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Can Alcoholics Quit Drinking On Their Own

From the book, My Reclaimed Life.

Maybe. I imagine you’re probably not one of the few who can, though. My guess is if you’re reading this, you’re somebody like me and can’t quit without help. Otherwise, why are you here? I’m presuming you’ve tried and tried and self-help hasn’t worked.

So, to answer your question, and not to generalize to the whole population, if you’re here because you’ve tried to quit and can’t, my answer is, “You need help.”

Lots of people decide alcohol is becoming a problem for them and quit. One oft-cited statistic is more people quit drinking alcohol on their own than those who enter treatment or go to recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous. I don’t doubt that. I would suggest, though, those who quit on their own aren’t alcoholics as I define the term. (An alcoholic is a person who has tried over and over again to quit drinking alcohol and can’t do it for any meaningful length of time by himself or herself.) I have no interest in arguing semantics. Such small thinking would keep me drunk.

Early in my daily drinking career, I went to a couple of counselors because I was concerned about my drinking. Back then, it wasn’t messing up my life much, but I knew drinking as much I did was bad. One counselor told me I needed to go to Alcoholics Anonymous. Then she said this, “I’ve only known one alcoholic who quit drinking on her own.”

Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah, that’s all I needed to hear.

I knew if it were possible for one person in the world to quit drinking on his or her own, I was the guy. I left the office relieved. Twenty years later, I noticed I hadn’t gotten around to quitting on my own yet.

The only way I could stop was to get help.

After all these years of sobriety, I continue to maintain my support system. Despite my certainty that I’ll never drink again, I don’t want to take a chance. I know a good many recovering alcoholics who decided they didn’t need help anymore and were soon drunk again.

My wife and I went to a casino once, and as I fed the slot machines, I kept wondering why I was giving my money away. When I won a little bit, I kept wondering why I was giving it back to them. After thirty minutes, we left. I’m not interested in gambling with my money, and I’m sure as hell not going to gamble with my sobriety either. I’ll keep getting help forever, one day at a time, and based on observing hundreds of alcoholics, I’m not alone.

If you refuse to believe me and trust the people who insist you can quit drinking on your own, fine—keep trying, and if you can do it, that’s wonderful. If you’re like me and go through twenty-four years of trying to quit alcohol without success and without dying first, you might want to give getting help a shot. It’s not nearly as big a deal as you seem to think it is.

In fact, it is a whole lot easier than going it alone.

Why Wanting to Get Better May Do More Harm than Good

From the book, My Reclaimed Life.

Here’s something I finally figured outWanting to quit drinking, smoking, and being overweight and out of shape was no help at all.

Not a bit.

In fact, wanting to do all that probably hurt me.

During my forty-year career as a teacher and school counselor, I met with hundreds of failing students and their parents. In those meetings, the sullen students often sat and said nothing. The common response to any question or comment would be a sarcastic glance at their parents or an absolute refusal to respond at all. For nearly three decades, I told the parents their children had to have at least a tiny bit of “want to” for us to help them get better.

Several years after my last drink I realized I’d been using the wrong word during all those meetings. I know now there’s a huge difference between “want to” and “willingness,’ and willingness is the key to change.

The difference may seem subtle.

It’s not.

Pay close attention to this. It is a very big deal.

Everybody wants to get better—including those kids in our meetings. Once the parents were gone, even the most sullen, passive-aggressive student eventually admitted to wanting to do better. The “want to” is just under the surface, hidden by resentment, fear, and guilt.

The students didn’t lack “want to.”

They lacked the willingness to do what it took to change.

For twenty-five years, I wanted to quit drinking alcohol, quit smoking cigarettes, lose weight, and get in shape. I knew nothing else would happen until I dealt with the alcohol, so I woke up day after day saying to myself, “Today’s a new day ….” I rarely finished the sentence, but the implication was I wouldn’t drink alcohol that day.

Then, each afternoon I would come home, fill the glass with ice and vodka, and repeat all evening.

I had plenty of “want to.” I wasn’t faking or kidding myself. I really did want to change.

Didn’t matter, though.

