Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Memories

As I've mentioned many times, my mother was an alcoholic when I was growing up. I don't blame her anymore and our relationship is better now than it's been in years. But dem's da facts. Part of the reason I started cleansing was not just to be able to keep drinking in my life in a healthier way - but because I didn't want to end up like my mom! And that was happening to me.

Some of my worst drunken memories of her happened during Christmas - understandably since so much partying goes on. I remember one time when I was about seven or eight, she was up drinking all night on Christmas Eve with her friends. When they went home, she kept at it and she was still up - absolutely wasted - early Christmas morning when my brother (who's two years younger than me) and I got up to see if Santa had come.

I don't remember exactly how it happened, but something set her off and she went into a drunken rage. She actually grabbed my tiny white suitcase and packed some of our clothes into it and then, yelling and screaming, she sent me and my brother out the door into the cold ... in our flannel pajamas ... so early on Christmas morning, the sun wasn't even completely up.

The sky was a dull gray-blue, casting the same bluish light on the freshly fallen snow. The roads hadn't been plowed yet and the snow was at least six inches deep. I remember feeling the cold air on my legs, bare underneath my nightgown, and the snow sifting into the tops of my boots as we started to wander aimlessly through the neighborhood.

I always felt responsible for my little brother and I remember feeling so helpless that morning. I held his hand in one hand and carried my suitcase in the other. I was crying, looking around at all the houses, wondering where we were supposed to go on Christmas morning if we couldn't go home.

There was nobody about. Not a single car, nobody walking anywhere. The streets were abandoned. But the houses weren't. Because you could tell people were just starting to wake up behind closed doors. Christmas lights were blinking merrily around the eaves of the decorated houses. Wreaths were hung on doors. Behind glowing windows I could see Christmas trees and candlelight. I imagined all the lucky kids waking up in those safe, happy homes and wondered - with more than a little confusion - why I couldn't have a family like that too.

My little brother and I didn't get far. I really only circled the block once or twice, having no money and no idea where to go. When we got back home, I think my mother had passed out. I don't remember any other drama - not that morning, anyway. But there were many more drunken nightmares heading my way in the coming years ... I just didn't know yet.

Of course when my mother woke up, she had no memory of what she had done and as always, I was so eager for peace and love that I forgave her. And of course she said it would never happen again. Never!

But it always did.

I'll share some of my other drunk-mother Christmas memories over the holidays. Because seriously, I asked myself what I really wanted to accomplish with this plan (besides being able to keep wine in my life) and it's this: I want to save one kid's Christmas.

Because I know what it was like to be so hopeful for a happy Christmas. So hopeful that things would be different this time. That Christmas cheer would not turn into a raving nightmare for me. But it usually did. Even as early as ten years ago ... and that was the last time I went home for the holidays.

Ahhh ... Christmas memories ... the bad ones always seem to win out. Which is why I hope this plan will help one mom or dad, unknowingly trapped in the cycle of dopamine/depression and addiction, deal with (and enjoy!) the partying of Christmas - without traumatizing their kids. Because I know nobody really wants to ruin Christmas, no matter how drunk they are. They just didn't know how to handle it ... until now.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Cheers Recipe

This time of year, it's hard to avoid the extra calories. For instance, a single cup of eggnog contains 350 calories and almost 20 grams of fat! 11 of those are saturated! So it's a good idea to have a few lighter drink options for you and your guests. But forget the boring spritzers and go for something that still feels special and festive.

I learned this recipe at the performance of "The Nutcracker" on Sunday. We got to the theater a bit early to watch all the cute kids in their Christmas-best run around and be adorable before the show. It also gave us time to partake in some of the grown-up refreshments available. Like this one fizzy and festive little drink that made me feel light and happy as the Sugar Plum Fairy herself. I don't remember the name, so let's call it the Berry Orange Bliss. It was light and refreshing and perfect for this time of year.

Berry Orange Bliss

Pour a little smidge of fresh cranberry juice into the bottom of a champagne flute. (Not too much, you don't want to lose wine space! But enough to make the drink a nice pink color and give it a little kick. Adjust to your own taste. It also seemed as if this was a concentrated cranberry juice - not the sugary drinks that are commercially available, but you can experiment and find what you like best.)

Fill almost to the rim with sparkling white wine (or champagne if you're splurging/rich/snobby).

Then add a splash of Grand Marnier to the mix. It looked to be about half an ounce, but again, experiment and find what you like best. The bartender didn't even mix the concoction. The liqueur seemed to blend all on its own in a lovely golden swirl, toning down the bright pink of the juice.

This would be a delicious drink any time of day or night all year long, but it seems especially nice at Christmas - maybe even for holiday brunch. Cheers!


"The Nutcracker"

On Sunday my husband and I did something very special and Christmassy. We went to see "The Nutcracker."

It was the second time my husband and I went to the ballet together (I've been taking adult ballet lessons this year and it's become a really fun, important part of my life.) In March, we went to see "Swan Lake" - but I was on my cleanse so I couldn't drink. I reported back (honestly) that seeing the ballet was perfectly wonderful without drinking during intermission and it was refreshing not to have to wait around in those long lines for expensive but cheap wine.

Well, the ballet is just as wonderful when you can drink! Because last weekend my hubby and I went to see a lovely matinee at the Four Seasons Centre. Unlike all the other adorable (and obviously spoiled rotten) little kids running around in their fancy dresses and tiny little suits, my single mom never took me to see "Nutcracker" when I was a kid. I don't think the ballet even went to the mining town where I grew up. And even if it did, I doubt very much my mother could have afforded the expense of a ballet matinee. She would much rather have spent that money on Christmas booze, anyway.

But even though I never saw this ballet as a child, seeing it now made me feel like a kid again anyway. It was absolutely spectacular. The dancing, the costumes, the sets, Tchaikovsky's marvelous and timeless music. Even the pre-show refreshments were delicious - because, unlike last time, it wasn't just a bottle of H20.

If you're interested in the recipe for a fun, refreshing light Christmas drink, check out Christmas Cheers #1.


Saving Christmas!

(... one kid at a time!)

Well, the holiday season is upon us and you know what that means? No more off-days! Nothing but partying and fun until after New Year's! Yayyyy!!

Part of the reason this plan works so well is because it does let you enjoy special occasions without making you feel deprived. It's a special time of year, after all. So celebrate! Your regular cleansing and off-days should protect you from seriously nasty drunks - or ruining Christmas - like my mother used to do.

She was a single mom in a time before the term was even coined. I've mentioned many times that - through no fault of her own - she was trapped in the cycle of dopamine/depression and consequently addicted to alcohol.

It was also the early 70s and she was freshly divorced, so it was a wild and wooly time to be newly single. She indulged freely - and my little brother and I paid the price. I think we still pay the price every day with our over-sensitivity and our trouble with self-esteem and relationships. And some of my worst drunk memories of her happened at Christmas, especially because that's when children like things to be fun and nice. But for us, a little Christmas cheer always devolved into drunken, angry binges. Mom ruined many Christmases with her drinking and it breaks my heart to know that other parents trapped in the addiction cycle might be doing the same thing to their kids, without wanting to - because I don't know a single drunk who doesn't regret their actions - but without being able to control them either.

I told my husband when I started this blog that one of the main reasons I wanted to do it was so that I could "save Christmas" for a single kid out there. Because parents who are addicted to alcohol find this time of year especially difficult. There is so much socializing, so much drinking, so much pressure to "have fun." And it's all under the guise of celebrating the Holy Day. If you're trapped in the addiction cycle, it's easy to overdo it and ... wake up Christmas morning absolutely devastated that you had your kids crying when you drunkenly decided to "come clean" with them and tell them there was no Santa.

It happens.

But if that parent trapped in the addiction cycle could start cleansing - doing the long cleanse, then the two months off a year and two days off a week - and learn that they CAN control their drinking, they can enjoy alcohol and not ruin the rest of their lives ... well, that might mean that unhappy, drunken Christmases are a thing of the past for that family. As I said, if I could save Christmas for just one kid out there ... I know I will have done a good thing!

So I'll be sharing some rather nasty and/or darkly funny Drunk Family Christmas Stories over the next week or two. They won't be heartwarming. But they will remind me why I started cleansing ... because I wanted to save Christmas for myself, too.

Without having to drink #@*% club soda all season long! Yayyyy! (Hic.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Caffeine Kick

Discovered an interesting new vodka cooler yesterday at the VIP movie theater. I went to see "My Week With Marilyn" (excellent if not for a few off-off-Broadway show tunes that fell flat) and bought a blue drink called "Rev." It was yummy.

But then afterwards, when I came home, I had all this energy. I actually started choreographing ballet sequences, listening to my playlist, dancing in front of the big black IKEA mirror in our bedroom. (I started taking adult ballet classes about a year ago and I'm finally feeling a little lighter on my feet.)

I was pretty impressed with my energy and my stamina (if not my talent per se). I seemed to remember reading that my blue drink contained Guarana, so afterwards I googled that and learned that Guarana is a Brazilian climbing plant in the maple family that bears a fruit similar to the coffee bean. Except that it contains twice as much as caffeine as coffee! Not surprisingly, it's very popular as an energy drink in South America ... and getting more popular everywhere else.

Ah-ha I thought! So that's it! I haven't turned into an award-winning choreographer overnight. I simply had a kickass energy drink.

I'll dance to that.

Source: Wikipedia

Play Dates

I got a little thank you card from a cousin the other day for a baby gift. We had gone over to see her and Daddy-to-be about a week before she was due. She looked radiant and ready to pop.

Interestingly, this woman - L - is not a proponent of completely abstaining since she's been pregnant and has been known to have a small glass (or two) of wine in the evening. Strange women have been known to walk up to her in restaurants and berate her. Big mistake. L is not the sort of person whose going to sit there and let you run her life - or her fetus. Instead, she'll take you down to Chinatown with her rather eloquent defense of how a small amount of alcohol is actually 'optimal' for the development of the baby.

Now I'm not going to get into the complicated issue of whether or not women should drink during pregnancy too deeply because I think that's a personal choice. But new research is surfacing to support the idea that drinking in moderation might be absolutely fine for pregnant women.

