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dali-metamorphosis

Metamorphosis of Narcissus 1937 by Salvador Dalí 1904-1989

Things are moving fast behind the scenes right now. You might notice some sensations of this seeping in. It feels uncomfortable. It feels scary. And just so you know, closing your eyes won’t make it go away. In fact just the opposite is true.

I had a dream recently, really it was a nightmare. In the dream, I was met at every turn with perversity. And then I came to a crossroads of sorts. There were two doors. I had two choices. The door to my left was familiar to me. I knew it led to a place that went deeper and deeper into itself. I knew that if I walked the halls of that place, it would morph from a school, to a hospital, to a hotel. I knew that in that place I was always too late and then I always had to wait. That place was always changing, but it was always the same. In my dream I thought, “That place goes no where.”

The door to the right was substantial. It was made of solid old growth oak. It looked inviting, but as I got closer something didn’t feel right. In fact something felt terribly wrong. I turned around and looked from where I had come. That was no good either. The streets behind me were apocalyptic. I was stuck. I couldn’t go to the left, or the right, and I certainly couldn’t turn around.

I am in hell, I thought and the only possible way out was the way I was afraid to explore. I breathed deeply and carefully pushed the big door open just a crack. Yep. As I suspected it was utter and complete darkness, an eternity of pitch black. I looked back to the infernal streets filled with smoke from the fires of hell. There were malevolent people on the hills and zombies in the streets. I was at some edge of darkness. What choice did I have?

I stepped inside the door into the nothingness. There was nothing but nothing. There was nothing at my feet, I hovered in the blackness. Without something beneath my feet it was impossible to advance forward. My heart was racing and my breath was labored. “Breathe,” I told myself. “You can do this,” I counseled even in my sleep. I told myself, “Look into the darkness. Let yourself adjust and see what you can see.” And so I did.

Was there no hope?  Was I to be completely impoverished?  In the utter blackness, it was a horror show. It couldn’t have been worse if it had been Hieronymus Bosch’s Last Judgement. In my dream, I was paralyzed by the fear of some pointed reckoning that seemed to have an infinite trajectory. “Open your eyes,” I told myself. “If you want out of hell, open your eyes.”

The moon has shifted from Scorpio and into Sagittarius. In the thick of it there is always hope of a promising new reality. If the Scorpio energy has lured you deep into your own darkness, the New Moon in Sagittarius can signal you out into our own light. Pay attention with the acute senses of the blind, and then open your eyes to the information you have afforded yourself. See where you are. Find your feet even in the darkest of nights. Get good balance for perspective on your future.

There is no going back. There never was. The past only turns within itself and the future is only an idea of something not yet known. Don’t make it a nightmare. Don’t be an addict. Don’t hang out at crossroads for long. You can have more than two choices. Open your eyes to the dawn of this day. This is where you live your life. Not in the damnation of your past, not in the fear of the unknown future. Right here. Right now. Open your eyes. Open your eyes and move forward.


In the midst of what you see as problematic, it can be difficult to recognize the opportunities. I can help you discover a new way of thinking that will assist you in managing and negotiating life’s obstacles. You will find that this new way of thinking provides you opportunities that you hadn’t previously noticed as well as affords you the confidence and desire to live your life in the driver’s seat.

Tami Satterfield, MSW, LCSW-C, NBCCH, HTP is a licensed psychotherapist who practices solution-oriented healing from a deep ecological perspective. Her specialities include hypnosis for anxiety, performance, and creativity. Sessions on-line or in Boulder, Colorado include cutting edge brain therapies that will change the way you think. Learn more at attentiontoliving.com

lonely-eleanorIt is here!  The full moon in Taurus came in Monday morning. Chiron in Pisces supported the Moon while the Sun in Scorpio opposed it. Sometimes polarized energies support a wealth of opportunity in what can go unnoticed as the space between. There is no option in one choice and there only two options in two choices, but the distance between two options is abundance.

This full moon finishes up some old, stubborn beliefs about how to play well with others around the concepts of love and money. You may desire to feel deeply wounded about how this plays out. But rest confidently assured that the light will illuminate some deep, and possibly obsessive, pathological tendency on your part to self-sacrifice. You might be about to come face-to-face with your fatal flaw. But does it have to be fatal? Life is filled with considerations about life and death, junctures of consternation that demand internal examination in order to evolve.

Imagine yourself the leading character in a story where you are struggling to succeed. A good story always includes the hero and their struggle to succeed. What gets in your way of doing what you want to do? At the root of most (maybe all) fatal flaws is hubris, but it might not look the way you think. Hubris or pride may be the foundation of your fatal flaw in a way you don’t recognize.

Take George Bailey’s ability to put the needs of others ahead of his own needs. How could this possibly be pride-filled?  But this self-sacrificing behavior provides George with great purpose – initially. I add that qualifier because, in time, the very thing that made George a compassionate man eventually makes him bitter and resentful.  Yet he continuous to sacrifice himself for what he beliefs is the greater benefit to others. In this process he becomes fixed on being “a good person,” and other aspects of himself, like his desire to affect his own destiny, become suppressed. As an observer, it seems unnecessary that George should only find reconciliation in annihilation.  But in order for George to live, he must die the death of his fatal flaw. He must come face to face with the flawed perception that he is all used up by others, when he has really used himself up through his hidden hubris.

Look yourself in the mirror this Full Moon. See your fatal flaw. It is your struggle to maintain a survival system that has outlived its usefulness. It is okay to let it go, even if it appears to mean defeat. Trust that you can rebirth yourself into the contemporary. Let go of past agreements that bind you from your free will and perpetuate a compulsion to be loyal to the past, as if your worth or goodness is stuck in time.

