Finding the Light: One Year into My Journey

One year on this journey of examining – and changing – my relationship with alcohol. A journey that began with a phone, a pounding heart, and trembling, swollen fingers hitting “Post.” The humble, guilt-laden paragraph I composed out of desperation showed up on the Connect social network feed in the Weight Watchers app, and my life would never be the same. Below is my post from a year ago, and my reflection on that post today.

12/29/17
fullsizerenderThis is me a few days before Christmas, wearing a strapless jumpsuit that fit me like a glove and in which I felt fab. I totally fell off the wagon over the holiday and am embarrassed to say I don’t think I’d fit into this same jumpsuit today. So. I’m going to start tracking again on January 1, and am also committing to a dry January. Which scares me. But I’ve become that stay-at-home mom who can’t get through the witching hour without a glass of wine (which inevitably leads to more) and that needs to change. I look forward to tapping into the power of this community to help me through and to help keep me accountable. #sobersisters I’ll take any encouragement you can offer! My heart is pounding at the thought of posting this and appealing for help, but I need it. Thank you everyone and Happy New Year to you all!


12/29/18

178 days of freedom from alcohol.

365 days of gratitude for Connect, Instagram, and The Alcohol Experiment; the books, blogs, and podcasts; for my #sobersisters from Connect; and for the brave and brilliant women who choose to live alcohol-free and write and speak and create such inspiring content that has sustained me these past 12 months.

One year ago today, it was a small but clear voice, deep inside of me, that finally took a stand and said, “Enough. Time for a change.” I didn’t know what that voice was or where it came from, but I heard it and believed it.

And now I know. That small but mighty voice was me. The real me. The me I have rediscovered over the past year. The me I want to be.

And now she is me. And that voice is mine. We are one and we have won.

I have defeated the wine witch. She may never completely disappear, I know. But she is vanquished. She will continue to try to tempt me but she will only continue to waste away.

I am still fighting other foes, and I am still a work in progress. But I have already slain my fiercest enemy. I have already won the war and claimed my prize: self-love.

One year ago today, I was terrified and embarrassed. But I was also honest and vulnerable. I didn’t know it at the time, but therein was my power. By opening myself up to receive support and encouragement from others, I also opened myself up to the possibility of loving myself again.

And I do. I found myself and I love her and I am going to continue to strengthen her and keep her healthy and safe.

#Sobersisters and teetotaler trailblazers, you illuminated the path that led me to rediscover my light this year. Let’s keep shining.

Outshining Broken Bulbs at 150 Days

Stringing the lights on the Christmas tree is one of my least favorite tasks of the year. Not to sound Grinchy, but I always end up doing it by myself, getting poked by myriad needles while trying not to be toppled by a nine-foot fir.

Tonight, my daughter asked if she could help me. And, lo and behold, my little stringbean ninja turned out to be the key to successful light-stringing! The process was painless (save for a few inevitable pokes) and a fun bonding moment. I was grateful to finally have a wingwoman to support me through this dreaded but critical Christmas task.

Then she plugged in the lights. And the top 1/4 of the tree did not work.

I could consider the whole effort a failure. I could give up, rip the lights off the tree and let it ruin my night. I could buy a new strand of lights to try to hide the broken ones. I could.

But I’m not going to do any of those things. I talked about it with my daughter and she said, “Well, it’s still a great tree even if some of the lights don’t work.” And she’s right.

I’m struggling with eating right now. But I do not consider myself a failure. I am not going to give up and let the sugar monster ruin my night. I am not going to try to hide the fact that I am struggling. And I know that I am still great even if my relationship with sugar is not working.

A year ago, I was struggling with drinking. What if I had given up then? What if I had let the wine witch ruin my night, and eventually my life? What if I had continued to hide the fact that I was struggling?

I didn’t, thank goodness. I found Connect and appealed for support and received it in spades. As low as I felt, somewhere inside I knew I was still great. I knew I deserved better, and my #sobersisters on Connect helped me strengthen that belief.

