the medical profession needs a wake-up call. and soon.

From me:

When i quit drinking, i had a heart flutter thing that started to act up. It’s been irritating me off and on now for the past 16 months, getting more frequent over time and gigantically more irritating. I finally went to the cardiologist again last week for a new checkup, new assessment, and new plan. I now have new medication, feel remarkably better, the doctor expects that because i’m young that this will resolve itself, and i should be running again in a couple of weeks. End of medical part of the story.

On arrival, the cardiologist asks me some routine intake questions, how long i’ve been married, kids, how long have i been in this country, smoking and drinking history.

i quit drinking entirely about 16 months ago.

His eyebrows go up. Well … How much were you drinking?

3-4 glasses of wine per night. Every night.

He says: Only wine? No [hard] alcohol?


Then he shrugs combined with raised eyebrows. He goes on to the next question. He either thinks i’m lying about how much (he thinks most people lie by half). or (more likely) he thought i was being unnecessarily weird.

After the examination, my husband is called into the room for the diagnosis and treatment plan explanation. Mr. Belle is markedly pale and freaked by this whole medical adventure with me. At dinner later, Mr. Belle says: you should ask him if the heart thing would resolve itself if you started drinking again, like maybe that magical one glass a day that’s recommended.

I say: I’m not drinking again. even if the foreign, eyebrow-raising cardiologist tells me to.

[Note1: saying the word “cardiologist” makes everybody freak out. i assure you that i’m fine. it’s an irritating and not dangerious condition, that can either be fixed with medicine or with time or with a nice zap to the chest to reset the electricity. apparently one chamber of my heart beats more quickly than the others. my heart is excited πŸ™‚ it’s full to overflowing]

[Note 2: oh and if one person tells me to take it easy i’ll pounce!]

This story is to point out the completely lackadaisical attitude he had. i didn’t expect him to say “good for you” for quitting booze, but neither did i expect him to say “no [hard] alcohol?” like really, how could wine be a problem. i’m sure he’s a great doctor. so far i’m super pleased with him. but holy the medical profession needs a wake-up call. and soon.

From my inbox:

Here’s the email that Erin-Kay sent me to celebrate her 100 days:

Erin-Kay: “I am sober again πŸ™‚ Tomorrow is day 100!!! I’m profoundly grateful for you, Belle, for helping to keep me accountable on a daily basis. It has helped so much. The BFB has been an amazing support system also. You’ve been essential to my recovery because nobody knows about my struggles with alcohol and recovery besides my husband, you, and my fellow sober journeyers in the BFB. It’s kept me in touch with others who are struggling and reminds me when I get too confident in my sobriety that in a weak moment I can find my way down the rabbit hole again and I don’t want to go there. I know what is waiting for me down that road and it is pain, struggle and shame. I spent too much time there already.

Although it has not been an easy road, these past 100 days I feel like I have reconnected with something deep within myself that was there all along and waiting for me to ‘wake up’ and notice. I have a long way to go but I’m so proud to reach this milestone. I was blessed that this time around I was able to surrender to the realization that I cannot drink and was so tired of the bitter daily struggles with alcohol that I have not craved drinking and I shudder to myself when I think about drinking again. I feel free and in control of my life now. I know that I need continued support and will continue to stay close to the BFB and I commit myself to the 180 day challenge.” (She’s now on day 102)


Julz (day 52): I know everyone who has had a problem with drinking andΒ then stops says this but it does get so so much easier, to be honest these days the thought rarely come into my head, but although so many people said this would happen its really something you have to figure and find out for yourself. I feel so much better in myself, I have way way more patience with my children, I am staying calmer and listening to them rather than yelling and dismissing because I am tired and hungover, I am watching my children flourish before my eyes into confident young girls who now want to talk to me, aren’t scared of getting yelled at and are growing in confidence day by day, all because I have the time for them instead of the drink. Yes I still have my mad mummy moments of tearing my hair out, but these are normal mummy moments not hungover ones.” (She’s now on Day 89!)

Team 100 update:

328 members. Welcome to James (6), Jilly Bean (16), TipTree (48), Kelly (4), Kevin (6), SignGurl (6), CAM (6), SF (3), Quinn (42), and Challenges (6). Happy days to Erin (201), Elle (180), Leah (180), Ingrid (141), Sarita (141), C How (140), KC (140), Stacey (130), MaryPatricia (120), Catkin (110), ErinS (70), Jackie (61), Fiona (61), Lila (61), Whineless (51), Debbie (51), Deidre (41), RF (40), Canadian Girl (30), Kirst (20), Rx (20), Claire (10), Kristi (10), CarrieAnn (10), Carrie Kaffer (10). If i’ve missed you, it might be because i haven’t heard from you in awhile, or because i have the wrong date for you. send me an email πŸ™‚


I want to put this online, to hold myself accountable. I want to document the noise in my head. I'm tired of thinking about drinking. date of last drink: june 30, 2012

  • As a physician, I’ve been thinking about this for a few days since first reading it. Here in the US, I think some of the reluctance to delve into alcohol use is the current milieu of over-arching political correctness.