You might be seeing your tragic flaw as a moral dilemma but,  when reconciled, this dilemma can redeem you and free you from your human capacity to make life a struggle. Go ahead and see your flaw as cathartic. Let it have purpose that transcends you more deeply into your worth or value.  Let the fear of failure guide you through a catharsis and learn that you are greater then you think you are.


In the midst of what you see as problematic, it can be difficult to recognize the opportunities. I can help you discover a new way of thinking that will assist you in managing and negotiating life’s obstacles. You will find that this new way of thinking provides you opportunities that you hadn’t previously noticed as well as affords you the confidence and desire to live your life in the driver’s seat.

Tami Satterfield, MSW, LCSW-C, NBCCH, HTP is a licensed psychotherapist who practices solution-oriented healing from a deep ecological perspective. Her specialities include hypnosis for anxiety, performance, and creativity. Sessions on-line or in Boulder, Colorado include cutting edge brain therapies that will change the way you think. Learn more at attentiontoliving.com

4k03jls

Mars goes direct on Wednesday. This is good news, but it might be a bit like an angry crowd demanding access to shelter from the storm, as Mars will go direct conjunct the Moon and Uranus in Aries.

If you have been working hard these past few weeks, you probably have “taken care” of the walking dead of your past, but it can’t hurt to look over your shoulder one last time for any straggling zombies of your past. It might be like one of those movies, you may want to high step it, think fast, and fire with deliberation. The caveat here? Don’t discharge your weapon if you don’t want somebody to get hurt.

We have been in the thick of our defense mechanisms for a few months now. In psychodynamic theory, defense mechanisms are the unconscious, primitive manners in which we think, feel, and act. They serve to defend us from that which we perceive as threatening, like zombies of the past. If you have been paying attention lately, you probably have noticed which of the defense mechanisms is your drug of choice. Is it denial? Maybe, acting out or regressing? How about reaction formation? Compartmentalizing? Projecting, repressing, dissociating, rationalizing, undoing, intellectualizing, regressing, displacing, or rationalizing?  Yep, there is more than one way to get the job done. But now that you know about your zombies and you know how you always ridiculously think you can out run them, now that you know that, you might want to do something else.

How about discharging a coping mechanism instead? My favorite is sublimation. How about consciously turning that impulsive, primitive, fear of zombies into something that changes the storyline for the betterment of yourself and everyone around you. Why not see yourself this week as useful and constructive? Why not be the person who can look curiously at the zoombies and decide mind fully just what you want to do about the zombie troubles. And then it might be okay to go ahead and do it. And then it might be okay to go ahead and exit the scene of the walking dead stage left.

But wait, there is more. We are not done yet. We’ve still got to create the post-apocalyptic world. So take a few minutes to write it down, sketch it out, or daydream your fantasy about the deadly zombies. This time, let the story go. Let it play itself out. Let it re-invent itself. Then, YOU, yes YOU, go see if it is possible to turn that story into a wonderful meal, a beautiful pot of flowers, a zombie free night out, a good bike ride, a hike in the woods, a swim in the river. You get what I mean, transform that zombie energy into something you can use and then channel that into to something you can create. It might be a good thing if the future isn’t what it used to be.

In the midst of what you see as problematic, it can be difficult to recognize the opportunities. I can help you discover a new way of thinking that will assist you in managing and negotiating life’s obstacles. You will find that this new way of thinking provides you opportunities that you hadn’t previously noticed as well as affords you the confidence and desire to live your life in the driver’s seat.

Tami Satterfield, MSW, LCSW-C, NBCCH, HTP is a licensed psychotherapist who practices solution-oriented healing from a deep ecological perspective. Her specialities include hypnosis for anxiety, performance, and creativity. Sessions on-line or in Boulder, Colorado include cutting edge brain therapies that will change the way you think. Learn more at attentiontoliving.com

ouroboros-57x30-inches-20091
artwork by Camille Dela Rosa https://anarchictomy.wordpress.com/

Everything reminds me of something,
As if that is all I am –
A collection of the past
Chemically preserved,
Pickled in it.

Am I nothing but the past?

At each moment
The next moment
Compresses time
Into what matters
And the matter is me.

Am I nothing but the past?

My 100 billion neurons connecting,
Passing,
Signaling each other
Like dealers.
I am a junky for the past.

Are all my actions reactions to the past?

A good housekeeper
Classifying and reclassifying
My changing neural pathways
Like canned goods in the cupboard
Easily discovered and ready to use.

Am I nothing but the past?

A dubious fool
Certain of only the uncertainty
Of me without my past –
My credence, my false God
My misunderstanding of the truth of myself.

Am I nothing but the past?

I imagine I am dreaming of a future,
But I am only
Always
Circling my past.
A dog chasing her tail.

June 7, 2015

Rhinos-favorite-trusting-rhino

Virtual Workshop

We have a new moon in Leo coming in July 26. I like to look at the world and my life from many different perspectives. It gives me more options. It can make it easier to “see” what to do. It can make it easier to make sense of things and align my actions with my purpose. If you have interest in exploring this notion, you might be interested in working this new moon energy alongside of understanding the current universal energy flow. This is not necessarily about astrology, it is about utilizing readily available information (astrological energy) to understand things for a greater perspective. With more information, you will likely find it easier to influence your life and you might begin to really understand how to let go of the illusion of control and trust that it can work out for you. You might come to better understand the notion of faith.

Are you interested? If so, I will be providing a workshop on “learning to let go and trusting that you can manifest your heart’s desire.”

How does it work? Expect to receive emails from me that will include educational information about the universal energy at this time, strategies for thinking about it, suggestions for putting new thoughts into action, and questions for personal inquiry. You may also ask questions of me that I will answer to you, as well as share in my outgoing emails (without disclosing your personal identity) so that others “studying” alongside you can benefit from your wise inquiries — just like a classroom setting only its perfectly fine to be in your pjs!

