The question I receive almost daily that has nothing to do with whether you (or I) need to quit…Read More
Last week was a pretty monumental week for me, my first real, sober, non-pregnant vacation. We did go skiing in January but that didn't seem quite as tied with drinking as a beach vacation does. I guess, arguably, drinking and skiing isn't a great idea anyway. But beach vacations ... totally different story. Cocktails on the beach, glasses of wine watching the sunset, a cold beer contrasting with the hot sand, these were what my vacations were largely made up of for the last twenty years. Vacation and booze were so wrapped up together for me that when I quit drinking in October and as I transitioned from "omg, 8 eff'ing days," to "this is ok," to "possibly forever," to "probably forever," my June anniversary trip just hung out there, months away but seeming like an inevitable roadblock. Plenty of "normies," what some of us call you normal drinkers, seem to have the same association. I was asked several times before leaving on vacation whether it would be hard for me. Here's the honest truth - yes, it's hard. No, it's not worse. In some ways, it's better but it's largely the same.
Here's what's hard. The first evening when we arrived was hard. It lasted maybe 90 minutes after we arrived at our beach house after a long day of traveling. That time was always cocktail time - time to unwind after the stresses of traveling with three little ones. That association was strong and I honestly didn't know what to do when we first got here. But not knowing what to do is ok. It's uncomfortable but I've learned that it's ok and I learn how to deal if I can't escape. I wish I could tell you what I did but I honestly don't remember, which says a lot. :) In any event, it didn't ruin my entire evening because, of course, it passed.
The first ten minutes of dinner out alone with my husband was also hard. We went to a beautiful Italian restaurant where I would have ordered a Manhattan served up before dinner and a big, beautiful glass of Cab once we sat down. I was anxious walking into the beautiful restaurant, sitting down, imagining how seamlessly I could order a drink with the waiter having no idea what a huge deal that would be for me. Instead, I willed myself to give this a try. I ordered a virgin mojito and by the time our mussels appetizer course had arrived, the discomfort had passed.
I said above that it's not worse. Admittedly, those 2ish hours discussed above were worse than they would have been had I had access to my quick fix. But, beyond that short amount of time, I can see now that alcohol didn't really enhance my past vacations as much as I thought it did. If I had had those drinks, how much would my evening really have changed for the better? We still had great conversations, enjoyed amazing food, and Grant and I had a really fun experience later that evening on a dark beach that I don't remember ever being willing to do drunk ;)
This brings me to how it was better (yay!), sandy sex aside. The main thing I discovered was that without cocktails on the beach being an option, I just DID more. I was much more willing to play with the kids and my husband and I weren't just constantly "taking turns." No, I wasn't super mom and there were still many times that I just wanted to chill out in my chair rather than flying a kite, covering myself or the kids in sand, or throwing them in the waves. But these things were truly much more enjoyable than they ever were in the past. I used to think I just wasn't playful. Turns out I am when booze isn't an option.
I was also much more willing to try new things. I went shelling, kayaking, took a one hour boat tour, and banana boating with my kids - all things I probably would have passed up in the past. It wasn't that I didn't want to do these things but I would always reason that I didn't need to. I could stay back and babysit while the others went or sit on the beach with my bestie, Chardonnay. I reasoned that I was taking one for the team by staying back and babysitting or that I was being frugal - Chardonnay only costs about $12 a bottle versus the hundreds that we spent on water activities. You know what though? Chardonnay isnt real fun. She fuels your mind into thinking she is for a couple hours but in reality she's just pacifying you from all you're actually missing out on. Then she gives you an extra kick in the ass on her way out and zaps your energy for the rest of the day and often the morning after. She's cheap but in reality she costs a fortune :(
All in all, it was one of the best vacations that I've ever been on. Unlike trips I've taken in the past, I feel like this one actually provided what vacations are meant to - unfettered time with those we love, a chance to catch of on sleep and relaxation, great food, and an opportunity to try new things. I woke each morning feeling sleepy, relaxed, and headache-free, grateful for this rare week where we didn't have anything to rush off to but low-tides for shelling or the last kayaks available at Tween Waters. Most importantly, I woke up each morning without shame, knowing that I'm offering "me" to my kids, for better or worse. If I don't want to play with them, so be it and let me assure you that that is often, often the case. I'm still an adult that likes reading my book in peace and having dinners at places whose best offering is something other than chicken fingers and fries. But there's something incredibly freeing about knowing that I'm making that choice with a clear head, rather than choosing to alter my mood with a substance that takes me away from them.
