Five Weeks To Go

Day 330. Five weeks to go. Holy smokes.

Just five more weeks until I emerge from my protective bubble of my one year alcohol-free. Five weeks until alcohol is technically an option again. Five weeks until “I’m taking a year off drinking” turns into…

I’m still not sure. And that is ok.

I am beginning, very gingerly, to take stock of this year and reflect on everything I have experienced with a completely clear head and heart – and without the crutch/perceived lubricant/numbing agent of alcohol. My preliminary conclusion is that a lot happens in a year. And I am down-into-my-bones grateful to have lived it all.

Because that’s what I have accomplished. I have lived this year. I may have buried my face in a bag of small batch artisanal tortilla chips more than a few times, but I have no lost nights. No fuzzy memories. No embarrassing drunken social media posts or text messages. I have been present. I have shown up. I have acheived a perfect attendance record for 330 days and counting.

I have felt exquisite pain and exquisite joy. I have felt legit stress and #firstworldproblem stress. I have been a supermom and I have had my share of #momfails. I own it all.

I still have work to do. And when this year is up, fittingly on Independence Day (I swear I didn’t plan that!), I will still have work to do. Life work. Self work. I now realize what a privilege it is to be able to do this work. I don’t plan on running away from it again.

Courage, compassion, and connection: these are what Brené Brown calls “The Gifts of Imperfection.” I am going to spend the next five weeks embracing my imperfection. And then after that I’m going to spend the rest of my life embracing my imperfection.

Where will alcohol fit into this?

Here’s the thing. I can’t think of a single instance where consuming alcohol would have improved upon any moment of these past 47 weeks. Yes, I have had fleeting pangs of longing, but they all just dissolved into nothing. Not a single pang took root and grew into regret. Not a one.

So right now, as of day 330, I am peering out from the safety of my OYAF bubble, proud of all that I have achieved but relieved to have five more weeks to boss up. Before I know it, this year will be done. The bubble will pop, and out I will step into a world where alcohol is back on the table.

I’m scared. Part of me is tempted to declare another year off. But I’m also curious. I’m curious to see how much strength I’ve gained. I’m curious to see if I have the guts to be a non-drinker in a big-drinking world. I have never been one to swim against the tide. But now I will choose to do just that.

Because I’m not going to go back to where I was. I love my AF self and my AF life too much. I’m all in.

The Peanut Butter Cups Experiment

Awareness plants the seed of change.

I found this sentence in my Notes app today. Can’t remember where I heard this. Peloton? WW? A wise friend? Instagram? Or did I come up with it myself? Anyway, it’s an appropriate statement for day 308.

I consciously fed the sugar monster today. Seduced by a carton of peanut butter cups while grocery shopping on an empty stomach (mistake numero uno, that!), I decided to make a little experiment of indulging my recent sugar cravings. I paid for my groceries and returned to my car. As I popped open the plastic container (delayed gratification has never been my thing), I felt the giddiness of dopamine release. It takes eight minutes to drive from Whole Foods to my house. I decided I would eat four peanut butter cups on my drive home – that way I would still have a chance to be within my points today, as I had a zero-point lunch and low-point dinner lined up.

Do you think I was able to stick to just four? I probably could have, if I had chosen to exercise discipline. But I chose not to today, for a variety of reasons. As soon as I finished one peanut butter cup I reached for the next. I tried to eat them slowly, but I still managed to have about ten(ish?!) by the time I pulled into my driveway.

As I ate them, I focused on enjoying them and did my best to be present and brush aside the guilt that was hovering, threatening to crush my sugar buzz. I thought about Annie Grace’s video of herself consuming an entire bottle of wine, and how she used that footage to motivate herself to stop drinking – and how much it motivated me back when I was doing TAE over a year ago. I mentally zoomed out and looked at myself, again trying not to judge, just observing myself indulging a strong sugar craving. I noted how the first peanut butter cup tasted (amaaaazing), versus the fifth (yummy with a twinge of gross), versus the fifteenth (because yes, I kept eating them throughout the day).

The verdict? The peaut butter cups were delicious. I’m proud of myself for not beating myself up for eating them. But my belly is so bloated right now I look pregnant. And I miss my frozen mango! I really do!

Awareness plants the seed of change. I think my sugar habits – ingrained more deeply than my wine dependence, because sugar came into my life long before booze – may actually be evolving. Because those peanut butter cups, as yummy as they were, did not taste so much better than frozen mango that I am willing to sacrifice feeling strong and svelte. I have felt so good the last couple of days. I have been eating well, exercising, and hydrating. Today’s sugar binge has made me feel completely bloated, tired, and dehydrated.

This is definitely reminiscent of when I went back to drinking after taking a one of my initial booze breaks. I knew how good I felt without wine, so going back to drinking was not as pleasurable. I no longer had the tolerance – for the alcohol itself, but also for the way it made me feel (yuck).

Today’s conscious peanut butter cup binge is a reminder of how good I feel when I do NOT cater to the sugar monster. I did still enjoy the chocolate – but less than I would have in the past. I choose to see progress here, not weakness. Yes, I succumbed to the peanut butter cups. Yes, I ate too many of them. But I did it all with awareness and without judgement. And I learned from this experience.

I don’t think I will ever fully give up sweets. But I would like to be able to eat them in moderation and have the sugar monster be a less dominant presence in my brain. I don’t think moderation is possible for me with alcohol – and with each day that passes I become less interested in drinking again at all. But sugar, for me, is different. For now. We’ll see.

Life Lessons from My Kids, Part 3: You are Enough

My seven-year-old daughter competed in her first martial arts competition today. She came in fourth and was the top girl in her division. Her school hosted the competition, and students from four other schools attended. She went up against kids who were bigger, smaller, scrappier, weaker, more experienced, and less experienced. What a life lesson it was for us both.

She had had her eye on the prize: all week long the competition trophies – for first, second, and third place – were displayed on a table in the reception area at her MMA school. My daughter talked breezily about how she would win, and I did my best to manage her expectations by reminding her that she would be going up against kids from other schools and there was no way to know what her competitors would be like. At the same time, I admired her confidence and wanted to nurture it. She is 1000% more confident than I was at her age, and I hope she stays that way.

You never want your kid to face a single smidgeon of adversity, yet you know they must. These are the character-building moments that thicken their skin and push them out of their comfort zone, ultimately boosting self-esteem.

And yet, my heart sank today when I realized she would place fourth and not earn a trophy. I expected her to be upset, maybe even cry. She had trained so hard, and performed better in her matches today than I have ever seen her perform in class. But it wasn’t enough. I held my breath as they awarded the three trophies, and then gave medals to each of the other competitors. I craned my neck to glimpse the expression on my daughter’s face as the medal was placed around her neck.

When she turned to face us, she was not crying. She was perhaps a bit sheepish, but far from devastated. I took a deep breath as she walked over to us. We gave hugs and immediately started heaping well-deserved praise upon her. “Fourth place! Out of all these kids! And the top girl! You worked so hard and we are so proud of you!”

“YOU ARE MORE THAN ENOUGH,”I wanted to tell her. But I think she already knows. She was a little bummed that she missed out on a trophy, and she complained a bit (rightfully so in my definitely unbiased opinion) about some of the judging. But overall, she is happy with her performance today. She wanted to win, but she enjoyed competing for the sake of competing. The challenge and fun of the competition were enough.

My daughter – whether by nature or nurture, whether because of her youth or her wisdom – knows that she is enough. She challenges herself for the fun of it. She does her best, and is proud of her hard work.

I wish it were so simple for me. But at least I have the best role model right here under my roof and in my heart.