When and how long? The week of July 21 through the week of August 18

What does it cost? Not a thing past your interest. It is a freebee.

Ready to get started? Send me an email letting me know your interest. Include: 1. A sentence that states you give me permission to share questions you may ask without including your personal or identifying information. 2. What you would like to gain from this workshop. 3. What your heart does desire.

Looking forward to working together.

Tami
attentiontoliving.com
tbsatterfield@comcast.net

money pile

IN my last year on Wall Street my bonus was $3.6 million — and I was angry because it wasn’t big enough. I was 30 years old, had no children to raise, no debts to pay, no philanthropic goal in mind. I wanted more money for exactly the same reason an alcoholic needs another drink: I was addicted.

Eight years earlier, I’d walked onto the trading floor at Credit Suisse First Boston to begin my summer internship. I already knew I wanted to be rich, but when I started out I had a different idea about what wealth meant. I’d come to Wall Street after reading in the book “Liar’s Poker” how Michael Lewis earned a $225,000 bonus after just two years of work on a trading floor. That seemed like a fortune. Every January and February, I think about that time, because these are the months when bonuses are decided and distributed, when fortunes are made.

I’d learned about the importance of being rich from my dad. He was a modern-day Willy Loman, a salesman with huge dreams that never seemed to materialize. “Imagine what life will be like,” he’d say, “when I make a million dollars.” While he dreamed of selling a screenplay, in reality he sold kitchen cabinets. And not that well. We sometimes lived paycheck to paycheck off my mom’s nurse-practitioner salary.

Dad believed money would solve all his problems. At 22, so did I. When I walked onto that trading floor for the first time and saw the glowing flat-screen TVs, high-tech computer monitors and phone turrets with enough dials, knobs and buttons to make it seem like the cockpit of a fighter plane, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. It looked as if the traders were playing a video game inside a spaceship; if you won this video game, you became what I most wanted to be — rich.

IT was a miracle I’d made it to Wall Street at all. While I was competitive and ambitious — a wrestler at Columbia University — I was also a daily drinker and pot smoker and a regular user of cocaine, Ritalin and ecstasy. I had a propensity for self-destruction that had resulted in my getting suspended from Columbia for burglary, arrested twice and fired from an Internet company for fistfighting. I learned about rage from my dad, too. I can still see his red, contorted face as he charged toward me. I’d lied my way into the C.S.F.B. internship by omitting my transgressions from my résumé and was determined not to blow what seemed a final chance. The only thing as important to me as that internship was my girlfriend, a starter on the Columbia volleyball team. But even though I was in love with her, when I got drunk I’d sometimes end up with other women.

Three weeks into my internship she wisely dumped me. I don’t like who you’ve become, she said. I couldn’t blame her, but I was so devastated that I couldn’t get out of bed. In desperation, I called a counselor whom I had reluctantly seen a few times before and asked for help.

She helped me see that I was using alcohol and drugs to blunt the powerlessness I felt as a kid and suggested I give them up. That began some of the hardest months of my life. Without the alcohol and drugs in my system, I felt like my chest had been cracked open, exposing my heart to air. The counselor said that my abuse of drugs and alcohol was a symptom of an underlying problem — a “spiritual malady,” she called it. C.S.F.B. didn’t offer me a full-time job, and I returned, distraught, to Columbia for senior year.

After graduation, I got a job at Bank of America, by the grace of a managing director willing to take a chance on a kid who had called him every day for three weeks. With a year of sobriety under my belt, I was sharp, cleareyed and hard-working. At the end of my first year I was thrilled to receive a $40,000 bonus. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have to check my balance before I withdrew money. But a week later, a trader who was only four years my senior got hired away by C.S.F.B. for $900,000. After my initial envious shock — his haul was 22 times the size of my bonus — I grew excited at how much money was available.

Over the next few years I worked like a maniac and began to move up the Wall Street ladder. I became a bond and credit default swap trader, one of the more lucrative roles in the business. Just four years after I started at Bank of America, Citibank offered me a “1.75 by 2” which means $1.75 million per year for two years, and I used it to get a promotion. I started dating a pretty blonde and rented a loft apartment on Bond Street for $6,000 a month.

I felt so important. At 25, I could go to any restaurant in Manhattan — Per Se, Le Bernardin — just by picking up the phone and calling one of my brokers, who ingratiate themselves to traders by entertaining with unlimited expense accounts. I could be second row at the Knicks-Lakers game just by hinting to a broker I might be interested in going. The satisfaction wasn’t just about the money. It was about the power. Because of how smart and successful I was, it was someone else’s job to make me happy.

Still, I was nagged by envy. On a trading desk everyone sits together, from interns to managing directors. When the guy next to you makes $10 million, $1 million or $2 million doesn’t look so sweet. Nonetheless, I was thrilled with my progress.

My counselor didn’t share my elation. She said I might be using money the same way I’d used drugs and alcohol — to make myself feel powerful — and that maybe it would benefit me to stop focusing on accumulating more and instead focus on healing my inner wound. “Inner wound”? I thought that was going a little far and went to work for a hedge fund.

Now, working elbow to elbow with billionaires, I was a giant fireball of greed. I’d think about how my colleagues could buy Micronesia if they wanted to, or become mayor of New York City. They didn’t just have money; they had power — power beyond getting a table at Le Bernardin. Senators came to their offices. They were royalty.

I wanted a billion dollars. It’s staggering to think that in the course of five years, I’d gone from being thrilled at my first bonus — $40,000 — to being disappointed when, my second year at the hedge fund, I was paid “only” $1.5 million.

