Author Archives: Margot
Author Archives: Margot
In recent years my daily drinking has caused me concern … increased health risks, trigger for migraines, occasional hangovers or slow morning afters. But despite these concerns I haven’t been able to stop.
Emory University (who recently ran a course The Addicted Brain via the www.coursera.org platform) defines addiction as a behaviour you are unable to stop despite distressing negative impacts. While the impacts I’m concerned about can be a little distressing at times, for the most part I do manage my addiction within acceptable social boundaries.
Not only that, many of my friends and colleagues exhibit similar behaviours, making it even more difficult to find the impetus to change. Isn’t my drinking pretty normal? I’m not an “alcoholic”. It’s not that bad … etc. etc.
After listening to an interesting podcast (interview with Jill Stark, a Sydney Morning Herald journalist, who wrote a book about her year of sobriety), I became aware of how we boast about our excessive drinking exploits, such as a particularly bad hangover. We talk about such experiences like they are a badge of honour, marks of a hero status. Interesting when you step back from it.
Anyway, I decided to take a “harm reduction” approach. I didn’t want to stop drinking altogether. I just wanted to reduce the harmful affects and reduce other risk factors as I progress into my senior years. Critics of the harm reduction approach believe such an approach fails to address the underlying dependence. Alcohol free days for example, are really just all about waiting for the next time you have a drink.
While I found this to be true – there is always a risk of over-indulgence, the first day drinking after a period of abstinence – I still felt it was better than doing nothing.
The problem with the addicted brain is that if you partake in regular consistent consumption of a drug (such as ethanol in alcohol) over a long period of time, your brain builds up resistance. This means you have to consume more to get the same effect. Alarmingly, I’ve found this to be true, with my 1-2 drinks gradually developing into 4-5 (eek!) over the last 2-3 decades.
So where am I now? Still very much on this journey. While I have had some success in alcohol free days and reducing my intake, I know that my brain has not yet come to terms with this reduced intake. I’m sure this topic will be returned to in the coming months/years as I try to find a way to take responsibility for my lifestyle choices and the impact they have on my health as I age.
Love to hear what you think.
My blogging has been sadly lacking lately.
When I initially moved from Brisbane to our rural property in 2008, the adjustment was massive and I was very motivated to write about my contrasting, challenging experiences. As time slipped on, the contrast diminished and rural life became “normal”.
However, having the time to pursue intellectual interests I wanted to move on to writing about other things … philosophical questions I was wrestling with, discussions around morality and religion, addiction is a fascination for me … and more. Despite my passion, I didn’t make it happen.
But now that my exploits as an author have progressed (one book self-published, a manuscript in waiting and more ideas cultivating) I wanted to bring my blog and website together … to create an author platform.
So I took some time out from blogging this year to learn web development. First I had to decide on my platform. I looked at Ruby on Rails and WordPress.org, undertaking courses for both. Deciding the learning curve for WordPress seemed less steep, I chose this path. While I still have a lot to learn about html, php and css (style sheets) I have come a long way and managed at last to have created a website that is ready for launch!
There have been some very painful times (as there always is resolving IT problems) but I pressed on and as I did, things seemed to become easier (until I encountered the next problem of course).
So now it’s time to return to blogging … and my first topic is going to be on the struggle I’m having with my addiction to alcohol. This will be published in the next couple of days. For ease of following, you are welcome to register via the “Follow Me” box on my home page. This will ensure you receive an email with each new update. It is easy to unsubscribe if you choose.
Comment always welcome. I’d love to get some dialogue going.
See you soon!
I don’t know how many people understand the duty of care graziers feel when looking after their stock. It has astounded me, the lengths Chris will go to, to save one cow, the commitment he has to save a life if he can.
The day after the bush fire a few weeks ago, we were finishing up for the day and around 5pm Chris found a cow stuck in the mud in the dam in the house paddock, number 59. She was a good cow, in good condition, no doubt attributable to her resourcefulness in foraging for feed. She had crept into the dam (we imagine) to munch on the floating reeds but got into trouble. The shrinking dam had become a death trap.
We’ve tried saving cows stuck before with no success, pulling them out with a chain, but they never get up. It’s heart breaking. Chris decided to try to dig her out instead … to free the mud around her enough to hopefully enable her to pull herself to shore.
So he started up the faithful blue tractor and got to work. It was agonising watching. With each scoop of the mud I was willing her to get up but at the same time, horrified to watch the tractor wheels sink so deep into the mud. I was wired to the max with every move Chris made. In the end I had to turn away to try to still my anxiety and take a few deep breaths.
Dark fell and Chris worked hard scooping mud and tipping it outside the dam … until the inevitable happened, the blue tractor got bogged.
Amazingly, we managed to get the old faithful green Deutz tractor humming even though it hadn’t been driven for over a year. But of course a rescue vehicle requires a driver, and that meant me. Eek! As usual, my lack of confidence using this machinery sent my body quivering. And as usual, Chris’s short temper under pressure and expectations that I should just know how to do it, didn’t help. But we did it. We got the blue one out.
