Monkey See, Monkey Do

I just read a blog by Kathleen Parker of The Washington Post – What parents teach kids
about drinking
. In the 13 or so months since I gave up alcohol as a habit, I’ve noticed a direct effect – at times – on the amount/frequency and type(s) of alcohol my husband consumes. It’s definitely less and less often of everything – and definitely a lot less wine!

monkeySimilarly, a number of other people have told me that I’ve inspired them to begin a similar journey to mine. A few others have begun to look at the people around them with clearer vision and finally see that their once harmless vice may have gotten out of control. It’s clear to me that that my action of giving up drinking – or in the past, in doing lots of imbibing – have had an impact beyond just me, but also the people around me. In some instances, I’m sure it’s been a case of monkey see, monkey do.

I still don’t know if this is a temporary path I’m on, or if it is truly a permanent lifestyle change. But I do know I am so much more conscious of just how closely people watch what I do – and that some people are forever changed, both good and bad, by following in my footsteps.

Whether you’re a parent, business owner, or just a caring citizen of the planet, I challenge you to be mindful of what you’re teaching those around you. Through your attitude, words and deeds, you are helping shape the minds of others. Be they your children, your staff members, or simply your friends and peers, you may be surprised what people are learning from you and the impact your unintended lessons are having on their lives.

Day 344 – 3 More Weeks

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. I can’t say that I feel the need to give anything specific up this year, at least nothing consumable. If anything, I may give up something like using profanity or complaining. Or I may just add some positive practices back into my life like prayer, meditation or even begin training for a triathlon I want to do in June.

Tomorrow also marks the beginning of the 49th week of my experiment. I realized today, that on my 365th day, I’ll be in the same city (New York) I was last year on the first day of the journey. I wonder how the Big Apple will look and feel to me as compared to last year. I doubt I will make much notice of it really – I’m really beyond even craving cocktails 99% of the time and am excited to have more cash to spend on fun things in the city as a result.

Many of the biggest a-has I’ve had over the last few weeks have been not so much about not drinking but rather more about healing. Perhaps because my attention and intention are so much clearer now, I am able to recognize the amazing opportunities to heal lingering issues in my life and learn faster than ever before. This has always been a strength of mine, to be honest, but it feels like now I am grasping deeper insights more quickly and easily than ever before. It also seems that I am able to manifest that which I want with much less effort or struggle – and that I have an ability to keep my calm and center amidst all kinds of chaos.

As I once did, many people think that they need alcohol to relax and de-stress. But I can see pretty clearly that while a glass of wine – or three – would help me unwind in the moment, removing that additive from my life has actually made a longer lasting impact on improving my overall well-being and stress levels.

Despite the changes of the last year, I’m no longer a conversation piece among my friends, perhaps just a bit of a curiosity. But like me, they’ve mostly moved beyond the initial period of panic and hysteria of “what do we do when we’re with Felicia?” to a quiet, bemused acceptance of what is. Truly, isn’t that what we all eventually have to do with ourselves and each other anyway?

In some ways, I’ll be glad to see these next three weeks pass so that I can take the next steps on this project in terms of editing and rewriting everything I’ve written, and taking all the steps needed to turn it into a book. But in other ways, I think I will miss this period of observing my life along with the lessons and a-has that have come from doing so.

Bottom line, my overall perspective and understanding of my life has grown and deepened tremendously during this year. I feel much more in tune with myself as well as the world around me. I feel more compassionate, grounded, relaxed and healthy. I also feel a strong sense of pride in being able to stick with not drinking long enough to make it a part of my normal life rather than it just being a habit I was trying to break. I truly have found my zen by letting go of the zin. And that is pretty amazing – or should I say A-M-A-Z-E-N. I am blessed and very grateful for this experience and journey. Thank you for sharing it with me:-)

Day 316 – Crossing a New Threshold

Since I last wrote, I’ve crossed a new threshold. I’ve now been on this journey for over 300 days and have just than 49 days left in my formally planned experiment. I write a lot less often than I did in the beginning, probably as much because I am busy with a variety of other things as anything else. But it’s also because over the course of the last 45 weeks, I’ve really learned to live my life without alcohol as a major focal point. This change has taken place over time, with consistent effort, discipline, and sometimes difficulty. But more than anything it has happened because of COMMITMENT.

The commitment I’ve made is not so much about not drinking as it is about making being present and putting my overall health and well-being a priority above momentary and often artificial pleasure. At times I’ve substituted other things to take away the void left by eliminating drinking alcohol – and my chocolate consumption went up pretty drastically for a while. But week by week, I found that I needed to fill that hole less and less.

Over the last month or so, I’ve had about one small drink per week – a cordial of some kind – just to enjoy the pleasure of the taste and the mild warming feeling that came from drinking it. I’ve also tasted almost every beer, cocktail or glass of wine Dave has had when we’ve been out and none of it has appealed to me. Boy, times have changed.

