A Booze-Free Birthday and Bonus Bootcamp

Last weekend my husband and I managed to flee to NYC for 21 kid-free hours (but who was counting) to celebrate his birthday. We wandered, shopped, ate, talked, and reconnected in a way that is only possible when you are not being bombarded by tiny humans all day long. It was absolutely lovely.

It was also the first milestone of my one year alcohol-free: a sober birthday celebration. At dinner, my husband had a glass of white wine with his salad and a glass of red with his steak. Besides a fleeting pang when he ordered that Sancerre, I felt confident not drinking and grateful to be experiencing an AF birthday dinner for the first time… since I was pregnant? Probably. With my own birthday coming up in a few months, this was a successful test round.

And of course it was way more than that. It was everything the books and blogs and Instas say AF life can be. It was clear, authentic connection and contentment. It was romantic. It was reassuring. “Not only is this person still my best friend, but I love him now more than ever and our relationship is better than ever,” were the cheesy but damn true thoughts going through my head.

We talked about my choice to live a year without alcohol. Though my husband has always had an easy breezy relationship with booze, I can tell that he is really trying to understand where I’m coming from. He also accepts, without judgment, the fact that I view ditching alcohol as critical to the self-exploration I am feeling called to do right now. At one point, he used the word “rebirth” to describe my entrance into this new phase of my life – his word, not mine! It’s a loaded term, but I think I’ll try it on for size.

So: wonderful, romantic dinner followed by a wonderful, romantic walk around downtown Manhattan. A perfect night, and I remember it all, blah blah blah. I’ll pull the plug on the broken record of giddiness here. But it really was that real and good and lovely.

Because this birthday celebration would not be a boozefest, I’d booked a bootcamp class at the new Peloton Tread studio on Sunday morning. My husband exemplifies the saying “boys and their toys” and has already put down a deposit on a Tread, so we had been meaning to get to a class and try it out. And even though we got our asses handed to us, we patted ourselves on the back (interesting visual, that) for actually being those people who included a bootcamp class in a romantic birthday weekend celebration. Good for us!

I cannot remind myself enough of how far I have come. Not to toot my own horn, but to keep me motivated and focused and present and grateful. If I were still drinking, I probably would not have even booked that Peloton Tread class because of the expected hangover.

I used to believe that alcohol was a necessary and integral part of a fun evening out. I believed this wholeheartedly. Because I didn’t know any better. Because my subconscious had been wired that way. And that’s the basis on which I operated personally, socially, romantically.

When I first started this work, committing to Dry January and reading A Happier Hour and then This Naked Mind, I didn’t believe Rebecca and Annie when they told me how much fun an alcohol-free social life can be. I wanted to believe them, but “sober” and “fun” just did not coexist in my book.

Now, I’m a believer. I’ve drunk the un-spiked Kool-Aid and it tastes better than I ever thought possible. It’s not only improving my body and mind; it’s improving my marriage, too. Life is good AF.

Unintentionally Living with Intention

That feeling when you realize you’re unintentionally living with intention.

A first, today: I got on my Peloton bike with the intent of setting a new personal record. And then I did.

I realize this is not earth-shattering. But it matters.

It matters because it marks a shift for me. I’m pretty sure this is what all those new-agey people mean when they talk about living with intention. I’ve heard that phrase before, but never gave it much thought and certainly never internalized it. Now, I get it. And I dig it. And I’m doing it, apparently.

I got 8.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep last night (Hallelujah!!). I shed the 2.4lbs of water weight that I was carrying around yesterday. I signed up for two back-to-back 20-minute live Peloton rides: a HIIT (high intensity interval training) ride at 10:30 and a groove ride at 10:55. I got on my bike feeling strong.

“I’m going to set a new PR on this ride,” I thought to myself.

My previous PR for a 20-minute ride was 148. My HIIT output today was 172. Done.

I told myself I could use the groove ride to recover, but I had energy reserves so I pushed myself to an output of 161 on that ride. Two consecutive rides, both better outputs than my previous record. It’s a good day for a good day.

Am I starting to live with intention? Like, for real? Could I ever have achieved this level of self-confidence and self-assurance if I were still drinking like I was? I think not. I feel like I am starting to discover who I really am. Underneath my supermom athleisure uniform, having ditched the alcohol bloat, I’m reacquainting myself with myself. Or perhaps I’m meeting myself for the first time. TBD.

