Drinkbooza, Meet Noexcusa

After a weekend that was both soul-soothing (good company) and overly indulgent (good food), I kicked my butt back on track with a kickboxing double-header this morning. It felt great and I’m very proud of myself for going!

But I almost didn’t. Because I forgot my water bottle. Because of the on again off again rainforest-style downpours. Because I’m tired from the weekend. Because I have to get organized for my trip. Because because because.

There are always excuses, aren’t there? I used to be a frequent rider on the excuse train – a hangover being one of my most-used reasons for not doing whatever task I felt like avoiding.

I actually almost didn’t try kickboxing at all. Last October, the manager of the MMA gym where my kids take their classes gave me a coupon for two free adult classes. I procrastinated. I had always wanted to try martial arts but never felt fit enough. I can also be a weenie when it comes to trying new things, perfectionist that I am. The coupon was set to expire on November 1 – the day after Halloween.

I don’t dress up for Halloween these days, but my husband wore a Chewbacca suit he’d gotten as a gag gift. I walked around our neighborhood with my family, some neighbors and friends. While the kids trick-or-treated, a bunch of us moms carried cups that said “I’m here for the Boos” – filled with wine of course. I took a selfie of me and my husband and captioned it, “Chewbacca and Drinkbooza.”

I cringed when I typed that. My, how times have changed!

The coupon expired. Because I was too hungover for class on November 1.

Thankfully, the gym manager gave me a hard time about it. I copped to my Halloween hangover and he made a polite joke about how kickboxing is good for detoxing. (Again, I cringe!) Then he agreed to extend the offer for one more week. I went to class the next day, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

I’m grateful to him for not letting me hide behind excuses. And I will never let a hangover, or a forgotten water bottle, or a summer downpour, or any other wimpy excuse stand in the way of my health and workout goals. Being fit feels too damn good.

Drinkbooza, meet Noexcusa. She’s gonna kick your butt.

Flying Solo and Sober

A week from today, universe willing, I will be eating Nutella out of a glass jar as I rally against jet lag and soak up the sun (or, more likely, seek shelter from the rain) in Cambridge, England. It is my 10th MBA reunion, and this sober stay-at-home mom is flying solo y’all.

My husband was the one who encouraged me to go. Of course, he really had to twist my arm to get me to book a trip by myself across the pond to spend two and a half days in one of my favorite places on the planet. And then, of course, he booked himself a week-long solo sojourn to indulge in one of his many hobbies involving machinery and tools and making stuff. Sigh. At least I’ll get to catch up on all my shows. But anyway.

Thursday to Sunday. A quick, precious, jet-lagged journey of nostalgia and reconnection and contemplation lies ahead of me and I can’t wait.

While I feel very distant from the person I was during my MBA program (a decade younger, newly engaged to my now-husband, and driven to become a CEO of a non-profit), I am excited to go back. I may be the only unemployed person there. I will not be drinking at the gala dinner or partaking in any pints at my favorite pub. I will own these choices – my choice to stay at home to raise my kids and my choice to not drink.

I have chosen to stay home with my kids over having a career, despite spending one year of my life (and a lot of our money) earning a Masters in Business Administration. Do I want to return to work one day? Yes. What do I want to do? I don’t know. What I do know is that I want to leave a positive mark on the world; and in the meantime, I have put my heart and soul into raising two awesome humans. I’m doing a really good job, too (my son’s camp counselor told me so) and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Except for all the wine I drank along the way.

Well, would I change that, if I could? I’m actually not so sure. Because if I hadn’t gotten to the point where I started to question my drinking, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I would still be treading in the booze pool. I would still be waking up in the morning feeling puffy and achy and groggy, swearing today will be a wine-free day, only to pour the inevitable first glass when the witching hour strikes. Day after day, denying myself the energy and health and creativity and eyes-wide-open lust for life that I have now.

I may be ten years older than I was when I walked the cobblestone streets of this 800-year-old university and absorbed with vigor all things business (except accounting – I cried my way through accounting). But my heart feels ten times bigger. My brain feels ten times more curious, my mind ten times more open.

So, no regrets. And what a relief it is that I won’t feel the need to drink. There will be no mental volleying back and forth over whether wine will help me sleep on the overnight flight. There will be no risk of over-imbibing or having to depend on friends to get me back to my dorm(!) room. Booze is off the table and that feels right to me right now.

Instead, there will be full, raw, real emotion. And there will be clear, wonderful memories. Even awkwardness (I’m anticipating some awkwardness as I try to communicate my deal to some of these folks) will be wonderful in its way – here I am, in this group of high achieving leaders in business, owning my choice to not be a high achieving leader in business.

So, what am I? I am a mom. I am an athlete. I am a blogger. I am a volunteer. I am a pillar of love and security in my little family. I am a force of goodness in the world. A small but mighty force of goodness.

If I do say so myself. I’m owning it.

And yes, Nutella does taste better out of a glass jar. And no, I will not be tracking it. I’m owning that choice, too.

