My Alcohol Experiment: Day 23

Day 23 of The Alcohol Experiment: head, shoulders, knees, and toes… and brain and heart and liver. Alcohol damages it all, y’all!

In This Naked Mind, Annie Grace does not hold back when discussing the comprehensive assault that alcohol wages on our bodies. Today’s lesson is an abridged, but no less jarring, summary of just how damaging alcohol is on every inch of us.

I won’t rehash all the specifics here, but let me just say, it’s bad folks. As someone who formerly clung to the notion that red wine was good for me because it contains antioxidants, I can’t unlearn what I now know and that is ok. That is a good thing. 

It’s hard though, right? Because now that I know that just one night of heavy drinking (and I’ve had countless) can permanently change your nerve cells and decrease the size of your brain cells, I feel like an idiot. And there is a teeny tiny part of me that maybe sort of wishes I didn’t know all of this now. Because then I wouldn’t feel so dumb. And then I could drink my favorite frozen pomegranate margarita with zero guilt. And I could go out with my friends or celebrate a holiday with my family without the risk of judging them and/or alienating myself.

But wait. Stop the spiral. There will be no pity party today. I need to be stronger than that. More grateful, more mature.

I am not an idiot. How can I be an idiot for not knowing something that I was never taught? And it’s not like this information could have made its way subconsciously into my brain the way all the PRO-drinking messaging did – because it’s not out there in the first place!

In fact, I am smart – we ALL are – for doing this exploration now. Today. Sooner rather than later. For educating ourselves and enabling better informed decisions in the future and ultimately improving our health and the health of our children (whom I desperately hope are going to follow our example – fingers crossed!), and maybe even some friends and family who may be inspired by us.

I may never have a guilt-free drink again. But let me reframe the guilt as awareness and take responsibility for my choice, whether I drink or not. At least I am better informed moving forward, and again I know this is ultimately – and immediately – for the best.

As for the risk of judgement and alienation, I now know that the more at peace I feel with my choice to drink or not to drink, the less of an issue this will be. Ain’t no thang. That’s what I’ve been telling my husband when we go out to dinner and he orders a hard cider. That’s what I told my Boston BFF when we had a glorious day and evening out a couple of weeks ago and she had two cocktails with dinner. Ain’t no thang. It started as lip service on my first Dry January date night with my husband, but now it’s really, genuinely true. 

It is hard to not want to shout some of this stuff from the rooftops, now that we know how very dangerous and toxic alcohol really is. But that is not going to help anybody. The best we can do is take the best possible care of ourselves and our children, be there for those we love, and be grateful for this journey we have chosen.

The video in today’s lesson is a deconstruction of the idea that NOT drinking makes you less patient and more angry. I remember when I first stopped drinking during Dry January – I thought I would be so much more patient with my kids, and I wasn’t. And that scared me! Annie discusses how anger is a “secondary emotion” – the tip of an iceberg of something deeper that is harder to acknowledge but that is what you are truly feeling. (Yet another lightbulb here.) I get angry with my son when he is too rough with my puppy; what I’m really feeling is failure as a parent for not teaching him how to treat a young dog and fear that my dog will do something bad to my son. I get angry when my kids mess around instead of quietly and efficiently getting through bath time; what I’m really feeling is anxiety about all the housework I still have to do after they go to bed and frustration with myself for not being more organized and getting it done sooner.

So. There’s that epiphany.

And a few tips from Annie about how to deal with anger when you’re not numbing all your emotions with booze:

  1. Change your physical state – splash cold water on your face, yell into a pillow, get a breath of cold winter air. It helps!
  2. Place your anger on a scale of 1-5 and then try to make yourself angrier. Instant anger-diffuser!
  3. Create mental space. A mere moment of mindfulness can make a difference and help your pre-frontal cortex regain control in the split-second before a trigger causes you to wig out.

Your anger can be a beacon! Once again Annie turns a concept on its head and makes it so much more positive and productive.

Can you tell I love this Experiment?

[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 9

Day 9 of The Alcohol Experiment: how to combat those pesky sugar cravings.

Let me just remove my hand from the bag of leftover M&Ms from my son’s birthday party to do some typing.

As with many of these daily entries, it’s like Annie Grace has a direct link to my brain. Sugar cravings have been a HUGE issue for me since Dry January. I have always had a sweet tooth but once I cut out the booze that little sweet tooth grew into a behemoth. Over the past couple of months, as I’ve felt increasingly in control of my alcohol cravings, I have felt increasingly powerless against my sugar cravings – and, as a result, consumed epic amounts of crap.

Fortunately for us, Annie Grace gives us a variety of ways to help us deal with the sugar monster. She also reminds us to go easy on ourselves and if we need to pop a few gummy bears to get us through, that’s ok. (Yes, we are on WW, but think of all the points we are saving by not drinking! Eat the gummy bears if you need to!) The list is pretty self-explanatory, but it does help to know that these simple things really do make a difference as we try to navigate life off the alcohol-induced sugar roller coaster.

So here’s how to keep sugar cravings at bay:

Exercise! This boosts serotonin and is a genuine stress-reducer, unlike alcohol which numbs, then exacerbates, stress and anxiety.

Eat fruit! It’s got natural sugar and will help keep you full.

Drink water! I have found hydrating during the winter to be very challenging, but when I am properly hydrated it makes such a difference.