I have so much more confidence now than I did a year ago. So much more faith in myself. I have overcome a soul-crippling, dysfunctional relationship with alcohol. I know I’ll figure out sugar too.

Sometimes I still feel alone in my struggles. But I know I’m not, and I never was.

If you are struggling, you’re not alone. There is support for you here. Believe that you deserve to receive it. Let us help give you the boost you need. You are not a failure. Do not give up. Do not hide, from us or from yourself.

You are great. We are great. We may have a few wonky bulbs, but our light shines beautiful and bright.

When WW Stands for Woke Weenie

fullsizeoutput_75a0

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

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.

It Begins (Tomorrow): One Year Alcohol-Free

I am taking myself by surprise here. But I haven’t felt a good fire like this in my belly for awhile and so I know that it’s there for a reason and this is where I am meant to be. Tomorrow, July 5, 2018: the first day of one year alcohol-free. It is ON.

How did I get to this point? I have not hit rock bottom. There was no wake-up call. No emergency that propelled me to jettison myself out of dire straits.

There is just me, my cognitive dissonance, and an opportunity.

I have felt a bit adrift since I completed The Alcohol Experiment on April 30. I thrived within the structure of that program. Writing on each day’s topic focused my general self-care efforts. It was educational, enlightening, rewarding.

And then it was done. And drinking became drinking? and despite my iron-clad non-negotiables, the shadowy possibility of drinking slowly started looming larger and larger over my life.

My days of alcohol-freedom during Dry January and The Alcohol Experiment were chock full of life-changing epiphanies, including the realization of the impact of cognitive dissonance on my daily existence. Liberating myself from that horrible inner conflict of not wanting to drink, but wanting to drink; knowing it’s not good for me, but not being able to resist the emotional boost from pouring that first glass and taking those first few crisp sips before the soul-crippling guilt set in – felt like my brain bursting open with light and love. For reals.

I may not be at rock bottom. I haven’t broken any non-negotiables, though I have blurred the line a few times lately. I haven’t been drunk. I haven’t even had more than two drinks in one day in months. But I want that light and love back. And I want it bad.

It struck me yesterday that this is the next step for me. A whole year alcohol-free, not just 90 days or even six months. It hit me like a firm gut punch. But instead of knocking the wind out of me, my new ab muscles were clenched and ready for it. Instead of gasping for breath, I felt butterflies.

But when to start, I wondered? Should I wait until after my husband’s birthday in a couple of weeks? Should I wait for August 1 so I can start at the beginning of a month? I’ve already missed the #DryJuly boat. Maybe I should wait. It is a whole year, after all…

I logged into Connect and there was the final sign: I hit 1,000 followers. There are 1,000 people I have the opportunity to inspire with my choices, my lifestyle, my words, my pictures. And my 1,000th follower? She goes by the username @doitnowsexy. And that was that.

Do it now, sexy.

Ok, I’ll do it now. I’ll enjoy my last cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc today. I’ll probably also have a final margarita, since those are my two favorite drinks. And, you know, ‘Merica. Happy 4th and all that.

And then tomorrow, July 5, it begins. One year alcohol-free. One year AF. One year AF AF! I got this.

Who’s Got the Power? My First Year on Weight Watchers

Today is my one-year Weight Watchers anniversary.

Am I at my goal weight? No.

I am at my original goal weight, and that is ok. Because this past year has been about so much more than that.

My original goal weight has become my new “I feel puffy and need to get back on track” weight. That’s where I am today. And after three weeks of craziness (international travel with two young kids, a family case of strep throat, then head colds, and currently on day five of a power outage), I am ok with that.

I am more than ok. Because I have something that I didn’t have a year ago, when I set out on this journey. I have faith in myself. I believe in myself. I know exactly what I am doing and I know that I will get back to where I want to be.

Right now I am stress-eating. We have been out of our house for four days and out of our routine for three weeks. While I have managed to spend some of that time on the wagon, I’ve also allowed myself to give into my go-to cravings: tortilla chips, Nutella, and chocolate. I wish I were stronger. I wish I didn’t resort to junk food as a “reward” in times of stress. Because, of course, putting this crapola into my body is not a reward. It’s a burden. A moment of pleasure that instantly weighs me down mentally and physically. And that weight lasts a lot longer than the fleeting pleasure.

