Wedding Day Gazing

Today is my ninth wedding anniversary. I have a feeling that if I took my dress out of its box, it would still fit – #thankyouweightwatchers. Maybe I’ll actually try it on for our big 10th next year!

Unlike in previous years, today I am looking back at my wedding day through an alcohol-free lens. And it’s an interesting view.

I’m happy to say I didn’t get tanked at my wedding. The day and night are a blur in my memory, but not because of booze – just because it was the most momentous day of my life up to that point and even though I tried to absorb every moment deep into my bones it went by in a beautiful, picture-perfect flash.

I didn’t get tanked at my wedding, but alcohol played a role. We had champagne for the toasts, of course. After an embarrassing brush with a drunken relative I made a break for the bar, only to be disappointed that the bartender served me the Chardonnay we had on hand for my stepmom instead of the Sauvignon Blanc I’d ordered.

But besides that, I didn’t drink. I remember this was a very purposeful strategy. I didn’t drink because I wanted to remember everything. I thought it would be hard to stay away from wine on my wedding night, but it wasn’t. First of all because I was SO EFFING THIRSTY the whole time, so all I wanted was water. But I didn’t want to drink too much water, because I didn’t want to have to pee in my dress. Oh, and secondly? Because I was having the time of my life and I didn’t want alcohol to mess with my bridal vibe.

I told myself not to drink too much, and I was too busy having the time of my life to break this rule that I had broken so many times before, and have broken so many times since.

I wish I had realized it then: that I don’t need alcohol to have a great time. That, in fact, alcohol often makes a good time bad and a bad time worse.

I wish I had applied the lesson I learned on my wedding night to my life once it went back to my newlywed normal. Alas, the lesson was lost in all the momentousness.

Do I blame myself for this? No way. Am I grateful to be able to see it all so clearly now? You betcha.

And that is the beauty of this year. I will experience all of these special days – anniversaries, birthdays, holidays – without alcohol. And if this day is any indication, important insights await me at every milestone. Little gifts of clarity around every corner of the calendar.

Day 77. My longest AF streak ever, not counting my pregnancies. Yay. Onward.

Alcohol-Free Football Season Game Plan


Football season is upon us. I am giddy thinking about everything Fall. This has always been my favorite season. I love that the crisp weather necessitates jeans and a hoodie sweatshirt. I love taking our kids to the pumpkin patch and apple-picking. Having grown up going to college football games and coming from a family of diehard fans, I love watching NFL games on Sundays. And I love all the treats of the season, of course: fresh apple cider donuts, pumpkin spice coffee, pumpkin spice muffins, pumpkin beer –

Oh wait. There won’t be any of that this year.

Right. Alcohol-free Fall. Lazy sober Sundays watching football. Hmm. This will be… different.

In years past, pumpkin beer was a seasonal staple. Before I joined WeightWatchers in 2017, a typical Sunday evening spent watching the game would include a couple of pumpkin beers and half a large pizza, and then half a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, and maybe some wine. I would go to bed feeling buzzed and looking like I was well into a second trimester of pregnancy, my belly bloated to its max. I would wake Monday morning feeling gross, guilt-ridden, and paralyzed at the thought of having to start a new week.

Those days are behind me now. Half a large pizza is now one or two slices on the Sundays I choose to indulge. I always have a huge pile of veggies or a big salad along with it. And Enlightened ice cream occupies Ben & Jerry’s former freezer drawer. I feel good that I’ve reformed my eating habits. And I do not miss that pizza-and-beer-belly.

But I’m a little nervous about facing my first-ever alcohol-free football season. I felt momentarily sorry for myself walking past the pumpkin beer at the grocery store yesterday. So I decided, much like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, I’ve got to get my head in the game. Time to strategize how I’m going to not just survive – but enjoy! – football season without booze. No pity parties allowed at this sober tailgate, people.

Here is my game plan:

1. Exercise – I have been doing #Peloton rides on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Gotta keep this up because it puts me in a healthy mindset to start the day, and it’s easier to stick to good habits when I’ve worked out.

2. Hydration is everything! And now that it’s getting cooler I will start drinking tea again. Water, tea, seltzer, and the occasional Propel when I want something sweet make for a deep and diverse beverage line-up.

