Archive for August, 2012

How long do you want to live?

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

Click HERE for audio version of this article.

I believe it’s safe to say that we would all like to live a long, healthy, wealthy, happy life and go out peacefully and feeling fulfilled. Some like to joke and say that they want to go out in a blaze of glory, like a NASCAR race, sliding across the finish line sideways, tires spinning and revving their engine. That sounds nice, but some of us are going to go out upside down in an old Camry or Ford F-150, tumbling into a ditch.

The fragility of life is ever present. None of us really knows when we’ll get our factory recall. Average lifespan numbers are based upon varied statistics. While this average number gives us a reference point, all the extremes (extremely young and extremely old), are part of the statistics. The average lifespan keeps increasing due to better medical care, but those extended years or months aren’t always that pleasant. I know, I’ve watched some very strong and powerful friends wither away in misery, but smart medicine kept them alive, longer than they even wanted to be alive.

Back to my question: “How long do you want to live?” Do you hope to live to 70? 80? 90? 100? If you do live that long, do you want to spend the last ten or twenty years of your life drunk, in debt, in poor health or with countless problems? I sure don’t want that. If I’m going to end up living a long life I want to be healthy, strong and active until the last few minutes. I want to constantly be enthusiastic about seeing what’s next, improving what I’m doing and learning something new.

While none of us have total control over when our life will end, we do have control over certain aspects of our quality of life while we’re here. We do have some control over the probability of how good our life will be and the probability of which end of the life expectancy spectrum we come in at.

What motivates you to live a long and healthy life is unique to each one of you. You might want to be able to watch your children grow and then watch your grandchildren grow. You may want to be around for your spouse or partner, you may feel an obligation to your God or because of your religious beliefs. Or, maybe you just don’t ever think about it?

When I was drinking I thought about this question a lot. I would wax wisely (and drunkenly), about all the things I will do in life, where I will go, what I will experience, how wealthy I’ll be… then I would ask the bartender for another beer and do nothing about it. Life just kept on ticking by, regardless of whether I was drunk or sober.

One day, in my sober lucidity, a morbid yet mathematically true thought crept through my mind. “Every night when I go to sleep I am one day closer to being dead.” WOW! That hit me hard. It made me ask myself some questions: How long will I live? What did I do today? Did I enjoy at least a few moments of my day? What will I do tomorrow? What will I do to make sure that I enjoy the remainder of my time? What will I do to make sure that I appreciate and enjoy tomorrow?

There comes a point in your life, that if you want to live beyond 50, you are going to have to make some choices and make some plans. You’re going to have to make sure that your mind and body are still nimble. You’re going to have to pay attention to your finances and make sure that you don’t keep carrying negative baggage around with you. Yes, you’re going to have to take responsibility for your future wellbeing and that is only handled when you begin to take care of it TODAY.

I don’t want to be old, haggard, worn-out and feeble as a result of years of drinking. I want to be that crazy old fucker that goes water skiing, jogging, snowboarding, all sorts of fun stuff. I want to be healthy and fun for someone and I want someone to be fun and healthy with me. And with that said, alcohol is far less forgiving for women. Drinking takes a toll on the internal organs and your external appearance. As a woman, do you want to age sooner than you should? Do you want slumped shoulders, distended stomach, droopy eyelids, frosting bag titties and a face like a catcher’s mitt? Fuck no. You wanna be that smokin’ hot cougar! But keep drinking in excess and you’ll get all that, the stomach, droopy eyelids and frosting bag titties – and you’ll also get a drunken, physically out of shape man (or partner) as well. Believe me; I see it all the time. All I have to do is walk into my local bar and those people are glued to their stool.

That’s just one of the reasons I decided to quit drinking. As I sat in my local bar one night, I peered around and saw some terrible looking characters. They may be nice people but they were haggard, weathered, out of shape and prematurely aging. Bitching about the same shit they’ve been bitching about since I first met them.  I thought, “Is this going to be me in ten years? I don’t want that, I don’t want to be like that.” But if that’s what you want in life and if that’s how you want to go out – it’s YOUR choice.

For every action and behavior there will be a consequence. Some consequences are good, some are bad. Some consequences will go against the odds and some will go against your best laid plans. Regardless of whether you drink, do recreational drugs or do neither, why not do what you can to stack the odds of a good life in your favor? Moderation, balance, self-control and planning will stack the odds in your favor.

Back to my strong friends who ended in frail misery. They had led happy, healthy and content lives. They truly enjoyed their retirement and senior years because they spent their life being physically and mentally active. They took care of their bodies, their minds and their financial health. They enjoyed life well into their early and mid 80’s. I’ve also witnessed other friends spend their late 30’s, 40’s and 50’s in awful physical, mental and financial shape. Their end has come too soon – not in life expectancy – but in living their life.

Thinking about how long you want to live, how you will feel in your senior years, what you will do (and be capable of doing), can give you a foundation for working on your list of: “What do you want out of sobriety? And what actions must you perform to stay healthy into your old age?”

I’m not trying to be morbid, but remember that every night when you go to sleep you are mathematically one day closer to being dead. So make today – and especially tomorrow – a fun, fabulous and productive day for yourself.

I wish you a long, enjoyable and content life.

Mark Tuschel