But in the end, it was actually my absurdly wealthy bosses who helped me see the limitations of unlimited wealth. I was in a meeting with one of them, and a few other traders, and they were talking about the new hedge-fund regulations. Most everyone on Wall Street thought they were a bad idea. “But isn’t it better for the system as a whole?” I asked. The room went quiet, and my boss shot me a withering look. I remember his saying, “I don’t have the brain capacity to think about the system as a whole. All I’m concerned with is how this affects our company.”

I felt as if I’d been punched in the gut. He was afraid of losing money, despite all that he had.

From that moment on, I started to see Wall Street with new eyes. I noticed the vitriol that traders directed at the government for limiting bonuses after the crash. I heard the fury in their voices at the mention of higher taxes. These traders despised anything or anyone that threatened their bonuses. Ever see what a drug addict is like when he’s used up his junk? He’ll do anything — walk 20 miles in the snow, rob a grandma — to get a fix. Wall Street was like that. In the months before bonuses were handed out, the trading floor started to feel like a neighborhood in “The Wire” when the heroin runs out.

I’d always looked enviously at the people who earned more than I did; now, for the first time, I was embarrassed for them, and for me. I made in a single year more than my mom made her whole life. I knew that wasn’t fair; that wasn’t right. Yes, I was sharp, good with numbers. I had marketable talents. But in the end I didn’t really do anything. I was a derivatives trader, and it occurred to me the world would hardly change at all if credit derivatives ceased to exist. Not so nurse practitioners. What had seemed normal now seemed deeply distorted.

I had recently finished Taylor Branch’s three-volume series on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, and the image of the Freedom Riders stepping out of their bus into an infuriated mob had seared itself into my mind. I’d told myself that if I’d been alive in the ‘60s, I would have been on that bus.

But I was lying to myself. There were plenty of injustices out there — rampant poverty, swelling prison populations, a sexual-assault epidemic, an obesity crisis. Not only was I not helping to fix any problems in the world, but I was profiting from them. During the market crash in 2008, I’d made a ton of money by shorting the derivatives of risky companies. As the world crumbled, I profited. I’d seen the crash coming, but instead of trying to help the people it would hurt the most — people who didn’t have a million dollars in the bank — I’d made money off it. I don’t like who you’ve become, my girlfriend had said years earlier. She was right then, and she was still right. Only now, I didn’t like who I’d become either.

Wealth addiction was described by the late sociologist and playwright Philip Slater in a 1980 book, but addiction researchers have paid the concept little attention. Like alcoholics driving drunk, wealth addiction imperils everyone. Wealth addicts are, more than anybody, specifically responsible for the ever widening rift that is tearing apart our once great country. Wealth addicts are responsible for the vast and toxic disparity between the rich and the poor and the annihilation of the middle class. Only a wealth addict would feel justified in receiving $14 million in compensation — including an $8.5 million bonus — as the McDonald’s C.E.O., Don Thompson, did in 2012, while his company then published a brochure for its work force on how to survive on their low wages. Only a wealth addict would earn hundreds of millions as a hedge-fund manager, and then lobby to maintain a tax loophole that gave him a lower tax rate than his secretary.

DESPITE my realizations, it was incredibly difficult to leave. I was terrified of running out of money and of forgoing future bonuses. More than anything, I was afraid that five or 10 years down the road, I’d feel like an idiot for walking away from my one chance to be really important. What made it harder was that people thought I was crazy for thinking about leaving. In 2010, in a final paroxysm of my withering addiction, I demanded $8 million instead of $3.6 million. My bosses said they’d raise my bonus if I agreed to stay several more years. Instead, I walked away.

The first year was really hard. I went through what I can only describe as withdrawal — waking up at nights panicked about running out of money, scouring the headlines to see which of my old co-workers had gotten promoted. Over time it got easier — I started to realize that I had enough money, and if I needed to make more, I could. But my wealth addiction still hasn’t gone completely away. Sometimes I still buy lottery tickets.

In the three years since I left, I’ve married, spoken in jails and juvenile detention centers about getting sober, taught a writing class to girls in the foster system, and started a nonprofit called Groceryships to help poor families struggling with obesity and food addiction. I am much happier. I feel as if I’m making a real contribution. And as time passes, the distortion lessens. I see Wall Street’s mantra — “We’re smarter and work harder than everyone else, so we deserve all this money” — for what it is: the rationalization of addicts. From a distance I can see what I couldn’t see then — that Wall Street is a toxic culture that encourages the grandiosity of people who are desperately trying to feel powerful.

I was lucky. My experience with drugs and alcohol allowed me to recognize my pursuit of wealth as an addiction. The years of work I did with my counselor helped me heal the parts of myself that felt damaged and inadequate, so that I had enough of a core sense of self to walk away.

Dozens of different types of 12-step support groups — including Clutterers Anonymous and On-Line Gamers Anonymous — exist to help addicts of various types, yet there is no Wealth Addicts Anonymous. Why not? Because our culture supports and even lauds the addiction. Look at the magazine covers in any newsstand, plastered with the faces of celebrities and C.E.O.’s; the superrich are our cultural gods. I hope we all confront our part in enabling wealth addicts to exert so much influence over our country.

I generally think that if one is rich and believes they have “enough,” they are not a wealth addict. On Wall Street, in my experience, that sense of “enough” is rare. The money guy doing a job he complains about for yet another year so he can add $2 million to his $20 million bank account seems like an addict.

I recently got an email from a hedge-fund trader who said that though he was making millions every year, he felt trapped and empty, but couldn’t summon the courage to leave. I believe there are others out there. Maybe we can form a group and confront our addiction together. And if you identify with what I’ve written, but are reticent to leave, then take a small step in the right direction. Let’s create a fund, where everyone agrees to put, say, 25 percent of their annual bonuses into it, and we’ll use that to help some of the people who actually need the money that we’ve been so rabidly chasing. Together, maybe we can make a real contribution to the world.

