Silence is Platinum (Like, Better than Golden)

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Bed and Glennon, I am coming for you by 8:30pm. Mark my words.

My husband is going out to a work dinner tonight and my plan is to read. I just started Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle and it is so good I can hardly put it down. Her writing is just – I am not equipped with words to describe how good it is, that’s how good it is. I’ve been up way too late the last couple of nights devouring this book.

But let me go back to that first sentence. My husband is out tonight and my plan is to read. If this were 2017, when my drinking was at its most routine and therefore copious, my plan would have been to drink a bottle of wine and zone out in front of whatever was on Bravo TV. These days, I do still watch TV occasionally, but I crave books always. Since ditching booze my “me time” has completely evolved.

I used to always try to fill the silence. If I was driving, music was playing. As soon as I put my kids to bed, I’d come downstairs and play a Netflix show on my computer to have on in the background while I made grown-up dinner or cleaned up the kitchen.

Now I relish silence. My kids and I love listening to Broadway soundtracks (one of my greatest achievements in parenting) in the car, but when I’m driving alone there is quiet. My evening in-between time (that is, after kids are in bed and before my husband gets home) is almost always quiet, too, now. I cook or clean up or write or tie up any other of the day’s loose ends without feeling like I need to distract myself or stuff my brain with music or a show.

Has anyone else experienced this since cutting down on or cutting out alcohol? A renewed appreciation for quiet? And if so, why do you think that is?

I attribute my new-found love of silence to the simple fact that I am so much more content and comfortable with myself now. I don’t mind hanging out with myself because I’m no longer wallowing in a sea of shame or fighting the mental to-drink-or-not-to-drink battle all day long.

I like experiencing my thoughts now instead of trying to escape or distract from them.

I welcome silence as a chance to explore my thoughts, to ponder what I’ll write about today, to reflect, to just exist in a given quiet moment. And they do feel like gifts, these moments.

I welcome silence as a chance to check in with a person I’ve been delighted to uncover and get to know. She’s cool, and she’s got some interesting ideas flitting around in this ever-clear head of hers.

But she does still love her some “Queer Eye” and “Million Dollar Listing.” Because #priorities.

The Wine Witch Returns

I had one of the strongest booze cravings tonight that I’ve had in a very, very long time. I’m happy to report that I surfed the urge like a boss, but it was nevertheless unsettling.

Today was a loooong day. “No-school November,” as we call it around here, is a challenging time. The kids don’t have a full week of school until the last week of the month, so our tenuous fall routine has once again fizzled before my eyes, leaving me with two stir-crazy siblings-turned-frenzied-frenemies.

We managed a few successful diversions today. Kickboxing class for me (brought to you by the iPad, which kept my kids entertained for those precious 45 minutes); play date for my daughter (bless the mom of her friend, who let the girls frolic in a giant leaf pile); and a birthday party for my son (bless those parents who hosted the party at one of those bouncy castle places). But any time they were in our house my kids were either at each other’s throats or just plain rude, to each other and to me. Ugh.

By the time the witching hour finally rolled around, I had a sink full of dirty dishes with which to do battle as I attempted a new recipe which I must have botched because it turned out pretty nasty. I felt defeated by culinary chaos and exhausted from the resolve it took to not just scream my head off at my whiny, ungrateful children all day long.

My frayed nerves must have given the shriveled wine witch newfound life because all of a sudden, there she was. “You know what would make this better? Wine. A cold, crisp glass to help you escape this craziness. To help take the edge off. You deserve-”

Nope. Not happening. Scat! Go back into your hole! Bye, Felicia.

She retreated. And I began to “surf the urge.”

Why was I craving alcohol? A mountain of dirty dishes plus a particularly soul-sucking day of parenting? Welcome to Trigger City, where the streets are lined with sauvignon blanc and tequila grows on trees.

Would alcohol make anything better? No way. That’s an easy answer these days. It would have made me impaired, numb, dehydrated, and even more short-tempered than I already was. Most importantly, I would be showing my children that the answer to stress relief is alcohol. I don’t want them to grow up with that message like I did.

What could I do to improve my state of mind instead of boozing? Eat! My kids and I sat down to dinner and even though mine was pretty gross, my son ate his sugar snap peas without whining (!!!) and we ended up having a rather civilized and even – gasp! – enjoyable family meal.

But the dish mountain remained. To ward off the emboldened wine witch – well, first I ate a piece of chocolate in the pantry in the dark by myself (keepin’ it real y’all). Then I asked Echo to play the “Doing the Dishes” playlist – which is full of catchy pop music – and I got down with my dish pile while my kids funneled the last of their crazy energy into a rather adorable dance party.

