Day 115 – An Independent Study

Happy Independence Day! Hope you’re having a great holiday:-)

It’s been a good holiday so far, but I have to be honest. I’ve hit something of a wall (also known as burn out) after all the work and travel and projects and writing over the last four months. Thankfully over the weekend I have been able to rest a lot including taking a 13 hour “nap” yesterday. Other than that, I’ve spent most of my time being “independent” laying on the couch or sitting on the porch reading, and have taken a few smaller cat naps also.

Also over the last two weeks since a crazy stressful/tiring trip to Las Vegas followed directly by a great/tiring trip to Orlando, I decided to take a brief sabbatical from not drinking. It’s been good overall although my body has protested a little here and there. But I have to admit it’s been nice to feel “normal” – and to have an occasional buzz.

Tonight we are going over to a friend’s house and I am debating still whether I am going to openly drink a glass or two of wine in front of them or if I will go back to water only. I think I’ll probably be open about my break and faithfully start up a renewed campaign of abstinence on Monday. That will also leave me free to have a glass of wine with Dave’s cousin’s tomorrow without feeling guilty about it.


One curious thought…why should I feel guilty about drinking if I choose to do so? It’s not like I am breaking a promise to anyone, really not even myself. This quest of non-drinking is an experiment for the most part, and one that is harder than most people would want to acknowledge. Truthfully, in my weakest moments, I want to just scrap it all. But on days when I am feeling strong and empowered about doing whatever is needed to be “healthy” it seems like such a tiny sacrifice.

Then again, I think about the true definition of health. Here’s one I found on the UC Davis Student Health and Counseling website that I think puts the idea of wholistic health into a better perspective and one that seriously makes me think drinking a little here and there is “good” for me.

“Wellness is an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life.”

And another, from The World Health Organization

“…a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” 

From a social perspective, a couple of drinks here and there while I was away did add to my overall social well-being as I expect having a glass or two of wine tonight will. The challenge is to let alcohol enhance my life and social health in a positive way without letting it cause damage to my physical health in a negative way.

And from a purely mental health perspective, I think drinking here and there can be a good thing also if it keeps your mental health in tact (as opposed to not drinking making one feel like an outsider, or abnormal person) as per this snippet from theWorld Health Organization.

“Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

Balance…its always about balance for me…and the irony of me choosing that name for my first business still does not escape me. Why, I wonder, is that state so hard for me to achieve?

Perhaps the real goal of my experiment is simply to drink alcohol consciously, not out of habit, stress or pressure from others but purely for the enjoyment of doing so and the enhancement of an experience or life in general. Whatever the case, thank you for accepting my recent choices and allowing me the opportunity to explore my discoveries and revelations about them with you.

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Day 89 – It’s Not a Sprint – It’s a Marathon!

Yesterday I ran in my third 5K of the year – more than I’ve ever done in one season. This one was unique in that it took place on the runway of the Greensboro airport – a place that most people never get to be on unless they are in a plane. Though it wasn’t my best run ever in terms of how I felt, I still managed to set a new personal record for finishing that distance event. And I felt good enough after I finished to take a Tai Chi class at my office which as very rewarding as well.

While both of these were positive achievements, unfortunately, the last few days have been filled with some emotional situations and challenges – both personally and professionally. There are a lot of things I could write about but for now I’ll focus on this: Today I had a drink as a response to stress and in hope of blocking out the overwhelming emotions I was feeling.

At the moment it is not important what the issues are – just that I hit a point where I said “Screw it.” I poured myself a small shot of Drambuie (over ice and shown above) and sipped it while I digested my dinner and an upsetting email. Not good.

Worse, the drink was not satisfying in any way and I did not enjoy it. So I was drinking only to numb myself. As a result, afterward (and even while having the drink) I felt guilty because I went against what I have been practicing for the last 3 months and let myself down. And for what?

Then as the evening wore on, I also felt that drink in my body – not the buzz or euphoria that come with drinking but instead my typical kidney pain – so it was not good on a physical level either.