I didn’t have the willingness to do what it took to act on the “want to.”

People who know my story often ask me how to lose weight. Many are obsessed with the desire. Yet, when leaving the buffet table, their plates are overflowing with fried chicken breasts and mountains of mashed potatoes covered by rich gravy. The “want to” is no problem whatsoever for them. It’s there in abundance. The willingness to pass on the calorie laden and fat enhanced offerings and choose the small slice of plain ham and unadorned broccoli is what’s missing.

In short, wanting to do something has no meaning in real life whatsoever. In fact, “wanting to” might be counterproductive. It makes us feel as if we’re doing something when we’re not. We feel better because at least we have the desire to change. The “want to” allows us to fool ourselves.

Willingness means we’re ready to take action and we do it.

When I finally found willingness, I poured the liquor out, then eventually got in the car and drove to the treatment center. On my way, I was willing to say to myself, “Ed, do whatever they tell you to do.” The treatment center personnel were the experts at getting people sober—I surely wasn’t. The willingness to take direction from those in the know was critical to my sobriety. My willingness to take the suggestions from other alcoholics with long time sobriety has kept me from drinking alcohol again. My willingness to apply those principles to quitting smoking, losing weight, and having a physically healthy body has been critical in being successful in those efforts.

I wanted to get better for years and years and years.

Big hairy deal.

Nothing happened until I had the willingness to listen to those who had long-term success, then change my behavior, whether I wanted to or not.

So, how do you find the willingness to act?

The only thing I know for sure is most of us don’t take action until we’ve hit a bottom that hurts enough. Maybe you’ll be different. Maybe you’ll find a tiny bit of willingness to take the first little baby step toward changing before you hit a bad bottom. Maybe that one little step will feel so good, you’ll take another one.

If not, maybe someday when you’re hurting bad enough, you’ll remember this book on your bookshelf, or on your e-reader, pull it out or turn it on, and read it again.

Perhaps it’ll help you act on your newfound willingness.

See the book, My Reclaimed Life, on Amazon.

Go to www.myreclaimedlife.com

Email Servers – No Big Deal

HillaryIt’s amusing to watch people flip-flop their mantras depending on circumstances. In the political world, that happens no matter the ideological bent. The latest comes from the far right’s new-found love affair with government competency.

Well, that’s partly true.

The right loves that the FBI director found that Hillary Clinton was “extremely careless” in hosting her email on a private server. They, of course, are mightily upset with Director Comey for not suggesting she be tried and put in jail for it.

So, suddenly, the right blindly trusts the judgment that private servers are bad and government-run servers are the bee’s knees. Somehow, this government, which can do nothing right in nearly any other venue, has it right if it means Hillary Clinton gets pilloried.

Let’s talk about email servers.

They sound ominous and special and complicated. They are not. I gave away two old computers in the last year. Instead of doing that, I could have kept one, hooked it to my router, and made it a server. That’s what “servers” are – plain ol’ computers hooked to the internet. And, it isn’t terribly complicated to set up a web server. You can find instructions on how to do it in ten minutes here. Setting up email on the server is more complicated, and requires continuous updating, but, it isn’t all that difficult for someone who knows what they’re doing. I’m pretty sure Hillary Clinton wasn’t doing this by herself. If she has her own server, she can use her well-vetted IT guy.

When Hillary Clinton was in the Senate, she, like many other senators, didn’t trust the government-run email system, so she had her own server installed. That way she could have complete control of her email. She could be darned certain nobody got into it just by unplugging it. She could also have complete control over the firewalls she used to protect it. Instead of depending on under-funded government IT departments, she could have complete control over security. When she went to the State Department, she continued to use her server.

Or, in other words, she acted just like a typical far right adherent who distrusts government and thinks government can do nothing right.

And, of course, Director Comey has a vested interest in defending his employer’s competence, so he asserts that Hillary Clinton was “extremely careless” when she failed to trust in the government’s ability to get it right.

When I worked for the government (a school system,) if I had had a concern about somebody getting into my email, I would have done the same thing. As it happened, our school system had a dynamite IT department. It was local and I had enough access to have complete confidence in it. In many school settings, I would have used one of those old computers to host my edwyrick.com email securely.