I quashed the wine witch and I rallied to create something positive out of this slog of a day. And I’m proud of that. My kids are sound asleep and I am heading up to bed as soon as I finish writing. Tomorrow (a new day! Hallelujah!), I’m spinning at 6am and then I have my monthly weigh-in. So this mama needs to recharge her superpowers. That sounds better than getting my beauty rest, doesn’t it?

Either way, I am going to sleep with clean dishes and a clean conscience. Take that, wine witch!

Putting the “I” in Volunteer. Oh wait.

I tried my professional hat on today and it felt pretty uncomfortable at first. I have been volunteering in various capacities for a small local colon cancer organization for almost 15 years, and today I was asked to fill in for the executive director at a dinner we hosted for the awesome folks who comprise our fundraising team for the NYC Marathon. All of these people have a connection to colorectal cancer (as do I) and they all raised at least $3,000 to be able to run the marathon tomorrow. I figured if these people can train for four months to run 26.2 miles, the least I can do is put on real pants and makeup.

So I did. And I did my best to fill our wonderful executive director’s shoes.

My schmooze-ability was rusty at first. To be honest, since starting my OYAF and doing all this writing and reading and exploring life as a teetotaler, I have done a lot less volunteer work. And I feel tremendously guilty about that – when I relent to the force of old habits and allow myself to fall into that mindset. I no longer have colon cancer facts and figures readily accessible in my brain. But I had to make room for all this knowledge I’m acquiring about alcohol, and so the colon cancer stuff has been relegated to back shelves and has started to gather a bit of dust. So I felt rusty and awkward, trying to be all professional-like.

But then we shared our stories. I started by introducing myself to the group, telling everyone how my stepdad was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer in 2002 and passed away 20 short months later. A few months before he died, I ran a race in Central Park to raise awareness and funds for colon cancer, and I ended up being the top female fundraiser of the whole thing. My stepdad was so touched to receive such an outpouring of support, and it really made a difference in his final days. That experience also introduced me to this organization and I’ve been volunteering ever since.

Our marathon runners shared stories of loss and stories of survival. Many of us had not met each other before today, and yet there we were, instantly connected by this vicious but preventable disease. And now twenty people will take to the streets of New York City tomorrow in honor and memory of loved ones, to help spread this critical message of awareness.

This cause is still a part of my heart. But it’s also ok that I have stepped back from it a bit to focus on myself and conquer something that was holding me back from being the best I can be. I know that when I’m ready to dive back in, whether as a volunteer or employee, whether for this cause or another, I will be able to give more of myself because I am taking time to fully reveal and nurture this self.

This self is not quite ready for launch yet. And that’s ok. The schmoozing skills kicked back in by the end of today’s event, but I am also happy to be able to retreat back into my sweatpants and my Notes app to write this post. I will give what I can as a volunteer for now, and I will try not to judge myself for not giving more. Because I need to continue this internal work. And I’d like to think that by sharing this work, I am not just helping myself; I’m helping others too.

And when my evolved self is ready to launch back into real pants and makeup on a more regular basis, look out world. She’s gonna be fierce.

From Gut Punch to Gut Hug

As I was walking my dog in the warm drizzle this afternoon, stinky and unshowered after my kickboxing class and in a time crunch with our family’s crazy Friday schedule, I happily welcomed back – for a fleeting moment – a feeling that I’m calling the gut hug.

A gut hug is like a gut punch, but good.

Like a gut punch, a gut hug can come out of nowhere, for no reason. It’s fleeting, but profound. It can fill you up. It can take your breath away.

A gut punch feels awful. It’s a moment of powerlessness. Perhaps panic. Perhaps grief. A gut hug, on the other hand, is a moment of joy. Contentment. Beauty. Awe.

When I was walked my dog this afternoon, it was pretty miserable outside. And I could actually smell myself, I was so ripe from sweating out the chocolate and tortilla chips in kickboxing class. Which is probably TMI – but this is just to say that it’s not like I was primed for joy.

Nevertheless, it hit me. Or, rather, the gut hug enveloped me in warmth and light and happiness. I thought about snuggling on the couch with my husband to watch a movie tonight. I thought about fresh flannel sheets on the my kids’ cozy new bunk bed that we’ll have in the farmhouse. I thought to myself, “GOD I LOVE MY LIFE. LIFE IS SO GOOD AND SO BEAUTIFUL I CAN HARDLY STAND IT.”

I felt so full, so deeply content. Thinking about sheets! Who am I?!

And then it passed and Fred and I continued on our way around the neighborhood.

Here’s the thing: when I was drinking, I never felt a gut hug that was not immediately followed by a gut punch of anxiety. And I’m not sure that something like flannel sheets could conjure a gut hug in those days, either. Because it was hard to see how life is, in fact, perfect in all its imperfections when I was too busy turning imperfections into catastrophes in my anxious, foggy brain.