Sam Polk is a former hedge-fund trader and the founder of the nonprofit Groceryships

By Lisa Collier Cool
Feb 22, 2012

 

Darren Jones wants to check himself into rehab for an unusual “addiction.” He says he’s so hooked on Diet Coke that he downs 18 cans a day and can’t leave home without it. Judging by his photos in The Daily Mail, all that diet soda hasn’t helped him control his weight, which was edging toward 500 pounds when the pictures were taken.

He’s not alone. Former president Bill Clinton, Victoria Beckham, Elton John and movie moguls Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Katzenberg have all admitted to a Diet Coke habit, according to the New York Times.

And then there’s Elisa Zied, a high profile registered dietician with no discernible weight problem and three books and numerous TV appearances to her credit. Last year she confessed to a Diet Coke addiction on Twitter, a deliberate strategy – she said she hoped that “putting it out there would make me accountable”.

Replace soda with these healthy smoothie recipes.

The Addiction Question

Surveys show that people who drink these beverages rarely stop with just one. In fact, the typical consumer of diet sodas downs an average of more than 26 ounces per day, and 3 percent of diet-soda drinkers have at least four per day. But are hardcore diet soda fiends actually hooked?

If there’s anything in diet colas that could be addicting, the most likely suspect is caffeine (although many diet soda guzzlers prefer caffeine-free colas). Besides, comparisons with coffee show that cola can’t deliver the caffeine kick equal to a cup of java. An 8-ounce Diet Coke gives you a measly 47 milligrams of caffeine, compared to 133 in a cup of ordinary coffee and 320 in a Starbucks’ grande.

Learn about the most addictive prescription drugs on the market.

Insights from Brain Science

Another plausible explanation is habit: diet soda becomes part of daily rituals – a break from work, lunch, watching the news, you name it.  And sipping a zero-calorie beverage may not seem to have downside to curb the urge to overindulge.

More persuasive, perhaps, is the notion that artificial sweeteners trigger the brain’s reward system. In a study of women who drank water sweetened with sugar or Splenda, the women couldn’t taste the difference between the two, but functional MRIs showed that the brain’s reward system responded more strongly to sugar.

Study author Martin P. Paulus, MD, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego suggests that diet soda might be addicting because “artificial sweeteners have positive reinforcing effects – meaning humans will work for it, like for other foods, alcohol and even drugs of abuse.”

Is diet soda making you fat? 

Is Diet Soda Harmful?

Beyond the addiction issue, diet soda has been linked to increased rates of heart attack and stroke, kidney problems, preterm deliveries, and, yes, weight gain. While not yet carved in scientific stone, the emerging evidence is a bit disturbing. Here’s a rundown:

  • Heart Attack and Stroke: Drinking diet sodas daily may increase the risks for heart attack and stroke and other vascular events by 43 percent, but no such threat exists with regular soft drinks or with less frequent consumption of diet soda. These results come from a study including more than 2,500 adults published online in the Journal of General Internal Medicine on January 30, 2012. So far, no one knows what it is about diet sodas that could explain the added risk.
  • Kidney Trouble: In 2009, researchers at Harvard found that drinking two or more diet sodas daily could lead to a 30 percent drop in a measure of kidney function in women. No accelerated decline was seen in women who drank less than two diet sodas daily. The drop held true even after the researchers accounted for age, high blood pressure, diabetes and physical activity.

Read more facts about diet soda.

  • Preterm Delivery: A Danish study including more than 59,000 women found a link between drinking one or more diet sodas daily and a 38 percent increase in the risk of giving birth to preterm babies; the risk was 78 percent higher among pregnant women who drank four or more diet sodas daily. No such risk was seen with regular soda.
  • Weight Gain: Wouldn’t it be ironic if instead of helping you lose weight, diet sodas had the opposite effect? A study at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio found that compared to those who drank no diet sodas, study participants who did had a 70 percent greater increase in waist circumference; worse, drinking two or more diet sodas daily led to ballooning waist circumference that was 500 percent greater than those who drank none. This doesn’t prove that diet soda is to blame since the study was observational – it could be that participants began gaining weight and then started drinking diet sodas.

"When Matter Falls Down A Black Hole, It Loses All Identity" oil painting by T. Boehle copyright 2008

I could be mad about it.

You could be mad about…?

I could be mad about it.  (fast speech) (pause)  It wasn’t suppose to happen like that. (pause)  I could be mad.  I could be really mad about it.

You could be mad. (confirming without judgement)

Yea. (pensive)  I mean, I knew this is how it would happen.  I expected it.  You know, (pause) I knew it would work out this way when I started. (realization) (insight)  I guess, I am confused.  Not confused.  I am not confused. (loud speech)  I knew it would work this way, even though they it said it wouldn’t.  (deliberate speech)  I knew it would.  And so I prepared for it, but still (searching)  I could be mad.  (deliberate, loud speech)

You could be mad.

Yes, I could be.  I have a right to be.  They didn’t know that I knew. (searching)  Still, (pause) I could be.

Are you mad?

No. (shaking head) (deep breath)  No, I am not mad. (shoulders drop) (deep breath)  I am not mad.  (shoulders shrug) (slouch in chair)  I am not mad. (rising in chair)  So why do I feel like this. (pleading)  I am not mad, but I keep thinking I could be.  It would be okay to be.  I would be reasonable.  But I am not mad.  I knew it.  I knew it would happen this way and I got what I want.  Well, mostly I did.  I mean I got what I knew I would get. (fast speech)  And that was good.  It was what I needed. (pause)  I can’t make them do the right thing. (realization)  I can’t make them do anything. (resignation)

You can’t make them do anything.