Last night I went to an awesome event out at Rachel Vanoven’s shop in Brownsburg. If you haven’t been there, definitely check it out especially if you have little ones. I wanted to buy the whole store! Sonja Overhiser of A Couple Cooks shared her story and it was a nice opportunity to chat with other local female entrepreneurs about, well, all the things – networking, social media, advocating for yourself without feeling “pushy,” etc. I made some great connections that I look forward to cultivating going forward.
I had one interaction though that threw me. Let’s call her *Alex. And let me start out by saying that it wasn’t Alex’s fault. She asked me a valid question, one that I’m sure many people in my life are asking, but one that showed that she didn’t get what I’m doing. It was my job to explain it to her and I failed. Like, miserably.
I was talking with Alex about putting on some sort of event for my Beautycounter business, possibly a pop-up shop or some sort of private shopping event. She seemed interested but hesitantly said, “I don’t know how to ask this without offending you. Is this like a Mary Kay thing?” My heart sank. The strong, ambitious business woman that I’m becoming disappeared and I became my 16 year old insecure self. “Uh… yeah,” I said. “I mean, like… Yeah, I guess it is…” Alex quickly exited the conversation and I left the otherwise incredibly empowering event, wondering what AM I doing? I’m an attorney. My husband is a physician. We don’t need the money. What motivated me to throw myself into this unknown business whose model, frankly, garners a shit-ton of skepticism?
Some combination of sleep and morning light just fixes everything for me. No matter how crazed my head was the night before, it is always infinitely better the next morning. Today was no exception. Clarity has returned, so here’s why (in bullet points)…
- I obviously tried and loved the Beautycounter line. When I quit drinking, one of the first things I needed to learn how to do was to engage in some serious self-care. Part of that for me was switching out my tired skin-care regimen of 20 years (if you could call it that) and purchasing makeup that gave me the look I wanted – put together without looking Kardashian.
- I learned about the mission of the company and it's one that inspires me – to provide effective and cleaner, safer alternatives to the nasty stuff that’s currently allowed in our products. But that’s not all. Beautycounter is expensive. It’s a premium brand and many either can’t or won’t invest in safer skin products. Beautycounter isn’t ok with that. We are advocating at the state and federal level to increase regulation over this industry, so that our levels of safety become the industry norm and accessible to all. And, you know what? We’re getting shit done. Click here for more info on the Personal Care Products Safety Act.
- I’ve been saying for years that I want to find something where I can succeed or fail on my own terms. Beautycounter has provided me with that opportunity with minimal investment. I basically get to take a brand and product that I love and become a “mini-CEO” for my own company. I’ve put together a dream team of women that I want to work with who aren’t necessarily my best friends but who I believe have the talents and business savvy to make this work for them. I also have my own policies and ethics that I get to employ through this business. For instance, I’ve seen a sad lack of diversity in the women who are selling and using Beautycounter products. My goal is to have a diverse team, one that is at least 20% women of color. So, I get to make this business MINE. I get to use MY creativity and ideas about how a business should be run. That feels amazing.
- Last, but certainly not least, this is freaking FUN. Becoming a Beautycounter consultant incentivizes me to do what I want to do anyway – connect with other women. That’s what I do now. I throw playdates, cocktail parties, events that I think my network would be interested in and share these products that I love and that half of my friends have been interested in trying anyway. If they’re not interested, that’s cool too! We’ve gotten to spend time together and take a break from our everyday routine and hopefully we’ve learned something from each other. Win, win!