A Booze-Free Birthday and Bonus Bootcamp

Last weekend my husband and I managed to flee to NYC for 21 kid-free hours (but who was counting) to celebrate his birthday. We wandered, shopped, ate, talked, and reconnected in a way that is only possible when you are not being bombarded by tiny humans all day long. It was absolutely lovely.

It was also the first milestone of my one year alcohol-free: a sober birthday celebration. At dinner, my husband had a glass of white wine with his salad and a glass of red with his steak. Besides a fleeting pang when he ordered that Sancerre, I felt confident not drinking and grateful to be experiencing an AF birthday dinner for the first time… since I was pregnant? Probably. With my own birthday coming up in a few months, this was a successful test round.

And of course it was way more than that. It was everything the books and blogs and Instas say AF life can be. It was clear, authentic connection and contentment. It was romantic. It was reassuring. “Not only is this person still my best friend, but I love him now more than ever and our relationship is better than ever,” were the cheesy but damn true thoughts going through my head.

We talked about my choice to live a year without alcohol. Though my husband has always had an easy breezy relationship with booze, I can tell that he is really trying to understand where I’m coming from. He also accepts, without judgment, the fact that I view ditching alcohol as critical to the self-exploration I am feeling called to do right now. At one point, he used the word “rebirth” to describe my entrance into this new phase of my life – his word, not mine! It’s a loaded term, but I think I’ll try it on for size.

So: wonderful, romantic dinner followed by a wonderful, romantic walk around downtown Manhattan. A perfect night, and I remember it all, blah blah blah. I’ll pull the plug on the broken record of giddiness here. But it really was that real and good and lovely.

Because this birthday celebration would not be a boozefest, I’d booked a bootcamp class at the new Peloton Tread studio on Sunday morning. My husband exemplifies the saying “boys and their toys” and has already put down a deposit on a Tread, so we had been meaning to get to a class and try it out. And even though we got our asses handed to us, we patted ourselves on the back (interesting visual, that) for actually being those people who included a bootcamp class in a romantic birthday weekend celebration. Good for us!

I cannot remind myself enough of how far I have come. Not to toot my own horn, but to keep me motivated and focused and present and grateful. If I were still drinking, I probably would not have even booked that Peloton Tread class because of the expected hangover.

I used to believe that alcohol was a necessary and integral part of a fun evening out. I believed this wholeheartedly. Because I didn’t know any better. Because my subconscious had been wired that way. And that’s the basis on which I operated personally, socially, romantically.

When I first started this work, committing to Dry January and reading A Happier Hour and then This Naked Mind, I didn’t believe Rebecca and Annie when they told me how much fun an alcohol-free social life can be. I wanted to believe them, but “sober” and “fun” just did not coexist in my book.

Now, I’m a believer. I’ve drunk the un-spiked Kool-Aid and it tastes better than I ever thought possible. It’s not only improving my body and mind; it’s improving my marriage, too. Life is good AF.

Unintentionally Living with Intention

That feeling when you realize you’re unintentionally living with intention.

A first, today: I got on my Peloton bike with the intent of setting a new personal record. And then I did.

I realize this is not earth-shattering. But it matters.

It matters because it marks a shift for me. I’m pretty sure this is what all those new-agey people mean when they talk about living with intention. I’ve heard that phrase before, but never gave it much thought and certainly never internalized it. Now, I get it. And I dig it. And I’m doing it, apparently.

I got 8.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep last night (Hallelujah!!). I shed the 2.4lbs of water weight that I was carrying around yesterday. I signed up for two back-to-back 20-minute live Peloton rides: a HIIT (high intensity interval training) ride at 10:30 and a groove ride at 10:55. I got on my bike feeling strong.

“I’m going to set a new PR on this ride,” I thought to myself.

My previous PR for a 20-minute ride was 148. My HIIT output today was 172. Done.

I told myself I could use the groove ride to recover, but I had energy reserves so I pushed myself to an output of 161 on that ride. Two consecutive rides, both better outputs than my previous record. It’s a good day for a good day.

Am I starting to live with intention? Like, for real? Could I ever have achieved this level of self-confidence and self-assurance if I were still drinking like I was? I think not. I feel like I am starting to discover who I really am. Underneath my supermom athleisure uniform, having ditched the alcohol bloat, I’m reacquainting myself with myself. Or perhaps I’m meeting myself for the first time. TBD.

I’m Just Gonna Leave This Here

I do not have a drinking problem. I have a problem with the drink. And the problem is that the healthier I get, the crappier drinking makes me feel. And I’m not going to settle for feeling like crap anymore.

There is a blurry line between alcohol use and abuse, a line that looks different to each of us. There is also a stigma attached to sobriety, an implication that if you choose to be sober – for a month, a year, forever – you must have had a serious substance abuse problem. Some people do. I was one of the lucky ones that caught myself before I descended too far. I will never deny that I was drinking too much for me. And I will always be proud of myself for making the choice I made to stop that cycle and share my story with those who are willing to listen.

Day eight and going strong.