I’m Just Gonna Leave This Here

I do not have a drinking problem. I have a problem with the drink. And the problem is that the healthier I get, the crappier drinking makes me feel. And I’m not going to settle for feeling like crap anymore.

There is a blurry line between alcohol use and abuse, a line that looks different to each of us. There is also a stigma attached to sobriety, an implication that if you choose to be sober – for a month, a year, forever – you must have had a serious substance abuse problem. Some people do. I was one of the lucky ones that caught myself before I descended too far. I will never deny that I was drinking too much for me. And I will always be proud of myself for making the choice I made to stop that cycle and share my story with those who are willing to listen.

Day eight and going strong.

My Daughter, My Role Model

In true Supermom fashion – after spinning at 6am, chauffeuring my two kids to two different camps, making dinner for our neighbors, tossing our own dinner in the crock pot, walking both my dogs and my mom’s dog, helping my mom move into her new apartment half an hour away, and chauffeuring the kids home from camp – I was preparing to take them to the pool yesterday afternoon. My six-year-old daughter asked me if she could not wear a shirt like some of the boys she sees there. When I told her it’s a rule that girls have to wear bathing suit tops, she burst into tears: hot, abundant tears that were one part drama, one part fatigue, and one part genuine and raw frustration.

We sat on the couch and she curled up in my arms, my sweet, strong girl in her basketball shorts, no shirt, and her new shark tooth necklace she bought on her camp field trip to the aquarium. She wept as she asked me why. Why can boys go shirtless and girls can’t? Why do boys get to be free and bare-skinned and girls always have to cover up?

I tried my best to answer her, while feeling wildly unequipped to provide the right sort of counsel to both comfort and satisfy her. Oh, and also not crush her self-confidence or scar her for life as I discussed breasts and breast-feeding and tried to make her appreciate this part of her body that she may or may not use for its intended purpose two or three decades from now. I did my best, folks.

For the past year or so, my daughter has gravitated towards toys and clothes that are made for and marketed to boys. She loves superheroes and Star Wars. She wants her shorts to be knee-length and have pockets (why are most girls’ shorts teeny and pocket-less?!). She wants to play football. She wants to someday be a black belt in mixed martial arts.

Just be being her authentic self, she is challenging the norm every day. She is sometimes teased by peers and often mistaken for a boy by strangers. But her desire to be true to who she is outweighs the discomfort she feels. And so she persists.

She does not get this trait from me. When I was her age, I was a shy people-pleaser whose parents had recently divorced. I wore smocked dresses, played with the girly toys I was given on birthdays and Christmas, and just generally tried not to rock the boat in any way, ever. I fit in.

My kid? She stands out.

And now, so do I.

I am not drinking for a year. This choice makes me stand out, from my friends, from my family, from society. I can’t discuss this choice with my daughter right now. But I know she can sense my boosted confidence and the shift in my energy. She can probably sense more than I can even identify right now.

After yesterday’s conversation, I am starting to realize just how deeply my daughter inspires me. How can I effectively parent and nuture a confident, strong girl whose tastes and interests differ from the status quo? By nurturing the parts of myself that do, too. Because these are the parts that make me ME and not just a reflection of what society is telling me to be.

As for the pool trip, we compromised: I put the sprinkler on in the yard and let both kids run around, topless and gleeful in the glorious afternoon sun.

A Date with a Liberated Drinker (AKA My Husband)

I inaugurated my OYAF* by going out to dinner with my husband last night (this date brought to you by an exhausted-but-willing-to-babysit grandmother – thanks, MeMe!). My sweet hubby had been surprised when I announced my year off booze a few days ago, and he wanted to know the thought process behind my decision (um, honey, are you not reading your own wife’s blog?!).

What I realized is that, while we both come from families of drinkers (though his parents quit years ago, mine are still at it), we started drinking for different reasons. My husband started drinking because he likes the taste. He usually drinks a hard cider, and he also enjoys a glass of red wine with a good steak. His cocktail order is a gin and tonic, but he never makes them at home. He aspires to whiskey connoisseurship but “it’s too much effort” to figure out the best way to drink it (preferred glass? rocks or straight?) so the bottles of local artisanal whiskey he buys continue to sit unopened in our liquor cabinet.