According to Britain's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), a pregnant woman can safely drink 1.5 units of alcohol a day without harming her baby (though she should avoid drinking during the first trimester to prevent miscarriage). NICE stipulated that a unit of alcohol is a small glass of wine, a half pint of regular strength lager, or one alcopop/cooler. A little red wine with dinner at night? For some pregnant women, that'll be "nice" to know.

What I do find interesting is how L signed off the card. She said that she can't wait until we can get together for "play dates." Even with a small amount of wine when she feels she wants it, she said she really can't wait to feel a buzz again. "Oh, how I miss wine," she wrote. "Love always, L."

It made me laugh. Because I have another friend who was on mat leave a couple of years ago and I loved going over to her place and having a bottle of wine or lunch in the afternoon. We'd take the baby (and pre-pumped breast milk) with us and have a great time. All that ended when she went back to work of course and put the baby in daycare.

But I'm definitely looking forward to having a new play date mate soon - L's baby was born last week. A beautiful, healthy, 8 pound 7 ounce girl named E. Well, not E - that would be weird. But you get my point.

Welcome to the world, E! See you and Mommy soon for our first play date! Milk for you, young lady.

"Now pregnant women are told it IS safe to drink a glass fo wine a day," by Fiona MacCrae, Daily Mail, October 10, 2007,

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Bender

I don't know if anyone has ever seen "Kenny Vs. Spenny" but it's a hilarious CBC-produced comedy show featuring bizarre competitions between two grown men who live together, Kenny Hotz and Spencer Rice. They'll do things like handcuff themselves to each other or not sleep for three days or try to see who makes the best woman.

I saw an episode yesterday where the contest was to see who could drink the most beer in two days. Kenny, who's a dastardly but lovable cheater, decided to drink non-alcoholic Becks while poor Spenny, the slightly geeky guy who usually gets the short end of the stick, drank the regular Becks. Both bottles were covered with color-coded tape so that Spenny could never see that his nemesis was basically chugging soda water.

Spencer started getting drunk after a few beer. Just sort of relaxed and casual at first, then becoming a little more forceful. I don't remember exactly how many beers he drank but 72 seems to come to mind. Put it this way, it was a LOT of beer.

Inside those two short days, Spenny went from being a responsible, conscientious, self-aware nerd you'd be happy to take home to Mom (and leave him there) to a belligerent, violent, rambling drunk. It was amazing to see! He was actually throwing bottles around the room and walking through the broken glass. It was a complete and total transformation of his personality inside of two days, just from beer. I don't think crack or crystal meth could've obliterated Spenny's true character as thoroughly in as little time.

But I shouldn't have been that amazed. I've seen lots of personalities change when too much booze is involved - not the least of which is my own. But it was an interesting reminder about why I cleanse. Left uncontrolled, alcohol is a powerful mind-altering substance that can be incredibly damaging not only to your health, but to your very essence - which affects everyone around you, usually for the worse.

I'm so glad those Jekyll and Hyde days are behind me.

With lots of fun and wine still in front. :)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


We went out for dinner with some friends on Saturday night. Had a little too much wine for my shoes - which were very high. Should've opted for less champagne and/or lower heels.

But ... when we got home the hubby and I hit the sofa and had the wildest time. That's another good reason not to quit drinking, right? Drunk sex.

Also in the 'pro' column of all this research that's surfacing, apparently moderate drinkers (1 drink a day for women, 2 for men) have a 23% reduced risk of developing Alzheimer's. The conclusion is based on 140 studies conducted since the 1970s. Put that in your glass and drink it.

Of course if you're having ten drinks a day, you'll actually seem like you have Alzheimer's anyway so avoid that route.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Doctor, doctor!

It's been a while! That last post I wrote from Vegas was my last healthy day for almost a month! Apparently, not EVERYTHING that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Because I caught the nastiest cold while I was there and it clung to me like a retiree to a slot machine.

Much has happened in the last few weeks.

1) Amy Winehouse's death has been ruled alcohol poisoning. Her blood alcohol level was .4% - five times the legal drunk driving limit. She had recently quit drinking altogether trying to get control of her addiction. But after not being able to tolerate total abstinence, she started drinking again - hard. Four empty bottles of vodka were found in her home. Again, Amy, rest in peace.

2) A plethora of research is coming out recently about the effects of alcohol on our health, including a U.S. study that claims women who have three to six drinks a week show a slight increased risk of breast cancer. Good reason to drink, say, twenty. (Just kidding.)

3) The Canadian Public Health Association (there's a healthy sounding club!) concludes that the mild benefits of alcohol do not outweigh the costs to our health.

4) According to the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (I can't tell from the name if this is a club full of drinkers or tee-totallers - but it don't sound fun) claims that underage drinking can lead to alcohol abuse later in life (go figure ... I had my first drink at 13 ... does the name Drew Barrymore mean anything to anyone?). Where do you think they're getting this groundbreaking research?

5) According to the World Health Organization, alcohol-related accidents are a growing concern, including burns, car accidents, falls, and death-by-booze-cruise. Imagine - that health concerns caused by drinking are actually getting worse in this day and age. It seems hard to believe.

I could go on and on with these studies that have been compiled by CBC-TV's "The National" for a series they're doing on alcohol and your health. And I will share more, but for now, I'll leave you with one final tidbit.

6) I went to my first physical in about five years a couple weeks ago. Flying colors on the blood pressure and pap smear (sorry, boys ... and girls, frankly). Even with a cold, the eyes, ears, nose and throat checked out. And I'm waiting for my blood work. But the highlight (well, besides the pap, I mean ... duh) was when the doctor asked me how many drinks I have a week. Fifteen, I ventured (though it's probably more than that ... especially when I'm in Vegas). But I told her I take two months off a year and I don't drink every day. Even so, she said women should try to keep it down to the single digits. Less than ten drinks a week. For men, two drinks a day is fine. I told her I'd work my way up ... down? ... to it.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Vegas Baby!

Frank Sinatra famously said that he felt sorry for people who don't drink because when they wake up, that's the best they're going to feel all day. And I agree completely.

As a matter of fact, the hubs and I are in Sin City right now and great as I feel eating breakfast without a "hair of the dog," I know I've got a lot of fun waiting for me the rest of the day.

One of the reasons I hated the idea of quitting drinking forever is because I didn't want to come to Vegas and not be able to drink. And luckily that's not the case. The wine starts early and flows freely all day and night long.

However, I'm not suicidal (or even upset) if I'm not actually hooked up to an IV unit of pinot grigio. Yesterday we went golfing at the incredibly gorgeous Bali Hai golf club. Well, actually my husband went golfing and I drove the cart (another lucky thing for everyone's safety is that I never got my driver's license, so the novelty of cart driving isn't lost on me - I have a blast!).

I know that for a lot of guys who golf a big part of the appeal is that you can drink beer all day long. I was definitely hankering for some wine by the time we were on the ninth hole, but when the cart girl came by all she had was beer and mixed drinks. Not even a vodka cooler - and certainly no white wine. Since I try to keep my exposure to hard liquor down to a minimum (and since I did not feel desperate) except for the odd sip of daiquiri every now and again, I just had a water while the hubs had a beer. Probably for the best anyway - you really don't need a novice driver drunk behind the wheel of a golf cart. The greens keepers would've had to look out for their lives.

After the hubs finished an impressive round of golf, we went to the club house and sat outside for a drink. It's probably the latest I've waited to get wine into me in all the times I've been to Vegas. But you know what? It was not a problem. I didn't feel anxious or ripped off beforehand - and I enjoyed that glass of wine all the more because of the wait. But that's one of the great things about Plan C - since you're not usually drinking every day anyway (vacations excluded of course!) your whole system becomes accustomed to going without. As I've mentioned, one of the greatest blessings of the Plan is that you're not miserable when you're sober. Even when you're not drinking, you can still enjoy your life.

However, I did notice a table of four men next to us having a late lunch of burgers and clubhouse sandwiches. There were pints of beer on the table and they seemed to be having a good time. But then I saw the waitress bring over a glass of Coke and set it down in front of one of the men. That's when I noticed that only three of the men were drinking beer. For a moment, as that Coke got set down on the table, the mood of the men changed. A sort of pall came over the conversation and nobody said anything for an awkward length of time. I also noticed the man who had the Coke - the oldest of the four - seemed to have a sort of sad, self-conscious look about him. And the mood of the other men was also affected by it. I truly felt sorry for him.

I wouldn't be surprised if he was a "recovering alcoholic" and not allowed to drink at all anymore. I really wished I could've gone over and said, "Hey, buddy. Don't be so glum. Maybe there's another option for you ... here's the name of my blog. Cheers and let me buy you a drink."

I didn't do that of course. Hell, I haven't even given the address of this blog to a single person yet. But I still fantasized that if indeed he was in A.A., I could've made him a little happier by giving him another option for recovery. That's not to say everyone in A.A. should try this Plan. God no. I've said it before and I'll say it again: if total abstinence is working for you and you're happy with it, congrats.

But he didn't look happy. And neither did his friends. As if for that brief moment when the cola was set down, they were all forced to face the chilling proposition that drinking problems exist, that they may or may not have one themselves, and that the only accepted way of dealing with said problem is by quitting forever. I think just the idea of total abstinence makes a lot of drinkers uneasy. As it used to make me uneasy.

But now, after cleansing, whether you drink or not, whether you're in A.A. or not, whether I'm drinking or not, I don't care. It's not a loaded subject for me anymore. I feel free to enjoy drinking, I feel free to enjoy not drinking - and I'm comfortable with everyone else's situation, too.

Having said that, get some goddamn wine on the snack carts already.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Brownout Alert

Okay ... so that happened.

All was going extremely well/fun/perfectly for a few days after my cleanse ended. And then came Saturday. My husband's parents were in town for their anniversary and we were taking them for dinner. There were drinks before the restaurant. A kir royale when we got there. A bottle of wine between me and the Mrs during dinner ... a nice walk back to the hotel ... all good, no blurs, just yum and fun.

But then in the (lovely) hotel suite, we had a nightcap ... and my father poured it. A big, honkin' glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. I knew I was already tipsy. When I saw the thing, I literally went "Whoa!"