Eat several small meals and focus on protein! When broken down, protein produces a variety of amino acids including GABA, which helps you feel good (and is mimicked by alcohol). Eating throughout the day helps stabilize blood sugar so no roller coaster spikes and drops for you!

Eat fermented foods and drinks! And/or supplement with probiotics. Happy gut, happy life.

So, what is your plan for coping with sugar cravings?

Here’s mine:

Tracking! What a great weapon we have in the sugar battle! I have also stocked my freezer with Enlightened ice cream and I eat fruit with wild abandon. I am going to focus on making sure my snacks include protein; try to eat something fermented every day (kimchi is my choice, even though it revolts my hubby and kids); and hydrate hydrate hydrate. Oh, and sleep sleep sleep! (A mom can dream…)

For Annie Grace, ditching alcohol “was like the big domino that knocked over all the other little life changes I wanted to make.” This is happening to all of us, whether we realize it or not. Whether we give up alcohol permanently or not. We are all learning so much during this experiment and making changes both conscious and subconscious.

So pop those gummy bears if you need to, and trust the process.

[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.]

Dry January Day 31

So that happened.

Dry January has been a joyous journey. I expected it to feel like an uphill climb, and at times it did. But mostly it felt like a happy dance.

I feel free. I feel unlimited.

And I never could have gotten through this without Connect and everyone who inspired and supported me along the way. To think that I have been able to inspire and support others makes my heart burst with joy and gratitude.

So here I am on Day 31:

  • 5.2lbs lost
  • 23 workouts
  • 25 blue dots

And now the big numbers, courtesy of my Dry January app:

  • $200 saved
  • 10,000 alcohol calories not consumed

TEN THOUSAND calories I would have spent on poison instead of protein shakes. On sugar instead of – ok, well I definitely still consumed sugar. In fact I still consumed all my daily points and almost all of my weeklies. But instead of spending half my dailies and most of my weeklies on booze, I spent it (for the most part) on foods that nourish my body. Foods that sustain energy. Foods that build muscle.

I used to ingest 10,000 calories of alcohol every month. I am NEVER going back to that number.

But back to the scale. As of this morning, I am 143.6lbs, under my original goal weight of 145. I didn’t make it to my current goal of 138, but that is ok. For now, I am going to stick with Freestyle and my current workout regimen and see where my body settles.

I am happy with the way I look. (Omg I just typed that!) I don’t know where I will end up weight-wise but I do know these two things:

1. I de-puffed like a BOSS this month; and

2. Whether I reach my goal of 138 or not, I NEVER would have gotten there with my former drinking habits.

My former drinking habits. Have I mentioned I’m not going back?

 

Dry January Day 30

Pictured here is a little vignette I like to call “Husband Working Late: 2018 vs. 2017.” On the right side we have how I would have handled a weeknight solo prior to Dry January. On the left side we have my night tonight. Either way, #imomsohard (obviously) and that pint of Enlightened Snickerdoodle is SO going down (only 7 smart points!). But besides the glass and the ice cream, I am gobsmacked by how my habits have changed in just 30 days.

I had another dream last night that I drank an entire bottle of wine and actually woke myself up in a panic before the relief of reality set in. As much as I dislike interrupted sleep, I have to have a moment for how refreshing it is to wake up and feel relief instead of regret!

Tonight when I was putting this photo op together, even just holding the bottle of wine made me feel very strange. I’m still not ready to say goodbye forever, I don’t think. But even though my husband won’t be home until late and I have a rare and welcome night to myself I was not tempted to open that bottle AT ALL.

At the beginning of this month, and in fact for several months and years prior, I never could have imagined getting myself to a place like this. A place of zero temptation. It feels like a miracle, truly.

So I’m going to relish the silence in my house and have a moment for mama. Some time to reflect and celebrate. To feel exactly where I am mentally and emotionally as the last day of January looms beyond tonight’s full moon.

Am I ready for it? I’m not ready for it! Am I?

Yes, I am. Yes I am.

Dry January Day 29

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Twenty-nine days.

Twenty-nine days of feeling proud. Truly, actively proud of myself.

Twenty-nine consecutive clearheaded days.

Twenty-nine days of mind-bogglingly consistent energy instead of a moody roller coaster.

Twenty-nine days of awakened creativity. Increased patience. Increased zeal or passion or zest or whatever you want to call this feeling of being engaged in my life on such a deeper and clearer level.

Twenty-nine days without numbed senses. Without hazy memory. Without regret.

Twenty-nine days of living an exquisitely raw, unfiltered life.

What a gift this month has been.

 

Dry January Day 28

I have been keeping my vintage She-Ra* action figure close at hand lately as a reminder.

  • A reminder that I am stronger than my cravings.
  • A reminder that I am more than a number on a scale.
  • A reminder not to take things too seriously.
  • A reminder that muscles matter.
  • And most important, a reminder to strive to be the strong and healthy person my daughter will look up to as a mom, a grown-up, an athlete, a human being.

Four weeks of Dry January. Achievement unlocked.

I don’t know what I will encounter on the scale tomorrow morning. I do know that I have not gotten enough sleep this week and so I am heading to bed early tonight. I also know that whatever tomorrow’s number is, I am damn proud of these four weeks. 28 days without alcohol. 28 days of self-care and self-re-discovery. It has been awesome.

*After posting this on Connect, a kind reader corrected me. This is not, in fact, She-Ra but Teela.