No. (sad)  And that sucks.

It sucks that you can’t make them do anything?

No, (depressed speech) it sucks that…(constricted speech) forget it.  Just forget it.

It sucks that…  Finish your thought.  It sucks that…

No, it doesn’t matter.  It is all shit. (disgusted)  It doesn’t matter. (angry, loud speech)

Sometimes it doesn’t matter.  And sometimes it does. (pause)  And sometimes we feel angry because we are afraid.

I am not afraid.  I am not afraid. (fast, loud, angry speech)  I am fucking pissed off. (tearful) (searching)  I don’t know. (irritable) (searching)  Maybe I am afraid.

What are you afraid of?

I am afraid nothing matters.  That is doesn’t matter.  That nothing matters. (fast speech, desperate) (pause)  That nothing matters. (pause)  That I don’t matter. (soft speech)

You are afraid that you don’t matter.

Yes, like I knew it would turn out this way.  I knew it.  And I was okay with it.  I mean, I accepted it.  (pause)  But then when it turned out that way and they lied.  Even though I knew they would.  And even though I got what I wanted, it still felt like rejection.  You know? (pleading)  It felt like they were saying that I didn’t matter.  That it didn’t matter to tell me the truth. (pause)  It is weird though, because I knew that.  I knew what they were up to.  And I thought about it and I decided it was still in my best interest.  You know, like you said — it was in my best interest, it was aligned with my goals, if I could take what I needed and accept that there was a possibility that it wouldn’t be what they said, but it would be what I needed.  What I wanted. (pause)  Why should I care, especially since I already knew that they couldn’t be honest, forthright with their intentions.  Why do I care? (exasperated) (pause)  Why do I care? (quiet speech)

Why do you care?

I guess because I could be mad.  I could be mad.  But then I wasn’t mad.  It is like I wasn’t sure then if I was real if I wasn’t mad. (realization)  Yea, it is like, even though I knew it was going to happen and it really didn’t matter because I knew and I had… I had, you know, planned for it.  I was prepared.  So there really wasn’t any reason to be mad, but I couldn’t let go of it.  It is like the idea of being mad kept presenting itself to me, but I knew it wasn’t worthwhile.  So then I got mad at myself. (revelation)  I got mad at myself and tried to say that I was less of a person. (realization)  I tried to hurt myself.  (slow, deliberate speech)  I made it about what a piece of shit I am when it was really the exact opposite. (revelation)  I had done the right thing and took good care of myself and then I tried to turn it into something bad. (thoughtful)

You had done the right thing.  You had taken good care of yourself.

Yes, I did. (thoughtful)

You had managed life’s obstacles and opportunities well.

I did, didn’t I?

Yes, you did.

(searching, considering, realizing)

Sometimes when we find our way out of the woods, so to speak, we circle back to the train wreck.  To that which was our life before.  We circle back around.  Noticing and observing.  Remembering.  Sometimes we dig in the rubble a bit; we might even get burned from the smoldering wreckage.  Sometimes we just aren’t yet finished.  And we can’t be finished until we are finished.  Hmm?

I guess. (considering)

Would you like to walk around it one more time?

No, I’m finished. (bright affect)  I’m finished. (smile)

Drug deaths now outnumber traffic fatalities in U.S., data show

Fueling the surge are prescription pain and anxiety drugs that are potent, highly addictive and especially dangerous when combined with one another or with other drugs or alcohol

A toxic combinationLori Smith of Aliso Viejo with photographs of her son Nolan, who died of a drug overdose in January 2009, six months shy of his 16th birthday. A toxicology test turned up Zoloft, which had been prescribed for anxiety, and a host of other drugs that had not been prescribed, including two additional anti-anxiety drugs, as well as morphine and marijuana. (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times / September 18, 2011)
By Lisa Girion, Scott Glover and Doug Smith, Los Angeles TimesSeptember 17, 2011, 2:55 p.m.
Propelled by an increase in prescription narcotic overdoses, drug deaths now outnumber traffic fatalities in the United States, a Times analysis of government data has found.Drugs exceeded motor vehicle accidents as a cause of death in 2009, killing at least 37,485 people nationwide, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.While most major causes of preventable death are declining, drugs are an exception. The death toll has doubled in the last decade, now claiming a life every 14 minutes. By contrast, traffic accidents have been dropping for decades because of huge investments in auto safety.

Public health experts have used the comparison to draw attention to the nation’s growing prescription drug problem, which they characterize as an epidemic. This is the first time that drugs have accounted for more fatalities than traffic accidents since the government started tracking drug-induced deaths in 1979.

Fueling the surge in deaths are prescription pain and anxiety drugs that are potent, highly addictive and especially dangerous when combined with one another or with other drugs or alcohol. Among the most commonly abused are OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax and Soma. One relative newcomer to the scene is Fentanyl, a painkiller that comes in the form of patches and lollipops and is 100 times more powerful than morphine.

Such drugs now cause more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.

“The problem is right here under our noses in our medicine cabinets,” said Laz Salinas, a sheriff’s commander in Santa Barbara, which has seen a dramatic rise in prescription drug deaths in recent years.

Overdose victims range in age and circumstance from teenagers who pop pills to get a heroin-like high to middle-aged working men and women who take medications prescribed for strained backs and bum knees and become addicted.

A review of hundreds of autopsy reports in Southern California reveals one tragic demise after another: A 19-year-old Army recruit, who had just passed his military physical, took a handful of Xanax and painkillers while partying with friends. A groom, anxious over his upcoming wedding, overdosed on a cocktail of prescription drugs. A teenage honors student overdosed on painkillers her father left in his medicine cabinet from a surgery years earlier. A toddler was orphaned after both parents overdosed on prescription drugs months apart. A grandmother suffering from chronic back pain apparently forgot she’d already taken her daily regimen of pills and ended up double dosing.