I've had this reaction to glasses of wine before and you know what? It NEVER ends well - and it didn't the other night, either.

I knew I didn't need this glass of wine, but ... I drank it anyway. Once it was down ... so was I. My mood began to plummet. Thank God we had already left the hotel, but still. Before we even got home I told my husband I felt "excluded" from the night. And that's true. But I didn't feel excluded from the whole night. I just felt excluded when I was having that last glass of wine because it took me by the lapels and dragged me down into a depression.

Alcohol is a depressant.

That's a fact. In excess, it lowers dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine levels. All of this can make you depressed. And that's what happened to me on Saturday night. I was feeling excluded at the hotel room because I was surely and steadily sinking into a depression. I had had TOO MUCH TO DRINK TOO CLOSE TO THE END OF A CLEANSE.

I say it to you so many times. Watch what you drink when you come off a cleanse. Watch what you drink when you come off a cleanse. It's going to be so much easier to overdrink and make a "mistake." I say it all the time.

But I didn't listen to my own advice. So do as I say and not as I do (sometimes) and do not say yes to a glass of wine that makes you go "Whoa!" because it's so big. Especially if you've already been drinking.

Anyway, I woke up Sunday morning with a hangover from Hades. Having not been really hungover in ages, it was terrible. I couldn't bring myself to even eat my breakfast grapefruit. My head was pounding, my stomach was nauseous - and I was even more depressed than I had been the night before because ... I couldn't remember everything that happened after that last glass of wine. All I know for sure is that I told my husband I thought people started ignoring me.

The rest of it I had t piece together with the clues left around the apartment. Yes, I managed to take my makeup off. Yes, I put my clothes away (didn't leave them in a pile on the ground). Nothing seemed broken - either on me or in the apartment. But still ... I was devastated because "it had happened again." For the first time in THREE years, I had had an angry blackout.

I kept thinking about you. I kept thinking about not just letting myself down, or my husband down - but you down too. Because every September that goes by (interestingly, my last big blackout was after my cleanse ended in September of 2008) I can mark another year away from my last angry blackout. One year. Two years. Three years!

I took great pride in this fact. I was proud of myself and proud of this plan which was obviously working so well. Three years since my last blackout was an incredible milestone because I used to have one of those angry, drag-out, no-holds-barred vicious blackout fights with my husband at least once a week.

And now ... it had happened again. I was torn up inside. I was lost. I looked after the physical effects of the hangover with some aspirin. I brewed some ginger tea for my upset stomach. I put the grapefruit back in the fridge and took a long walk, to get some fresh air. I breathed deeply. I noticed the flowers and leaves started to fall on some of the trees. I noticed children playing in the park. A darling German Shepherd puppy tugging on his master's leash. I noticed the beautiful fall morning. It was wonderful and I felt better. At least a little.

But the worst part was still ahead of me. Atoning to my wonderful husband for fucking up on him again.

And ... atoning to you guys, too.

When I got home from my walk, I tucked into bed with some Kleenex because I suspected there would be morning-after tears. I was absolutely morose and guilty and ashamed and angry at myself. Of course there would be tears.

You know what? When my husband woke up ... he was fine.

I'm serious. He was absolutely and totally 100% fine. He kissed me and said "Good morning, sunshine," like he always did. He even had a smile on his face. "You're not mad?" I asked.

"Mad? What for?"

"For last night. I'm so hungover. I'm so sorry."

Again, he seemed to shrug it off. I had nothing to apologize for, he said. Nothing bad happened. That's literally how he said it, "Nothing bad happened."

"But I don't remember very much," I told him.

"You were fine. You just got a little ... unhappy at the end, that's all."

There was no massive fight, I didn't say anything hurtful to him that I couldn't take back, I didn't slam the door so hard that I sent another layer of paint chips off onto the floor. I was not happy, I was negative ... but I was not vicious or raging angry. No matter how drunk I got.

"It's different now," he said. I remember one time he told me that even when I drink, my energy is no longer the same. It's not as angry or negative. "The zombie is dead," he said back then.

And, apparently, despite the fact I'd had too much too close to coming off a cleanse (and paid the price dearly ... so please, please, please be careful!), the zombie is still dead. That angry, drunk monster isn't inside me anymore. Even though I had drank enough to have a blackout.

But ... it wasn't a blackout, was it? Not in the way I used to have them. I came home, I got ready for bed, I tucked into bed. That was it. I didn't want to fight. I didn't want to finish off every bottle of wine in the house. I didn't want to stay up and drink and rage all night. I went to bed feeling a little bit sad. Probably not just because of neurotransmitter levels, but because I knew I had ignored my own very important post-cleanse rule and had too much to drink.

The hubs and I talked about it quite a bit yesterday. And yes, there were tears - which were completely unnecessary, he said. He said that maybe I'm getting to be too hard on myself when it comes to my drinking because it's been so long since my last angry rage. The better I get, the more perfect I want to become, and the higher standards I hold myself to. He said that can't be good. This is an evolution, a process. Things are not perfect, but they're better and I should learn to be more forgiving of myself.


That was a license plate I saw several years ago after another night where I thought I'd had a bad blackout and fought with my hubs. Forgivn. I've even talked here about how important it is to forgive yourself. For your past mistakes, for the mistakes you're making now, and for the ones you're going to make in the future. Self-forgiveness is a huge part of this plan. It always has been. But I'd been making such good progress that I wanted "perfection" - which isn't possible at any time when you're human. Maybe I needed a gentle reminder of that (and, luckily, it turned out to be pretty gentle). And I definitely needed a reminder of the importance of forgiveness of myself.

So this morning I wanted to come clean with you and be honest about what happened. I sincerely considered not mentioning anything and letting you believe that things were going to be perfect if you get on Plan C - the cleansing plan.

But, as always, I also wanted to be honest. Honesty is something that is now very precious to me because I lived so many lies in my life when I was drinking too much. The shame and pressure of those lies were debilitating and hateful. It was a terrible weight to live under and I don't want to do it anymore.

So I've been honest with you about a "mistake." A mistake that, thank God - and it's because of the cleansing, too - was not as bad as I thought it was. In fact, it wasn't even a serious blackout. I decided to call it something else ... a rolling brownout.

Be on alert for rolling brownouts when you come off a cleanse. When a drink makes you say "Whoa!" - have a glass of water instead. Avoid the potential for a "mistake." It's easy. It's simple. And it's waaaaaaay more fun than drinking too much. Because if I didn't have that last drink, not only would I have been less hungover in the morning, I wouldn't have had a rolling brownout - and I wouldn't have felt excluded from the fun when it was happening.

Rembember ... you can never have too little to drink. But you can always have too much. Hopefully, your rolling brownouts will be few and far between. And if something happens, remember the importance of self-forgiveness. Understand that you're on a journey to new and undiscovered territory. It may not be perfect - but it will be much better. And if you can find the self-love and forgiveness that you need to continue to evolve ... then that, in itself, is as near to perfection as we can hope to live.

Sources:, "What You Need To Know About Alcohol and Depression" by June Russell. (Funnily, this article was just updated on September 19, 2011 - two days before my cleanse ended.)

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Speaking of music - "Happy Days Are Here Again!"

Yesterday was awesome. But after only two drinks, my head actually started to throb. Alcohol in moderation has an anti-inflammatory effect on your system which is great for you since inflammation causes many cancers, premature aging, osteoporosis, heart disease, etc. But when you drink too much, the inverse becomes true and your health will eventually be compromised.

Not that two drinks is too much. But after four weeks of not drinking, your system will be more sensitive to alcohol because your tolerance is down. Don't worry - as you normalize, having two drinks won't give you a headache anymore. But it's good to be in touch with the potentially harmful effects of alcohol in such an immediate way.

Because when you've been drinking every day for years, you forget how your body should feel in a natural, sober state. Consequently, you may be living with chronic inflammation which may cause health problems for you beyond your drinking. But that's another one of the many great gifts of cleansing: it helps you become more aware of your whole system, emotionally, spiritually and physically. It helps you to track the progress of your own well-being.

I took two aspirin before I went to bed and woke up this morning feeling absolutely fine. In fact, I feel AWESOME! And despite the slightly throbbing head yesterday, I can't tell you how happy I felt - all day. It's a real joy to be able to bring wine back into my life. That first sip of red last night with spaghetti dinner was absolutely inspiring.

And I have five minutes of fun and normalcy ahead of me. It is such an incredible gift. I feel blessed this morning. And that is truly the biggest gift of cleansing ... because I've got another drink coming. Cheers!


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Another 28 Days Later

Yayyy!! It's oh-vurrrr!! Congrats to moi!! I've already got lunch booked - and my first glass of wine in a month is chilling somewhere out there in the wild blue yonder waiting for me.

It was one of my easiest cleanses ever - if not the easiest. I even got some of my "To Do On The Cleanse" list done, like cleaning the fridge (even if it meant doing it yesterday afternoon!). And I at least booked my doctor's appointment ... even if I didn't get to it ... which also counts (also booked the appointment yesterday afternoon, btw).

Cleaning my closet ... well ... that didn't go as planned, but hey - if you don't get to all the projects you have planned on your cleanse, don't hassle yourself! Who cares? Cleansing is not about the chores or the To Do list. They're just there to help the time pass and give you something to do.

Cleansing is actually about your spiritual, emotional and physical journey as a human being on a new path to recovery, wellness and joy. So who cares about the f-ing closet, ok?

Speaking of joy, this day always brings to mind Beethoven's 9th Symphony - in particular the last movement, Ode to Joy. You know it: Bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, ba-baaaah ...

Adapted from the poem from German poet Friedrich Schiller, it was completed by Beethoven in 1824 and actually brought tears to the eyes of the instrumentalists when it was performed. Today, it is the national anthem of the European Union - and of course, my personal coming-off-a-cleanse theme ...

