Monday, December 31, 2007

A New Year Coming Down

A New Year Coming Down

“Well I woke up Sunday morning, with no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt.
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad, so I had one more for desert.”

-Kris Kristofferson

On New Year’s Day, there will many people waking up with hangovers. For some, it happens once a year. For others, it is an every day experience.

Many use booze or drugs when life is out of control. It is easier to pop a pill or have a beer than to tackle one’s underlying problems.

New Year’s is a time when people will make life changes. Diet classes and workout centers fill up every January, and people make resolutions to improve themselves.

My demon is my weight.

A few years ago, I started a group called Don’s Get Fit Club. I wrote a column inviting overweight men in Richmond to come meet me and share ideas about losing weight. Four men showed, and the group was started.

The group is still going strong. We’ve added a few members (and are looking for more), but every person in the group has lost weight. I lost over 50 pounds in 2007 and many lost a similar percentage of their body weight.

We ought to be on the cover of Men’s Health Magazine.

Like most successful self-help groups, we do not charge a fee; we simply give each other support.

We are difference from 12-step groups in that we are competitive. Every week, we each put a dollar in a pot, and the person who reports the most weight loss gets the cash. It is a motivator. I won three weeks in a row, and everyone was gunning for me on the fourth.

Motivation is the key to battling demons. I don’t know what makes a person decide to get help, but it has to come from within. Once they decide, they need the support of others and from a higher power.

People who turn to booze, drugs and other poisons use them as a substitute for something missing in their lives.

Employees with substance abuse problems create a real dilemma. In the past, I’ve had good employees suddenly become bad employees when faced with a trauma in their personal lives. They started drinking or taking medications.

It was not just Sunday morning coming down, it was Monday, Tuesday and every other day as well. They were constantly hung over.

They did not come to work drunk or stoned, but they were clearly not at the top of their game. Although we cared for them as people, the organization couldn’t carry someone who was not pulling their weight.

It is not easy to suggest that someone should start dealing with their problems. Most people with problems know they have problems. They don’t appreciate you pointing it out to them.

You don’t need to tell me I’m fat. My scale, clothes and broken chair will do that for me.

On the other hand, if you are a true friend, you want to get the person to confront their issues. Concern needs to be communicated in an effective manner.

It helps to have positive role models. Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has been an inspiration for me. He lost 100 pounds and wrote a book about it. I want to do the same thing. I’ve re-read his book several times and it gives me hope.

A struggling person needs support from other people. That is one of the reasons that groups like Alcoholics Anonymous have had tremendous success. They give members love and understanding.

The Get Fit Guys works because we root for each other and yet maintain a competitive nature.

I hope people fighting drug and alcohol problems will use the New Year as an opportunity to examine their lives and battle their demons.

It could be the last year that they face a feeling like Sunday morning coming down.

Don McNay is Chairman of McNay Settlement Group in Richmond, Ky. The Get Fit Guys Meet at 122 North Second Street in Richmond on Tuesday’s at 5 pm. You can write to Don at or read other things he has written at

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