This is like about all the other “controversies” created by those who hate the Clintons – much ado about nothing. But, as Joseph Goebbels said, “The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly – it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.” The Republicans have done that brilliantly, even affecting the Bernie fans. The Clintons undoubtedly do stupid things on a regular basis — like wear real expensive coats– but all of that is benign negligence.

All that for another day, though. Meanwhile, it’s time to recognize the server issue for what it is – yet another much ado about nothing deal.

Pain Meds Don’t Create Drug Addicts

There are all kinds of problem with narcotic pain pills. Patients become tolerant and require higher and higher dosages. Eventually, the pills can cause hyperalgesia, or an increased sensitivity to pain. Based on an informal review of the literature, though, the biggest perceived problem is the high number of people who become addicted to pain pills. When their doctor won’t prescribe any more of it, the patient tries to get it illegally, or moves on to easier to obtain opioids like heroin.

After dealing with coming off pain medications recently, it’s clear to me the problem isn’t that normal people become drug addicts. It’s that normal people aren’t taught how to get off the stuff.

On May 9, 2015, I awoke to a bad pain on the outer side of my left hip. Within a few days, it progressed down the leg. Within a month, I was essentially disabled from the pain. It turned out to be spinal stenosis in my lumbar region. That’s the lower back. MRIs showed my spine had developed spurs and had degenerated such that it was pressing against nerves that exit the spine and move down the leg, hence the pain. I was given the choice of getting shots that would put medicine on the nerves to temporarily numb the pain, or have surgery. This wasn’t going to get better. My spine wasn’t going get undegenerated. I chose surgery. It was going to be necessary someday, and I wanted to get it done while I was still in excellent physical shape rather than wait until I was feeble.

A quick aside here – I’ve seen no medical opinion blaming this condition on running. It is a genetic issue. My mother was crippled by stenosis when she was in her seventies. Doctors kept giving her the temporary relief of injections until it was too late to do surgery. That’s a major reason why I went ahead and had it done.

Before the surgery, I had to use a walker to get around. By bending over  and leaning on the walker, my spine opened up and took pressure off the nerves. Lying on anything was painful. I found two positions that had less pain and eventually I’d fall asleep. To move to them, I had to pull my knees to my chest and turn all at once. That hurt, but moving in any other way was beyond agonizing. The good thing was I was pretty much pain-free when sitting.

After the surgery, the pain got worse, just as my excellent neurosurgeon predicted. The surgery was a lumbar laminectomy. The spine has kind of a “D” shape with the curved part facing front and the flat part facing the rear, which is called the lamina. The surgeon cut about three inches of that flat part off and cleaned up some other stuff so it wouldn’t be pressing against the nerve. Problem is, all that cutting and manipulating of the nerve irritates it and causes swelling, resulting in the nerve causing pain all the time until it heals.

I had three months of unrelenting pain in my hip and down my leg in all positions – sitting, standing, or lying down. The walker didn’t help. It was bad. The recovery was like stair steps, rather than a curve. At three months, I woke one day and the pain was mostly gone when sitting. What a relief! But, the pain was still excruciating wen walking or lying down. As time passed, different things quit hurting at different times until everything quit hurting almost exactly five months after surgery.

During all that, I took pain meds. Lots of them. Narcotics and some other stuff. At one point, to keep up, I had to create a list of what to take when.

Pain Meds Pos-Surgery

Daily Medication schedule

As the pain diminished, I came off the pain meds. The first was the daily 1800 milligrams of  gabapentin just about a month after surgery. The withdrawal was godawful. At about the four month point, I came off the opioids. That was just as bad.

It took several weeks to titrate off both. I cut the dosage in half, then half again, then half again and so on until I was done. The same pattern occurred each time. My cut down day was Monday. I’d feel  OK on that day. On Tuesday, I’d feel a little funky. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were bad. I felt like I had a severe case of the flu – achy, fatigued, and nose running. I cried at pest control commercials . . . or nothing – just be sitting there and start bawling. On Saturday and Sunday, I felt normal. Then, it would start again on Monday.