So that’s what I wish I had told Alex. Yes, it’s like a Mary Kay thing if that means it’s all I've said above. But if you’re asking if my dream is to drive a pink Cadillac and hawk charcoal masks then the answer is HELL, NO. Alex wasn’t the first person to ask me something like this and she’s certainly not the only one who has thought it. They haven’t understood the magic of what I'm trying to do and that’s ok. We don’t get what we don’t get till we get it, right? And we certainly aren’t going to understand if it isn’t corrected or explained to us. So, that was my first mistake and then my second was to let that sour my mood after an the otherwise beautiful evening. As I was sitting here this morning piecing my thoughts together, I looked down at the awesome mug that I bought at the event last night. (I’m telling you. Rachel Vanoven. Worth the trip!). As often happens, the answers are all right there if your eyes are open to them.
Step One: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
So, a quick disclaimer here – I LOVE AA. I highly recommend that everyone, whether you have a drinking problem or not, attend an open AA meeting and be a witness to the beauty, truth, and authenticity occurring in those rooms and church basements. And, certainly, if you are concerned about your drinking, AA is where I would recommend that you start. According to the AA website, the program and its basic text has “helped millions of men and women recover from alcoholism.” From an odds standpoint, attending AA meetings and completing the 12-step program is your best bet at freeing yourself from this thing. I began attending meetings about a month after I quit drinking because, like pretty much everything I do, I went all in in the beginning, throwing everything I knew of at what was a huge change. (Moderation just isn't my strong suit in, well, anything...) I attend a small women’s AA group and while I have not yet worked any of the steps (largely because of the misgivings discussed below), I absolutely cherish my time there and the relationships I have formed. Ironically, I've found much of what I was looking for when drinking - connection and acceptance - in the relationships I've formed with women there but that's a subject for another post.
So, having said all that, I have some big hang-ups with this first step – the most significant one being that it seems to me to draw the circle of who is suffering at the hand of alcohol (and should consider a life of abstinence) too small. Maybe it’s the lawyer in me but words mean a lot. When I see the words “powerless” and “unmanageable,” I picture extremely dire straights and, thankfully, I don’t consider that my life at all. I have talked this through with several people and the responses I often hear are that I’d decided to make an “early exit” or I’m getting off the alcoholism elevator at Level 2, instead of waiting to get down to 10. They often refer to a “list of yets” – things I haven’t done “yet,” i.e. driving drunk, driving drunk with my kids, drinking in the morning, etc. – but imply that this list will get smaller and smaller as this disease progresses.
I hear what they’re saying and maybe it’s just “my disease talking,” but I’m not convinced. I was damn good at creating a manageable life that included managing to drink too much and too frequently. With a lot of hard work, planning, organizational skills, and $$$$, I think almost anyone can. I’ll use an example of the DUI because that seems to be a pretty common “bottom” but the same logic applies to a lot of what we picture befalling the stereotypical alcoholic. I’ve grown up in a culture that considers driving while drunk absolutely unacceptable and we’ve always found ways around it. In high school, the kid with the strictest parent was often our DD, or we just took turns. In college, the fraternities had pledges take on this role. As a young adult, it was not uncommon at all to hear that a large factor in choosing where to live was being able to “walk home from the bars.” Finally, Uber came around and the idea that anyone would drive after more than even 1-2 drinks just became unfathomable to me. To me it’s not a yet, it’s a hard never.
But do the facts that I live in a culture that doesn’t accept this behavior and can afford to never do it mean that I don’t have a problem with alcohol? Definitely, not. I guess you could say that I probably have less of one than someone who bucks this societal norm in the name of satisfying their addiction but it’s still a problem that I’m better off addressing.
AA's book of Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions speaks of the “absolute humiliation” that one feels before entering AA and that “only through utter defeat are we able to take our first steps toward liberation and strength.” It continues:
Why all this insistence that every A.A. must hit bottom first? The answer is that few people will sincerely try to practice the A.A. program unless they have hit bottom. For practicing A.A.’s remaining eleven Steps means that adoption of attitudes and actions that almost no alcoholic who is still drinking can dream of taking. Who wishes to be rigorously honest and tolerant? Who wants to confess his faults to another and make restitution for harm done? Who cares anything about a Higher Power, let alone meditation and prayer? Who wants to sacrifice time and energy in trying to carry A.A.’s message to the next sufferer? No, the average alcoholic, self-centered in the extreme, doesn’t care for this prospect – Unless he has to do these things in order to stay alive himself.