After I finished my cocktail, Dave and I went to MUSEP – Music for a Sunday Evening in the Park – which is something of a summertime ritual with many of our friends. I was able to relax a little and enjoy a beautiful evening around some folks that I love dearly. Interestingly, a couple of people went out of their way to tell me how proud they were of me for quitting drinking– and even that they’d been reading my blog. I felt like I’d let them down too and was quick to tell them that I wasn’t perfect and that I’d had a drink or two here and there – including today. Funny, I actually felt like I had to justify it by saying I’d had a really tough day, blah blah blah. But it didn’t matter to them – they were all still proud of me for doing something so challenging, brave and introspective. 

And then I thought about one of my insights I had after yesterday’s 5K race. As I was stretching after the race, I was going through a list of “Lessons Learned From Running” in my head. One of these was this: Setting a Goal – and Going After It – Is the Important Thing.

As I said, I set a new personal record yesterday. BUT…it was it not the goal I set so initially I was a little disappointed in how the race turned out. That being said, as I was cooling down I realized that if it were not for my initial goal of finishing in 33 minutes, I probably wouldn’t have pushed myself hard enough to finish in 33:58.

So even though I was not perfect in the execution of my 5K goal, I still did better in this event than I ever have before by having a goal. So in terms of not drinking, perhaps today felt like I lost some time in the race, but I’m still well ahead of where I would be without my goal of not drinking for a year. Besides the “race” isn’t over yet and I still have plenty of reasons to be proud of my efforts and achievements.

Thanks for being a part of my process and for supporting me through the successes and “failures” I’ve had with it. My true success is the growth I’ve had and the way (I’ve been told) my journey has helped other people to take a look at their own lives and habits differently. If my story helps even just one person to be happier and live a better life, then it’s worth it to me to share it.

Namaste y’all.

Day 71 – Blessings Abound

Day 71 – It’s funny how much difference a week can make in your perspective. Last week I was feeling very down and stressed. This week – and especially the last few days – has been amazing. In fact I don’t even know where to start.

First fact – I just passed my 10 week mark. That is pretty awesome. Although I have not completely abstained from alcohol in that time, I have for all practical purposed quit drinking and feel much better as a result. I am more energetic, focused and clear-headed. This is a plus and a minus as I seem to be having a hard time relaxing and stopping working. But I will find my balance soon I’m sure.

Second fact – I have lost weight/fat and am looking a lot more trim than since I quit smoking in 1993. I am excited about this and hope I can keep the momentum going with some good workouts over the next month while I am home. 

Third fact – When I got back from my conference, my newest book, Reflections of My Heart: A Poetic Journey of Love, Life, Heartbreak and Healing was waiting on me. Though I don’t currently plan to promote it heavily since it is so personal, it was important to me to put this in print and to add to my “family” of books.

But probably most exciting fact is the email I got Monday morning inviting me to speak in South Africa in July. This came somewhat out of the blue but can be tied directly to a couple of specific events in my life.

  1. Last summer I was involved in a somewhat difficult continuing education class in Florida. Though the planning and promises did not line up as they were supposed to, while I was there I met with a friend in Miami who helped me get set up to teach at a couple of conferences in Miami and Dallas – perhaps others later this year. This friend was the editor of a magazine called Les Nouvelles Esthetique and Spa (LNE) and I have had a great time at their events.


  2. Fast forward to a month ago when I ran a 5K to raise money for African penguins. At that race my friend Tammy mentioned that her boss had seen penguins when he was in South Africa and suggested that I look for a conference there. Later that day I did some online research, found a conference put on by the South African edition of LNE and applied. Then this week, I found out that they do in fact want to bring me there. WOW!

What this tells me is that a) something good can come from something bad if you only look for the opportunities and b) you have to pay attention to the small signs and coincidences that come up as they are there to guide you. I am thrilled about the potential opportunity and hope I will get to stay in the country for a few weeks to speak at ANOTHER conference later in the month for another organization.

I should also mention that the cover design is almost done for my third book, The Sunflower Princess, AND that I have found an illustrator. I am SO happy with this as I have been looking for ages to finish this book and can’t wait to see it in its final form. I am working on another idea for a follow up book and also see the possibility of other Sunflower Princess books and products thanks to my friend, Lora.

Like I said it has been an amazing week filled with one awesome thing after another. Though I can’t directly attribute most of them to not drinking, there is definitely an influence here and there from it and I am grateful. May the blessings continue!!