My Daughter, My Role Model

In true Supermom fashion – after spinning at 6am, chauffeuring my two kids to two different camps, making dinner for our neighbors, tossing our own dinner in the crock pot, walking both my dogs and my mom’s dog, helping my mom move into her new apartment half an hour away, and chauffeuring the kids home from camp – I was preparing to take them to the pool yesterday afternoon. My six-year-old daughter asked me if she could not wear a shirt like some of the boys she sees there. When I told her it’s a rule that girls have to wear bathing suit tops, she burst into tears: hot, abundant tears that were one part drama, one part fatigue, and one part genuine and raw frustration.

We sat on the couch and she curled up in my arms, my sweet, strong girl in her basketball shorts, no shirt, and her new shark tooth necklace she bought on her camp field trip to the aquarium. She wept as she asked me why. Why can boys go shirtless and girls can’t? Why do boys get to be free and bare-skinned and girls always have to cover up?

I tried my best to answer her, while feeling wildly unequipped to provide the right sort of counsel to both comfort and satisfy her. Oh, and also not crush her self-confidence or scar her for life as I discussed breasts and breast-feeding and tried to make her appreciate this part of her body that she may or may not use for its intended purpose two or three decades from now. I did my best, folks.

For the past year or so, my daughter has gravitated towards toys and clothes that are made for and marketed to boys. She loves superheroes and Star Wars. She wants her shorts to be knee-length and have pockets (why are most girls’ shorts teeny and pocket-less?!). She wants to play football. She wants to someday be a black belt in mixed martial arts.

Just be being her authentic self, she is challenging the norm every day. She is sometimes teased by peers and often mistaken for a boy by strangers. But her desire to be true to who she is outweighs the discomfort she feels. And so she persists.

She does not get this trait from me. When I was her age, I was a shy people-pleaser whose parents had recently divorced. I wore smocked dresses, played with the girly toys I was given on birthdays and Christmas, and just generally tried not to rock the boat in any way, ever. I fit in.

My kid? She stands out.

And now, so do I.

I am not drinking for a year. This choice makes me stand out, from my friends, from my family, from society. I can’t discuss this choice with my daughter right now. But I know she can sense my boosted confidence and the shift in my energy. She can probably sense more than I can even identify right now.

After yesterday’s conversation, I am starting to realize just how deeply my daughter inspires me. How can I effectively parent and nuture a confident, strong girl whose tastes and interests differ from the status quo? By nurturing the parts of myself that do, too. Because these are the parts that make me ME and not just a reflection of what society is telling me to be.

As for the pool trip, we compromised: I put the sprinkler on in the yard and let both kids run around, topless and gleeful in the glorious afternoon sun.

A Date with a Liberated Drinker (AKA My Husband)

I inaugurated my OYAF* by going out to dinner with my husband last night (this date brought to you by an exhausted-but-willing-to-babysit grandmother – thanks, MeMe!). My sweet hubby had been surprised when I announced my year off booze a few days ago, and he wanted to know the thought process behind my decision (um, honey, are you not reading your own wife’s blog?!).

What I realized is that, while we both come from families of drinkers (though his parents quit years ago, mine are still at it), we started drinking for different reasons. My husband started drinking because he likes the taste. He usually drinks a hard cider, and he also enjoys a glass of red wine with a good steak. His cocktail order is a gin and tonic, but he never makes them at home. He aspires to whiskey connoisseurship but “it’s too much effort” to figure out the best way to drink it (preferred glass? rocks or straight?) so the bottles of local artisanal whiskey he buys continue to sit unopened in our liquor cabinet.

He likes the taste of all of these types of alcohol, and he drinks in the moment, as a situation arises. I have never seen him have more than two drinks. He claims he has never been drunk. I am not sure if I believe anyone can truly be a “take it or leave it” imbiber of booze, but if that person does exist, I married him.

As for me, I went the more standard route. I tried alcohol my senior year of high school. I drank to fit in and to feel less inhibited. I drank because that’s what I thought cool and sophisticated and grown-up people do. I drank for the buzz, for how good it made me feel. I hated the taste of that first rum and Coke, mixed for me at a graduation party by a friend’s older brother. But I drank it. And on I went from there.

My husband drinks for the taste. He has a very simple and straightforward relationship with alcohol. He does not experience willpower-zapping, soul-bruising cognitive dissonance. He does not play date night whack-a-monologue. He has no beef with booze. And so, while he supports my decision to spend a year off the sauce, he can’t fully understand why I feel such a bone-deep need to do this.

But he will support me through and through, on the basis of his love for me. And that is what I need from him. He hasn’t been to my side of the liberation-fixation scale, and that’s ok. I am building my own network, both personal and virtual, of people who have been there. I have a stack of books to read; dozens of Instagram accounts to follow; and the incredible #sobersisters community on Connect. I even have a few IRL friends and family members to talk to. And maybe, as this year progresses, there will be more.

For now, I am securely steeped in the honeymoon phase of my year of sobriety. Day two, baby! I feel gleeful, free, inspired. And I’m basking in the glow of my lovely date last night, a nice meal made memorable by a breakthrough conversation.

*One Year Alcohol-Free, obv. Is the abbreviation catching on yet?