My Alcohol Experiment: Day 7

Day 7 of The Alcohol Experiment: alcohol and your senses.

Ack! I wish I had read this entry this morning instead of tonight, because I feel like I could have spent my day today really appreciating my senses and how finely tuned they are without alcohol and I could have written something really great. Sorry folks! I’ll do my best!

The lesson today discusses how alcohol numbs all five of our senses by slowing down neurotransmitters, which move information between our body and our brain. When we drink, we numb ourselves to everything, including pleasure, happiness, and the ability to create wonderful memories. There are many (many, many) blurry nights in my past and that makes me feel embarrassed and ashamed. But also proud of myself for doing this experiment now, ensuring that I will have many (many, many) clear nights and wonderful memories ahead of me.

As Annie says, “Your senses are what make you feel alive. Treat them with respect.”

I would love to hear from those of you who have spent time, whether it’s today or some other day recently, focusing on your senses sans booze. What have you noticed? What have you especially appreciated?

Almost every morning, I am woken by my 4-year-old son (and his stuffed dog lovey) climbing into bed with me. He is warm and his jammies are soft and he is a snuggle master. He’ll often start talking or singing quietly (or not quietly), his face pressed up against my face. I usually have my eyes closed, clinging to the last moments of precious sleep before the day begins. I can hear his sweet voice and how he still pronounces his L’s like W’s. I can feel his increasingly strong and solid limbs and what’s left of his baby belly. I can smell his morning breath, which is a little stinky but still sweet to me. These first moments of my day are so precious, it pains me to think of how many of them were thrown away with hangovers. One day he will stop coming into our room to snuggle. And that will break my heart. So until then, I will drink in these moments and relish the exquisite sounds and snuggles and smells. And I will try to remember to appreciate how darn lucky I am to be able to do just that.

The video today focuses on the relationship between alcohol and depression, another very informative piece of this puzzle that I highly recommend viewing. “Alcohol is only giving back what it has taken away” – a good takeaway for us all, I think!

[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. If you would like to be tagged in my posts please let me know in comments!]

My Alcohol Experiment: Day 6

Day 6 of The Alcohol Experiment: start spreading the news. Or not. Do what works for you!

This is an interesting and timely topic for me today, as I have been contending with the social double-whammy of St. Patrick’s Day and throwing a birthday party for my 4-year-old son (triple whammy if you count my dad and stepmom being here and my dad starting to drink at 11am, two hours before the birthday party even started).

Annie Grace makes the point that telling friends that you are not drinking is a lot more complex than it may seem, because, in her view, society does not acknowledge that alcohol is addictive. And that is how we justify the fact that so many of us drink so much.

So, in cutting back or cutting out alcohol, you are setting yourself apart from your friends and that can be uncomfortable and nerve-wracking. Ultimately, I think the message in today’s lesson is the more comfortable and confident you are with your choice, the less of a big deal it will be.

I definitely identified with Annie’s evolution in how she has dealt with ditching booze. She went from being preachy to self-deprecating to, finally, just authentically positive. I have a hard time not preaching to friends and family about all I have learned about alcohol and its effects on the body. This knowledge has felt like such a life-changing gift, it’s something I am very eager to share with others. But I have to remind myself how deeply personal an issue drinking truly is. The last thing I would ever want to do is accidentally shame a friend.

So I have tried the self-deprecating approach as well. Especially this time around, because I feel like a lot of people are perfectly accepting of Dry January, or a post-holiday detox. But this time, I have voluntarily chosen to go alcohol-free for 30 days starting randomly in the middle of March. A time period that includes St. Patrick’s Day, a girls’ weekend, a school gala, and other events in which alcohol would normally play a prominent role for me. These 30 days are tougher for me to explain to people. So I have gone the self-deprecating route: “I know, what is wrong with me?!” “What was I thinking?!” “I know I’m crazy, but…”

Like Annie, I feel inauthentic when I make statements like that. Because I feel RIGHT making this choice, I know exactly what I’m thinking, and I actually feel quite sane and even proud for doing this right now, with all of these opportunities to experience fun events sober instead of drunk!

So I am trying to get myself to a confident, positive place pronto. I believe that if I own this choice, proudly but not pompously, I can address any questions directly and efficiently and we can move past it. And if pressed, I can honestly and authentically say that I have just been so exhausted lately that I figured I need all the help I can get, and cutting out booze gives me a good boost of energy. Which is the simple truth. No biggie!