He likes the taste of all of these types of alcohol, and he drinks in the moment, as a situation arises. I have never seen him have more than two drinks. He claims he has never been drunk. I am not sure if I believe anyone can truly be a “take it or leave it” imbiber of booze, but if that person does exist, I married him.

As for me, I went the more standard route. I tried alcohol my senior year of high school. I drank to fit in and to feel less inhibited. I drank because that’s what I thought cool and sophisticated and grown-up people do. I drank for the buzz, for how good it made me feel. I hated the taste of that first rum and Coke, mixed for me at a graduation party by a friend’s older brother. But I drank it. And on I went from there.

My husband drinks for the taste. He has a very simple and straightforward relationship with alcohol. He does not experience willpower-zapping, soul-bruising cognitive dissonance. He does not play date night whack-a-monologue. He has no beef with booze. And so, while he supports my decision to spend a year off the sauce, he can’t fully understand why I feel such a bone-deep need to do this.

But he will support me through and through, on the basis of his love for me. And that is what I need from him. He hasn’t been to my side of the liberation-fixation scale, and that’s ok. I am building my own network, both personal and virtual, of people who have been there. I have a stack of books to read; dozens of Instagram accounts to follow; and the incredible #sobersisters community on Connect. I even have a few IRL friends and family members to talk to. And maybe, as this year progresses, there will be more.

For now, I am securely steeped in the honeymoon phase of my year of sobriety. Day two, baby! I feel gleeful, free, inspired. And I’m basking in the glow of my lovely date last night, a nice meal made memorable by a breakthrough conversation.

*One Year Alcohol-Free, obv. Is the abbreviation catching on yet?

No Day But Today: Day One of My OYAF*

*One Year Alcohol-Free

I woke this morning with a dry mouth and puffy face, the result of two margaritas and a few sips of wine: my last alco-hurrah before embarking on my 52-week experiment in sobriety. I had planned to drink one last glass of Sauvignon Blanc to say farewell to my drinking days. But by the time I got to it I already felt queasy from the margaritas and zillion tortilla chips (because ‘Merica) so I could only manage a few measly sips.

It was a good ending note, actually. I could have done without the nausea but it was reassuring (in an albeit unpleasant way). I had planned to have a few drinks, to celebrate Independence Day and my own impending independence from alcohol. But my body didn’t want ’em. There will be less to miss, I think, now that I know I’m no longer capable of “having a few drinks” the way I used to “have a few drinks…” every night.

I have had Sauvignon Blanc, my shining beacon of fabulosity, on a pedestal for the last several years. She has been my savior, my salve, my BFF. She has comforted me, chilled me out, lifted me up.

Except she’s a devil in disguise. A fraud broad. A knockoff handbag sold out of a trash bag on Broadway. At least that’s how she has been revealed to me. Everybody is different. But my body is onto her, even if my still-smitten brain wants to give her another chance. And another.

For the next 365 days, that won’t be an option. I’m locking the door to my mental trophy room and letting the key fall into the bottomless pit of my mom bag, to rest among the half-crayons, Hot Wheels, and used tissues.

Why am I doing this now?

My gut has announced that now is the time. I have a year before my son starts kindergarten. So, a year to figure my shit out so that I don’t feel completely gutted when he struts onto the school bus. That same September, in 2019, I’ll be celebrating my 10th wedding anniversary. I’m still a couple of years away from turning 40, but I want to lay the groundwork now to feel amazing by then.

I am closer than I have ever been to my best body ever. And I have been doing Weight Watchers for long enough now to know that I can’t effectively address my eating issues (read: battle the sugar-and-salt monster) with the shadow of alcohol looming over me. Willpower is a finite resource, after all.

As the phase of early motherhood comes to an end for me, I need to be able to think clearly and creatively about where I’m heading. I know I can’t do that if I continue to be seduced by Sauv B. Those days are over. For now. Maybe forever. But definitely for now. And I have a feeling that if I ever chose to open that door again, I’ll find Sauv B’s pedestal has crumbled to dust.

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.