That was a total of about eight weeks of hell, with a couple days of respite each week.

As I was going through the bad part, I used all the tools I’d learned in recovery from alcoholism. I made sure my wife knew what was going on. I called other recovering friends who reminded me of all the stuff I could do to get through the hard times. I had been through alcohol withdrawal and from that experience, I knew I would survive and feel good eventually. I lived one day at a time and didn’t worry about the possibility of never feeling good again. I handed it over. And, I gave myself permission to eat a little ice cream.

Normal people don’t know how to do all that stuff. Their fear must be massive. They have no experience telling them it’s going to get better. The only solution they have is to take another pill. Eventually, they run out of them and the doctor won’t give them anymore. Their only answer is to go out and find some from wherever they can – like in their best friend’s medicine cabinet or on the street or by doctor shopping. Prescription drugs are hard to get long term, though. So, in desperation, they go to street drugs like heroin.

There is no doubt in my mind people don’t “become” addicts or alcoholics. We alcoholics are different in the way we react to beer, wine, and liquor. Drugs addicts react to opioids differently. We can’t stop taking alcohol or drugs because our bodies react differently to the substances than normal people.

When normal people keep taking drugs, it’s because they have no other solution to feeling incredibly bad when they quit taking them.

When patients are prescribed narcotics or other pain meds like gabapentin, they should be required to be involved in some program designed to give them a strategy for coming off them. Perhaps a required seminar on what to expect, then phone numbers of supportive volunteers to call when they are really hurting and want to take more pills.

I’ve read all the opinions suggesting pain medication should not be prescribed. The alternative suggestions are physical therapy, behavioral therapy, and intense psychological counseling. I did the PT and I’m extremely knowledgeable about the other two. We really, really, really need a Mr. Spock machine that would allow these people to feel the pain I was feeling. Let me tell you, the pain meds were critical to my getting through those terrible months.

But, thank God I knew how to get off them.

To Lose Weight, Hang With the Winners

scalesWhen I decided it was time to lose weight, I thought first of how I had quit drinking alcohol. I thought about hanging with the winners.

As I pulled out onto the Atlanta Highway on Labor Day in 2002 while driving to the treatment center for the first time, I said out loud, “Do whatever they tell you to do, Ed.” After two weeks of desperately trying to detox from more than two decades of daily alcohol drinking by myself, I’d given up and was on my way to get help. I had a masters degree in psychology and a doctorate in counseling, and I knew absolutely nothing about how to quit drinking alcohol. For the previous twenty years, I’d awakened each morning with a desire to stop drinking alcohol. Every day when I arrived home from work, I’d fill a glass with ice, vodka, and a splash of water and start again. Clearly, I had no idea how to stop drinking. The people at the treatment center were experts and I made a commitment as I drove there to get myself out of the way and follow their directions.

Without question, that was the best set of directions I’ve ever given myself.

After “graduating” from the treatment center, I sought out recovering alcoholics who had years of successful sobriety. When I heard the same thing over and over from sobriety winners, I did what they said to do. At this writing, I’m about to celebrate thirteen years of sobriety, and I’m still doing what the winners do.

I also hang with the winners in losing and maintaining weight loss.  Lots of people lose weight from time to time. A tiny fraction maintain the loss. I have no interest in losing the weight only to have it pile right back on. The problem with hanging with the weight loss winners is that there are so few of them in our immediate vicinity.

That void of winners has been filled since 1993 by Rena R. Wing and James O. Hill. The two researchers began the National Weight Control Registry in 1993. Participants in the study have lost a minimum of thirty pounds and have kept the weight off for more than a year. The participants far exceed the minimum. As of now, the researchers report “Registry members have lost an average of 66 lbs and kept it off for [at least] 5.5 years.”