So far, my friends have been totally supportive and seem to get it. I do sometimes wonder if they think I have a problem, or if they think I think I have a problem – but when I start to go down that road, I try to u-turn as quickly as I can. Because I have good friends, and even if they don’t fully understand my choice or feel a bit awkward around me right now, I know that they will support me as best they can.

I am going to end here for tonight, because I have eaten WAY too much cake and other junk today (another epic sugar and salt snack attack and I feel disgusting – but that’s an issue for another day). My son’s birthday party was such a blast, both my kids truly had the time of their lives, but it’s not even 9pm on St. Patrick’s Day and I am busted. So worth it though! And I’d rather be busted and bloated than wasted! At least I’ve got that going for me.

But I did just want to mention – if anyone reading these posts is feeling anxious about or hung up on the term “alcoholic,” I highly recommend the bonus video included in the material from Day 6 (or the equivalent section of This Naked Mind). Annie Grace has a VERY strong stance on this topic that I found enlightening and liberating.

Hoping everyone is having a wonderful and fun St. Patrick’s Day!

[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.]

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.]

My Alcohol Experiment: Day 4

Day 4 of #TheAlcoholExperiment: cravings and how to deal with them.

Considering the main metaphor here is that your craving (which comes from your subconscious) is the child and you (and your conscious) are the parent, this one certainly resonates!

The two words that immediately came to mind when asked to describe my cravings are strong and stubborn. What other descriptors would you use?

And how do your cravings make you feel? Mine make me feel weak. Powerless. Unsure of myself. Desperate.

… in fact, very similar to when my kids ask for something, like a toy, for no reason, and whine about it, and whine some more. And I try to talk them out of it and tell them all the reasons why I will not buy them a toy, but they continue to fight me on it until I find myself pulling into the Target parking lot and telling them they can pick ONE thing from the dollar section at the front. And do I ever leave Target with just one thing? Does anybody?! No. If I submit to buying them a toy, I rarely stick to buying them just one. I’ll buy them a few small things. But even the small things add up, don’t they? What benefit do my kids actually get from these cheap tchotchkes? Not much. And who ends up dealing with the consequences, eventually having to clean these forgotten items out from the bottom of the toy bin? Me.

So yeah, as I said, the whole child-parent thing resonates.

If I submit to a craving and pour myself a glass of wine, I’ll rarely stick to just one. And even the small pours add up, don’t they? What benefit do I get? Not much. And who ends up dealing with the consequences, waking puffy-faced, guilt-laden and dehydrated from a crappy night of sleep? Me.

I have been a parent for six years now. And even though my kids still break me on occasion, I consider myself to be a pretty strong and fair and happy mom. It took me awhile, but I found my balance, my confidence, my peace. I have learned to not take their whining or tantrums personally (even if I’m not always successful at it). Ultimately, my kids know who’s boss.

So cravings, watch out. I’m onto you. No means no. And I’m the boss.

[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.]

My Alcohol Experiment: Day 3

Day 3 of The Alcohol Experiment: going to the root to do the work and dealing with discomfort.

So much material here! Is every day like this?!

Here are my answers to two of the questions from today:

What temptations have you had so far?

Excerpts from my internal monologue: It’s ANOTHER snow day, and I’m cooped up in the house all day with the kids. I want to drink to have “me time” and to chillax. This has been SUCH a challenging winter, I want to drink to ease the stress of it. I have wine in my house, I might as well drink it to get rid of it. I DESERVE a drink. I spend my day doing things for others, especially my kids, and I want to do something for myself. Tonight, my husband and I are going out for a date night and to toast the last night of our son’s threenagerhood. I want to toast with alcohol! I want to celebrate! How do I celebrate without alcohol?!

How do you feel when you look at the above statements?

I feel weak. I feel gross. I feel like alcohol has control of me. I feel uncreative and lame. If I give in, I feel good for the first drink and then spend the rest of the night trying to catch that same buzz – and I now know I never will.

… so why do I continue to put myself in that position of weakness?

According to Annie Grace’s doctor friend, I am walking in a trench that is over my head, formed from years of giving into alcohol cravings and dug by the neural pathways created in the emotional side of my brain.

But there is a way out! It takes effort and presence but we can break down the walls of the trench, climb out and forge a new path. Each day abounds with negative thoughts that can turn into false beliefs. The more we can deal with these thoughts in the moment, the less stable our mental trench becomes.