So Chris set to it again … for hours … in fact until midnight. He pushed and shoved and dug and dipped, got bogged and freed again, over and over. He was manic in his mission and I couldn’t help thinking if I was to go to war, I would want him standing next to me … such resilience and commitment.
I stood by and watched, cheering No. 59, calling to her to get up every time she made some effort. She managed to get up on her hind legs but couldn’t get up on the front legs, though it seemed so close at times.
Chris had been trying to move the soft mud away to create a firmer ramp for her to walk out to the edge. He was working on the side of the dam which had a steep drop. Repeatedly he would get stuck but use the bucket as leverage to manoeuvre his way out. Such dexterity using the machinery was impressive. But at one point, with the bucket full of mud, the left back wheel lifted several feet in the air. Enough! It had become far too dangerous. Fortunately he managed to empty the bucket (almost on No. 59’s head) and get the wheel back in the mud.
Again the green tractor came to the rescue and yes … I was still terrified being the driver. I just don’t seem to do it often enough to develop that calm confidence. Once the job is done, I have to sit in the seat and wait for the adrenaline to ease back. But we got it out again, for the last time.
Poor No. 59. What an ordeal she had been through having the tractor bearing down on her all that time. She had been completely silent, patiently waiting and working with us as best she could. But when we packed up to go, she looked at us and let out a long low mournful moo. She knew we had given up, somehow, she knew. It still upsets me to think about it. But we could do no more. Our only hope was that we had pulled enough mud away that, left alone, she might make it out.
It was not to be. She died during the night.
Sad and difficult times and an experience that will have been shared by many graziers across Queensland in these difficult times.
We are facing a crippling season. Even the locals are saying things like ‘I’ve never seen it turn so bad so quickly’. Though we didn’t have such a bad year last year, the summer rains didn’t come. Instead the weather sent blazing heats and a relentless dry wind which succeeded in sucking the moisture out of the dams and turning the grass to dust.
Chris and I thought we weren’t doing too badly … emotionally that is. We accepted we couldn’t control the weather and had made some concrete decisions on a drought management plan, which we had implemented. But something happened which revealed the thin veneer of my apparent ‘coping emotionally’.
Just before lunch a couple of weeks ago, we got a call from our neighbour asking if we were burning off. Yeah, sure, in these conditions … NOT! Chris went up to investigate thinking it would be something minor, probably triggered by a passing cigarette butt. While he was gone, two more phone calls came in from two different neighbours advising they were gearing up to come and help. This was serious.
So came crashing down my thin veneer, tears flowed. How ridiculous, I know, but that is what happened. Chris came back to put together our firefighting kit – a water tank (which had to be filled), a fire pump and hose. I joined him and several neighbours to begin fighting and we inched our way to the front of the blaze. I picked up some branches and started whacking the burning grass line. Within 15-20 minutes I’d managed to sustain a nasty burn on my hand taking off several layers of skin! Can you believe it? Great Fire Fighter I make!
I’d also carefully selected a safety shirt (one of those fluro ones). I’d checked the label but it just quoted a number of ISO standards. Big mistake. The first ember melted a hole in the sleeve, blistering the skin beneath. Great Fire Fighter I make!
After that, I decided it was wiser to work with the hoses. It wasn’t going too badly and a few hours in we were winning. That was until a nasty blustery north-westerly pumped up the whole situation. I was watching a stack burning at the time, mesmerised by the raging flames rising with frightening intensity. I’d never seen a fireball before, but I did that day. The fire, well fueled by an old timber stack and a raging wind, turned manic in seconds. The flames took on a life of their own, became their own entity seemingly devoid of the fuel, the wind catching up balls of intense heat and flame, throwing them metres away where new breakouts appeared. Oh my!
More reinforcements were called in. Within a short space of time it jumped the road into Inverary Station and jumped the fence into Fox Gully where it raced away terrifyingly quickly across David Yates’ grazing land, taking out kilometres of boundary fence.
Fortunately, due to the support and good work of all and a blessed drop in the wind, we halted the progress later that day. About 9 pm we felt it was safe to go home, the cooler night air helping to calm things. But that was when it struck me how such a crisis draws a community together like no other. We all live remotely and don’t see each other from day to day. But that day, we had worked hard together with a shared purpose, fought a battle, thwarted a crisis. No one seemed eager to leave (though no doubt the dozen stubbies I had thrown in the car on an urgent trip to the house may have helped). Maybe I’m not such a hopeless Fire Fighter after all?
Mick’s wife Deb turned up with a few more beers and some sausages and mashed potato. We hadn’t eaten since breakfast. We had a little party in the street!
Eventually we broke camp and went home with promises to return early in the morning.
The fire was fairly well-behaved the next day, inhibited by the fire fighters constantly dousing any new breakouts. In the late afternoon the wind turned to an easterly which, while a little worrying, turned the fire back onto itself. It spread no further and rain the following day put it out for good.
I was left awed by the support of those around me, relieved it was over and equipped with better skills for next time … which I hope never comes.
The battle with the season continues but I’ve managed to stop the tears, at least for now.