Now that the fog has cleared I exist in a near-constant state of receptivity. Anxiety and negative self-talk still sidetrack me, as they have lately. But mostly it’s “Universe, what is in store for me today? Sunlight stunningly passing through fiery orange leaves, perhaps? A soul-filling morning snuggle with one or both of my kids? Whatever it is, I am open. BRING IT.”

I’ll take a gut hug over a gut punch any day.

When WW Stands for Woke Weenie

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I am a Libra. I hardly ever take a stand on anything because I avoid conflict like my son avoids broccoli. I dig peace and justice. I don’t like discord. Let’s all just hold hands and be BFFs, K?

I don’t know a lot about astrology, but I generally believe in the traits associated with signs. My personality certainly seems true to the Libra scales. What is also true is that I have hidden behind my zodiac sign, both consciously and subconsciously, since I learned what it was. I am a Libra who is also just kind of a weenie who doesn’t like putting herself out there and then being told that I am wrong or uninformed or anything negative, really. (Well, but I mean, who does.) (But still. I am a weenie and I admit it.)

Yesterday, I decided to try my hand at standing up for something. The cover of the new issue of WW Magazine, depicting hands toasting wine and the words, “Cheers! Here’s to Health, Joy & Connection,” bugged me. It bugged me enough that I decided to write about it.

So I did. I spent about an hour writing. One hour out of the two and a half that I have free most afternoons, while my son is at school. During this time, I also have to walk my dogs, make my lunch, and address any other of the myriad life tasks the day demands.

I posted the piece to Connect (the WW social media network), then to Instagram, then here to this blog. I felt proud of what I’d done and, I admit, I hoped my post would garner some attention. But then my post started to trend, and I started to get some negative comments. Pride turned to anxiety. Satisfaction turned to ickiness. Regret creeped uninvited into my mix of emotions and I fell into a bit of a tailspin.

“I’m proud of you.” This humble instant message was sent by my husband after he read my post on Instagram. And it meant everything.

He knows I’m a weenie. He knows how much it takes for me to dredge up enough courage to present my point of view on a potentially contentious topic. He also knows that I’m still finding my voice. And his kind and simple words helped me boil my stew of mixed emotions back down to that first ingredient: pride.

This morning, with butterflies in my stomach, I went back and read all 140 of the comments my post received on Connect. Most were supportive of my viewpoint. But more importantly, many of the comments were thoughtful, well-articulated, and opened my eyes to other sides of the alcohol issue and other issues related to WW rebranding itself as a “wellness” company. As for the negative stuff, well, it still bothered me. I wish it didn’t. I’ll get there, I hope.

These last 24 hours have been enlightening for me, to say the least! Here are my top three takeaways from my adventure-atop-a-soapbox:

  1. Social media is… sigh. Wonderful and awful. The best and the worst. Tricky. Because you can just throw anything out there and there’s no telling how, or where, or for how long it will stick. Part of me wishes I had spent longer writing the piece, because there are some things I would have changed. But I was really hungry and had to pick up my kid from school. I did my best in the time I decided was appropriate to spend on it. But, yikes. Oops. Eh. Sigh.
  2. Some people don’t actually read what you write. They will read what they expect or want to read. I received several comments talking about how “offended” I was by the magazine cover when I never used that word in my post. (One person even put the word in quotes! Who was she quoting? We’ll never know!) I was disappointed, yes. Offended, no. These are not the same thing, y’all. Read the words, please.
  3. I now have a more woke view of WW – which, at the end of the day, is a company that needs to make its shareholders happy (read: rich). So they put glasses of wine (but they are moderate pours, people!) on their cover because wine sells more magazines than water. And who doesn’t aspire to a life lived in perfect moderation? Join WW and you’ll become a moderation maven! …after years and years of dedication and practice. Maybe.

Here’s the deal, yo. I stand behind what I wrote and I acknowledge that my piece could have been better. I also see that WW is a company with an inherent conflict between its new mission of wellness – not just weight loss – and its priority to make a profit. I firmly believe WW needs to do a better job reconciling this conflict. I hope the company chooses to make its boatloads of dough while retaining integrity. And I will not shy away from calling out the good folks at WW HQ if I feel they are not.

Consider me more woke. And maybe a little less of a weenie.

Really, WW Mag? Booze as Your Holiday Cover Girl?

I have never been one to stand on a soapbox, and I have debated all day about whether to write about this. But the more I think about it, the more upset I get. I have to call out WW (that’s the newly rebranded WeightWatchers, y’all) and WW Magazine on their November/December cover. I am disappointed and perplexed as to why a company which has just rebranded itself to encompass the concept of “wellness” and claims to be the provider of “Wellness That Works” would celebrate alcohol as its holiday cover girl; and, further, insinuate that alcohol is the path to “health, joy & connection.”

