Me at Sixty (Days Alcohol-Free)

Today has felt like a normal day. A bit better than average, perhaps, what with my Peloton PR this morning, beautiful weather, and kids who ate their veggies without starting World War III. 

And then I remember that today is Day 60. I have not had a sip of alcohol in sixty days. I absorb that. I do a silly little mental dance that is a celebration of both the milestone and the normalcy. 

I am not at the end of a marathon. I am at the beginning of a new era in my life. An era of self-kindness, self-love, self-care. An era of energy, creativity, curiosity, gratitude. An era of joy and contentment. A time when not every moment will be happy, and no moment will be perfect, but every moment will be beautiful in its clarity.

More concretely though – because back in my drinking days I never could have imagined what it would feel like to go for 60 days without booze: 

How do I feel, having gone for 60 days without booze?

I feel lighter, both physically and mentally. I am still about the same weight that I have been, plus or minus 5lbs, for the past year. But I am less puffy and bloated. Mentally, I feel like a weight has been lifted as my willpower has not been drained on a daily basis with the to-drink-or-not-to-drink quandary. 

I feel stronger, both physically and mentally. Physically, I am stronger because I have been very dedicated to my spinning and kickboxing workouts. It’s a lot easier to exercise when I’m not feeling like crap! Go figure. But I am also mentally stronger. I have been building brainpower, breaking down my former beliefs about booze, and forging new neural pathways. I have been educating myself, and reinforcing this new knowledge by writing and applying these new tools in my everyday life.  

I feel more energized – and beyond that, I have more endurance – both physically and mentally. I marvel at how I am able to get through the day with a constant stream of energy. I no longer feel broken by the time I’m putting my kids to bed. I honestly didn’t know life could be like this! Mentally, I have regained the creative energy that I thought I’d lost due to #momlife (spoiler alert: it was actually due to #winelife). My brain is hungry, y’all. Hungry to learn and do and try and be.

I feel less anxious. That’s not to say I don’t still feel anxious sometimes, but my formerly crippling anxiety is now minimal and manageable.

I feel healthier on every level of my being. From my non-existent seasonal allergies and my clear skin to my clear head and my clear conscience. With all of that comes a new level of kindness and grace that I now give myself on a daily basis. The positive self-talk is actually happening now. I’m even buying more organic foods and health and beauty products. Which may seem like a silly thing, except it means that I now see myself as a worthwhile investment.

I now see myself as a worthwhile investment. 

I needed to type that again. Because it’s true. And it’s wonderful.

Alcohol’s role in my life has diminished from a controlling, willpower-draining force to a wisp of its former self, a mere passing thought that is (usually, though not always) easily dismissed. 

And oh, have I filled this void. There have been times where I’ve filled it with sugar and salt and carbs. But mostly I’ve filled it with good-for-me-goodness: positive self-talk; healthy foods; exercise; an authentic conversation with a friend or family member; reading and writing; play and snuggles with my kids. 

Needless to say, I don’t miss drinking much.

Am I going to stay alcohol-free? No. I am going to have a pomegranate margarita when I go out to lunch for Mother’s Day with my mom this weekend. Do I hope it’s not as good as I remember? Yes. Either way, will it derail me? No.

Because I have come too far to tumble back down to where I was. I am still on a journey. I am not committing to “forever.” I am committing to my non-negotiables, hoping that these lines in the sand will continue to guide me to my best life. I am committing to more reading and writing and learning. I am committing to loving myself and loving my life every day as much as I do today – if not more. And that is enough, for now.

My Alcohol Experiment: Day 5

Day 5 of The Alcohol Experiment: deconstructing the relaxation myth.

I think if I hadn’t already read This Naked Mind, today’s lesson would have blown my mind. Having grown up watching my parents drink to relax on a nightly basis, I boozed at countless Margarita Mondays and happy hours in my 20s and spent the last six years fully subscribed to the notion that “mommy needs her mommy juice” to survive the witching hour. I have spent my life surrounded by the prevalent, inescapable message that alcohol eases stress and anxiety and so of course my subconscious believed it. Annie Grace tells us not to blame ourselves for this. Thanks, Annie!