But I do it anyway. And I accept that. For now.

Because I’m in this for the long haul. I’ve run two marathons in my life. This is my third.

When I joined WW a year ago, I was desperate. My eating and drinking were out of control. I was squeezing into my clothes. I had little energy and patience. Working out felt like a hopeless chore. I needed some structure and someone else’s rules to follow because I wasn’t sticking to my own.

WW has opened a door to an existence that I didn’t believe was possible. I used to think my old weight was just the way my body was going to be after having two kids. I used to think it was fine to eat whatever I want because nothing would ever change. I used to think I would never be able to control my alcohol cravings. I felt disgusting. And, finally, fed up.

I didn’t know what else to do. So I joined WW. I stepped through that door. And while I have not yet arrived at my ultimate destination, I left the first 20lbs behind. Confidently over the threshold, I closed the door and flipped the deadbolt. I will never see those 20lbs again. The next five are hanging on for dear life, and the five after that still feel somewhat out of reach. But this is a journey. This is a marathon. I haven’t crossed the finish line, but I haven’t hit the wall either. I’m still going strong.

One year in. I wish I could have posted dramatic before and after photos, but I wasn’t up to it today. So I got a pedicure. I’d show it to you, but I forgot to shave my toes and my left big toenail is still growing back after a nasty incident with a pair of pointy-toe flats.

But under these Converse All-Stars, beneath my socks, my toenails are painted a fierce, sassy and confident shade of neon watermelon.

And under my stress-eating-induced bloat, beneath my sweatshirt and leggings, I am a fierce, sassy and confident person and mama and athlete and writer and warrior and wife.

I’ve been writing this post throughout the day. Between grocery trips and school runs and karate classes, amidst not knowing when or if our electricity would be restored before the next storm hits in a matter of hours.

And guess what? The power – finally! – came on.

We have power.

I have power.

THAT is what I have taken away from my first year on Weight Watchers. I. Have. Power.

And I take responsibility. For the good decisions and the bad. I alone have the power to learn from these decisions. And I am. I am learning so much about myself and I am becoming a better person and mom and wife every day.

Because every day leads me closer to the me I want to be. She has eluded me over the years. And at times I have almost lost her.

But not this time. Not ever again, I hope.

Because I have the power now.

Who’s the Boss

UGH. I have been in a sugar-and-salt spiral all week. I haven’t posted for awhile because I kept expecting myself to emerge from it so I could post something victorious: “I was in a spiral but I got myself out and now I feel amazing!”

But that is not my reality. In reality, I just ate two bowls of cereal.

This week, I have latched on to every excuse I can think of and raided my pantry with an embarrassing level of determination to dig and find any remaining chocolate from Christmas. The only tortilla chips I didn’t eat are in the bag that I bought my husband for Valentine’s Day (and covered in sticker hearts, so romantic) because I ate the other bag that I bought him when he was sick. My self-control has gone completely out the window and I feel disgusting.

But let’s focus on the positive. I completed my goal of four workouts. And after today’s 6am spin (live from Pyeongchang! Did anyone else do that Peloton ride? So fun!!) I completed a 10-min abs workout WITHOUT STOPPING. This is a big NSV for me because I have been attempting this same workout for months and this is the first time I have done it all the way through without taking a break.

My other NSV is that I have had no wine or other alcohol at home all week. My eating is out of control right now, but my drinking is completely in control. Completely. In. Control. As embarrassed as I am about my eating, I need to give myself permission to feel proud. Because just six weeks ago I never thought I would be in control of my drinking. I never thought I could make it through a witching hour without either white knuckles or a drink in my hand. I’ll admit that I have been more tempted this week than in previous weeks, and I’m sure that’s related to the fact that I have consumed epic amounts of crap. Vicious cycle and whatnot. But I AM breaking from that vicious cycle. I am no longer a wino, no longer a lush. My kids no longer see me clinging to my “mommy juice” every evening like my life depends on it.