    I have a friend who was sued for this: Talking to a woman’s female partner immediately after surgery, he mentioned cutting through the subcutaneous tissue and fat to reach the site of the problem. Patient and partner were both large women. Partner sued because he alledgedly insulted them and demonstrated stupid prejudice by mentioned the hated word FAT.

    News to the world: Every single one of us has fat cells, even the most emaciated! Even as specialists (rather than primary care docs), we become more and more hesitant to ask or talk about anything that might be miscontrued as disapproval. I ‘walk’ very gingerly when talking about anything not exactly directly medical, including food, alcohol, exercise, sleep- and all those other important things that so massively impact health. It’s a shame.

    Carrie K at Day #13

  • Glad that you went to have your heart checked out. HOpe the medication works like a charm.
    Cardioversions are not bad just to let you know.

  • Most informative Dr L. I’m a tonic drinking fool and I looked it does contain quinine. Maybe I’ll switch for a while. I told my doctor last year that I probably drank too much wine. She asked if I thought I could stop and I lied and said “Oh sure” she gave me the door and I closed it. This year I intend to tell her I quit some 4 months ago. We’ll see how that goes. I always heard doctors double what you say you drink because most everyone lies, if that’s the case they should be telling everyone to stop. Belle, I’m glad the medication is making you feel better.

  • I’ve been reading your blogs from the start and am new to Team 100. But I saw that your replacement drink was tonic water and I just wondered if you are still drinking a lot of tonic water. Depending on the brand, some contain real quinine and too much quinine can cause class 1A arrhythmias. The disorder is called… it just keeps nagging at me while I’m reading and then I saw this post and had to mention it. I hope your new medication works and that you feel better soon!!

    As far as the medical community goes I’ve noticed since moving to work here that European doctors seem to place a lot less emphasis on straight up quitting ANYTHING. Perhaps the culture here tends to be more moderate? ahahaha I definitely don’t think that is true from my brief foray into pub culture. If anything, people drink more here. But there is a definite beer&wine / hard liquor split. Doctors are trained to ask what people drink in the hopes of getting a more descriptive idea of their drinking habits… perhaps I am just more conscious of issues about drinking in general since I ask all my patients. Obviously alcohol is alcohol no matter how you’re taking it in. I think doctors sometimes get lazy and tend to use the type of alcohol people prefer to drink as a signifier for levels of use intensity but that’s certainly incorrect… kind of like “are you a marijuana (soft) or a heroin (hard) drug user” instead of “how does that impact your life?” Open. Ended. Questions. πŸ˜‰

  • I’m glad you mention this because I had a similar experience when I confided to my family doctor that I’d quit drinking. He was “shruggy” as you say and blew it off by mumbling something about moderation. It made me wonder how many drinkers that talk to a doctor in consideration of recovery are blown off and told they don’t need to quit. Another friend – a nurse – said, “it’s not like you were a hardcore alcoholic. You could have drinks while youre away on vacation now and it shouldn’t be a big deal.” GAK!

    It’s exactly as you say. Someone needs to either inform the medical community or tell them to shut the hell up because misinformation from a supposed medical expert is dangerous.

    • I agree entirely! my guess is they’re probably drinking 3-4 glasses of wine per night themselves, and so are in no position to make a comment … but really. it’s hard to imagine the incredible lack of concern shown.

  • My heart races when I go to Doctors and so the last time I got my decennial check up I had to go get an echo- I was ok according to that. However you could actually see it popping out of my chest practically and I get heart pains- but hey the echo says I am fine
    I won’t tell you to take it easy LOL

    Anyhow- magnesium supplements or magnesium rich foods can help the heart- but anyway I think you should have asked what the raised eyebrows meant. Wine certainly will not help that is for sure- but you know that πŸ™‚ But I think you were right that he probably thought you were lying to him. I think they end up not trusitng people unfortunately.


  • I don’t understand why even DOCTORS have the same misperception that we do. The fact is, 1 glass of wine = 1 beer = 1 hard drink. It’s the same amount of booze (unless, of course, you’re pouring 3 shots into your tumbler and 1 shot of water). I made that mistake a lot, until my boyfriend and I finally decided to hammer it into my brain: it doesn’t matter if it’s wine, beer, or hard alcohol, it’s all alcohol. Sometimes I do think that in America, we go far left, pathologizing what might simply be a bad habit and not a dependence (whatever that means); whereas, in other parts of the world, they go to the far right (like, I don’t think I’d want to tell my doctor in Russia that I drink too much). Have you ever read David Sedaris? His accounts of his interactions with French doctors is hilarious–if it’s not broken, or falling off, don’t fix it. πŸ™‚ HUGS. My brother had to take heart medication for a while, but he’s all good now. You, too. Happy sober heart day. πŸ™‚