As I come closer to the conclusion of my experiment, I suspect that I will for the most part remain a non-drinker. That actually kind of shocks me. However, I don’t think I’ll be a complete teetotaler as I now see I can enjoy alcohol in small amounts, especially at home, without it being a big deal or something I can’t control.

But for me, I don’t think drinking will ever be the same as it was. I sincerely feel that it will never again be a habit I participate in without truly thinking about it but rather an activity I selectively partake in when the moment seems right and the libation is something I truly enjoy. And that is something worth toasting to!

Cheers – and Namaste:-)

January 3rd – A Drink from a Dead Guy

Sometimes I just have to laugh at myself…

Yesterday, after my declaration on New Year’s Day of going back to not drinking at all, I had a drink. Just one drink, mind you, which was very impromptu, and it was at the request of a dead man.

Sounds dramatic I know. Let me explain.

drambuie2For the last few weeks, I’ve been reading books on mediums and psychics, specifically those who communicate with spirits that have passed over and who want to communicate with their living relatives and loved ones. In these books, there are various mentions made of the ways spirits try to communicate with those of us still on earth such as coming to us in our dreams, putting their favorite smell or cologne in the air, or helping to create “signs” or “coincidences.” My sudden glass of Drambuie was one of those coincidences.

Last night we went to Chapel Hill for dinner to meet up with some friends – Tina and Darren – who live out-of-town and a few others who know them. When we got to the restaurant, the whole group was just having a shot of Jack Daniels in honor of Tina’s father as it was the 14th (I think) anniversary of his death. Over the course of the evening, Tina and I talked a little about him and his death – and some of the challenges she’d faced in dealing with it. We talked a little about my parents passing also and then moved on to other topics.

Later in the evening, we stopped back at their hotel lobby bar to continue our conversation before we drove home to Greensboro. As we settled in, I had an unexpected urge to have a Drambuie – surprising because I’ve only once ever ordered it in a bar and because I’d decided I wasn’t drinking. But it felt like the thing to do. As I placed the order, Tina’s eyes got really big. She said “That is so weird! That’s one of the main things my father drank!” And for the next few minutes she sat in silence, evidently contemplating the meaning of the sign.

For me, I don’t know if her dad’s spirit really made me order that drink. I think in part, I just wanted to be part of the group – and I was freezing so I was hoping it would warm me up a bit. But I’m hopeful that – even if it was truly just a coincidence – my decision to have that one drink helped Tina remember something special about her dad that also warmed her inside and out.

December 29th – “Old Habits Die Hard…”

eggnogWell I decided a week ago on the 22nd that I was going to take a short holiday break from “the wagon” and have spiked egg nog with my team at our Holiday Egg Nog Social. This event was an old tradition from my first spa and I wanted to revive it again this year. In part this was because one of my clients gifted me with a bottle of his famously potent homemade nog. However, I decided to selfishly keep that for myself and made my own spiked egg nog for the party.

It was no big deal really. I had a very small glass of my traditional egg nog (laced with Jim Beam bourbon instead of the rum that so many people use) at the party and another one at home. I enjoyed the warm, relaxed feeling I got from it and all the fond holiday memories that came back with each sip. It definitely eased some of the holiday tension that had been building up. And it was DELICIOUS!

The next night, Dave and I went to a dinner with two older friends and clients to celebrate our birthdays. A really nice Pinot Noir was ordered for the table, so I decided to have a thimble-sized serving and cautiously enjoyed every drop. Then we went to the annual “Christmas Eve Eve” party hosted by our friend, Jed, at a local bar where I had absolutely nothing to drink and was totally fine with it.


My in-laws, Sam & Beth, at our wedding in 2006

The actual holiday came and went with a bit more of the same. I had a total of about 2 glasses of wine on Christmas Eve and Day. Then we went to the mountains to spend the weekend with David’s parent’s on the 27th and 28th. Due to the pending stress of the weekend – and my father-in-laws past statement of enjoying drinking with me – I decided to just continue the trend by having wine with dinner the night we got there and spiked egg nog throughout the day the next day.

I enjoyed almost all of it – the flavors, the feelings, the warmth and relaxation. However, as each day passed, I felt more and more pain building up in my body, especially in my hip and knee joints. Seemingly, I’ve developed a very strong sensitivity to alcohol – that or the sugar in some of the desserts I ate over the week.

Regardless of how much I enjoyed this little respite during the holidays, these aches and pains are a true call back to reality – the reality that I have moved pretty firmly into the world of being a former drinker.

Sigh…and Happy Holidays.

Day 256 – Thankful for it all

pogo and dolly

Pogo and Dolly are great anti-depressants!

I made it through my first Thanksgiving in recent memory without drinking. To be honest, it was really tough. I felt myself slipping into a depression early in the day and really wanted to a) hide under the covers and not come out; b) gorge on chocolate c) drink a big old glass of wine; and d) snuggle up with my dogs (and no one else). I did none of these but instead worked a little bit before dragging myself up to make a dish to take to a friend’s house for dinner. I also took half a Xanax before we left.

