Boxing Over Boozing

I went back to my MMA gym today for my 3rd kickboxing class of the week, and I’ll be back again tomorrow – a new record for myself! I have never done more than three kickboxing classes in a week. But this week’s schedule (or lack thereof) has allowed me to get over there a bunch, and I’m loving it.

To think, I almost never tried kickboxing because of a hangover.

My kids had been doing karate at this gym for several months when the manager approached me one afternoon and said I should try the adult class. This was October 2017, and I was stuck in what I did not realize was the nadir of my #winemom drinking days. I admitted to him that I had always wanted to try kickboxing, but used my Peloton as an excuse. “I don’t know if I can justify spending any more money on fitness,” I said.

“Well, here’s a coupon for one week of free classes. Let me know when you want to come in,” he replied, ignoring my lame excuse as any good salesperson would.

The coupon was set to expire on November 1. I procrastinated all of October. Also, FYI, the night before November 1 is Halloween. And I couldn’t accompany my kids trick-or-treating without my Tervis full of wine, obviously. So November 1 rolled around, and my coupon expired because of my Halloween hangover.

I showed up to the gym a couple days later to take my kids to their class. The manager asked me where I had been and why I didn’t start my trial week yet. I made some joke about drinking too much on Halloween, shame singeing my insides as I said it.

“So when did you say you’re going to start?” He asked.

“Umm… next week?”

“Ok. I’ll extend your offer for one more week.”

I can’t remember if I drank the night before my first class. If I did, I’m sure I used Herculean willpower to limit myself to one or two glasses of wine so that I could be in good enough shape to make it through. I don’t remember exactly what drills we did, or how many people were in the class with me. I do remember my hamstrings seizing up as they attempted to squat for the first time in months (years?). I remember hating how out of shape I felt. And I remember how much I freaking loved kicking and punching the crap out of that red heavy bag, despite having no clue what I was doing.

My passion for kickboxing ignited that day, in that very first class, and it continues to grow.

It was not long after I started kickboxing regularly that I realized my new passion for martial arts was in direct conflict with my passion for sauvignon blanc. If I drank the night before a class, it was a slog and I felt disgusting. If I didn’t drink, it was a blast and I felt powerful.

I have no doubt that my passion for kickboxing helped nudge me toward my commitment to Dry January that December. I didn’t know it at the time, but Dry January was the start of my alcohol-free journey that has led me here, to Day 345 of 365 (and beyond). I’m not sure I would be where I am if that gym manager hadn’t encouraged me. And even if he only did it to make a buck, I am still grateful to him for scratching out 11/1 and writing a new expiry date on that coupon.

From Plateau to Progress

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My Monday kickboxing class is different from Wednesday and Friday. The latter days are super fast paced, calorie-torching, muscle-scorching. My Monday instructor focuses more on technique, which makes for a great balance. His combos are also more dynamic and technically difficult, so even though the pace is slower I always end up sore after his class.

Even though I had a crappy night of sleep thanks to my Frenchie who was up throughout the night, and a hectic morning due to my mutt who had an early vet appointment (if it’s not the kids, it’s the dogs!), I made it to class today. I felt fresher than anticipated, and as the class progressed I felt strong and agile.

I felt strong. I am strong. I can do real push-ups now, with proper form and all. I can throw a Superman punch and I can kick someone in the head (you know, if I ever needed to). I am learning more, and feeling more natural doing these moves and combos, each week.

Each week I see progress. I am continually building physical and mental strength. I am becoming more confident as I progress not just in fitness, but in other areas of my life too. Parenting. Marriage-ing. Writing. Cooking. Volunteering. Connecting.

When I was drinking, I was not progressing. I was plateauing. Yes, life went on around me and I went with it. My babies grew into kids. We moved houses. I exercised with sporadic dedication. I took on various volunteer gigs. I did things.

I did things, yes. I had a wonderful life and I felt happy and lucky and all that. But I was only going to get so far with booze by my side. And the plateau that had held me for so many years was starting to crumble.

No one around me saw it. Or at least no one ever said anything. But I saw it in the mirror every morning. And I felt it, from my toes to my heart to my brain, every hour of every day.

At first, that plateau had felt like a slinky, sexy dance floor. But years later, it felt like a dance floor at dawn – sticky and suffocating. Still, I stayed. Because I didn’t know where else to go. I didn’t know what lay beyond the confines of this dance floor that was once shiny and exciting but now disgusted me.

One hangover too many, and the edges of that dance floor began to crumble into quicksand. I jumped. Before I could be swallowed. I jumped with no confidence of my ability to escape the quicksand, but I knew I had to try.

From soft rock bottom to rock solid ground. No more dance floors for me (at least not metaphorical ones). No more plateaus, only progress.

Life Lessons from My Kids, Part 1: Self-Care

These are good days. There is pain, there is fatigue, there is a crazy holiday season happening around us. But my son and I have battened down the hatches and we are weathering his post-tonsillectomy recovery together.

