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Category Archives: Essays

Searching For Obamacare

The following is Part 1 in a series of posts regarding one slightly middle-aged, uninsured gal’s search for affordable, quality health care coverage in the age of Obamacare.

In spite of the current battle in Washington, where the immediate toll for Congress’s feckless legislative filibustering will injure all but those who’ve waged it (their toll, depending on who “wins” in this latest of fiscal folderols, comes due only in the next election cycle and not a minute sooner – and for some, not even then), I have decided to simply pretend like it’s not happening and go ahead and try to sign up for Obamacare anyway, because this law was made for you and me.

Really, it was! You see, in spite of being a good patient with a history of alcoholism (emphasis on the word history) managing my diabetes fairly well, I nevertheless belong squarely in the “Pre-Existing Condition” category of patient, and therefore (in the great state of California, at least), just by those very facts am rendered what’s lovingly known by insurers everywhere as “uninsurable”. Obamacare is supposed to render that point moot – now they have to cover me anyway. HA!

And yet, I still find myself skeptical as to whether it can actually come to pass. Even though October 1 was the day for everyone who needs coverage to begin shopping via what are being called “Exchanges” (which are, essentially, health insurance carrier marketplaces where one finds a plan that will work for them based on their healthcare and financial needs in exchange for coverage. Handy, no?), I still wonder if any of it’s actually possible, let alone actually going to happen.

See, in addition to various and sundry glitches  in the sign-up process reported throughout the week, there’s also been rumor and rumors of rumors that, in order to avoid covering folks like me, a lot of carriers have thrown the baby out with the bathwater and simply opted out of the private insurance racket altogether, so…I don’t even know what companies are still left to choose from.

And I wonder how much of my past and current medical history, supposedly rendered moot, will still come back to bite me in the pocketbook: OK, so, they can’t hold my alcoholism, diabetes or any other of my multiple and sundry diseases/disorders/conditions/skin tags against me coverage-wise. Sweet! But…will they make up for it by gouging me good and plenty where it counts?

Then there’s the small matter of figuring out who “they” are. …. Read More

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In the Beginning…

LifeRingThis is the first in what will be a series of stories from LifeRing members about their experience in finding and joining LifeRing.

In 1999, I was a “functional” addict steadily becoming less functional. I owned a bookstore in Port Angeles, WA, a small town about 50 miles west of Seattle. I’d been drinking for years, of course, and was having less and less success in “controlling” it. Since I was the owner, I could take long lunches and/or go home early in the afternoon. You can guess what I did with the time.

I lived alone. I had left a bad marriage a few years before. One thing that had kept me in the marriage was the realization that living alone, my drinking would get worse. And it did. But by ’99 I was ready to face the fact that not only did I need to quit drinking, I needed help to do that.

I was pretty isolated outside of work and had nobody to talk to about my addiction. The only group available in my town was AA. I had flipped through copies of the “Big Book” when they came in used to my bookshop and had firmly established that it wasn’t for me. But where else could I turn? I searched on Google for “alternatives AA” but only got AA sites. Finally, I hit on the term – “secular” — that brought up LifeRing.

From the first moment of my first visit to the LifeRing website (then; now I felt a surge of hope. These were people like me: people who didn’t feel powerless, just in need of a helping hand; people who didn’t want a heavily structured program powered by slogans and Steps and “higher powers,” people who wanted to deal with present life, not wallow in the black despair of the past.

I joined a LifeRing email group, LSRmail, and knew at once that I’d found a home and that the “support” piece of my recovery puzzle was in place. There were other pieces I needed to find and recovery for me was never quick or easy. But LifeRing was always there for me and I’ve remained involved ever since. It truly was a life ring for me.

–Craig Whalley

Drunk Drivers Not the Only Danger on the Nation’s Highways

We all know about the dangers of drunk driving, and about the draconian penalties imposed on drivers who test above a certain level for the presence of alcohol in their blood. The level considered “impaired” has dropped considerably over the years and may drop again to a level that catches even relatively small amounts of alcohol. No right-thinking person argues against the need for strict rules.

But it’s interesting to note how slow to respond our society is to other forms of impairment, often just as dangerous. It has become common for the use of cell phones while driving to carry a relatively small penalty, although so-called “hands free” devices are acceptable despite proving to be almost as distracting.

A recent article in the New York Times — see it HERE — discusses the possible effects from the wide-spread use of sleeping pills such as Ambien on one’s ability to drive safely. In some, the lingering effect of the sleeping pill taken the night before are as pronounced as moderate alcohol consumption.

Interestingly, while searching for an image to illustrate this article, I googled “driving impaired,” which seemed like a blanket term. Hundreds of images were found, virtually all of them dealing only with alcohol impairment. Society seems to be in, well, denial about the dangers of other sorts of impairment.

— Craig Whalley




A Round or Two with Mike Tyson

More than a few recovering alcoholics/addicts, myself included, have compared their time in active addiction to getting into the ring with “Iron” Mike Tyson, and for good reason. The former undisputed heavyweight boxing champion of the world (1987 – 1990) was widely known during his heyday for crushing his opponents, sometimes in as little as a few rounds, and then for finding … interesting ways to take them out even in his decline.

Coupled with some of his behavior outside the ring that signified him as a bad, bad dude who would put the hurt on you one way or the other, the comparison was apt: Whatever any of us wanted to believe going in – “Well, maybe just one more round, for old time’s sake.” Or, “One or two rounds never hurt anyone.” Or, one of my personal favorites, “If I could just MAKE myself quit after the third round, I’d be alright,” or any of the other 1,001 things we told ourselves – chances were still better than great that we would wind up getting our asses kicked again and again and again, with little to no variation on the theme.

Finally, our last best hope to become the champions of our own lives was to not just get out of the ring and leave Iron Mike alone, but to STAY out. For good.   (READ MORE…..)

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A Solstice Essay

A message from LifeRing member Mahala Kephart:

A few days late, but as I thought about how important having a secular choice in recovery has been to me, I thought maybe I’d riff on light and dark today. Whether you’re in Sweden or South Africa, the Yukon or Tierra del Fuego, or somewhere in between, the summer and winter solstice times offer opportunities to notice, and be thankful for, both light and darkness.

Something I found surprisingly peaceful about living for four months pretty much on the equator was the regularity of the days. I think I noticed it the most when we were up at Lake Turkana (formerly Lake Rudolf). Maybe it was because I was surrounded by paleontologists (it’s hard to ignore being in the company of Richard and Maeve Leakey) and thinking a lot not just about human origins but about human strife. There are still prejudices and grudges held between villages and tribes in the Turkana region; one conflict last year that started with a stolen fishing net ended up escalating to stolen goats, stolen cattle, and finally, directly or indirectly, to the deaths of 40 people. Anyway, where we were, there was a lot of silence and opportunity for deep, reflective solitude once I finally got into the rhythm of the place.

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