It's such a wonderful feeling, it's actually hard to believe, but I have five months of normal living, drinking and fun ahead of me! Not to mention a Vegas trip in about 10 days. Amen to that! Bah, bah, bah, bah, bah ... :)

Sources:; Wikipedia

Monday, September 19, 2011

Day 26 - The Last Weekend

"The Lost Weekend" is a 1945 classic directed by Billy Wilder about an alcoholic writer on a drinking binge. Based on the novel by Charles R. Jackson, it follows "Don" - played by Ray Milland - a Manhattan writer who evades his brother and girlfriend in an attempt to drink himself stupid one weekend. It was a dark and controversial film at the time - and an extremely realistic look into the depressed, frantic mind of an alcoholic as he shuns everything positive in his life for another drink.

I had a few "lost weekends" in my time, too.

But this one - the "last" weekend of my cleanse - was anything but! Thank God those days are loooong behind me - not quite as long ago as 1945, but it feels that way.

On Friday, I went to a matinee at my VIP cinema but instead of having my usual glass of white wine (Wine with flicks? Now that's progress! Let's hear it for Cineplex!) went for a small buttered popcorn instead. Which is what I've been enjoying with movies since I was a kid. You know what? It was awesome! I didn't even miss the wine. Though I am looking forward to my next matinee, that's for sure.

The movie - on the other hand - meh. I expected "Contagion," directed by the talented Steven Solderbergh and featuring just about every A-lister I can think of, to be a great ride. Unfortunately, I found the ending to be a bit of a letdown. And I gotta say, I'm very forgiving when it comes to flicks. I don't think I've ever seen a movie I haven't liked (including much of "Contagion" actually) - though I wouldn't easily recommend "Hell Camp" to anyone. Just FYI. Anyway, anticlimax considered, I still had an amazing time - without vino!

The weekend itself was lovely. An alcohol-free visit to my in-laws was just amazing, with me noshing on snacks and drinking Happy Planet Berry Blast fruit smoothie mixed with San Pellegrino for some fun fizz. I also picked up a Chai Tea Latte on the way there. A little bit of caffeine can really help keep the energy up at social functions - especially on the last weekend of a cleanse.

It was really one of the most pleasant last weekends ever. And this has been one of the most pleasant cleanses ever! I honestly believe that every time I cleanse, it gets easier and more enjoyable. As if my body - and my brain - really do "want" it to happen and behave accordingly to keep me on track.

Of course, I feel much happier on Day 26 than I do on Day 6 ... but that only stands to reason. If you're not feeling overjoyed about your cleanse yet ... don't worry. By the end of it, you'll be floating on air. And every cleanse after this will be easier. And most importantly ... when it's over, you've got another drink coming! So stay strong! It'll pay off - cuz when it's over, you've got another drink coming!

Only two days left to go! :)

Source: IMDb

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Day 23 - Rut Prevention

Yesterday afternoon, my husband and I considered going for lunch at the pub across the street. A place we go to about once a week when I'm not cleansing for weekend lunch (which includes their 10 oz glass of pinot grigio for me!).

In the end, we stayed in and cooked our own lunch. I do occasionally go to the pub on a cleanse, but we're there so often it's the kind of place where they basically start pouring our drinks when they see us come in the door. It can be a titch awkward to change my "usual" to Cran & Soda. Not that anyone looks at me weirdly - but it's definitely not my favorite place to eat when I'm cleansing because I associate it so much with drinking.

But my husband and I talked about the benefits of that, too. And how wonderful it is to really break up your habits so completely when you cleanse. The staff at that pub - and several other places we go to regularly - are so familiar with us, sometimes it feels as if we take the word "regular" to the extreme. As if we're in a rut.

But month-long breaks twice a year not only interrupts our exposure to the saturated fat of the pub burgers, but it also breaks up our constant exposure to the servers - there and at our other favorite haunts.

The same thing goes with my matinee experiences at the VIP cinema where they serve wine. Not that we've traded email addresses or anything, but the nice woman behind the counter who pours my wine before I go into the theater is very familiar with me. Because I usually see a movie there once every week (I love flicks!).

But even that starts to feel awkward sometimes. I'm not sure if everyone is like this, but I hate being so predictable. I hate becoming so familiar with something that it loses its special-ness.

When you cleanse, because you're starting new patterns and breaking up old ones, it really helps keep you from falling into a rut. It keeps you appreciating the things you love so much in your life - like pub lunches and VIP screening rooms - because you go without (or at least go with less) during cleanses twice a year.

So both my hubby and I feel less like predictable "regulars" at our favorite spots, and more like average patrons, which keeps things fresh and enjoyable. More than anything it allows to really appreciate those fave spots when you do go.

Breaking up your usual pattern also means you get to explore new restaurants on a cleanse - like an amazing Italian place we went to the other day. It was a lovely 20 minute walk into a new neighborhood and we really liked the change - both in scenery and in food.

That's just a small benefit of cleansing - but it's another nice one from the long, long list.

btw, last night was our last Wednesday pasta party night without wine. It's always nice to get that one behind you.

Six days left!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Day 21 - Here Comes the Sun!

Yayyy!! 3/4 of the way through today! Talk about fun with fractions!

The last week is always the best - and it goes by the most quickly.

However, you might find that until you get to beyond the halfway point, cleansing can be challenging. You'll wonder why you have to do it. You'll wonder if it's worth it. You'll wonder if you're doing a good job. You'll wonder if it's going to work for you. You have to let all these questions, come and go. And you have to have faith that, yes, if cleansing is going to work for you - and I have every reason to believe it will work for many, many people - that no matter how bleak it may seem on Day 1, the sun will rise on your 28th day much sooner than you think ... and yes, you've got another drink coming.

As problem drinkers, we may think about drinking more than the average person. Members of A.A. certainly do - they make a point of meeting about it several times a week. Maybe we all think about drinking too much. But maybe that's just thinking about the potential joy of our lives. Because drinking in a responsible, positive, healthy way IS a joy. It can be as much of a joy as it can be a pain - and that is the dichotomy that we are trying to avoid through cleansing. We want it to be more good than bad ... and it can be.

Here's an interesting quote by the American poet, Charles Bukowski (1920-94). It seems to me to reflect the paradoxical relationship and attitudes we have toward alcohol - as a society and certainly as drinkers - as good as anything I've read.

"Drinking is an emotional thing. It joggles you out of the standardism of everyday life, out of everything being the same. It yanks you out of your body and your mind and throws you against the wall. I have the feeling that drinking is a form of suicide where you're allowed to return to life and begin all over the next day. It's like killing yourself, and then you're reborn. I guess I've lied about ten or fifteen thousand lives now."

Here's to fifteen thousand ... happy ... lives.


Sunday, September 11, 2011


It is Day 19. I woke up early this morning to watch the ceremony from New York. To listen to names and drumbeats. It is unbelievable that it's been ten years.

On September 11, 2001, I was packing for a funeral out of town - my husband's best friend's father had just died. We were going to the visitation that night, and the funeral the next morning.

In my suitcase, I was tucking away little plastic bottles or even hairspray bottles full of wine so that I would have enough to drink for the trip. I always brought extra wine with me wherever I went and I'd snap at my husband if he went anywhere near my luggage.

At 9:15 he called me from work and told me to turn on the TV. My life - like countless others - changed so dramatically that day. I screamed out loud when I saw the flames on the WTC. I would cry every day for six weeks.

But we had to leave the city for that funeral - regardless that the world was ending. We got in the car and headed out of town, the sky so eerily quiet because there were no planes up there anymore. Not for ten thousand miles.

When we went to the service it was strange because the family was so unmoved by what had happened that morning. They were living their own 9/11.

I remember waking up in the middle of the night at my in-law's house. It was so dark and still and quiet. I remember never being so scared or sad in my life. And, for me, that's saying something.

The morning of 9/12 we went to the service in a beautiful old cathedral. There were priests and bishops and clergymen in robes and tall white hats. It was a grand ceremony. As it turns out, the man who died was a recovering alcoholic. A member of A.A. for many years. He had discovered God late in life and as a consequence that church was full of other A.A. members. The priests kept referring to sin and redemption. They kept obliquely referring to the evils of alcohol.

I cried so hard in the church that day. People had to hand me Kleenexes. I cried for my husband's friend's dad. I cried for all those people who had lost their lives. I cried for myself. The funeral of an A.A. member is not the place to be the day after 9/11 ... not when you have an Evian bottle filled with wine in your purse.

That was exactly ten years ago. I was still two years away from taking my first long cleanse. Things were going to get worse before they got better for me.

Of course - 9/11 was not about my drinking problem. It was about something that involves all of us somehow, though maybe we're still trying to figure that out.

I write poetry when regular prose or journal entries just aren't "emotional" enough to make me feel better. I wrote several of them in the wake of 9/11. This is one of them.


I don't know how they do it.
I don't know what dreams they must have
At night.
Or what they think about
Arms aching, mouths covered,
Feet in boots given by a stranger.

I don't know what they talk about
Over lunch.
Or drinks after work.
Maybe they don't have lunch.
Or drinks after work.
I don't know how they do it.
But I love them for it.
I have never seen soldiers
Braver or stronger or better trained

Than these men in face masks
And t-shirts and big boots.
I turned on the news this morning
And se ethey have a sunny day
(not too hot, I hope)
Raining here, but sun there.
Bright shadows across the ruins
And I am relieved
Because it breaks my heart
To see them working in the rain.

If any number of us
Can have just one ounce
Of what these men tirelessly display
We will get through this
Stronger, deeper, a little wiser
Braver, smarter and full of hope.
Soldiers all of them
Fighting for freedom
And those who fell
Like soldiers, fell for us all.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Day 18 - Clear Heads Prevail

The third Friday night down for the count! Yay!! Just one more and then Friday nights will once again mean more than a DVD and Pom Wonderful.

I woke up this morning ... without a hangover, of course. A rarity on Saturday mornings. Another one of the incredible gifts of cleansing is that it really puts you in touch with your body - your whole system. When you drink alcohol almost every day all year long, you can build up your tolerance to such a level that you're not even aware what it's like to live without alcohol in your system. It's almost as if you're waking up with at least a mild hangover every day.

Cleansing will give you what might be your first insight into what your body and brain should feel like in a healthy natural state. This awareness, something you may not have felt for decades, will help you both physically and mentally. You'll really feel in tune with yourself. A new respect and appreciation of self is beginning Revel in it! It's the beginning of a great self-love.

