I was recently in a group chat about improving one’s life and someone brought up the subject of motivations for the changes I’ve been making in my life including no alcohol, much healthier food choices (easier on a low sodium diet), massively reduced stress, and in general taking a different approach to my life choices since I discovered I have dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).1There is a good article on Wikipedia about this disorder.
As happenstance would have it, this is something I’ve been thinking about for the past month and I’ve come to the conclusion that my motivations most likely aren’t what people think they are2Note that a) I have not asked people what they think my motivations are and b) I am not 100% certain of all of them myself still. so I decided to try and put into words what has been consciously (and almost certainly subconsciously) driving the choices I make on a daily basis for the last month.
So, first things first, I have to say that I am not motivated by the fact that I died for a bit. It’s simply not something I’m worried about anymore; what little fear of death I previously had is now completely and utterly gone. I guess the best way to summarize my feelings on the subject is “Death isn’t really as bad as people think it is”.
So, now that we have that out of the way, let’s move on to what I know is actually motivating me for the various large changes I’ve made in my life, which I think are important to go over first.
In the end, there have only been three core changes I’ve made, they’re all pretty sizable, and all have been executed on in a very short time frame. There are also a large number of small changes I’ve made, but this would be a very long post if I went over all of them, so I won’t.
First, I’m now eating a low sodium diet. This was nowhere in the cards for me and was most definitely not something I was planning on. What does low sodium mean? Less than 2,000 mg daily of sodium intake.3I am well under this most days as it’s not that hard when you’re cooking at home. Some days I’ll go above it because I like the NHS recommendation of 2,500mg or less more. =) While this may seem like a lot, it is most definitely not. It makes eating out difficult to say the least, takes the majority of my favorite foods off the table for me, and unless I’m cooking at home generally relegates me to eating things that quite simply don’t have much flavor.4Yes, I’m aware that I can use other spices and that there are salt substitutes. They’re even tasty sometimes and I’ll stick with most of them going forward. That said, I in no way prefer anything I have found so far.
I do have to point out that there is one big benefit of a low sodium diet to date and that is a newfound love affair with fruits and yogurt. I’m thankful for that and can’t see this ever changing in my life. Seriously, if you don’t eat a lot of fruit give it a shot.
The second big difference is that I’m not drinking alcohol. While this was a sizable change for me, I was already moving forward with drastically cutting my alcohol intake5I highly recommend Sunnyside. I cut my drinking back over 60% without major effort in a ~18 month period and was on track to hit my goal of normal social drinking sometime in late summer 2022. so this was simply accelerating that change. It was surprisingly easy and, looking back, I don’t think that going into cardiac arrest and dying for a few minutes had anything to do with how easy it was. I’d been moving towards drastically cutting back alcohol anyways, this just accelerated the change and then I decided to keep going once I’d crossed the finish line.6It’s actually not harmful to drink small amounts of alcohol with DCM, but it slows things down on the healing side and I don’t miss alcohol itself, so I’m completely abstaining at the moment. Given that the root cause of my DCM is likely tied to a thiamine deficiency caused by drinking heavily for about 15 years, this isn’t really a bad thing either.
I have to say that I do enjoy not drinking at the moment. On any given day I have more energy, more focus, and am generally more present than I used to be. It’s a nice change as I honestly can’t remember the last time I went this long without even a single drink and I’m super glad I know what baseline me is like in my 40s. I like that person.
That said, I do miss the ritual itself. I miss mixing cocktails. I miss wine tasting. I miss meeting my wife for a beer at the brewery after work. I’m trying to fill part of that gap by experimenting with mocktails, frequently with THC or CBD tinctures. I’m also enjoying sampling various non-alcoholic beers7NA beer has come a loooong way and there are many I prefer to regular beer., mimosas with non-alcoholic champagne8I do not prefer these really, but they’re good enough that I wish I had known it was an option. I’ll keep drinking these forever as they’re much, much healthier for you, but it would be nice to have a champagne based one every now and then., and I also drink a likely excessive amount of tonic water and buy limes by the bag now.
The last big change I’ve made is also the only one I’m really, truly happy about: I’m spending more time with my family and less time working, which has massively reduced my stress level. We eat candle lit dinners every night and talk about our days, I have good conversations with my children and have even learned some new things about them, and I feel vastly more connected to them than I used to be. I don’t have anything negative to say about this change and I plan to keep us stocked in candles until the next time I die. I won’t ever go back to what I was doing before.
Now that I’ve typed all that out, I shall come to the point of this long winded blog post: What motivates me to keep up with the changes I’ve made.
To boil it down, the things that are combining to motivate me are, in no particular order:
- I am truly enjoying becoming closer to my family. I’m glad I’m still here to do that.
- My Athena girl would miss me and have no idea why I left if I were to die again.9There is a quote about dogs I like, that I can’t find right now, that goes something like “They’re a small part of your life, but you’re all of their life.” This is true.
- I was thoroughly enjoying my life before all this and would have died happy. I do not enjoy my life as much anymore and desire to enjoy it as much as I used to.
- The condition I have is frequently reversible through diet, exercise, and medication.
So in the end I’m simply doing whatever is necessary to try and reverse this so I can hang out with my family for many years to come, play with my dogs, go experience nice restaurants every now and then without having to worry about what’s in the food, go dancing with my wife, enjoy a food truck and a beer every now and then, and generally live a somewhat normal life again.
If I have to take 17 pills a day10No, that is not an exaggeration. It is, in fact, how many pills I take every day currently., eat the blandest food known to man, and get blood tests on a weekly basis for years on end? Sure, I’ll dig in and live that life for as long as I need to. I’ve had harder times in my life for sure.
Do I enjoy some of the changes I’ve made? Hell yeah, and I’ll keep a good number of them regardless of what the future brings for my health. I won’t ever give up eating candle lit dinners and talking about my day with my wife, nor will I go back to working as much as I was. I won’t ever start taking time for granted again.11I am supremely bothered when people don’t have a sense of urgency now. Life is short, move faster. However, I do want some things back from my old life, namely the ability to go eat at a food truck once a week and wash it down with a microbrew.12This is, by far, what I miss the most. I can’t really even put it into words how much I miss it, beyond letting you know that it isn’t really the food or the beer that I miss and, no, there isn’t a substitute I’m willing to accept. Time will tell if I can accomplish my goal but I’m putting in the work, have my motivation firmly nailed down, and I really haven’t ever accepted no for an answer.