So what commonalities have the researchers found among the weight loss winners?
Here are a few:

  • There is greater variability among the winners in the dieting pattern used to initially lose weight than there is in maintaining the weight loss.
  • 90% of the winners have a diet that is low in fat.
  • 10% of the participants maintain weight loss on a low carbohydrate diet.
  • 90% of the winners exercise for an hour a day on average.
  • 75% of the winners weigh themselves at least once a week
  • 90% of the winners self-monitored food intake (e.g. counted calories.)
  • Winners limited variety in all food groups.
  • Weight loss maintenance gets easier over time. Once the winners maintained a weight loss for 2-5 years, the chances of longer-term success greatly increases.

While there are a zillion books and theories out there on losing weight, I’ll stick with the winners. The winners count calories, eat a low-fat diet, and exercise an hour a day.

I think I’ll keep sticking with the winners.

Why I Don’t Watch Political Debates

I watched about seven minutes of the recent prime time Republican debate before switching to a recorded Antiques Roadshow segment on my DVR. Seven minutes was long enough to see the realization of the nightmare scenario offered in the movie Network. Peter Finch played the part of an anchorman gone mad. In the end, he became a star and network news had morphed to an entertainment show complete with a cheering and booing studio audience.

Lord help us, Network has arrived in the form of Fox News.

But, that’s not why I turned off the debate. I’ve barely watched them since Jimmy Carter taught me an invaluable lesson about making political decisions. In 1970 he was an obscure state legislator from south Georgia who I didn’t know much about. He had lost a bid for governor in 1966, but I was fifteen then and we had just moved to Georgia. During the next four years, I became politically active as a Vietnam War opponent and a civil rights proponent.

Back then, a man named Roy Harris from Augusta was still a powerful figure in Georgia politics. He had been a kingmaker since the 1930s, and his endorsement was a critical factor in being elected. He was an editor for a conservative Augusta newspaper and was a leader in the pro-segregation White Citizens Council. When I read that Jimmy Carter met with Roy Harris to seek his endorsement and got it, my political activities focused on beating Carter. After he became the Democratic nominee, I volunteered and worked hard for the Republican nominee, Hal Suit. As strange as it seems today, Hal Suit was considered a moderate—almost a liberal.

In those days, running as a Republican in Georgia was a lost cause and Hal Suit lost. I was extremely disappointed that the evil segregation-monger Jimmy Carter was going to be the governor of my state.

Then, he gave his inaugural address.

His speech only lasted twelve minutes, but it had a life-long impact on me. Newly elected Governor Carter said it was time for segregation to end. He said, “No poor, rural, weak, or black person should ever have to bear the additional burden of being deprived of the opportunity of an education, a job, or simple justice.”

What?

I went back and studied what Jimmy Carter had done before beginning his second campaign for governor. As a school board member, he had proposed enlightened educational reform. His plans were defeated in popular votes, but they were far from the thoughts of a follower of Roy Harris and his ilk. In his previous campaign for governor, he was a progressive moderate. His mother, Lillian, had volunteered for the Peace Corps in 1966 and worked with lepers in India. While kids often stray from their mama’s values, that’s not common. Had I studied what he’d done before his 1970 campaign, my opinion of him would have been very different, and everything he’s done since then bears that out.

Lesson learned.

While it’s disappointing to know Jimmy Carter was disingenuous during his campaign for governor, that behavior is the norm. There are exceptions, but we have no way of knowing until after the election.

So, after 1970, I quit paying attention to what candidates say during the election campaign. Instead, I examine their records for what they’ve actually done before the campaign began and make decisions from that. Having watched what politicians do after being elected, I can tell you they all return to their roots, no matter what they say during the campaign.

All this leaves a cautionary note to you Donald Trump supporters. You might want to look at his past and compare it to his campaign rhetoric. The life-long Trump is who’ll you’ll be getting, and I suspect that guy will scare the dickens out of you.

Is Alcoholism a Disease

I don’t know, and as a recovering alcoholic, really, I don’t care.

As a recovering alcoholic, all I have to know is that I didn’t make some kind of a bizarre choice to spend twenty-four years in misery. To think being an alcoholic drinker is a choice defies all logic, and that notion can only be perpetuated by those who have zero understanding of what it’s like to be addicted to alcohol.

