500 Days of Alcohol Freedom and Just a Little Pee in My Pants

Today, at 500 days alcohol-free, I jumped a few extra feet out of my comfort zone and taught Saturday morning heavy bag kickboxing. I teach every Thursday and Friday morning, but Saturday is a different level of intensity. On Thursdays and Fridays, I usually teach between four and ten people. Saturday is a packed room, 16 or more, with attendees often needing to double up on a heavy bag. Thursday and Friday mornings witness the stay-at-home moms (like me), the college students and nannies, and others who are liberated from the 9-5 grind. Saturday brings the workhorses, the veterans – many of whom are more experienced than I. They come expecting their hardest workout of the week. I usually take this class on Saturday and the instructor always kicks my ass. Today, she is at the beach and left it up to me to provide the ass-kicking.

On Thursdays and Fridays, the gym is quiet except for the action in the big red and gray room we use for the heavy bag class. Not so on Saturday, when the gym is packed. Kids’ classes are running in the other room and the students’ parents (some of whom are my friends) are milling around. My boss – the owner of the joint – flits between teaching the kids and schmoozing the parents and observing the heavy bag class.

I am used to a quiet gym and a small, dedicated group of sweat-loving ladies. Today the gym was busy. My crowded class was full of intense athletes. And my peers, boss, and kids peered through the big glass windows to watch me teach. Oh, and my husband was on a bag in the front row.

No pressure.

Did I also mention that before class started I managed to both spill my tea and pee my pants?

***

A few days ago, I wasn’t even sure I would be able to teach this class. My annual bout of bronchitis struck last Sunday. And it’s been the pits, as always. But I decided to take myself to Urgent Care right away to get some prescriptive relief for my overtaxed airways. Albuterol + Prednisone + Paul Rudd’s new Netflix series got me through the worst of it on Sunday and Monday. The drugs kicked in and I turned enough of a corner to teach my classes on Thursday and Friday. Even though I went hoarse on Thursday and was still coughing, teaching brought me out of my bronchial funk and back into the land of the living.

I put on my own oxygen mask first this week. Rest, hydration, and a little steroid assistance… oh, and grace. Accepting the situation for what it is, avoiding a pity party pitfall, taking the care I can and letting go of what is out of my control. Not fussing (too much) about lost workouts or extra calories. That is how I navigated my bronchial drama – and I’m better off for it.

In my previous battles with bronchitis, I would obsess about what I could not control, and be annoyed at my inability to control these uncontrollable aspects of illness. I used to feel forlorn guilt about missing workouts due to being sick, and shame myself for comfort-eating my way through a virus. The shame, of course, just made me eat more.

I know now that wine was at the root of all of this. Because my dependence on wine had me living in a near-constant mindset of guilt and shame. That was how I coped with hard things: I always found a way to guilt myself through it. I relieved the guilt by drinking to escape it. Until the shame inevitably set in.

I am so grateful to be off that misery-go-round.

I am so grateful to have traded guilt for grace.

I am so grateful to be back in action.

And so I was today. My heart was pounding as I pulled my swagger wagon into the parking lot of my MMA gym. I grabbed my stainless steel tumbler and took a slug of my Throat Comfort tea, failing to notice that the mug had been leaking for the duration of my commute. The lukewarm tea dribbled down my puffy jacket and right onto the crotch of my new black leggings with rose gold metallic flecks. “Bless the makers of this miracle fabric that doesn’t show sweat, or apparently tea,” I thought to myself as I grabbed my backpack to head inside. Dodged that bullet!

I was the first to arrive at the gym after the manager who opens up. With my stomach butterflies multiplying by the minute, I tried my best to play it cool and stuck to my normal routine. I took my boots off and entered the big red and gray room. My bare feet padded across the black mat to the far corner, where I dropped my backpack, plugged in my old iPhone to get my music going, plugged in and set my digital clock, and taped my class plan to the cabinet that houses the sound system. I padded back to the entrance, put my boots back on, and hustled to the bathroom.

I’d had lots of tea. I’ve also had two children. And I’ve also had bronchitis. What I thought would be a small, dry cough turned into an unexpectedly deep, productive, phlegmy cough, and the next thing I knew I felt a dreaded warm gush and dashed into the nearest bathroom stall.