3. 1-SmartPoint hot dogs and 3-SmartPoint chicken brats – I discovered these at the grocery store and the brats in particular are delish! A great substitute for the fattier stuff. I’ll add sauerkraut for the probiotic benefits, and to help to offset the small batch artisanal tortilla chips I refuse to give up.

4. Fruit and veg – Load up on ‘em! Always.

5. Most importantly: remember why I really love football season – I don’t love it (just) because it’s an excuse to eat small batch artisanal tortilla chips. I love it because football is entertaining and provides plentiful opportunities for family snuggles and relaxation. We love teaching our kids about the game and our favorite players. Watching a game together on a Sunday afternoon is a welcome pause in the action of the school year and busy extracurricular schedule. Football time is family time, and that is why I really love it. I never loved it for the booze. I just had football and booze intertwined in my subconscious. Let the re-wiring commence!

So, as much as I am feeling a slight pang of longing for pumpkin beer, I am feeling a deeper pang of excitement at the thought of experiencing our family football bonding – and everything else I love about Fall – with complete clarity and presence.

Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose.

Bringing Family to the Foreground


Yesterday was my daughter’s first day of first grade, exactly one year after her first day of kindergarten. So of course I couldn’t help myself and in a moment of mommy nostalgia I found and scrolled through the photos from her milestone first day last year.

There were posed photos outside the front door, then getting on the bus. Photos of my sweet son waiting in the rain for her to get home that afternoon. And then photos of the little celebration we had for her when she arrived. There are pictures of my happy kids, the little cake we ate, and decorations we made.

I had almost forgotten about the wine glass pictures. And a sinking feeling hit my stomach when I saw them.

Featured prominently on the kitchen counter in the foreground is my wine glass, filled generously with sauvignon blanc. This would have been at about 3:45 PM, but hey, we were celebrating. Of course I had to have wine. In the background are my kids, sitting at the counter happily eating their cake.

And isn’t that just exactly it. Wine was always in the foreground. Of my brain, of my life. And everything else – my kids, my husband, my self – was in the background. Out of focus.

What do I feel when I force myself to look at these pictures? Pity. Embarrassment. Regret. Anger, maybe? Disappointment, for sure.

I feel so distant from the person who thought that they were funny. I know that’s a good thing, but it feels… weird.

And then I remember: choose curiosity over judgment. I try not to judge others and I need to apply the same principle to my wine mom self. Because I honestly didn’t know any better. I knew that wine wasn’t good for me but I had no idea how bad it actually was. I honestly thought that wine helped more than it hurt. That it made me feel happier and more relaxed. The puffiness and grogginess were just the price to pay for those fleeting moments of fabulousness. And I thought I deserved them both: the fabulousness and the misery that inevitably followed.

When I realize now, after 176 cumulative days of booze breaks since the start of Dry January, is that the fabulousness – authentic, not faux – I was seeking only exists beyond the bottle. I also know now that I don’t deserve misery to be the flip-side of flying high, and I never did.

So let me return to the photo, this time reminding myself to be curious and empathetic instead of judgmental and upset. What do I see?

I see happy smiling faces in the background. In the composition of the photo I see a glimmer of creativity, when I know that the woman who took this picture thought her creative side was dead. I see a mama behind the camera who loves her kids a whole lot, and who wanted to make her daughter’s first day of elementary school special.

Instead of being ashamed of the mom who thought wine made a good photo op on her daughter’s first day of kindergarten, I choose to be grateful. Grateful for how far I have come. Grateful that I had the guts to do the work to get my family and myself back in focus. Grateful that wine will never be in the foreground – of my photos, my brain, or my life – again.

Putting My Name On It

Both of my kids woke this morning with 102-degree fevers. Two days before school starts. I had been planning to do my favorite Peloton ride of the week, Ally Love’s Feel Good Ride at 8:30, but I missed it because we were at Urgent Care swabbing for strep and checking goopy ears and little lungs.