On any given day, we long-term alcoholic drinkers enjoy about ten seconds of euphoria after taking the day’s first swallow, then that’s followed by hours and hours of underlying despair as we keep drinking even though we don’t want to. No one is going to choose to continue doing something that is so painful. We’ve known that since B.F. Skinner observed his first pecking pigeon.

As far as I’m concerned, we alcoholics have no need to define our condition. We just need to know it’s not self-inflicted so we’ll start doing something about it instead of wasting time beating ourselves up.

Now, there’s no doubt alcoholism acts like a disease. Disease can be defined as being a condition that is progressive, chronic, and fatal. Alcoholism fits that definition. If you’re an alcoholic and keep drinking, your condition will inevitably worsen over time, so it’s progressive. Without some kind of intervention, either from others or yourself, you’ll likely continue to drink until you die, so it’s chronic. And, unchecked, alcoholism will kill you eventually, unless, of course, you die of something else first.

There’s also evidence that alcohol interacts with our midbrain’s pleasure center in the way it uses dopamine. When I read that theory, it makes sense to me. I’m no medical doctor or biology professor, so I’ll let you look that one up.

I call my affliction a disease in everyday conversation because I’ve got to call it something. But, disease or not, I believe this to my core: I did not choose to be an alcoholic and my reaction to the substance is beyond my control without help of some kind. I suggest you leave this definitional quibbling to those who aren’t desperately trying to survive the disease, or whatever the heck you want to call it. For the alcoholic to get caught up in all that just provides an excuse to fail to do what it takes to get sober.

How to Earn College Scholarships

When I was a high school counselor, it was common for parents of seniors to come to my office and ask how their kid could find scholarships for college. Almost always, the question came too late. They often said they’d read that millions of dollars worth of scholarships are out there unused because people don’t apply for them. Not true. There is a lot of scholarship money out there and sometimes it’s not used. But, that’s not for a lack of applicants. It’s because of a lack of qualified applicants.

The two primary types of scholarships are athletic and academic. In both cases, scholarships are awarded to students with truly outstanding credentials, and students can’t start working on those during their senior year in high school. It starts a long time before that.

Athletic scholarships, especially at the Division I level, are extremely difficult to obtain. During my thirty years as a counselor in one school system, we had two students earn Division I scholarships. We had a bunch who signed scholarships to other levels, but most of that financial aid was a combination of grants and small bits of aid. Very few were full ride scholarships.

Also, know this: Division I football programs send, literally, thousands of letters to student athletes expressing interest. At most, they’ll be offering twenty scholarships. Over the years, I’ve sat with a whole lot of parents whose children received those letters, so they assumed their college was paid for. When no offer came, they often blamed coaches and teachers. Coaches and teachers had zero to do with the lack of offers. It’s all about the extremely tough competition and those thousands of letters that create false hope.

Academic scholarships are a different story. In almost all cases, athletic excellence depends on inborn skill as a base. Any student with at least average intelligence can earn an academic scholarship if they focus on two things early in their school life: make great (not good) grades and get involved in extracurricular activities, especially leadership.

Making great grades begins from the first day in kindergarten, but for scholarship purposes, students can begin excelling in the ninth grade.

Parents, do you ask your kids if they have homework when they arrive home after school?

That’s the wrong question.

Instead, you should ask, “How are you going to spend your study time tonight?” High school students who excel and earn scholarships spend some time every night doing academic work whether specific homework assignments have been assigned or not. I suggest a planned hour a night. They review that day’s biology class notes. They read the chapter in U.S. History before it’s discussed in class. Their deadline for term papers are weeks before the teacher’s, so they start working on them immediately after learning of the assignment. They spend the time between their deadline and the teachers’ deadline, making the paper perfect. Do that, and 4.0 averages, and scholarships, will come.

Grades are not enough. Scholarship committees are confronted with hundreds, if not thousands, of applications from students with 4.0 averages in challenging AP and IB classes. How do they decide who gets the money? They look at extracurricular activities, especially those including leadership roles. Students don’t have to be president of their class. A list of leadership positions such as chairperson of the banquet clean up committee works just as well.