I wish I had it all under control. If I had eaten clean this week as planned, I would be feeling amazing right now. On top of the world. But I’m not. I don’t have it all under control. I am not stronger than my food cravings right now, and that is incredibly frustrating.

But I own you, alcohol cravings. I am in charge. I’m the boss of you. And you are getting weaker and weaker. You tried to take advantage of me when I was spiraling this week, but I didn’t let you. Because I’m getting stronger and stronger.

So today I vow to forgive myself for my pantry trespasses. I vow to learn from my behavior this week, to remember how crappy I feel, to understand why I binged the way I did. And the next time the pressures of life make me want to stuff my face, I will do better.

More About that First Glass (ACHOO!)

So I had a glass of wine at our neighbors’ house yesterday. I had pre-tracked two glasses, but stopped after one. What an interesting experience it was! The first few sips were delightful. And then I started sneezing. And I didn’t stop sneezing for several hours! I ended up finishing the glass more out of curiosity than desire. And I had absolutely no desire for that second one.

What a gift it is to be able to begin to understand this process. The first few sips felt delightful because of the dopamine that my brain released in anticipation of having this “treat” – not just the wine itself, but being able to drink with my best friend after five weeks of abstaining.

The sneezing I actually can’t explain though I think it must be connected. I did a quick Google search this morning and found a couple of articles about the fact that histamines exist in wine, but nothing about an allergic reaction being instantly triggered like I experienced. I suppose there’s a chance it was not connected to the wine but I was not sneezing before drinking that glass, and the sneezing is gone today.

Once that initial dose of dopamine wore off, about 1/3 of the way through the glass, I keenly felt my dulled senses. I felt less excited. Less clever. Less happy. Off-kilter. More dehydrated. Slow. Gross.

It is hard to think about how far I let myself fall before committing to Dry January. To have witnessed the effect that one glass of wine had on me last night and then to think about the fact that I was drinking 3 to 4 glasses of wine almost every single night… It makes me sad. To say the least.

Still so much to process and ponder. The open bottle of wine is sitting in my fridge and I have no desire to drink it but can’t quite bring myself to waste it by pouring it down the drain. But why shouldn’t I? It will do nothing positive for me, whether it sits there and goes bad or I consume it. What’s $10 down the drain in return for empowerment and peace of mind?

 

Breaking Dry

Getting ready to head over to our neighbors’ house to watch the Super Bowl. I’m bringing a bottle of wine. And I’m going to have two glasses. I am pre-tracking them. And I hope no one will think less of me for choosing to drink tonight.

I am a rule follower. Which is one reason why I thrived during Dry January. Clear rules and a finite amount of time.

Now I feel like my eyes and mind have been opened to the realization of a life with a lot less alcohol, and maybe even without alcohol. But I am not ready to label myself yet. I need to spend some time exploring my relationship with alcohol. I need to do more reading. I need to go out and drink and go out and not drink. I don’t plan on going full Annie Grace and taking a video of myself drinking an entire bottle of wine – in fact I don’t plan on ever drinking an entire bottle of wine in one night again. But I do want to have some tonight and see how I feel.

And honestly? I’m hoping it makes me feel like shit. Because I now know what alcohol really is and the impact it has on my body. I also know that I haven’t had any wine in over a month and I have a kickboxing class tomorrow morning so I better watch it!

This is where I am on Super Bowl Sunday 2018. Where will I be next year? Where will I be next month? I don’t know. All I know is I’m so grateful to be on this journey.

Post-Game Update (Congrats Eagles!!): I had one glass. First few sips were fun. I still like the taste. But then I started sneezing! I think I may have had some sort of allergic reaction! Crazy. Finished the glass, kept sneezing, felt no good buzz at all. Just felt less sharp and less happy. Kept sneezing. Ate way too many of my hubby’s homemade chocolate chip cookies and dreading my weigh-in tomorrow but so much to think about. I’m kind of relieved I didn’t love drinking again, I must admit!