For the last four days we have been in our mellow little home bubble. Lots of TV, Legos, and ice cream for him. Lots of cooking, Peloton, and to do list-ticking for me. I wasn’t sure what to expect of this time. But I think it happened now because we both needed a break. My son was worn down from years of restless sleep due to ginormous tonsils. He needed to have them removed. I was worn down from months of busy routine regularly interrupted by hectic breaks from routine. I needed to wipe the calendar clean.

We both needed this time. And we will both emerge from it as improved versions of ourselves.

As heart-wrenching as it has been to see my son in pain, I have been amazed and inspired by his quiet bravery, strength and persistence. He’s just getting through it. He’s letting himself rest. He’s taking his medicine. He’s eating when he’s hungry, and hydrating as much as he can.

Seems simple enough. But somewhere along the path of growing up, these self-care ideals get lost. Maybe not for everyone, but they did for me. Rest when you’re worn-down. Take medicine if you’re in too much physical pain. Eat when you’re hungry and stop eating when you’re no longer hungry. Hydrate. And then hydrate some more. That’s it. Do these things, and you give your body a chance to heal and operate at its best.

But life happens. Subconscious wires are re-routed to form connections between food and comfort, between drugs (including alcohol) and emotional pain. These and other detours become our new regular routes. Simple self-care is unlearned as our original neural pathways fray, and then crumble, without regular maintenance and use.

So this week I am taking a lesson from my son and focusing on basic self-care. I have eaten well and exercised every day since Sunday. I have kept up with my hydration. And I have felt zero temptation to drink alcohol. A year ago, the mere thought of a house-bound week with my son would have been enough to send me to my wine fridge. Now, the wine witch is not even a whisper in my ear. I have taken great care of myself this week so that I can take great care of my son. I am proud of both of us.

I have never admired my son more than I have this week. He is just such a good, sweet guy. And I feel more motivated than ever to be the best mom I can be. Because that is what he and my daughter deserve. They deserve me at my best. And so do I.

A Year in Discovery, Pondering Recovery

With a body full of tight, sore muscles after my 60-minute advanced bootcamp class on our new Peloton Tread yesterday, I climbed on my bike for a recovery ride this morning. A negative self-talk battle ensued, as is usual when I attempt to take it easy. I finally came to the realization today that this is a waste of energy and needs to change.

Recovery rides, for me, are as mentally challenging as other workouts are physically challenging. Even though I know my body needs the rest, it is a mental fight to feel good about not pushing myself. I don’t like feeling tired. I don’t like falling behind the instructor’s numbers. I want to be able to give it my best all the time. But if I were to push past my comfort zone in every single workout, I would burn out or hurt myself. And I know I deserve better than that.

I have to remind myself that a recovery ride these days is necessitated by a super hard workout the day before; whereas it used to be necessitated by super hard drinking the night before. I am no longer punishing myself for a hangover; I am soothing and loosening tight, fatigued, and growing muscles. A recovery ride should feel like a treat – not a failure.

Cue the mindset shift. I need to stop comparing myself to anyone else on the leaderboard. I need to listen to and respect my body enough to recover without judgement. I need to let go of the numbers, even if this feels contrary to my rule-following nature. If the instructor tells me to raise my resistance to 50 and push my cadence past 90, I want to do it. I feel like a weenie if I don’t.

But I hereby resolve to think of myself as a rebel instead of a weenie. I am a recovery rebel, prioritizing what is good for my body like a boss. I take it easy with wild abandon. I revel in my need to take it light and slow. Look at me, keeping my resistance at 36 when the instructor asks for 45! Y’all can take the hill without me. I’ll be chillin’ on my flat road. So badass.

I’m not there yet, but I will be. Mindsets don’t change in an instant. Practice practice practice.

* * *

It’s interesting to throw around this word “recovery” during my alcohol-free year in a non-alcohol context. I have never considered myself to be “in recovery” from my alcohol use, because I don’t believe it was excessive enough to warrant a “recovery” as I understand the term. The origin of the word “recover” means “to get again” or “get back” – but I was never gone.

I was never lost, just muddled. I have been here the whole time. I was just unable to fire on all cylinders a little more often than I could tolerate. I am not getting myself back; but I am exploring, peeling back, uncovering.

I am not in recovery. I am in discovery.

The origin of the word “discover” means “to uncover completely.” That’s more like it.

So as part of my year of discovery, I will shift my mindset about exercise recovery and give myself the permission and freedom to enjoy a well-earned flat road. I have come so far and conquered many hills along the way. I refuse to let negative self-talk hold me back in any area of my life anymore.

Sober Boss October

October! My favorite month of the year. And this is going to be an especially exciting and momentous and busy one. This weekend my mom and I will celebrate our birthday. I was born on her 30th birthday and we celebrate together every year with a Broadway double-header in NYC. The weekend after that, I will go to London by myself (!!!). The weekend after that is my actual birthday, on which we might be doing something that is major that I can’t share yet. And then we get into Halloween mode.