Annie Grace talks about going to the root to do the work. Instead of just relying on willpower, which will eventually run out and lead to self-sabotage, we have the capacity to understand what is truly happening and to tackle it head on. How empowering is that! I personally feel that if I can tackle my alcohol issues in this way, I’ll be able to apply the same methods to my issues with junk food cravings. A girl can dream!

I thought today’s lesson was a wonderful reminder that as we forge ahead, whether it’s with The Alcohol Experiment or with Weight Watchers in general, or anything you are currently tackling in your life, we should aim to do so in a state of grace and kindness. Let’s all be as kind to ourselves as we are to our friends and we can make incredible progress.

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

My Alcohol Experiment: Day 2

Day 2 of The Alcohol Experiment: the drinking cycle [spoiler alert: it’s fundamentally same for all of us and it’s not our fault!] and SLEEEEEEEP.

This is one of the main reasons why I decided to go back to being alcohol-free. Our house is full of two young kids, one senior dog, and a puppy – and sometimes it’s like they are in cahoots to ensure that mama does not get a full night of sleep. One night it’s the kindergartener waking me at 2am, the next night it’s the puppy. Granted it’s not as bad as the newborn baby days, but an uninterrupted night’s sleep is still not a sure thing and may never be again.

Since I already have a house full of little beings conspiring against me, why would I want to conspire against myself? I realized during Dry January how great a sober, like-a-rock night of sleep truly is, and I ecstatically enjoyed the benefits of it. I couldn’t believe how much natural energy I had.

The last four weeks have been so crazy I am just pooped. I am desperate for energy, and I know that sleep is the key.

So, thank you Annie Grace for bringing home this point with a super helpful explanation of just how profoundly drinking affects sleep. Added bonus that the guy doing the explaining has an adorable British accent.

ANY amount of alcohol affects sleep. Right now I am so desperate to gain energy back that is a risk I am happy to avoid!

Will I ever feel really well rested ever again? Does any parent feel well rested? Ha!

 

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

My Alcohol Experiment: Day 1

Whoa! I didn’t realize I would have homework every day of The Alcohol Experiment!

But that’s ok. I’m actually very intrigued by this process. Having written a daily Connect post during Dry January, I’m excited to let Annie Grace help guide my thought process this time around. I read her book This Naked Mind during Dry January, so the material she covers here is familiar to me, and I’m looking forward to taking my exploration to the next level with this interactive “experiment.”

“Excited.” “Looking forward.” These are good signs, right? I remember how nervous, sad, and scared I was to start Dry January. Now I am voluntarily embarking on another month without booze and I am excited for it. I am excited to give this gift to myself. THAT is progress, even if the last six weeks of attempted moderation have not been my best, I HAVE made progress. Phew.

So. Day 1 homework. Write two lists: why you drink, and why you are choosing to do The Alcohol Experiment. Behold how they conflict! Eureka!

Here are my lists:

Why I Drink

  • Drinking makes me feel giddy and happy and relaxed (at first).
  • Wine helps me cope with my kids are the end of the day, giving me an energy boost and helping me relax during the witching hour.
  • Drinking is something I can do for ME, not for my kids or anyone else. It’s ME TIME.
  • I drink to relieve stress.
  • Drinking helps me unwind.
  • Drinking helps me feel more confident and outgoing.
  • Alcohol makes me funnier.
  • I like the taste of some wines and mixed drinks.

What’s My Why (i.e. why am I doing The Alcohol Experiment)

  • I will not reach my weight loss goal if I continue to drink the way I am drinking.
  • I will not exercise as often if I continue my drinking habits.
  • I want to be thinner and more fit.
  • I want to have more energy.
  • I want to be more patient with my kids, especially in the evenings.
  • I don’t want to wake up feeling puffy, dehydrated and disgusting.
  • I want to start the day feeling AHEAD, not BEHIND.
  • I want my sin to look more clear.
  • I want to get rid of my “wine belly.”
  • I want to be able to be socially confident WITHOUT relying on alcohol.
  • I want to be free.

Today’s video is a “3D belief deconstruction” (basically a PowerPoint) on the concept of drinking alcohol for the taste, which is a popular reason why people drink. I certainly grew up seeing all the adults in my life seeming to enjoy alcohol. My first drink was a rum and Coke, heavy on the Coke to cover up the taste of rum. I remember not particularly liking it, but feeling like I should. I definitely did not like wine or beer when I first started drinking. So yes, I agree that alcohol is quite literally an acquired taste.

But do I like it? I still believe on some level that I do. I love margaritas. I like the taste of wine, some grapes more than others. I love pumpkin beer. Or do I?

Do I? Hmm.

 

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