I can honestly answer “me” to each of those questions above and it’s not because I think I’m any saint or because I think my life was in peril. I’d venture to say that the majority of people who have approached me concerned about their drinking would say the same. I don’t believe that it has anything to do with our lack of readiness to examine our drinking or that we wouldn’t benefit from the AA program. I think it actually has more to do with our privilege and where we fall in Maslow’s Hierarchy or Needs -->.
Having all four of the lower levels of needs reasonably satisfied, we are seeking self actualization, i.e. becoming “everything one is capable of becoming.” We wonder whether alcohol is impeding that and here's the thing - THAT is reason enough to stop without regard to how much or little we've lost.
So, my point in writing about this is not to turn anyone off from AA. As I said above, I believe it's an incredible program and it is quite amazing that something written by a few white men back in the 1930's is continuing to save the lives of a completely different and increasingly female population. But I do want to expand the conversation to include those of us that, in spite of our problematic drinking, seemingly still have everything (except a first step).
Things I Love Related To This Conversation:
"Am I An Alcoholic?" by Laura McKowen http://www.lauramckowen.com/blog/2017/4/15/am-i-an-alcoholic
Editing Our Drinking and Our Lives Podcast by Jolene Park & Aiden Donnelly Rowely http://editpodcast.libsyn.com
Whew… well, that was big. First, let me say, thanks SO much to all of you who supported me in making my "100 Day" post (see below) a couple of weeks ago coming out about a decision I made in October 2017 to cut alcohol out of my life. It was something I was very nervous to do and had many a second (and 100th) thought about but you all made me feel so loved. Seriously. I probably cried 6 times that day and I didn’t even watch This Is Us till the next morning.
The day after “the day” I walked in to my daughter’s gymnastics building, where at least a quarter of the moms in my town are on any given weeknight. The phrase “lions den” came to mind as I tramped across the parking lot, glancing around out of the corner of my eye to see but preferably not see who I might run into. I sat down with my planner and began organizing for the next week and observing the madness that we’re all in together. What I saw though were just moms - dozens of moms (a few dads too), desperately trying to do right by themselves and by their kids, just like I do every day. I watched them carrying their toddlers or infant seats, necks strained and spines out of wack, corralling their older ones, warding off small catastrophes left and right (“Don’t touch that! The sign says no gymnastics in the lobby! Do you need to go potty? Are you sure????”). The lucky ones stole a few quiet moments to themselves once their kids were inside, to chat or sink into an armchair and check their social media feeds. The motivated ones headed upstairs to the indoor track, to race around in a circle, often with a baby strapped to their chests, on a conference call, or both! And the unluckiest ones, at least in my opinion, chased a toddler around for that hour, begging little, irrational, 18 month old demons to not do demon-things for just one hour.
So, still flying high from all the positive support I’ve received, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I was SO afraid of before telling the world about what I'm doing. I mean, I guess it wasn’t really realistic to think anyone would comment “’Bout time!” or anything like that. Someone close to me worried that if I came out about my choice, I’d be embarrassed if I ever change my mind. That’s something that I thought about a lot in the first couple of months after making this decision. This has been a learning process and I wasn’t always sure it was something I want to do forever. A lot of days I’m still not. But I breathe and wait it out (something that I’ve had to learn to do) and, at least thus far, I’ve always been blessed with clarity that this is my path. But back to that embarrassment question – what if this doesn’t work out? I asked my loved one to play that scenario out and asked who this invisible person is who will laugh at me for deciding to quit drinking and then changing my mind. Guys, that invisible person is a freaking DICK! And I couldn’t care less about being friends with him at all, let alone on Facebook.