Day 61 – Mother’s Day

Day 61 – It’s Mother’s Day. As per usual, I am numb to the holiday and would almost ignore it if it were not for a) potential gift certificate sales at both my businesses and b) my sweet mother-in-law. 

Though it’s hard to explain to all those folks who have super-hero type moms, I have never been able to celebrate this holiday in earnest, at least not since I was about twelve, as it’s hard to celebrate all the things you wish your mom had been but definitely wasn’t.

Yesterday, I was talking with a friend who also has a mom who is less than stellar. We lamented the fact that there are no greeting cards designed for moms like ours with sentiments like “It’s Mother’s Day – and you’re (still) my mother – so I felt obligated to get you a card” or “Happy Mother’s Day. Thanks for occasionally doing mother-like things for me when I was a kid” or my current favorite “Happy Mother’s Day. I’m spending the day mothering myself since I didn’t get enough of that from you growing up.” 

As I’m sitting here writing, I hear a familiar clinking of Dave’s wedding ring on glass and sense he is adding some Bailey’s or other liqueur to his coffee. I try not to feel aggravated but I am. It gets even worse when he sits down next to me and I confirm via the aroma that he’s added some of that delicious stuff to his morning beverage. The only saving grace is that I don’t drink coffee so I don’t feel as left out as I otherwise might. 

I decide to placate my frustration by making Bananas Foster French Toast with pecans and a delicious, made-from-scratch bourbon/brown sugar/butter sauce. It hits the spot and Day 61 continues.

Day 54 – Erasing an Addiction

Day 54 – I’ve been teaching in the Seattle area for the last few days and am now headed to Dallas for another conference. On my flight to Dallas, I see an ad in the in-flight magazine for a 10 day recovery program at Schick Shadel Hospital. Their treatment program is supposed to completely eradicate your addictions through “Counter Conditioning” that somehow teaches you to hate the sight, smell, taste and thoughts of using the addictive substance. They also use “medically administered deep sleep therapy” to cleanse low self-esteem, guilt, regrets and other emotional burdens to improve long-term mental health.

Hmm. I candidly admit that although at this point alcohol is not really appealing to me from a taste standpoint right now, I don’t like the idea of being completely grossed out by the way it tastes, smells or even looks. As prevalent as alcohol is in our culture – and among most of my friends – I almost feel like I’d have to wear a bag over my head to keep myself from feeling sick all the time. 


I’m also a bit hesitant to consider the idea of what essentially sounds like some kind of checmically induced coma/brain-washing. Perhaps there are levels of mental fucked-up-ness that require such heavy duty interventions. But for me, I feel that I am pretty OK emotionally and cannot see turning my brain over to some technician or doctor to clean up while I am in a “medically-induced”sleep-trance. 

That being said, I am curious about both and note that the two clinics listed are in Seattle where I just left and Dallas where I am going. 

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After perusing their website and seeing numerous testimonials from past patients that praise the center, I feel a bit better about what they offer at Shick Shadel.  I don’t see myself going there anytime soon as I am doing just fine without any sort of formal program. For me, quitting drinking is still simply a choice. But I’m glad to know that such an effective program exists if I ever need it.

Here’s their info in case you want to check it out. 

http://www.schickshadel.com or 1-800-Craving

An Open Love Letter to a Friend

I started writing this letter in my head about two years before I started this project and blog. It is basically a plea to the many people I care about to take notice of the role alcohol is playing in their lives- and the potential long-term effects that they are and will be experiencing from it. It is also a letter to myself and the reason I began my year-long journey of sobriety.

If you see something of yourself or someone you love in here, or if something rings true in my own soul-searching journey, I hope you will stop for a moment and consider doing your own examination of your own drinking life as I am doing.  I’ll support you however I can. xoxo fb

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To my dear friend…

I am worried about you. Specifically I am worried about your health, your future, and your relationship with alcohol. Yes I am a drinker too – or have been – and have spent time enjoying my own generous share of libations with you. Most of them have been fun.

But in the last few years I’ve noticed a disturbing trend or pattern – that our relationship (as well as the ones we have with most of the rest of the friends) andmuch of what we do together seems to be centered around drinking. Sometimes drinking a lot.