Many died after failed attempts at rehab — or after using one too many times while contemplating quitting. That’s apparently what happened to a San Diego woman found dead with a Fentanyl patch on her body, one of five she’d applied in the 24 hours before her death. Next to her on the couch was a notebook with information about rehab.

The seeds of the problem were planted more than a decade ago by well-meaning efforts by doctors to mitigate suffering, as well as aggressive sales campaigns by pharmaceutical manufacturers. In hindsight, the liberalized prescription of pain drugs “may in fact be the cause of the epidemic we’re now facing,” said Linda Rosenstock, dean of the UCLA School of Public Health.

In some ways, prescription drugs are more dangerous than illicit ones because users don’t have their guard up, said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sgt. Steve Opferman, head of a county task force on prescription drug-related crimes. “People feel they are safer with prescription drugs because you get them from a pharmacy and they are prescribed by a doctor,” Opferman said. “Younger people believe they are safer because they see their parents taking them. It doesn’t have the same stigma as using street narcotics.”

Lori Smith said she believes that’s what her son might have been thinking the night he died six months shy of his 16th birthday. Nolan Smith, of Aliso Viejo, loved to surf, sail and fish with his brother and father. He suffered from migraines and anxiety but showed no signs of drug abuse, his mother said.

The night before he died in January 2009, Nolan called his mother at work, asking for a ride to the girls basketball game at Aliso Niguel High School. Lori told him she couldn’t get away.

When Nolan didn’t come home that evening, his parents called police and his friends. His body was found the next morning on a stranger’s front porch.

A toxicology test turned up Zoloft, which had been prescribed for anxiety, and a host of other drugs that had not been prescribed, including two additional anti-anxiety drugs, as well as morphine and marijuana.

All investigators could give the family were theories.

“They said they will have parties where the kids will throw a bunch of pills in a bowl and the kids take them without knowing what they are,” Lori said. “We called all of his friends, but no one would say they were with him. But he must have been with someone. You just don’t do that by yourself.”

The triumph of public health policies that have improved traffic safety over the years through the use of seat belts, air bags and other measures stands in stark contrast to the nation’s record on prescription drugs. Even though more people are driving more miles, traffic fatalities have dropped by more than a third since the early 1970s to 36,284 in 2009. Drug-induced deaths had equaled or surpassed traffic fatalities in California, 22 other states and the District of Columbia even before the 2009 figures revealed the shift at the national level, according to the Times analysis.

Fueling the surge are prescription pain and anxiety drugs that are potent, highly addictive and especially dangerous when combined with one another or with other drugs or alcohol

The Centers for Disease Control collects data on all causes of death each year and analyzes them to identify health problems. Drug-induced deaths are mostly accidental overdoses but also include suicides and fatal diseases caused by drugs.

The CDC’s 2009 statistics are the agency’s most current. They are considered preliminary because they reflect 96% of death certificates filed. The remaining are deaths for which the causes were not immediately clear.

Drug fatalities more than doubled among teens and young adults between 2000 and 2008, years for which more detailed data are available. Deaths more than tripled among people aged 50 to 69, the Times analysis found. In terms of sheer numbers, the death toll is highest among people in their 40s.

Overdose deaths involving prescription painkillers, including OxyContin and Vicodin, and anti-anxiety drugs such as Valium and Xanax more than tripled between 2000 and 2008.

The rise in deaths corresponds with doctors prescribing more painkillers and anti-anxiety medications. The number of prescriptions for the strongest pain pills filled at California pharmacies, for instance, increased more than 43% since 2007 — and the doses grew by even more, nearly 50%, according to a review of prescribing data collected by the state.

Those prescriptions provide relief to pain sufferers but also fuel a thriving black market. Prescription drugs are traded on Internet chat rooms that buzz with offers of “vikes,” “percs” and “oxys” for $10 to $80 a pill. They are sold on street corners along with heroin, marijuana and crack. An addiction to prescription drugs can be costly; a heavy OxyContin habit can run twice as much as a heroin addiction, authorities say.

On a recent weekday morning, Los Angeles County undercover sheriff’s deputies posing as drug buyers easily purchased enough pills to fill a medicine cabinet on a sidewalk a few blocks south of Los Angeles City Hall.

The most commonly abused prescription drug, hydrocodone, also is the most widely prescribed drug in America, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. Better known as Vicodin, the pain reliever is prescribed more often than the top cholesterol drug and the top antibiotic.

“We have an insatiable appetite for this drug — insatiable,” Joseph T. Rannazzisi, a top DEA administrator, told a group of pharmacists at a regulatory meeting in Sacramento.

In April, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy announced initiatives aimed at stanching prescription drug abuse. The plans include a series of drug take-back days, modeled after similar programs involving weapons, in which consumers are encouraged to turn leftover prescription drugs in to authorities. Another initiative would develop voluntary courses to train physicians on how to safely prescribe pain drugs, a curriculum that is not widely taught in medical schools.

Initial attempts to reverse the trend in drug deaths — such as state-run prescription drug-monitoring programs aimed at thwarting “doctor-shopping” addicts — don’t appear to be having much effect, experts say.

“What’s really scary is we don’t know a lot about how to reduce prescription deaths,” said Amy S.B. Bohnert, a researcher at the University of Michigan Medical School who is studying ways to lower the risk of prescription drugs.

“It’s a wonderful medical advancement that we can treat pain,” Bohnert said. “But we haven’t figured out the safety belt yet.”

"The measurements of the deflection angle of a beam of light just grazing the sun's surface are somewhat uncertain." oil painting by T. Boehle copyright 2007

I felt pain as I drove in.

You felt pain again, as you drove in.