But why do we spend so much of our lives frightened into submission by the invisible dick? Why do we fear him lurking behind mini-vans outside of gymnastics? The answer, of course, is that it’s inevitable. From the time we are irrational, 18 month old demons being chased by our own mothers, we receive the message that we might piss someone off. And much of this is necessary. We do need to learn how to function in a world without demonic behavior. Then we get into adolescence and early adulthood and the invisible dick REALLY becomes a force to be reckoned with. And that’s because, well, he’s actually not entirely invisible at that point. Unfortunately, there are an awful lot of real-life, flesh and blood dicks running around during that phase. I’m sure we all remember these people and can think of times that we aren’t proud of too. But I’m just going to throw out there that at some point along the journey, too many of us overcorrect from our demonic behavior and overestimate the number of real-life dicks who survive to adulthood. Then, in the name of pleasing the invisible dick, we lead smaller lives than we should. How sad is that? It makes me sick to think of how many of my own decisions up to this point have been controlled by a very likely non-existent person, who I don't even like. Because for far too long, I lived my life the opposite of OOF. I was absolutely full of them.
So, friends, my message in this first and “day after” post, when I thought surely I’d be regretting coming out with my decision to give up alcohol and when there's a part of me that still wants to hide and play it safe, is to just be brave and try your damnedest to forget about that dick that’s been sitting on your shoulder, scaring you into submission. In all likelihood, he’s not real. And if he is, he sucks and you can’t waste your life living according to his rules. Come from your heart, know that you’re living in accordance with your truth, and fuck that dick (sorry… I really just had to ;)).
Today marks 100 days since I made the decision to cut alcohol from my life! Yes, the very same girl known to tear up when the bars were closing has officially become a teetotaler ☺ While it isn’t easy, it is the most rewarding decision that I’ve ever made for myself. I’m loving life at a level I never thought possible and able to see stuff about myself, my kids, my friends, and, well, just about everything that I was blind to in the past. As of this morning, I’ve also saved $1,492.86 and 43,907 calories as a result of this decision! (Yep, there’s an app for that!)
I’m not interested in labels. There was a time when the big “A-word” (alcoholic, for those of you not obsessed with this stuff like I am! Bless your hearts!) was a big deal to me, as if being one constituted the only conceivable reason one would ever choose to “punish” themselves in this way. What I discovered though was that as I got further and further away from my drinking days, the extent to which I had a “problem” mattered less and less. My life is fuller without this one thing and so I’ve made the decision not to do it anymore and I don’t have to be “powerless” to it or suffering external consequences from it to make that choice.
I could go on and on about what led me to make this decision, my thoughts on addiction and recovery, what I realized about those nightly glasses of wine (yes, I’m admitting it – nightly), learning to live without something that our society considers so central to fun, romance, celebration, relaxation, fill in the eff’ing blank, and how my thinking has evolved since making the decision to live alcohol free. For those interested, I’m writing about these things A LOT, along with my experiences of trying to live a cleaner and fuller life, in a blog that I’m currently putting together. So far I have loads of content but have a lot to learn about the technical side of putting together a website. I’m also launching a business in the next few days that ties in with this decision. I considered launching both of those things in conjunction with this “coming out” but chose not to. This is big, hairy, and vulnerable enough on its own for me for today - letting you all in on a decision I’ve made that feels subversive at times, that I know some people snicker or roll their eyes at, and that, frankly, some people aren’t supportive of or don’t understand.
It’s important to me though that this be out there. First, I don’t want to have the same awkward conversation with every single one of you when I order my mocktail ;) (No, I’m not pregnant! That’s just the way I look now!) But, second, there’s a huge and ugly cloud that surrounds our society’s relationship with alcohol (SO excited to expound on this further on my blog!!!). There’s a stigma around becoming addicted to an addictive substance that is doing all of us (except the alcohol industry) a serious disservice. It’s important to me to do my small part to debunk that idea, to be loud and proud about what I’m doing, and to be a resource to anyone else that may be questioning their own relationship with alcohol.
I love all of you and I hope that you’ll support me in this decision. Please don’t think that I judge any of you for not making the same choice or that I don’t still want to be a part of the same life I had before making this decision. It wasn’t worth it for me to drink anymore and that’s really it. If you’ll have me, I’ll be there and I still want to laugh, say stupid things (although maybe not so many that I regret), perform Guns’ and Roses interpretive dances and stay up till 1am. These are all things that I still love. I’ll just be doing them La Croix in hand! Thanks for reading and I hope that you’ll wish me well in this new adventure!