Over the course of the evening I did taste a tiny sip of Dave’s beer (terrible), a mini sip of his Manhattan (better, but still not good) and a couple of micro sips of the wine that was automatically poured for me at dinner (red, but way too dry for my taste). Later Dave had a glass of something I really did like, but I knew that I really couldn’t – or shouldn’t – have any more of it than the little taste I got.


Its days like this when I have the little internal argument with myself that begins “Why can’t you just have half a glass? You can handle it!” before remembering that drinking even just a glass or too of wine was putting me in extreme pain in terms of my kidneys. It just isn’t worth it.

However, not drinking puts a mental strain on me at times – especially on a holiday and at a social gathering that I’m not really in the mood to attend today. It just seems unfair and is a large part of what my depression was about today.

panic attackJust the other day while perusing the juice aisle at Trader Joes, I had a little bit of a panic attack while considering the idea of whipping out a bottle of sparkling (though non-alcoholic) Chardonnay for tonight’s dinner or at another party we planned to attend later. I immediately had heart palpitations, felt dizzy and got the beginnings of a migraine. I got myself out of the store as fast as I could but still got a bottle of the fizzy fake stuff just to prove to myself I wasn’t a complete looney.

The truth is, sometimes it’s really hard to see and know that I just don’t fit in like I used to. And though I know I am doing the right thing for myself, I am a little worried about what the rest of the season is going to be like.

Despite the lack of drinking, I am also finding that I’m having at least what I perceive to be kidney pain more and more often. Sometimes I wake up with it but other days, I feel it after I eat something really salty – like a handful of salted almonds – or sweet, like a milkshake. Are these things I’m going to have to give up too? Am I going to lose all of my vices one by one until I am the most boring, restricted, regimented person on the planet?

I know I am being dramatic, but that is how I feel sometimes – that all the fun things are being taken away from me one by one and that soon I will be someone who just goes to work, comes home, eats the same food over and over again before going to bed and trying to get my 8.5 hours of sleep before starting all over again. True. I love what I do and am grateful for my life.

chocolate sauceBut at the moment, I am feeling more and more stifled by my body and want to run screaming down the halls; to dive into a vat of chocolate sauce and eat my way out; to recklessly go lay on the beach in the full sun, topless, while sipping top-shelf margaritas courtesy of a really cute cabana boy and…and….whatever else struck my fancy in the moment. Ohhh…to be 25 and completely clueless again – yet with the wisdom to know exactly how to enjoy that cluelessness!

Then again, after talking about “the old days” with my good friend tonight, and looking at tons of pictures from parties I know I went to, but can’t remember much of anything about, I wonder if I really do want to go back to that life and time? Perhaps instead all this angst is just about me having a deeper calling, and I’m actually feeling restless because the weight of the various issues I’m trying to drop out of my life isn’t coming off as fast as I think it should. Maybe I am simply wishing to be free to move on to whatever is supposed to happen next instead of still being tied to the past life where I can no longer live.

I’m not sure what else to do other than to pray for guidance – and to be thankful for all that I do have in my life, even if part of that is frustration, angst and depression. It is all serving a greater purpose and someday I will know what that is.

Namaste – and good night.

Day 230 – Butter Beer is Not Better Beer!

I just realized that in a little more than four months, I will have completed my year-long experiment/observation which started on March 11, 2014. I am two third of the way through and amazed that the time has gone by so quickly, especially when it seemed like the first forty days would never end.

I haven’t written as much in the last four months as I did in the first, for a lot of reasons. Here are two:

1) The first four months were hard and seemed to bring me one challenge after another. Then I took two months off before making a firm decision two months ago to quit if that is what needed to happen for me to be healthy. Funny how making a real commitment can change your experience of a situation!

2) Life has been busier in some ways. I had to finish my last book project, The Sunflower Princess, which while short, took a considerable amount of mental energy. I also had another big creative project – a 6 hour video course – that took up most of my free writing time for a few weeks and lots going on with my own massage practice as well as the wellness center. Thus it has been easier to think about this project more now that so much unfinished business is off my plate.

I’ve also started another blog, Sunflower Wisdom, which is tied to my book and about various lessons and insights I’ve experienced in my life. It is taking the place of my old blog, Felicia’s Blog, which was unexpectedly retired back in June thank to changing their platform and me being slow to react to this information. I think the new blog is a better fit for the material anyway and I am really enjoying it.

The bottom line is that I am still not drinking,  and it is OK. Tonight I had a truly unsatisfying glass of Butter Beer (a la Harry Potter – and totally non-alcoholic. It will never be my drink of choice but you don’t know if you don’t try. I’ll keep looking for one but think the best I’m likely to come-up with is my tried and true chocolate milk – or holiday egg nog which YES is available in stores already.

I’ll be posting here a bit more often again now that I have some time and brain space available. Thank you so much for your support in my journey!