True relaxation means having no worries, and is achieved by addressing the source – not numbing it with alcohol. In fact, the conflict in our brains between loving drinking and hating being hungover CAUSES stress instead of relieving it.

This makes such sense, yet I was oblivious to it until I read Annie’s book during Dry January. Once I read this section of her book, about half-way through January, I realized that my ever-present anxiety had basically disappeared. What a gift. What freedom.

Today, I finally got the energy boost I’ve been waiting for. I woke up before my son (he usually serves as our alarm), feeling clear-headed and ready to start the day – despite the fact that yesterday was absolutely non-stop and exhausting.

Tonight, I looked at the bottle of bourbon that my dad bought yesterday – and it’s nearly half empty. I also can’t help but see that his eyes look red and bleary. And at lunch today I noticed that one of his hands was shaking, ever so slightly.

Having my dad and stepmom here while doing this work has been objectively fascinating, personally challenging, and maybe a little sad. Because I am witnessing first-hand the effects that Annie Grace describes. The dependence. The physical impact. When I was young I remember my dad drinking a beer or two. Tonight, he drank a quarter bottle of bourbon and almost an entire bottle of red wine. I thought being alcohol-free around my parents would be difficult because I would want to drink to relieve the stress. It turns out it’s difficult because I see how far down this rabbit hole my dad has fallen. I now have an acute understanding of the process his mind and body have been through and the deficit at which he is operating on a daily basis.

I am trying to just observe and accept, not judge or pity. But it’s a tough line to walk.

Onto Day 6, wherein I will throw a ninja party for 20 4-year-olds and most definitely not earn a blue dot because if mama can’t drink, you know there’s gonna be a big-ass piece of cake!

[The Alcohol Experiment is a free, interactive 30-day program designed by Annie Grace, author of This Naked Mind. For more information: www.alcoholexperiment.com.]

Barf. Literally.

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I drank a bottle of wine last night.

WTF?!

After all the progress I’ve made?! WHY would I do that to myself?! I promised myself I would never drink a bottle of wine in one night again. I committed to not drinking wine at home for the month of March. And yet I did! I drank an entire bottle of wine at home last night. UGH!!!

… This is not actually my inner monologue. For once, I am not beating myself up about drinking too much. Instead of surrendering to my usual guilt spiral, and perhaps because I have not been drunk since December, I am reflecting on my behavior in a much more objective – and less damning, and less damaging – way.

This is fairly remarkable for me, as I am a frequent passenger on the guilt train. One of the reasons I so desperately signed up for Dry January is that I was in a heinous cycle of waking every morning if not fully hungover, at least puffy, groggy and stale; committing to not drinking that day; then feeling frayed by the time the witching hour rolled around and pouring myself a glass of wine anyway, which would inevitably become three or four glasses (if not more) by the time I went to bed in a haze; and start all over again the next morning. I knew I needed a clean break from this cycle and that is what I achieved.

I conquered Dry January and felt on top of the world. Yet I was not ready to say goodbye to wine forever. So over the last five weeks I have been attempting moderation: drinking when I am out at night or on vacation, and not drinking at home.

The freedom I felt during Dry January has evaporated. To drink or not to drink is now a choice again. And making this choice takes energy. Willpower. And willpower is a finite resource.

So last night, when our power finally came back on after four long days, I was out of willpower. I wanted tortilla chips and wine and I didn’t even try to fight these unhealthy urges – despite simultaneously composing yesterday’s post about how empowering my first year on Weight Watchers had been.

I copped to the chips and chocolate in yesterday’s post, but I left out the wine. Why did I do that? I’ll be totally honest: I didn’t want my Connect friends to think less of me. Because opening that bottle made ME think a little less of me.

And at the same time, I was curious to revisit my old ways. So I allowed myself to surrender to old habits, slugging back the Sauvignon Blanc while feeding my kids dinner, and finishing the bottle a couple of hours later. My husband and I had a delightfully normal night of eating dinner on the couch while watching “Fixer Upper.” I didn’t get sloppy. But I didn’t necessarily enjoy my buzz either.