Yes, it has been awhile.  I was surprised.  I thought everything was fine.  Yesterday was a good day.  I just, I don’t know.  I felt it.

You felt it.

Yea, I felt it. (irritated)  I felt it again.  All of a sudden, the tightening across the top of my chest and face squeezed, pinched in.  It was hard to breath. (excited)

It was hard to breath.

Yea, it was hard to breath. (more excited)  You know, I was panicking.  It was hard to breath. (pause)  It didn’t feel good.

It didn’t feel good. (sad)

It didn’t feel good.

No, it didn’t feel good. (resigned)  When is this going to stop? (pleading)  What is wrong with me? (excited)  I can’t take it. (panicked)  I can’t take it. (pause)  I cried. (distracted)

Is that okay?

Is it okay that I cried? (slightly irritated)

Yes, is it okay that you cried?

Well, no it is not okay, I was driving. (confused)  I mean, I guess it was okay.  The traffic was stopped, like it is in the morning. (preoccupied)  It is always so backed up. (further distracted) (pause)  I found an old tissue and dabbed my eyes. (calm)  Yea, I guess it was okay.

It just came out of nowhere.  And I thought, I can’t do this.  I can’t do it.  But I don’t even know really what it is I can’t do. (with realization)  Between the thoughts, I became aware of this.  I think, I was simply connecting with all the sadness.  You know, how can it change?  How can I make it different?  (thinking)

And then what happened?

I breathed. (revelation)  I breathed, like you said.  Like we practiced. (fast speech)  I think I might have breathed in between the thoughts.  I think maybe I did.

You think you breathed in between the thoughts?

Yes, I think I did. (satisfied) (pause)  I think I did and I think that is when I knew that it was okay.  You know, it was okay to feel. (revelation)  To FEEL.  It was okay to feel. (fast speech)  I think I breathed and then it shifted.  My feelings shifted to my thoughts and I thought, it is okay to feel sad. (excited)  And then, I reached inside the, the thing, you know the thing you rest your arm on. (impatient)

The arm rest.

Yea, the arm rest.  The console. (excited)  That is what it is called, the console box.  And there was this crumpled up tissue, but it seemed clean.  I thought that, you know, that it was clean.  That I could use it. (fast speech)  Isn’t it funny, that I was in pain and yet I thought about that.  I was able to reason.  Even in pain, I could shift my thoughts and reason. (curious)

You could shift your thoughts and reason.

Yea. (contemplating)

You could shift your thoughts and reason.

I could shift my thoughts and reason.  I could think. (slow speech)  I didn’t know I could think.  I mean when I am in pain, I didn’t know I could think.  I mean, of course I know I can think. (slightly irritated)  But I mean, I didn’t know I could figure something out.  Something else.  Something other than the pain. (distracted in curiosity)

You could stand the pain.

I could stand the pain. (revelation)  I could stand the pain.  It was pain.  It was pain and I was sad.  And I was sad about something that I didn’t even really know what it was.  I was sad about something and I felt pain.  The pain was a symptom.  It wasn’t the thing.

The pain was a symptom.

Yes, the pain was a symptom.  It was a messenger. (excited)  You, know.  It was.  It was.  It was a messenger. (loud speech)  It was alerting me to a thought I had that was sad. (realization)  I have thoughts. (pause)  I have thoughts and then I feel something. (excited)  Like after my accident, when I felt pain.  There was the unpleasant sensation. (realization)  So, first there was the unpleasant sensation and I called it pain.  And when I became aware of it, I felt it.  I felt pain.  That is what I thought, but really I feel it.  The unpleasant sensation and then I get scared and that fear is the pain.  I am afraid. (revelation)  I am afraid.  I get scared from the unpleasant sensation and I want it to stop because it feels bad.  I want bad things to stop.

You want bad things to stop.

Yes, I want bad things to stop. (determined)  I want bad things to stop. (excited)  I want bad things to stop because I want to live.  And I am afraid.

What are you afraid of?

I am afraid of dying.  I am afraid of dying. (very excited)  Isn’t that what it means to be in pain?  That I might not live. (fast speech)  Isn’t it self preservation to not want to feel the unpleasant sensation.  Isn’t that right? (pause)  Isn’t that right?

That’s it, isn’t it?  I am afraid of dying.  Ultimately, everyday I protect myself – preserve myself against that which will annihilate my existence.  Is that what I do everyday?  I am vigilant against the forces that will undermine my self-preservation. (satisfied) (pause)

But I must be confused? (confused)

You are confused?

Yes, I am confused.  I mean.  I am confused right now, but I mean I am confused.  I have misunderstood it.  I didn’t understand it. (pause) (realization)  I didn’t understand it.  I thought that it was the pain that threatened my existence.  It is not the pain.  The pain is the indicator.  The pain is the messenger, the teacher. (excited)  And what I do.  No, what we all do. (excited) (fast speech)  And of course, we all do it.  It is what we are told to do.  Take an aspirin.

You are told to take an aspirin?

Yes, we are all told to take an aspirin.  We are told pain is bad, but it is not bad. (fast speech)  It just is.  It is just pain.  If I deaden the pain how can I know what it is about and if I don’t know what it is all about how can I address it?  How can I change it?  How can I ever hope to know how I work, what my purpose is? (realization)  Pain can be useful. (insight)  It is not bad.  It can be helpful.  My pain can assist me in relieving my problem.  This is incredible. (shock)  I have been fighting an ally. I have been committed.  No I have been addicted.  Well, maybe I have been committed – you know condemned, restrained, restricted by my thinking one way.  And in that one way of thinking I became addicted to RELIEF OF PAIN. (slow speech)  It is all I saw.  It is all I did. (looking out the window)

You are looking out the window.

Yes, I have such a different perspective now.