I really don’t pee my pants that much. But I sure did today – with about 12 minutes to go until my class began. Luckily, in my limited experience of pants-peeing I can say that the gush always feels worse (by which I mean more plentiful) than it is. I sent up another offer of gratitude to the athleisure gods who made this miracle fabric that betrayed neither my tea nor my pee. I flushed the toilet and washed my hands. Took a quick glance in the mirror – no mascara schmears, at least I had that going for me – and headed back into the gym.

My class was a whirlwind of nerves, combos, and sweat. Imperfection abounded. My Spotify playlist jumped into shuffle mode and I had to change iPhones, causing a two-second eon of – gasp! – no music in the speakers. I botched demonstrating a couple of combos, forgetting where I was and what punch or kick came next. And my cough – which has been fairly dry and sporadic for the duration of this virus, decided to amp up its phlegm production during the 45 minutes I was on the mic. Try doing a jab-cross-hook-cross-switch-left-kick while attempting to choke down a stubborn loogie. Not as easy as it sounds, my friends.

But damn, I looked great in my rose gold-flecked leggings. My kicks felt purposeful and strong. My voice was clear (when I wasn’t coughing) and I felt saucy and inspired as I motivated my crew to get through the killer workout I had written just for them.

My perfectly imperfect Saturday kickboxing class was the perfect way to spend my 500th day of alcohol freedom. The red and gray room was my arena today. And I was in it. Tea, pee, phlegm, and all. Leading this class wasn’t easy. It was far from perfect. But it was good. It was enough. I am enough.

Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do. – Brené Brown

I own these 500 days with pride. I hold each of them – the best ones and the worst ones and each and every one in between – in love and light today, honoring every stage of this incredible journey.

Bright eyes. Open mind. Happy heart. Fresh underwear. This is me at 500 days alcohol-free.

Putting the “I” in Volunteer. Oh wait.

I tried my professional hat on today and it felt pretty uncomfortable at first. I have been volunteering in various capacities for a small local colon cancer organization for almost 15 years, and today I was asked to fill in for the executive director at a dinner we hosted for the awesome folks who comprise our fundraising team for the NYC Marathon. All of these people have a connection to colorectal cancer (as do I) and they all raised at least $3,000 to be able to run the marathon tomorrow. I figured if these people can train for four months to run 26.2 miles, the least I can do is put on real pants and makeup.

So I did. And I did my best to fill our wonderful executive director’s shoes.

My schmooze-ability was rusty at first. To be honest, since starting my OYAF and doing all this writing and reading and exploring life as a teetotaler, I have done a lot less volunteer work. And I feel tremendously guilty about that – when I relent to the force of old habits and allow myself to fall into that mindset. I no longer have colon cancer facts and figures readily accessible in my brain. But I had to make room for all this knowledge I’m acquiring about alcohol, and so the colon cancer stuff has been relegated to back shelves and has started to gather a bit of dust. So I felt rusty and awkward, trying to be all professional-like.

But then we shared our stories. I started by introducing myself to the group, telling everyone how my stepdad was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer in 2002 and passed away 20 short months later. A few months before he died, I ran a race in Central Park to raise awareness and funds for colon cancer, and I ended up being the top female fundraiser of the whole thing. My stepdad was so touched to receive such an outpouring of support, and it really made a difference in his final days. That experience also introduced me to this organization and I’ve been volunteering ever since.

Our marathon runners shared stories of loss and stories of survival. Many of us had not met each other before today, and yet there we were, instantly connected by this vicious but preventable disease. And now twenty people will take to the streets of New York City tomorrow in honor and memory of loved ones, to help spread this critical message of awareness.

This cause is still a part of my heart. But it’s also ok that I have stepped back from it a bit to focus on myself and conquer something that was holding me back from being the best I can be. I know that when I’m ready to dive back in, whether as a volunteer or employee, whether for this cause or another, I will be able to give more of myself because I am taking time to fully reveal and nurture this self.

This self is not quite ready for launch yet. And that’s ok. The schmoozing skills kicked back in by the end of today’s event, but I am also happy to be able to retreat back into my sweatpants and my Notes app to write this post. I will give what I can as a volunteer for now, and I will try not to judge myself for not giving more. Because I need to continue this internal work. And I’d like to think that by sharing this work, I am not just helping myself; I’m helping others too.

And when my evolved self is ready to launch back into real pants and makeup on a more regular basis, look out world. She’s gonna be fierce.