We went to bed. And a few hours later, half-asleep, I made my way to the bathroom and I threw up.

I FREAKING THREW UP.

I threw up from drinking an amount of wine which, by the time I reached the end of 2017, was what I’d imbibe on any given evening. Yikes.

I woke up feeling predictably gross this morning, and perversely grateful that I got sick overnight because at least I was able to purge some of the junk from my system. I have felt nasty and eaten tons of crap all day as my family and I weather cabin fever during yet another snow storm.

But you know what? Ain’t got time or energy to beat myself up. Instead, I am choosing to reflect and learn from my experience. And here’s what I learned:

Dry January helped my body reset its tolerance for alcohol and break from habitual drinking. And it made me feel like a million bucks. Drinking in front of my kids makes me feel like a loser. And consuming an entire bottle of wine now makes me sick. Good to know!

I really, really wish I hadn’t wanted to open that bottle last night. The last four days of not being able to stay in our house, coming on the heels of three routine-less weeks of travel, snow days, and illnesses, were the whipped cream and cherry on top of a big ol’ cortisol sundae. I was vibrating with stress by the time the power came back on last night. And the only thing I could think of to help me chillax was wine.

These were exceptional circumstances, and I’m disappointed that I resorted to old habits. Throwing up last night and feeling like crap today have been effective reminders of why I broke those habits in the first place. All I can hope is to continue this process of self-reflection, to continue to evolve, with grace and without judgement. Perhaps next time I’ll be strong enough to not open that bottle.

Dry January Day 23

Still tired (i.e. Fred is me). But a solid sober day. And that in itself is an accomplishment.

I was able to carve out some reading time this morning and made it through more of This Naked Mind – coincidentally, the “Liminal Point” chapter on drinking to relieve stress and anxiety. It just hit me this week that my usual anxiety has been MIA for the past several weeks. I feel cautiously liberated from this ever-present mental burden that ebbs and flows between minor irritant and consuming captor.

I thought alcohol eased stress. I drank “to take the edge off.” But I was wrong. Totally wrong. Duped. And I know now I’m neither alone nor at fault.

As Annie Grace puts it, “Why do we believe alcohol helps stress and anxiety? Because it can make you oblivious to your stressors even when it’s worsening them… it inebriates you, which covers the pain for a short amount of time. As soon as it wears off, your stress returns and, over time, multiplies.”

Yup.

So. Day 23 in the bag. 6am Peloton spin class completed, blue dot earned. Aiming for more sleep tonight to start feeling more on my game tomorrow!

 

Dry January Day 21

Alcohol-free for three weeks: check!

During intense and exciting football playoff game: check (even though there was a lot of buffalo chicken dip consumed)!

And through another weekend with relative ease: check!

I’ve got this.

And here’s what else I’ve got:

  • More energy
  • More patience
  • More space in my brain
  • A clearer brain
  • A more creative brain
  • Increased productivity
  • Clearer, brighter, more glowing, less congested skin (and I have always had problem skin)
  • Less belly bloat (inching – or at least millimetering – my way to #bikinigoals)
  • Deeper sleep

And a huge one for me that I am just now starting to believe:

  • Less anxiety.

This is not a comprehensive list. This is just off the top of my head on a tired (but happy!) Sunday night.

The anxiety piece is something I want to read more about. I have dealt with varying degrees of anxiety since I was a kid. I never thought about the impact alcohol had on my anxiety. Never thought to connect the two. But it occurred to me at some point this weekend that I have not felt anxious in, well, about three weeks. I am cautiously embracing the liberation I feel. Trying to stay present. And eager to explore this further in the coming days.

I weighed myself this morning (the day before tomorrow’s weigh-in) and I had gained a half-pound. Which was discouraging, considering how clean I ate this week and how great my exercise routine has been. In my discouragement, I ate too much junk today. I’ve stayed within my weekly points, but I’m expecting a perplexing gain tomorrow. Disappointing, BUT at least I have been sticking with Dry January like a boss. Tomorrow is a new day and a new week and I’m so proud for making it this far.