Students can’t start making great grades and be leaders in extracurricular activities beginning their senior year and expect to earn scholarships. Their record begins the first day a student enters high school. And, to be successful the first day, students need to have been working hard since kindergarten.

If students have great grades and strong extracurricular backgrounds, then the rumor is true. There is truly a whole lot of money out there for the taking.

Caring and Loving Interpretation of the Constitution

When responding to another’s Facebook post, I wrote I wanted justices to make a “caring and loving” interpretation of the constitution. It wasn’t surprising to see a quick objection to that. A friend wrote,  “Your premise about the loving and caring aspect interpretation is faulty . . . I would much rather interpretation of law be undertaken as much as humanly possible without the taint of subjectivity and human emotion, simply for the sake of equity and justice.”

And, here’s the problem with ideological purity. Whether we’re talking about left or right, doesn’t matter. The real world is messy and nothing is pure. My friend had some key words in his objection: “humanly possible.” I hasten to point out that Mr. Spock exists only on the Enterprise on television and in the movies. He is not real. When we real Earthlings interpret the constitution, it is not humanly possible to divorce ourselves totally from our emotions, upbringing, learned behaviors, etc. We can try to be totally objective, but my friend has one thing right. We can only do it to the extent that it is humanly possible.

Given that Mr. Spock’s passionless opinion formation is not possible, I would hope that whatever portion of our thinking that’s influenced by our emotions, upbringing, and learned behaviors will be guided by a caring and loving attitude.

Why in the world would anyone object to that?

Russians Stole 1.2 Billion Passwords and I Don’t Care

Russian criminals have stolen 1.2 billion passwords and email addresses and I’m not worried and I’m not changing any passwords. Here’s two reasons why.

The bad guys have over a billion people to choose to hack, and the odds of my being one of them about equals the chance I’ll win millions in the lottery. I buy a ticket once a week, but my plans don’t include getting rich any time soon from my winnings.

This thievery of passwords and email addresses has been going on for years with no one knowing. How can changing passwords increase my security? Certainly, not enough to change the two hundred plus websites I have passwords for.

And, even if lightning strikes or meteors fall on me and I am one of the Russian’s targets, what are they going to get?

Not much.

The worst case scenario is they get into my bank accounts. Each of those have limits on how much business can be conducted online. So, at worst, I’m risking no more than maybe a thousand dollars. Maybe. I check my account daily, so I’ll notice any illegal activity almost immediately. My banks cover me for fraud, so I’d probably lose nothing.

But, a thousand dollars is still a lot to risk. Add in two-factor authorization, and the odds against my being a victim of the Russians go to pretty much zero. My financial institutions offer that service, and I take advantage of it. If I, or anyone else, tries to get into my accounts from a new computer, the institution sends a code to my phone. I have to enter that code to get into my account. Because I rarely do business on any other computer than my own, I seldom have to go to the trouble, and it keeps others locked out. Easy peasy.

The next bad thing is that someone will find my deep dark secrets. Guess what? I don’t have any. Even if I did, I’d never keep them on anything that’s accessible on line.

Years ago, when email was just starting, I sent an email with sensitive comments to a colleague at work. She didn’t grasp the significance of what I was saying, and forwarded the message to about half the school system.

Yikes!

Since then, I’ve never put anything in an email or online storage that I don’t want to see in the newspaper. If I have something dicey to discuss with someone, I do that in person, either face-to-face or on the phone. Nothing in writing. The most I’ll say in an email is, “I’ve got something to discuss with you. Call me when you can.”

Medical records? Who cares?

And on and on.

I am amazed by how many people freak out about online security, yet fail to take the most important step possible for securing our financial lives – freeze our credit with the three credit bureaus. Notice, a security freeze is NOT the same thing as a security alert. An alert does next to nothing. A freeze keeps your financial identity pretty much totally safe.

Yet very few people have frozen their credit. I’ll address how to do that, and the ramifications, in a future post.

It’s a shame crooks like those Russians exist, but they do and always will. They will, not, however, keep me from taking advantage of the incredible online resources available to make my life so much easier.

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