When we were younger, this all seemed perfectly normal to me. Getting a little tipsy or even drunk is par for the course in your twenties and thirties, I suppose. But the non-stop partying weekend after weekend (and sometimes more) is something that people outgrow once they get a little older and more mature, right? RIGHT?

But now as we step closer to or past fifty, I am little surprised that so many of our peers – you included – are still drinking so much so often. The stories of bad hangovers; of “I was so drunk last night;” of regrets, blackouts and alcohol fueled arguments roll on and on. It’s hard to believe.

I used to think that eventually something would make an impact – one too many fights with your spouse; getting a DUI (or two); your child acting out because of your ongoing “distractions” or just simply suffering the consequences of the bad decisions made in an alcohol-fueled haze.

I thought the chronic health problems and scares you and/or close family members/friends have had – many of which are at a minimum aggravated by over-consumption of alcohol – would make you stop and think about what you are putting in your body. And if none of that has made an impression, I’d think that the overdoses and life-changing accidents of people we both know have been a little too close to not notice. Perhaps I’m wrong.

 Instead alcohol wins out and has become an indelible part of almost all you do – and all those you choose to spend time with. In some cases, alcohol is the friend you choose over all others. I wonder would we still be friends and hang out if it weren’t for our common bond of drinking? Or is it alcohol that actually keeps us together – that makes it “more fun” to be around each other?

I am not judging you or anyone – I am just observing and questioning life and the world around me. In reality I am asking all of these questions about myself more than anyone else. My story is not the same as yours but there are plenty of similarities in terms of how I’ve chosen to spend my time, money and life over the last twenty five years.

But my life is changing. I find myself being less satisfied with the same old pursuits and cocktail party conversations. Talking about sporting events, celebrities, fashion, the weather and even all those fun old memories we’ve shared together has lost some of its’ luster. Spending week after week going to essentially the same social event (albeit a different venue and season) has started to wear on me too.

Rather I am longing for something deeper, more meaningful, and memorable. Likewise I wanted to be remembered for something more than how much we drank together week after week – or what crazy thing I did at that  <insert name of a holiday or event> when I over-indulged.

And I am interested in preserving my health so that I look and feel my best more often and for a long time to come.

So I am quitting drinking.

Will it be forever? I don’t know…it’s hard to look beyond today. Just ask anyone who’s been in a 12 step program.

But I know that today I cannot drink because doing so is stealing my vitality, sanity and time. Instead of facing my problems and challenges, alcohol has become a shield and shroud for me to hide behind and pretend that none of it matters too much or is actually bothering me.

Drinking is making me feel bad and less than wonderful more often than not – not just because of a hangover here and there but also because I am losing touch with what matters most in my life.

Me.

So I am quitting for today. Tomorrow I plan to do it again and to choose a life that is clearer in perspective, conscience and vitality.

What will you choose?

Day 40 – Out of the Wilderness

Day 40 – Easter Sunday and our last day in Madison, WI where we’ve been celebrating my aunt and uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary. We wake up late and despite no alcohol I have the now familiar sugar hangover. I guess sugar will be my newest thing to regulate or give up. Time will tell.

We meet the family for brunch at a place on the lake called Sardine. It is pretty busy with after church folks and a number of families. We have a reservation for a fairly private corner for our family group of 24. On the way over I talked to my cousin Suzy about not drinking for all this time and my desire to toast her parents, to be a part of the moment. She says its likely there will be a toast at some point, probably with mimosas and says I don’t need to feel any pressure to order one.

Though mimosas aren’t my favorite, once we sit down I decide I do want one. It’s time to see what will happen if I have a cocktail and a mimosa seems fun, festive and celebratory. It comes out with a strawberry on the side of the glass and an orange twist on top. I have a few sips and immediately feel a little light headed. Throughout the brunch I have about half of it and feel even more light-headed, bordering on dizzy. I don’t like it and don’t even finish it.

By an hour later I have a headache that could easily turn into a migraine, another big sign that drinking is not a good thing for me. But I have to admit, the feeling of wanting to like the way I felt after drinking some of the mimosa – or wanting to drink something else to find the feeling I do like – is back stronger than it has been in weeks. I worry that I’m going to have to start the whole detoxing process again and am dreading it.