choose to learn from those mistakes and move forward.

Quick Review 2017

The older I get the more concerned I am regarding the status of my own health. As I quickly approach my 50’s, I need to make some drastic changes sooner rather than later. I continue to by plagued with high blood pressure, bad cholesterol and a whole lot of unnecessary stress in my life.  This continued throughout 2017. While I tried to quit smoking and develop a new healthy lifestyle, obviously that didn’t happen. I simply made to many excuses. All I can do is keep trying.

Working as a CNA is a stressful job in itself. Traveling three hours a day to and from work added even more stress in my life. I had to do something. In July 2017, I found the most ideal place to move and did so. I thought by doing so, I would reduce the stress in my life but that wasn’t the case.

One accomplishment I am proud of is keeping my sobriety in tact despite the many hurdles I faced. However, I have lost my connection with the physical recovery community. My work schedule (working 3pm to 11pm, now working 12-hour shifts, 7pm to 7am, four days a week) doesn’t make it easy to attend meetings (another excuse). What I didn’t do is go to meetings on my day off. Instead, I selfishly stayed at home at time “sitting on my pity pot”. I went down some dark roads but came through them with some scraps. While I won’t say “never again”, again another opportunity to learn from my mistakes.

All I can do is look forward to the new year and new possibilities. Again I’m reminded of the ending of the AA Promises, “They will always materialize if we work for them.”

New Year’s Resolutions for 2018

  • Develop a healthy lifestyle reducing the stress in my life:
    • Meditate daily
    • Exercise daily
    • Develop a healthier diet
    • Develop a regular consistent sleep schedule
  • Develop an attitude of “no excuses”; take responsibility and DO SOMETHING
  • Start and finish one project at a time
  • Eliminate procrastination

Not a long list because I really haven’t thought of anything else by the first bullet point. Developing a healthy lifestyle in 2018 is going to my second priority in life. (My sobriety is always my first priority in my life!). It ‘s not going to suddenly happen overnight. Keep it simple.

I believe I can make it work. No – I WILL make it work! This is the schedule I work with on a typical working day:

  • 5 p.m. – wake up
  • 6 p.m. – head to work
  • 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. – work
  • 7:30 to 8 a.m. – get home from work
  • 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. back to bed

After waking up, (even before my morning coffee) I’ll begin my day with a simple meditation, perhaps sobriety related, positive reinforcement or just a clear my mind. It just takes 10 – 15 minutes leaving enough time for a shower and coffee.

Getting into a regular exercise routine is going to be a challenge. Ideally I would like to do something after my meditation but as you can see, I don’t have the time.. Therefore, I’ll have to develop a routine after work.

Developing a healthier diet is going to be another challenge. I’m not a cook and I’m an impulse shopper. Honestly, I have a large pot and a small deep dish pan to cook meals (for now). In the past it was more of boxed meals and a protein. I’ll make do until I eventually buy more pots and pans. There are a plethora of websites for healthy living, so I’ll just have to try a few.

In my weekly budget I have allocated $50 per week to groceries. I think it will be more than enough, as I only cook for myself. The two cheapest places to shop are Walmart and Price Chopper. But I like to find the best deals with the use of coupons, so I’ll have to figure that all out too!

My sleeping pattern is so screwed up right now. Besides working 12 hour days, four times a week, most of the time I’ve had to stay later, even working 16 hours, due to the lack of staff at work. There is a major decision I need to make regarding my current employment but for now, I hope with the holidays past us I can get back into a regular routine.

I’m using various apps to help track my progress. For years I’ve been using Microsoft HealthVault (now call MS Insights) to keep track of my blood pressure. I’ve used MyFitnessPal in the past, so I updated all the information and will be keeping track here. Eventually I hope to add it to this blog.  If you are interested and use MyFitnessPal perhaps we can add each other? Don’t post your username or email in the comments. Just say your interested and I’ll contact you with my info. I know how to get around spam bots 🙂

This is myfitnesspal tracker:

Happy Year Year everyone!