Ten days to go! :)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Day 14 - The Turn

I'm at the halfway point - I sometimes call this, the Battle of Midway. And I'm not talking about the most famous naval battle of WWII, six months after Pearl Harbor. I'm talking about halfway through your cleanse.

I don't know what it is, but this isn't the first time I've found myself kind of antsy at "the turn." Sunday morning, we woke up to a disaster: our wonderful A/C dehumidifier unit - R2 we call it because it looks like R2D2 - had overflowed in the night and send gallons, yes, gallons, of water onto our bedroom floor.

The hubs caught it first, splashing into 1/4 of water on the wood parquet next to his bed. We were in panic mode a minute later, moving the bed because our box spring (set on the floor) was soaked. I had to blowdry it for hours while the hubby worked his hands and knees raw using every towel in the house to sop up the rest of the mess.

We worked for a solid four hours, including laundry. Without even stopping for a coffee. For some reason, it really got to my husband and he couldn't shake his bad mood all day. I felt I had gotten over it, but his grumbling must've gotten to me. I was more than happy to take a break and head out to the store for some groceries.

It was an overcast day, Labour Day Weekend. I usually start drinking Labour Day Weekend. Maybe that was part of it. Or just the knowledge of the coming winter. I was certainly feeling bitter that not only had we ruined the morning, but most of the day with his bad mood. He apologized for it later, but at the time I was simmering.

And ended up sharing some heated words with the cashier at the grocery store. She was a young girl, frizzy dark hair, couldn't have been more than twenty. It was obvious when I set my reusable bags down that she wasn't going to pack them for me, waiting for me to get my money out of my wallet.

I don't known when being environmentally conscious turned into having to bag your own fucking groceries, but I'm sick of it. There were some snappish words between us and I walked home seething even worse than when I went out. By the time I came home, tears were actually running down my face. I didn't want to explain it to my husband because I held him partly responsible for my angry state of mind in the first place.

Eventually, we talked it over and I guess I got over it. We saved a night of "Sons of Anarchy" and Pom Wonderful with Pink Grapefruit infused Perrier (a real treat, trust me!).

I couldn't help but feel as I was walking home that if I wasn't on a cleanse, a drink would really have helped me shake off the bad mood. It really would have. I know that. So sometimes, when you're feeling short-tempered for whatever reason on a cleanse, it's not the easiest thing in the world to do.

But take a few deep breaths. Know that the cleanse will end. That at least you won't be facing nasty cashiers or A/C disasters sober for the rest of your life.

In a way, though - and this has happened before too - even the worst fights or bad moods are actually liberating when you can't drink. It forces you to move into your issues more deeply. There's no superficial letting-you-off-the-hook of your true emotions that a drink or two affords you. Which is wonderful, lets face it, and probably the reason we love to drink so much!

But every now and again - like twice a year! - it's wonderful to be purely in touch with your pure emotions. Nothing to fog out your essential feelings about something. Because there's something deeper at play in my anger at cashiers who won't pack my reusable bags. It's a feeling of being unable to ask for what I want. To let other people "serve" me. To be assertive when it comes to getting things done the way I want them done.

A drink that day would've just pushed me farther away from having to deal with these essential issues. Which I so much want to work on and improve.

So if you find yourself having your own Battle of Midway on the cleanse, don't worry. Embrace it. Analyze it. Really feel it and allow it to be. Maybe there's something at the core of it that you can take into the rest of your life that will allow you to address some of your deeper emotional issues, learn from them and move on. You may not solve every iota of the problem in one day, but at least you will have shone a light on an area of your life that might need attention. That's the first step to healing your overall outlook on life - and yourself.

If none of that works, you an always Google "anger management." Just, whatever you do, don't have a drink.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Day 11 - Eleventh Heaven

Always good to be in the double digits! :)

I mentioned that going to places you don't usually associate with alcohol is a great thing to do on a cleanse. I can tell you that visiting art galleries is one of those pleasures.

Yesterday I went to see the Abstract Expressionist exhibit at the AGO. I walked through the new Frank Gehry addition, up pale wood stairs, to an exhibition of rambling rooms featuring Jackson Pollack, Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko, et al. The American "AbEx" artists of the mid 20th Century.

Until World War II, New York was considered a backwater in the international art world. Paris was the hub of all things cultured and everyone ignored the painters and sculptors slaving in obscurity in Manhattan.

But the war changed all of that. Paris was cut off from the world and the art movement, almost by default, shifted to New York. The painters working there had great disdain for the establishment and it showed in their work.

They refused to title works, only giving them numbers, so as not to interfere with the true emotional experience of painting and viewer. They didn't work in literal figures. They didn't even necessarily use brushes or easels, often setting up large canvases on the floor. Their modern works of stripes and drips and color blocks resembled nothing that had ever been done before. It was a revolution in the art world - and in modern culture.

The Rothko room was exceptionally breathtaking. It was a large room, very dimly lit, like a discreet cocktail party. There were eight of his large paintings in the room, two to each wall, all of them lit from above, the only light in the room.

It was busy, but not crowded, and the silhouettes of the other patrons shifted in front of these enormous unfocused stripes of color. Rothko has always been one of my favorite painters - but after being in a room of his work, he moves to the front of the line.

Rothko wanted his paintings not just to be experienced - but to be an experience in themselves. And that they are. The transfer of pure emotion. In the more somber-colored ones, there was this feeling of despair or doom, and yet such strength and hope and originality. His paintings literally seemed to hum at me. I didn't want to leave. I actually had to sit on the black leather benches in the center of the room and just stare at the wonders around me. The most beautiful room I've ever been in that did not contain one iota of the natural world. Other than our shifting silhouettes.

So, yes, visiting art galleries is a wonderful thing to do on a cleanse. You're not hankering for your next drink, so you can really focus. And even if you are craving, it's not in the cards. You can just feel proud of the fact that unlike many of the artists working in the AbEx movement in the last century, you won't end up dead of alcoholism or a drunk driving accident.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Day 6 - Mixed Drinks

I can't believe it's already Day 6! I actually wrote Day 5 up there and then had to recount! This is the by far the fastest and easiest cleanse I've done so far - and the first weekend, which is always the hardest, is already over!

Discovered a great new drink for brunch yesterday. I often have a morning glory (sparkling wine and orange juice kind) with brunch when we cook at home or especially if we go out. Yesterday we stayed in and made omelets and fresh home fries. As we started cooking, I realized I missed not being able to sip my fizzy morning glory. I didn't necessarily miss the kick of alcohol - and if so, just for a second and I just took a deep breath (breathe through your cravings when you get them ... it's a great trick.) But I miss the fresh fizziness of the drink itself.

So I mixed up an interesting new concoction. I bought a bottle of Pom Wonderful the other day because it has just so many wonderful health claims. Along with it I got a bottle of lemon-flavored Perrier. Yesterday before brunch I was so craving some fizzy fun that I mixed a few ounces of Pom and topped it off with lemon-flavored Perrier in a champagne glass. It wasn't too sweet, had a bit of kick to it and that lovely fizz. Plus the glass made it seem special. I let my husband taste it and he was a bit confused by how much I liked it, but I thought it was an excellent - and healthy - accompaniment to a "dry" brunch.

You may not like this one, but experiment with different juices and other drinks. Mix them together, add them to plain water. The Pom Wonderful is so concentrated I just needed about a couple of tablespoons in water yesterday to make a nice refreshing option to H20. Plus I think at room temperature it would be a great substitute for red wine. Will try it on the next pasta night.

Having said the fun stuff, we watched the MTV Video Music Awards yesterday and Russell Brand - charming and gorgeous as he is - pissed me off ever so slightly by talking about Amy Winehouse's "disease" in his (very lovely) memorial to her. Of course, Russell is a member of A.A. and N.A. himself and it seems to be working out for him. I'm delighted about that. And it reminds me that there are people out there who may not be able to handle a life of cleansing.

I've known for many years that there is a "scale" of alcoholism. But perhaps it's even more complex than I thought. Maybe there are people whose problem qualifies as a "disease." Who cannot get through a weekend just drinking Pom Wonderful and Perrier. And maybe there are some of us who can.

A.A. insists that anyone who can stop drinking on their own is not an alcoholic - no matter what the NADD quiz says about a "scale" of alcoholism. I don't qualify as an alcoholic in any way for them. Never did - because I was able to do that six-month cleanse.

Listen, if you're finding dry weekends too much, if your withdrawal symptoms go beyond wanting a little fizz with your brunch, really search your soul and decide whether or not you need serious help with your problem.

However, if cleansing is working for you, if you find it challenging but helpful, congratulations! It's going to get even better and easier for you. I had a wonderful sober weekend with countless - absolutely countless - moments of fun and joy and happiness. I've said it before, but being happy when I'm sober is one of the greatest gifts of cleansing. I wish you many, many sober happy moments - whether you're cleansing or whether your join A.A.!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Day 5 - Fun with Fractions

Discovered a great new drink last night: Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice. I watered it down because it's very concentrated and like all fruit juices high in sugar. But with all the good stuff you're getting in there, it's worth it. Polyphenol anti-oxidants to fight free radicals, vitamin C for collagen and muscle health, Vitamin K for blood coagulation, Potassium for lower blood pressure and strong bones, iron for the production of hemoglobin, and even fiber to help reduce bad cholesterol and maintain digestive regularity. Always lovely to discover a healthy new drink on a cleanse.

My first Friday and Saturday nights are over. That's always a big milestone. It's actually been the easiest and most pleasant cleanse I've taken so far. I'm not sure if the timing has anything to do with it, but I do know that cleanses get easier with each cycle. This one, however, has proven it to me beyond the shadow of a doubt.

But if you're flagging, I've found that it's fun to "fraction" your way through your cleanse. After day 2, you're 1/14th of the way through. After day 4, you're 1/7th of the way through. After day 7 you're, 1/4 of the ... well you get the point. You'll notice how quickly you're actually doubling your accomplishment. Once you start getting to 1/2 and 3/4, it really gets exciting. You never had this kind of fun in algebra class.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Day 3 - Easy Does It

It's already Friday. I know my first whole week isn't done, but hitting that first Friday is a bit of a milestone. I am now completely confident in recommending Wednesday as the start of any cleanse because it makes that first week go by so much faster.