In reality, a recent study published in the Lancet states that “the safest level of drinking is none.” Alcohol is a leading cause of disease and death world-wide, killing 2.8 million people every year. In the United States, 88,000 lives are lost annually to alcohol, making it the third-leading preventable cause of death. Alcohol is to blame for nearly 1 in 10 deaths of those aged 15-49 – the likely age bracket of the folks shown toasting wine on the new cover of WW Magazine.

How about showing hands toasting with hot chocolate? Or, as someone suggested on Connect, showing some hands toasting with non-alcoholic beverages? How about showing a happy holiday table scene that – gasp! – does NOT include alcohol?

I realize that the vast majority of holiday celebrations – including mine – involve alcohol. I am not standing in judgement of anyone who chooses to imbibe on a holiday or any other day.

But I am also a person for whom “gray area drinking” – that is, not hitting rock bottom but drinking enough to feel a lack of control compounded by guilt and shame – was enough of an issue that I have sworn off the stuff for a year. I have also come to trust in WW as a lifestyle that works better for me than anything else I’ve tried. I lost 23 pounds in 2017 and have kept it off with the help of my trusty tracker. I summoned the courage to take a break from drinking because of the incredible support of my #sobersisters on Connect. I achieved Lifetime two months ago (meaning, for those who are unfamiliar with WW, that as long as I stay within two pounds of my goal weight I have free access to the program) and plan to stick with WW for the foreseeable future.

So I feel let down by this magazine cover. I am not asking WW to take an anti-alcohol stance. But I do ask WW to reconsider its messaging. I believe that a wellness company should not promote alcohol, the most commonly-used addictive substance in the US, as integral to “health, joy & connection.”

Alcohol is not the key to “health, joy & connection.” Alcohol is the fast lane heading in the exact opposite direction.

Sources:

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)31310-2/fulltext

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/08/24/alcohol-death-disease-study-beer-wine/1082443002/

https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics

https://www.ncadd.org/about-addiction/alcohol/facts-about-alcohol

One. Hundred. Days.

One hundred days of sobriety
Of alcohol-freedom
Of clarity
Of growth
Of presence
Of progress
Of learning
Of exploring
Of curiosity
Of beauty
Of pride
Of realness
Of honesty
Of support
Of courage
Of candor
Of confidence
Of authenticity
Of love
Of contentment
Of grace
Of peace.

One hundred days since I have consumed alcohol: an addictive, harmful substance that I once valued as integral to my life. I thought it brought me relaxation, when really it compounded my anxiety. I thought it made me happy and energized, when really it made me moody and exhausted. I thought hangovers were my price to pay for having a treat, when alcohol was a trick all along.

I don’t blame myself for being tricked. I don’t blame myself for still thinking about alcohol and sometimes really, really wanting it. And you shouldn’t either. Walking this unconventional path and dismantling decades of subconscious programming ain’t for sissies. Ain’t got time for the blame game.

So I don’t blame myself for missing it. I miss alcohol the way I used to miss old boyfriends. I knew they weren’t good for me, so I broke up with them. But I missed them, and on one or two occasions I took them back before breaking up with them again. Because navigating life without them was hard. It was a lot easier having a companion, a crutch, an excuse, a distraction, than it was to forge ahead on my own. But I persisted, because deep down I knew I didn’t deserve to settle. Then I met my husband. And I realized how good life could really be, how deeply I could love and be loved. How complete and content I could feel.

Breaking up with alcohol has done the same. I never knew adult life could be like this. This full of all that is good. All that I listed above, and so much more. Having left this long-term toxic relationship behind, I once again feel complete and content.

When I first stopped drinking on January 1, the start of my first of three breaks this year, I felt a vast, profound void. I felt a sense of loss. I felt disoriented and adrift. But I knew, in my gut, I had to forge ahead. I knew I deserved better.

I received the myriad, life-changing gifts of sobriety like my kids tearing into their presents on Christmas Day. Gimme gimme gimme. Is there more? There is? Yay! But unlike half of those toys which inevitably end up broken or unused, I hold these precious gifts tenderly in my heart and in my mind, and I access them daily.

One hundred days.

I’ve written this after dozing for a couple of hours on my flight to London. It’s almost 2AM in New York, and we are landing soon. I am so very tired, yet so very thrilled to be celebrating my first 100 days and kicking off the next 100 in one of my favorite places on the planet. I may be on my own, embarking on this next adventure. But I know I’m not alone.

I was never alone. And neither are you.