I almost skipped it. Almost descended fully into mom-martyr mode – which, now that I think on it for a moment, is basically a pity party for one and helps none. As Martyr Mom, I use the excuse of my kids being sick to throw on some sweats, throw open my pantry door and ingest any comfort food I can get my Purelled hands on. Because surely junk food will help me get my kids through their viral slog-du-jour. [SPOILER ALERT: junk food is not the answer to helping sick kids. Nor is booze. Keeping myself healthy and energized is the best thing I can do for my kids when they’re sick. Not rocket science. But not always gut instinct either.]

By mid-day my kids were calmly vegging in front of “Cake Wars” and so – Martyr Mom be damned – I seized the moment and hopped on my bike to do the Feel Good Ride on demand. And am I ever glad I did.

Ally never fails to inspire me. And I’m not saying that to be a goody-goody. There is something about sweating my (figurative) balls off and pedaling my legs until they burn that readies my mind and my heart to receive inspiration and wisdom. And Ally provides these in spades, especially on her Feel Good Rides. Today, she talked about being real. Not worrying about the leaderboard. Not hiding behind your username. Just being real.

So I’ll be real: Ally, I confess I was tapping away on my phone during your ride today. But I wasn’t texting or Instagramming. I was writing the notes that have formed this post.

Because I did stop hiding behind a username today. I put my last name on my @maintaining_mama Instagram account. (Once on a roll, I also got myself a domain name and created a Facebook page for this blog. Follow me! Share me!) I am no longer anonymous. I am fully out there as “a former wine mom” who has committed to one year without wine. What a way to toast Day 60!

I made these changes before the ride, but I didn’t realize the importance of my actions until Ally’s words crystallized it for me. With sweat dripping down my face and my butt begging to be plopped back down into the saddle it hit me like a full turn to the right: “my desire to help outweighs my fear of being known.”

That’s what I hastily typed into my phone. Let me expand upon that a bit now that I’ve caught my breath.

I have apparently arrived at the point in this journey where my desire to support and inspire others who may be in a situation similar to mine – that is, questioning their possibly dysfunctional relationship with alcohol – is stronger than my fear of going public with my own struggles. Am I still afraid of being judged? Yes. Am I going to shout “I USED TO BE SCARY DEPENDENT ON WINE, Y’ALL!” from the rooftops? No. (Mine’s too steeply pitched anyway.) But I want to help more than I want to hide.

What has spurred me into action? So much that I can and cannot put into words. The recent study published in the Lancet medical journal stating that “the safest level of drinking is none” – and the myriad strong reactions to it, both celebrating and poo-pooing the findings. The incredible women I’ve discovered on Instagram who are fierce and fearless and eloquent in their sobriety. The books and podcasts and blogs (see my resources page).

And time. It’s September now. I have been on this journey for nine months, drinking for some of it but mostly not. Today is day 60 of my year-long commitment. And I am simply ready to kick this existence up a notch.

But mostly, I really, really want to help other moms who are feeling shame or feeling like alcohol has the reins. Women who feel powerless to just say no to a witching hour craving. Because we all deserve better and we are all capable of better. And I’m no longer afraid to say so and put my name to my words.

Tracation* Contemplation

*Tracation, noun: a period of time spent away from from home with small children and possibly family pets that is more restful than a trip but less restful than a vacation 

We are back from our week-long trip – not “vacation” because kids and dogs. One of my friends on Connect suggested the term “tracation” and I think that’s pretty accurate. Because it was not just a trip either. There were relaxing moments. I read one-and-a-half books and, like, four magazines! But traveling with two kids and two dogs is, on balance, more tiring than rejuvenating. So. Tracation.

But here’s what’s great: we stayed for a week in a small beach-y cottage off the beaten path in Jamestown, Rhode Island, and by the end of the week we all still liked each other! WIN!

Oh, and it was also my first alcohol-free tracation. Which is a big deal. I have to remind myself of that. I am now happily over 50 days into my 365-day alcohol-free journey. I still think about booze on a daily basis but usually it’s a thin, frail desire that flickers for a moment and fizzles out just as quickly. “Ooh, wine. Nope. Ok.” Just like that. Usually.