Yesterday afternoon we had an appointment with our banker. We had about 45 minutes to kill and my husband hadn't eaten, so we decided to go to a restaurant across the street for a little bite. This is a resto I've been in about a million times since the 1980s. Meaning I've had about a billion drinks there. My husband was really surprised that I suggested it. He kept asking, "Are you sure?" But I'm sure now, yes I am. I can handle anything when I cleanse.

We were lead to a nice table on the covered patio and I nursed the top half of a cranberry & H20 and picked at his fries. It wasn't quite as fun as when we're drinking - but the place is not known for it's 10 oz glasses of wine (like many of my fave haunts) so it's not as if I was missing that much of a buzz. It was completely painless!

While we were ordering, I told my husband he could have a beer if he wanted. Last night on the couch, he actually teared up. "You looked me in the eyes and made me believe that it was okay to have a beer," he said. And that's because it WAS okay. We talked a bit more about the whole idea of cleansing - and he was still emotional. He's so proud of me, he says. He really believes in cleansing - the whole idea of it, no matter how fresh or new it is. Because it's helped us so much.

I believe in it, too.

Having said that ... I am staring down the barrel of my first weekend ... wish me luck!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Day 2 - Smooth Sailing

That was the easiest first day of a cleanse I've ever had. Plus the little snap of fall in the air, it seems to be preparing me - as it always did - for a new time in my life. And that's what a cleanse is ... it's a break, it's a retreat, it's a journey, it's a change.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Day One

Well, it's that time again. It's a bit of an overcast morning - and I'm feeling the effects from a day and night of partying. I had a glass of wine at a matinee yesterday (love those VIP screening rooms! Saw "The Whistlerblower" - a true story about human trafficking in war-torn Serejevo in the late 90s. Excellent movie but absolutely harrowing. Go see!). Then I had a glass of rose out on the balcony with the hubs. There was sparkling wine before dinner, red wine with pasta, and a glass of white in there somewhere too. I basically subjected my body to every kind of wine I could. And this morning when I woke up feeling a bit of a hangover, I knew I was "ready" to cleanse.

Now you don't HAVE to overdo it before a cleanse, I just find that indulging a bit more than usual really helps me be "ready" for a cleanse - plus it's really fun, too. And it's the unpredictability and lifestyle variety of the plan that helps it work so well.

It really does help to feel "ready" for a cleanse. It's nice when it feels right. And today, it feels right. Strangely, on Monday, when I thought that was my last day, I felt a little reluctant. It's not unusual to feel that to some degree when you start cleansing - it happens, but it also goes away quickly. Because anticipating a cleanse is actually worse than being on one.

But when it made so much more sense to change my start day to today - Wednesday instead of Tuesday - I really enjoyed that extra day. I savored every sip of wine. I smiled lovingly at my wine glass several times during the day. But then, last night ... what was left of it went down the drain.

Wine is like a friend that way. A friend who goes on vacation every now and again. And it's okay when that friend is away because I get some much-needed me-time. And most importantly, behind all this fuzzy-wuzzy stuff is the fact that yes, I must break up my exposure to an addictive substance because I've been addicted before. It is for my health and happiness that I cleanse ... and I know that in my heart because I see (and feel) the improvement in my life as the years go by. It's almost as if cleansing becomes a spiritual time for me. And to tell you the truth, I've never felt so welcoming of one yet. I've noticed this, too - cleansing not only becomes easier each time, it also becomes more enjoyable. Which is another reason I really feel "ready" today.

And so ... happy cleanse!

"I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence and insanity to anyone ... but they've always worked for me."
Hunter S. Thompson

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Here's a great idea I just discovered: plan your cleanse for a certain day and then if it makes sense, postpone it another day!

My husband and I were at lunch on a patio yesterday afternoon. It was such a beautiful day and I was having a big glass of white wine and pasta, enjoying a late August patio day for the first time in years (since I usually cleanse all through August) and certainly the last one in August for me this season - that includes wine, anyway.

I explained to the hubs that if I started my cleanse on a Tuesday (today), then I'd be coming off it on a Tuesday which is not only generally an off-night - but also the night of a new class I'm taking next month. So it will be an off-night anyway. We had plenty of wine in the house for another day so it made a lot of sense. I decided to start the cleanse tomorrow (Wednesday) instead. Meaning one whole other day of partying.

I had such a great day yesterday. After lunch - at which I had two glasses of wine - we went shopping. Then last night we had dinner at our favorite Indian restaurant. The meal is actually fine to eat without wine, so we do go there when I'm cleansing - but the spicy food is extra special with wine. So it ended up being such a great day - and I have one more to enjoy.

Tonight it will be spaghetti and meatballs - and red wine. Plenty of it. Then tomorrow, the cleanse will begin ... That's how to turn that frown upside-down. :)

Monday, August 22, 2011


It's my last drinking day before my second semi-annual cleanse. I put a "sad-face" up there because to be honest, the day is sometimes a bit sad. You've had so much fun partying in the weeks leading up to the cleanse, you've usually gone for dinner with your fun drinking-friends, spent extra time at family barbecues, started your weekends with morning glories ... sigh ... and that's all over for 28 days.

But hey - I'm not gonna be too down about it because the cleanse starts tomorrow. I still have today to party!

Plus I also know that this is just a temporary feeling. Because I know how good cleansing is for me, I know how fast time goes by, and I know that they bring much happiness and joy of their own kind to my life when I'm on them. I think waiting for them to approach is worse than actually being on one. So don't feel too sorry for me - it's not all :(. There's lots of :) too.

Will check in again tomorrow ... probably hung over!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Countdown Time

So it's the last full week of drinking for me. My summer cleanse starts next Tuesday.

We were out with another couple for dinner last night - to a groovy, dimly-lit neighborhood spot. I had three glasses of white wine. That's usually more than I have with a meal but we were partying and I was feeling fine.

But when the waitress came around and asked if we wanted another round, my friend looked across the table at me. We'd been keeping pace with each other so her third wine glass was empty, too. "Do you want one?" she asked me. I said 'no.' I honestly didn't feel like a fourth. I thought I'd be too drunk. But she went ahead and ordered a glass of red and I had a few sips of that.

We all walked home on a lovely, balmy summer night. It was a great evening. Lots of laughter and storytelling and great food. But I was pretty proud of myself, turning down a glass of wine about five days from starting a cleanse.

What is happening to me? Am I becoming a prude?

Just kidding. But I am impressed that even this close to a cleanse, not only do I have control, but I'm making wise choices without feeling ripped off at all.

I'll really have to make up for it this weekend. ;)

Friday, August 12, 2011

I'm fine, thanks.

Last night, the hubs and I went to a patio for dinner and drinks. There were six of us altogether, sitting outside on a midsummer night as the sun started to go down. We had a wonderful time, with much laughter and storytelling.

The wine was served in 8 oz carafes with a big empty glass; I like that. It's always fun to top up your wine glass - it's very elegant and it feels as if you're getting more.

I had two carafes of the Faccioli Pinot Grigio 2009. When I was getting down to the end of the second, I noticed everyone else was finishing up their second drinks, too. It was still pretty early and the waitress came over to ask if we wanted another round. We were staying for a while, but most everyone was driving, so nobody ordered another.

I don't drive - so naturally, I didn't have to worry about that. And it was clear from the mood of the gang and how much water and/or booze everyone had to finish that we were still going to be there for a while to finish up. I wasn't drunk so I know the hubs wouldn't have had a problem if I wanted to have another drink. Especially since my next cleanse is coming up in less than two weeks.

But you know what? I didn't order one.

That in itself is a pretty big milestone, considering in the old days I would've pounded back at least one more carafe, if not two. But more importantly is this:

I didn't CARE if I had another one.

I honestly didn't care one way or another. After the waitress left with my empty wine glass, I didn't feel resentful or bitter or anxious. I wasn't sitting there fidgeting and bored, waiting to leave so I could drink more at home. Which is exactly the way life was before I started cleansing.

To me (other than the fabulous company) that was the great gift of the night. Not only did I not drink too much - but I didn't care when I wasn't drinking at all. To anyone with a drinking problem, you know what a relief that would be. Being able to take or leave another drink without ruining your mood. But that's the freedom and control that cleansing can give you. And I am so grateful for that on this wonderful sunny Friday morning.

Plus I don't have a hangover. :)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Party on ...

My dance card is filling up as my next 28-day cleanse approaches. This is the first August since 2003 that I've been drinking. I usually cleanse in August, but since travel plans changed my February cleanse to March, August is now a drinking month for me.

And is it ever. I was at lunch with a friend yesterday and we had a bit too much wine to drink. I sent her home in a cab, laughing all the way. Then I came home and took a nap.

I'm feeling that lunchtime indulgence this morning though. I made myself a cup of Milk Thistle tea for detoxing. But I'm also steeping my own blend of anti-inflammatory tea right now, too. It's delicious and simple and all natural. If you're nursing a bit of a hangover, give it a try. The soothing blend of spices will help settle your whole system.

In a tea-ball or loose tea caddy, place:
4-6 cardamom pods, scored with a knife.
6-8 black peppercorns
6-8 whole dried cloves
1 stick of cinnamon
1 slice of fresh ginger (or plain ginger tea bag)

Place all ingredients in a cup of very hot water and let steep for 15 minutes. Add sweetener if you like, but I usually don't.

To tell you the truth, I think I'm going to need more than natural anti-inflammatory tea to recover today. But that's okay because my cleanse is coming up. I can tell my body needs it. But so does my life. I am - believe it or not - actually looking forward to it.

But for the next two weeks or so, I will be busy catching up with friends and relatives I might not see while I'm cleansing. So cheers! :)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

R.I.P. Amy Winehouse

The preternaturally gifted jazz singer and notorious party girl, Amy Winehouse, died this week in her London home at only 27 years old.

Contrary to what everyone might have thought about the hard-partying Winehouse, and that is that she died of a drug overdose or alcohol poisoning, stories are beginning to circulate that quitting drinking might actually be what killed her.