In addition to all of these events, it’s Sober October and also what my favorite Peloton instructor, Ally Love, calls #BossOctober. I debated about whether or not I would officially partake in these two movements. I didn’t want to feel extra pressure as I am already trying to write every day as part of my one year alcohol-free. But of course I am already staying sober, so Sober October is a no-brainer. And I love the idea of Boss October.

For this, Ally asks us to commit to the following:
1. Decide to give up one thing you enjoy (e.g. booze, candy, etc.)
2. Choose a virtue/habit to focus on (patience, being on time, etc.)
3. Add some sort of movement to your schedule (starting a new form of exercise, adding yoga or strength, etc.)

Here is my Boss October plan:
1. Giving up booze (which of course I’m already doing). I thought about giving up something else, like red meat or Halloween candy. But being alcohol-free is far from effortless yet. Still a lot of work, a lot to read, and a lot to write on this topic alone – so I’m sticking to it!
2. I will focus on being more present with my kids. Specifically, I am committing to 15 minutes of one-on-one time with my son and daughter every day. No phones, no distractions. Which may sound a) simple and b) like not a lot of time. But for me, to put my phone down and not multi-task is a huge challenge. And I hope that by committing to a month of this unplugged, focused time with each of my kids, I can start to change my multi-task-obsessed behavior.
3. I already feel fairly maxed out with my workout schedule, and I am traveling in the middle of the month. BUT I am going to do more with the time I have. Small changes could make a big difference! I have wanted to add a 60-minute ride and upper body strength training to my schedule, and so it is time to BOSS UP. I am going to tweak my workout schedule thus:

Old schedule (my week resets on Tuesday because that is my weigh-in day):
Tues – 45-min ride
Wed – 45-min kickboxing
Thurs – Rest
Fri – 45-min kickboxing
Sat – 45-min ride plus 10-min abs
Sun – 45-min ride
Mon – 45-min kickboxing

New schedule:
Tues – 45-min ride
Wed – 45-min kickboxing
Thurs – Rest or recovery ride
Fri – 45-min kickboxing
Sat – 30-min ride plus 10-min upper body and 10-min abs
Sun – 60-min ride
Mon – 45-min kickboxing

I’m excited for these challenges and I’m looking forward to making new connections with others who are partaking in either Sober October or Boss October – or both!

Who’s signing up for Sober October? Anyone interested in committing to Boss October with me? Let me know! Bring on Sober Boss October!

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.

No Self-Sabotage to See Here!

It’s the eve of our summer “vacation” (seeing as we are bringing both kids and dogs, I’m trying to be optimistic in using that word instead of “trip”) and I’m callin’ it: no self-sabotage here, folks!

I have earned a blue dot every day this week. I have worked out the last seven days in a row – I don’t know that I’ve EVER done that! My goal was to get out ahead of my vacation by  conserving Weeklies and racking up FitPoints, so that I not only start the week feeling svelte and energized, but also can be a little more indulgent with my food choices while we’re away. Achievement unlocked.

The pre-AF me was a self-sabotage expert. If I had an important event or date or trip coming up, I would promise myself that I wouldn’t drink (“detox before you re-tox” was one of my favorite sayings) and would eat clean in the days leading up to it. I made these promises, and then I broke them. Always. By stuffing my face and drinking too much. And then I’d feel disgusted and disappointed in myself, always, as I dug through my closet and tried to find something else to wear because the original outfit I had picked out did not flatter my wine belly. [Spoiler alert: nothing flatters a wine belly. Especially one complimented by a puffy face and shame-filled heart.]

I didn’t realize it then, but I see it now:

Promises made on a conscious level are easily broken by one’s subconscious if they are not aligned with one’s subconscious wiring.

I need to think of a zippier way to phrase that and I’m too tired to come up with it right now (plus I have a ton of packing to do tonight). But that’s it. Those deals I tried to strike with myself (“Don’t drink this week and then you can fit into your dress AND get wasted at so-and-so’s wedding on Saturday!”) were never going to work because my subconscious was never on board.

My subconscious was wired to drink. And eat junk food. And so that’s what I did, especially when I put pressure on myself to NOT do those very things. Willpower is a finite resource. I’m still toiling away at the rewiring, but I must be doing something right, because I can feel that long-ingrained habits are truly changing. As my daughter would say, HAL-LE-YOU-YA!

My daughter ascended a climbing wall for the first time today. When she got to the top she pushed a green button that set off a bright flashing light, to show that she made it, before she happily bounced off the wall and back down to the floor. After she made it to the top that first time, all of a sudden the wall was a lot less daunting. She pushed that green button several more times today, climbing with greater confidence each time.

This week has felt like a climbing wall to me. With our departure date waiting for me at the top, I strapped myself in, hooked myself up, and I climbed. I held onto every blue dot earned and every workout completed, each one getting me closer to that green button.

And now I’m here, at the top. I push the button. I take a deep breath. I glance down to see how far I’ve come. I take another breath, a pause to absorb how good it feels to have made it. Because once I’m back on the ground the green button will seem so high. But I’ve been here once, and I’ll be back. Next time, with greater confidence.

I bend my knees and push off the wall, bouncing down to the ground with a pride-filled heart.