But not always. Day 50 was tough. Because we were tracationing in her neck of the woods, we went to visit my mother-in-law. The kids and I hung out with some fun cousins while my husband, his mom and his brother did some sad and surreal and strange gathering and tying of the loose-ends left in the wake of my father-in-law’s death last month.

[Death is weird, isn’t it? On one level, it’s the most natural thing in the world. Circle of life and all that. On another level it’s achingly sad, of course. And it’s also a logistical nightmare. Weird.]

It was a long day, Day 50. A not unwelcome, but strange, but necessary interruption of our regularly scheduled tracation. It was a bit stressful. We all ate too much ice cream in giant waffle cones, which helped until it made me feel worse (as always – a lesson I refuse to learn, apparently).

There was also an ever-so-slight but noticeable crispness in the air that was unmistakably the first hint of Fall. My favorite season. Hoodie sweatshirts, blue jeans, football, pumpkins, pumpkin spice, pumpkin beer, wine… oh wait. Nope. Not this year.

And all of that was just enough to make the craving for booze stick around. Tracation interruptus. Resurfaced grief. Sadness for my husband and his loss – it’s a loss for us all, of course, and size doesn’t matter, but it does, and his is the biggest and I’m very, very sad for him. The first inkling of Fall. The realization that part of my love for my favorite season is intertwined with my love for alcohol. Amped-up anxiety as a result of that realization.

Nothing earth-shattering, and I never felt in danger of actually imbibing and breaking my commitment to this booze-free year. It’s just never fun to feel yourself taking two steps back, especially after I’ve been leaping ahead lately.

To recap:

Our tracation was successful. Day 50 was hard. Death is weird. I achieved my first alcohol-free trip and I mostly didn’t miss booze at all.

And now, we are happy to be home. It’s almost Fall. And that will be alcohol-free too, as I continue to move forward through this year of self-love and self-discovery and everything else it will come to mean to me.

Antsy, in Perspective

Today is antsy. I had a very strange and disturbing dream last night, perhaps induced by the cold medicine I took before bed. It was one of those terrible dreams that was so far-fetched yet so real, I had to wake myself out of it. I don’t remember enough of it to describe or attempt to interpret it. But it’s been tough for me to shake today, especially given my groggy state from a non-stop summer week plus fighting off a mild cold. TGIF.

So. Antsy.

I want to know where all of this is going to lead. The not drinking. The exercise. The writing. I want to know if I’m going to quit alcohol completely. I want to know how good I can get at kickboxing. I want to know if writing will be a beloved hobby or a beloved livelihood.

I know this sounds silly. I feel silly typing it out. But I also want to be open and honest about my malaise. Because not every day can be a high. Some days are lows. And many days are in-betweens.

The important thing is that I am living them all. I am feeling my way through them all. The good, the great, the bad, the hangry, the hormonal, the #blessed, the ugh. Without booze in my life I am experiencing all of this in living color, in real time.

So today is antsy. My thoughts are swirling around my Mucinex-clogged brain. “Should I put feta in my chopped salad? Am I crazy for not signing the kids up for any camps next week? Will I ever write a book? I need a voice. What is my voice? Who is my audience? What should we do for dinner tonight? Did I pack deodorant in the swimming bag? What do I even want to say in this book I want to write? When was the last time the dogs peed today?” Ad infinitum. Circling the brain drain.

I want to have a joyous journey but right now I just wish I knew where I was headed. And that – wherever it is – it’s amazing and fulfilling beyond anything I can fathom.

But AF life already is, isn’t it? Watching my daughter play dodge ball in her karate camp today while I kickboxed in an adjacent studio, that huge grin on her beautiful face. Watching my son, the youngest in his tennis camp, throw water balloons with the big kids and then gleefully line up to get the ice bucket dumped on his head.

These summer moments that would have gone unrecognized before. The ordinary that has turned extraordinary because I SEE IT. Joy and beauty and love burst forth from the everyday, every day.

As for the writing. I have committed to writing something every day of One Year Alcohol-Free. And I do. I post to Connect and Instagram every day. I feel in my gut I need to chronicle this journey, so I’m making the time to do it. I told my kids I need some time each day for “my writing.” Sounds so official! But why not try official on for size?