Amy had been told that she had to cut down on her drinking - but that she should do it gradually because she'd been partying so hard for so many years. She decided she wanted an all-or-nothing approach and quit cold turkey instead.

Her family, and especially her father, have come forward saying that the shock of total abstinence was too much for her body and that it may have given her a seizure which caused her death.

This is the first time I've read about a public personality who may have died from quitting drinking. But it reminds us of a couple of things: if you have been drinking very heavily for years, please consult a physician or some other professional you trust with your health before you cleanse. Your system may be too delicate to handle it well. Also familiarize yourself with the symptoms of withdrawal and if you experience any that worry you, seek professional help.

But Amy's story also reminds us of the power of addiction and alcohol in general. And of the strength in moderation. Because ultimately "cleansing" is a way of becoming a moderate drinker. Sometimes you drink. Sometimes you don't. Your tolerance levels start to change naturally so you never have to bombard your system with too much of one lifestyle or another. Not that I care for the term "moderation" - but there's something to be said for it sometimes.

Of course, the toxicology reports on Ms. Winehouse are yet to be completed. There may be any number of factors that contributed to the stress of quitting drinking on her body. But cutting alcohol out of your life is a change of habit that can sometimes be very drastic.

So be careful. Look after yourself. This is really what cleansing is all about. Learning to take care of yourself - not abusing or hurting yourself further.

Amy, I will not make any jokes about that big Winehouse in the sky. Instead thank you for your ethereal talent. Your incredible energy. All the tabloid stories. And a lesson in moderation. Rest in peace.

CTV News

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Off Nightzzzz

I know I've mentioned this before, but the hubby thought I should bring it up again - especially after last night. And that is, don't expect to feel as if you have tons of energy on your off-nights.

Last night was Tuesday, the first of two back-to-back nights off that I've been taking recently. When we settled in for the evening, I was yawning and the hubs noticed it right away. I did have a busy day, but I also know that not getting that 110 calories and 3 carbs per glass of my white wine does leave me feeling slightly enervated.

Now I'm not saying I'm falling asleep at 7:30pm. Nope, I made it until almost midnight. But there's a vitality and energy that I get from wine and plain old water can't live up to it. (I usually stick to water or herbal tea on my nights off; for 28-day cleanses, I've learned to incorporate more treats.) If you're really feeling logy on an off-night, go ahead and have a glass of juice or even soda if it's in your diet plan.

But also don't worry about it too much. Don't fight the feeling of relaxation that might come over you when you're not drinking. There's a welcome gentleness incorporated into our week because cleansing nights have a different vibe than drinking nights. It's quieter and softer around here - and that's a nice change. Not only does it help you appreciate those party nights when you have them, but your off-nights will give you a new and greater appreciation for everything in your life.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Girls Night

Here's something I'd really miss if I couldn't drink anymore: Girls night.

On the first Saturday of every month, a group of about fifteen women - some of us old friends, some of us new friends - try to get together at a different restaurant to gab and eat good food and drink lots of wine.

That's exactly what happened last Saturday. It was a blast. I indulged completely, but I didn't end up in a puddle of my own sick at 3 in the morning because I'm now able to "stop" for the night. I don't have to keep going. I don't have to order that next drink when I'm already enjoying myself.

Cleansing has put me in touch not only with my body's reaction to alcohol, but with my own intentions. I'm so grateful I didn't have to order that last glass of wine and risk over-drinking. I'm so glad that I now have that control - because even as a teenager, I didn't. But cleansing has helped me acquire that skill - and now that I have it, it's really simple to use.

Something that might help you socialize more easily is to know that using alcohol properly is sometimes just a matter of drinks vs. time. If you're trying to squeeze another drink in at the very end of the night, maybe it's not the best idea for you. Especially if you're already drunk. If you don't live alone, promise yourself you can have another drink when you get home or look forward to your next outing with friends. It's safer than risking a bad experience by ordering a drink that you know in your heart you don't need.

By the way, if you've got a night of partying coming up and you're worried how it might end, here's a tip I've found helpful. First of all, picture yourself having a really good - but generally responsible - time with your friends. Picture yourself saying 'no' to that one drink too many. Picture yourself leaving the bar or the restaurant happy, buzzed, but in control. And most importantly picture yourself waking up in the morning contented and proud of yourself. Feel what it's like to have a night of socializing that doesn't end in drama. See it before you "be" it. It'll help.

Plus your hangover won't be as bad.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

To Drink or Not To Drink

You might find yourself feeling a little down or depressed when faced with an off-night, especially after several days of indulging. This plan is extremely effective - but it won't save you from the ups and downs of every aspect of life. And you can never forget alcohol is a depressant. You can have completely normal dopamine levels, but still feel down if you've been drinking too much. Especially when faced with an off-night.

It happened to me last night. My hubby and I just got back from a few days at a lovely mountain resort. Because it was vacation time, I didn't take my off-days. Put on top of this, a stressful situation at my husband's work, a bad case of PMS (sorry, guys), and the fact the vacation was over and I really didn't feel like having an off-night.

Part of the simplicity of this plan is knowing you need two off-days every week. It becomes even more of a no-brainer when you decide which nights those are ahead of time. (Though of course you're always free to switch around!) Tuesdays and Thursdays used to be my off-days. But since starting to take adult ballet class on Wednesday evenings, that's now one of my off-days. I've been leaving the other one to my own discretion.

This is good in one way because it gives me freedom. But on the other hand, not having the firmer days locked in for me can sometimes be agitating. Especially when you don't feel like taking an off-night. And yes, you will have those days where you want a drink but can't or shouldn't have one. That will happen! But they'll be few and far between. Alcohol cravings aren't as raging as they once were once you start that plan. But the desire to drink on an off-night might still be there for any number of personal reasons/celebrations/stress.

So here's the best way to handle those doubts on the plan. If you decide to change your off-day and it brings you joy and anticipation to think about, then take it. But if you're on the fence, or wondering if it's the right thing to do, if you're feeling guilty or emotional or negative about it at all, take the off-night. It will always, always be the right decision. Because of that one little truism: you can never drink too little, but you can always drink too much. Even once you've been on the plan and it's working for you.

Here was the problem last night. I didn't have the energy for ballet, so I thought what the heck, let's have a party night instead. So I asked my husband what he thought. His mood was uncertain about it. He felt I was asking him to make the decision for me and he didn't feel comfortable with that. He knows the plan works so well and he doesn't want to mess with it. Nor, he said, does he ever want to be responsible if "something happens" (i.e. if I start drinking with abandon again) because I can easily blame him for aiding and abetting.

I had no idea he was still this sensitive about my drinking, but after everything I put him through in the old days, I understand. He doesn't want to go back to the way things were. But neither do I.

It got to the point where it was no longer even fun to think of last night being an on-night. It just didn't feel "right. It was so crystal clear to me it felt like a Wild Card Rule or a new guideline materializing in front of my eyes.

And that guideline was this: if it becomes an emotional issue, nine times out of ten, it's better to take the off-night. (I know because this isn't the first time this has happened - it's just one of the clearest examples of it.) Your body and brain could ALWAYS use a break. You'll never go wrong erring on the side of caution. If you're confused or emotional or overly sensitive, yes, there will be that 10% chance that having an on-night is the best thing to do. But in my opinion, it's too small a target.

As I said, if you really feel like having a party night and the idea of switching your off-days brings you joy and excitement, go for it! That's the fun of this plan. The flexibility, the freedom and the empowerment. It's not about shutting down your joy. It's about upping your joy. So if the idea of making an off-night an on-night jolts you with happiness, enjoy yourself. You're doing such a good job and you deserve it.

But if, on the other hand, you experience any kind of negativity to the decision, don't bother. If you've been following the plan, one night of indulgence is not going to throw you off the rails. But it might make you feel guilty, which means not only won't you enjoy the evening, but you'll feel even worse the next day.

To an outsider, this kind of balancing act might seem like a chore. To a professional, it might even seem like a dangerous game of roulette. I know what the current school of thought is on alcoholism. But if you're following the rest of the plan, you'll start learning where your own boundaries are and you can implement them as you need them.

So if you're doubtful or emotional about drinking on a given night, err on the side of caution and you, like me, will wake up clear-headed, bright eyed, and very proud of yourself. And those jolts of pride are also part of the effectiveness of this plan. Because they show you that you do have control over your drinking - and your life. Taking an off-night is not about giving up that control. In fact, it's exactly the opposite. It's about taking control. So don't look at off-nights as losing something or missing something. Think of it only as gaining. Gaining joy, gaining confidence, gaining control, gaining health, gaining happiness. That's what off-nights are about. Not a sacrifice, but a gift.

I'm serious. So if it's a question, take the off-night. Rent a movie. Do some housework. Play with the kids. Go for a long walk. Or do something completely different than planned if you like. But if on/off becomes too emotional an issue, off is the way to go.

And you'll know that in your heart. So follow your heart. It won't steer you wrong.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Rumor has it ...

It was my husband's birthday recently and his parents got him a new Pro-ject turntable as a gift. It's absolutely gorgeous - piano black, very simple and sleek. We went out yesterday to get the pre-amp so we could actually use it and when we got back, he was so excited he wanted to set it up right away. So I popped a Mike's Hard Lemonade and watched him go at it, happier than a kid at Christmas.

Then he surprised me by pulling out a vinyl version of my fave album of all time, "Rumours" by Fleetwood Mac. We put it on and I swear it's as if I haven't heard a single one of those songs in thirty years, it just sounded that good. Notes that I'd forgotten were there; breath-y sounds in Stevie's voice that get lost in digital recordings; harmonies that sound muddy on the iPod were clear as dinner bells. It was so incredible, it literally brought tears to my eyes. We sat there and drank white wine and listened to the whole album as the sun went down on a warm June evening. It was transporting.

I am just so grateful that I don't have to watch my husband set up his new turntable and drink soda instead of Mike's. That I don't have to listen - and really hear - Fleetwood Mac for the first time in forever without being able to have chilled white wine to enhance the experience. What a fantastic night! I feel so grateful and happy today!! I just don't know who to thank for this gift. Me, I guess. Okay - thank me!! (Because you will, too!)

btw, you're welcome! :)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dream Staycation

After months of planning and anticipation for our trip to Vegas, things were cut short by some emergency dental surgery for my husband.