And it is helping people, my writing. I know this. Because it’s helping me. And it’s helping my kids and my husband, too, because it feeds my soul and makes me happy. And I’m a better mom and partner when my soul is full and I am happy. I think I am helping people on Connect and Instagram too. But at the very least, I am helping the four members of my family by doing this writing. And if that’s all my writing ever does, that is worth making the time.

So much was passing me by when my brain and body had to waste their energy thinking about and processing booze. So, so much.

I don’t know where I’m headed. And on days like today, when I’m low-energy and a little sick and groggy, that may bother me. But most of the time it doesn’t. Because I’m too busy delighting in the joy of the journey.

An Unexpected and Most Unwelcome Milestone

img_2188

I anticipated sitting down to write a blog post this week about my first solo-and-sober international trip. Alas, the universe had other plans and decided to throw my family a nasty curveball:

A hospital bed.

A heart attack releasing its victim from the claws of cancer.

A newly minted widow reluctantly relieved from her duties as caretaker.

Two grown sons left, in an instant, without a dad.

Last Wednesday, my husband went to work, as usual. My daughter wore an Italian soccer jersey to Team Jersey Day at her camp. My son went to camp and then earned his long-awaited red belt in his Tiny Dragons MMA class. I went to my kickboxing class and pounded the crap out of the heavy bag, cursing cancer for bringing so much pain into so many lives but having no idea how much more painful our lives were about to become.

A normal summer day. And then my father-in-law passes away. And a normal day turns into one of those days when you’ll always remember where you were when you got that phone call. And life as we knew it will never be the same.

He was sick, but it was sudden. It always is.

Tears shed, travel plans cancelled, travel plans made. One suitcase is emptied and another is packed. One anticipated alcohol-free milestone turns into another: grief. My first grown-up experience grieving for a lost loved one without alcohol.

When I was in my early 20s, I lost my stepdad and both of my grandfathers over 18 brutal months. Those were the days when I was single and sharing an apartment with five other girls (and one bathroom, natch) on the Upper West Side. I spent every Monday night knocking back several frozen margaritas at a dive bar with my coworkers, then waking on Tuesday to run six miles around Central Park before work. Because I could do that then. Work not so hard, play hard, run hard. Repeat.

When I went through that horrible hat trick of losses, alcohol was in the picture and I’m sure I used it to cope. But I was also young and my relationship with alcohol was still relatively simple. It didn’t take the physical or emotional toll that I would experience a decade and a half later.

Cut to a decade and a half later.

I am so grateful to not have a choice to drink right now. With booze off the table and out of my brain, I have simply been a better mourner.

Here’s what I mean by that:

I have been present. I have felt the brunt of this loss – really felt it – instead of numbing myself to it. And what I’ve discovered is that yes, it hurts a lot when you really feel it. But it is also easier to find and appreciate the silver lining. He is no longer suffering. My mother-in-law is no longer burdened with his care (though of course she didn’t mind, it took a toll on her own well-being). He passed quickly and painlessly, during a week when many family members were in town visiting and could offer extra support.

I have been able to support my husband with energy reserves that would have been sapped by booze. At a time when I need all the energy I can get, I shudder to fathom how depleted I would have been if I were drinking. Depleted, and moody, and incapable of giving as much as my husband deserves me to give right now.

I have had amazing – sad and difficult but amazing – conversations with my kids about death and the soul and God. There is something beautiful and comforting in talking to kids about death – at least the way we discussed it. Very simple and high-level and just kind of lovely. “Gramps’ soul has left his body and has gone up to God. He has gotten to meet God! How cool is that?!” That kind of stuff. Talking to my kids after my husband told me the news over the phone was deeply sad, yes, but deeply beautiful too. I will never forget it.

I have been more compassionate and authentic with my mother-in-law. Because I am not drinking it is easier to choose curiosity over judgment. To observe in complete clarity how this family mourns – a style very different from my own family – and to innately respect their choices and support them as best I can. My mother-in-law is at the center of all of this and I don’t know if she can feel it, but I certainly feel that our relationship has deepened over the last several days. And I am so grateful for that.

No booze makes me a better mourner. There is beauty to be found in grief, if you can see clearly enough. And I can.