And although he wasn't able to enjoy himself much beyond butterscotch pudding and strawberry ice cream, it was my time to party.

One of the main rules of "off-days" - and the reason they work - is because there are those special times of year when you don't have to take them, including vacations. Since we were supposed to be on vacation in the first place and I was going to take the week off work anyway, it became a full out staycation with me often popping a morning glory at around 12:30 in the afternoon. And not taking my days off.

I was drinking more than usual - but I still didn't drink a lot. I didn't get hammered. I didn't get miserable. I didn't get depressed or hungover. It was just a nice, relaxing way to greet some spring-like weather and wind down from a long winter.

Again, one of the great things about the plan is that you can customize it to fit your life how and when you need it. As long as you're following the main cleansing rules and guidelines, there's no reason to deprive yourself when a monkey wrench gets thrown into your plans. Work with it, live with it, go with it. The freedom and control will be there for you once you start cleansing.

And staycation mode sure made looking after my recuperating husband a lot more fun! :)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Double Your Pleasure

Do yourself a favor sometimes: take both of your weekly "off-days" together in a row.

I've always known that this is a real treat for your system because whenever my plans have worked out that I have to take my off-days together, I end up with more energy, more wellness, more pleasure, more bliss.

I'm not exactly sure which uptake inhibitor or neurotransmitter or quirk of nature is responsible for this because we are all treading on new territory when it comes to alcohol cleansing, but I can guarantee you that once you start this program and decide to take your off-days together, you'll really notice what a boost it is for your whole being. Inside and out.

Maybe it's your brain rewarding you for continuing to do something positive about alcohol. Maybe it's your body. But it's a tangible feeling that is positive all around.

The reason my two off-days fell together this week is because of my ballet classes. I started taking adult ballet a few months ago (highly, highly recommended for your muscle tone, skin tone, energy, beauty, coordination, sex drive, and for the overall joy this unique exercise regimen can bring you) and they fall on Wednesdays. For years now, Wednesdays have been "pasta nights" and Tuesday and Thursday are usually my nights off.

But I've been noticing that by the time I get home I'm so drained and it's so late that our usual party pasta nights haven't been working out as well as usual. Since making Wednesdays an off-night is so easy (a good part of the night is gone anyway because of class), I thought, well, let's just forget pasta night for Wednesday and take my off-nights together this week. Tuesday and Wednesday.

I think it's going to be a new pattern because as I suspected it feels awesome. Not just physically, but emotionally. It was more natural and peaceful for them to fall together. And for some reason, I was actually more relaxed on Tuesday morning knowing that rather than off-day, party-night, off-day again, I was looking at two days of not drinking.

Ballet class ends in mid-July so for the rest of the summer we might resurrect pasta nights on Wednesdays, but for now taking two off-nights in a row looks like a promising and healthy new tradition to incorporate into my life.

But that's why Plan C is so successful. You can adjust it in way that works best for you.

So I leave you with thoughts about success from the British author Owen Feltham (1608-68):

"The greatest results in life are usually attained by simple means and the exercise of ordinary qualities. these may for the most part be summed in these two - common sense and perseverance."

Of course another really good thing about two off-nights together ... I'm having dinner out with a friend tonight. And yes ... there will be wine!

p.s. Yay.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Irrational Recovery

Rational Recovery is an abstinence-based addiction program developed in the 1980s by Jack Trimpey, a California-based social worker who not only has worked with addicts over the years, but was an alcoholic himself. So he developed RR as a way of dealing with the dichotomy the addict faces: they want to quit - but they don't want to quit. Followers learn to recognize the "voice" of their addiction and tools to bring themselves back to an awareness of the rationality behind their desire to quit and, hopefully, the ability to say no to that drink. Or whatever the offending substance is. But all without the spiritual overtones of A.A. and other 12-step programs.

It sounds like a marvelous system. If I ever end up in a ditch with a laptop in my hands, "Ms. Functional" on the screen, and a blood alcohol content of 20.0 - who knows, I might have to take advantage of it myself.

But for now, my system is pretty good, too. Because, well, I still get to drink. But cleansing is as much about learning to get in touch with the "voice" inside of you as RR is. And as you continue to cleanse, you will start to recognize this voice and your entire being will begin to know how to take the steps to heal itself.

Take Friday. I had a very busy week and got a lot of great work done on a book I've been wanting to write since I was 15 years old. Finally, after years of false starts, I seem to have downloaded the first 20,000 words in four days. I worked feverishly, like I haven't in years.

I was probably clinically exhausted when I decided to keep a lunch date with a friend on Friday afternoon, partly because she has a lot of insight into one of the characters (as it turns out, she's a Forensic Social Worker, not unlike Mr. Trimpey from RR). At lunch we usually share a bottle of wine, but for some reason she wasn't drinking much (I learned she had some errands to do afterwards) so I polished off most of the bottle myself. When the waiter brought grappa with the bill, I polished off that shot as well.

Shots are really a weak spot for me. They've gotten me into trouble before and they did that day, too. Really - NO SHOTS should become one of my wild card rules. Because afterwards I went shopping for a housewarming gift for a friend we were going to visit that night. I was tipsy from lunch and buzzing with excitement about my book ideas. I went to Pottery Barn and picked out what I thought was a gorgeous white and silver lantern for their deck. I traipsed home feeling in a great mood.

The hubs and I didn't leave for our friends' until after 9pm and just as we were heading out the door, I picked up the lantern and noticed ... THERE WAS A BIG DING ON THE VERY FRONT PANEL OF IT. Something I didn't notice when I bought it because I was, well ... because I was toasted.

So carrying the thing into their house, the first thing out of my mouth was: "I'm so sorry, there's a ding in this lantern that I didn't see this afternoon!" and then "Oh what a great house!"

They're a new couple and it was late, so there was no dinner or snacks. We'd brought wine and the white was opened for me and I started drinking that - after a day of heavier than usual drinking.

The woman had just learned she's expecting, so she wasn't drinking and without food, and with listening to the details of the house and/or pregnancy news, I started to feel my exhaustion. I had done too much that week (especially getting over a cold) to have had such a busy social day with so much drinking. Maybe that's why my inner-warning system was off.

When I got up the next morning - I FELT IT! I really did. I felt the effects of being "irrational" the day before. I'm usually very good at listening to my voice and ignoring the irrational drinker inside of me. But there can sometimes be a set of circumstances that overrides my best intentions and ... there you go. You end up with a damaged housewarming gift and a hangover.

But a damaged gift is better than a damaged marriage and psyche - which is what my drinking used to cause me. I mention it because although it was not my finest hour, I know it was important to me because it helped to underline why I set certain limits for myself - and why I should follow them.

In some ways I don't even want to share it because it shows that I'm not "perfect." That my system has not brought me to a place where I can go for lunch with a friend, then go shopping and not buy a dinged-up housewarming gift. And everything that represents. It was a "mistake."

You might make mistakes. I might make mistakes. But you will learn from them. Because as you cleanse, your whole system is re-learning. It's learning how to emotionally and physically improve while still being able to enjoy drinking.

On Saturday when I woke up and realized I had pushed my own limit, my whole system went into a very special mode. It didn't respond by saying: "I want another drink - NOW, FAST, IMMEDIATELY THANK YOU!" because that used to be the only way to deal with a night of over-drinking. Every problem drinker knows that. Even people who don't have a "serious problem" know that a hair of the dog feels good.

But my body was in self-preservation mode and I can say that for the rest of the weekend, I probably drank 1/2 what I normally would on Saturday and Sunday. My body just didn't want it. It was protecting itself. It knows HOW to protect itself properly now. I felt on such a bone deep level that the best thing for me to do would be to take it easy and that's what I naturally did. It was not a conscious decision - it was a physical, intuitive decision.

Every cleansing cycle shows me some new tool my body and brain have to fight the negative effects of drinking. And I can guarantee you that the odds of making that particular mistake again - wine and grappa and shopping and exhaustion and more wine - have decreased by about 99%.

But it was a mistake.

I have made them in the past and I will (probably) continue to make them. But there's a really important aspect to this plan that goes hand in hand with the actual rules - and that is to learn to love and forgive yourself.

It wasn't a big mistake. I didn't hurt anyone. I didn't even get in a fight with the hubby. In fact, he knew I was tipsy after lunch, but didn't have a problem with it. He hasn't had a problem with my getting drunk (and as I've said from the beginning - yes, I do get drunk sometimes!) in years.

I may have shared this story before, but it's an important one when it comes to learning to forgive yourself. Several years ago, when I was in the earlier stages of this plan - before I had perfected the components of it, the annual cleanses, the weekly cleanses, the wild card rules, etc. - I was much more likely to make these kinds of mistakes where I drank too much. I remember I woke up one morning after one of those nights and I felt a shriek of panic rush through me. I was so angry with myself! I felt so guilty, so stupid, so wrong. I waited for my husband to wake up and then I crawled over to him in bed and the first thing I said was how sorry I was for last night.

He looked over at me and gave me a kiss and said "Good morning, sunshine," as he does every morning. I could tell he wasn't mad. "Don't worry," he said. "It's not the same as it used to be. You're not the same as you used to be."

Cleansing has helped me to the point where even when I drink too much, I don't turn into that crazy, angry, vindictive person I used to become. I'm so happy about that. So thrilled, so proud. And it makes it a lot easier to forgive myself now. But back then, I was just learning. What really helped that particular day was this: we went out for a drive and as we pulled into traffic behind a truck I looked at the license plate and it read: FORGIVN.

I've never been able to forget that. FORGIVN on the license plate ahead of me the day I needed it most. We followed that truck for blocks and I'm pretty sure tears ran down my cheeks.

Even now, it never lets me forget the importance of self-forgiveness on my continued journey.

So don't be TOOOOO hard on yourself if you trip up a bit. I probably would've bought that damaged lantern even if I had been sober. Besides, it's not the biggest mistake I've ever made. So .... it's forgivn.