Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Day 2 - New Traditions

I'll be honest with you: the first day of a cleanse is not necessarily a fun one.

Don't worry if you're feeling anxious or uneasy. It's perfectly normal! It still happens to me on the first day of a cleanse and I've been doing this for eight years.

In fact, if you're on your first long 6-month cleanse, you might even feel very depressed. Depression can be a sign that your brain is no longer producing dopamine on its own - because of the effect of alcohol on your system for too long. But the research is in and your brain will heal. Your dopamine will start pumping again. And a sunny day, even without booze, will make you feel good. Because I feel very good, very positive, even joyful today.

But yesterday? I was antsy. Plus we had a concert to go to last night AND I was invited to birthday drinks with a friend. But it's not often I book social outings on the first night of a cleanse. But my husband runs production for a TV network and Adele was performing (the London girl with the voice of an angel, the beauty of a goddess and who, at 21, is already touring her second chart-topping album, named for her age). I'm such a fan, I didn't want to miss her. But I also knew that venturing out to the concert hall would mean that I'd have to bump into several of Mark's co-workers and friends - completely sober. Which isn't a serious problem once I'm into a cleanse. But on the first day? Annoying.

But I couldn't miss Adele - and I didn't. She was marvelous. 700 adoring fans packed into the Masonic Temple and she mesmerized all of us. There were literally tears in my eyes.

But - yes, I did have to meet a few new people. It was perfectly fine! My husband said I was in good spirits, that I seemed happy and engaged. Once I was there, I felt that way, too - but anticipating it can be a bit of a burden.

In fact, one of the questions that I still answer "yes" to on that NCADD quiz is just that: Do you feel uncomfortable if you're not sure there's going to be enough alcohol at an event. However, that's only one of two questions I still answer "yes" to. When I first took the quiz eight years ago and before I started cleansing, I answered "yes" to 13 of the 26 questions! Which put me squarely in the early-mid stages of full-blown alcoholism.

I know my score - at least on this quiz - isn't perfect yet. But every time I cleanse I feel I get better, more control, more joy in my life. I know that cleansing has at least reversed (if not "cured") my drinking problem so I'm willing to live with whatever vague connection I still might have to my old condition. Because things are just so much better and I know my life has improved not just objectively, but subjectively as well. Going from 13 'yeses' to just 2 is to my mind incontrovertible proof that cleansing can help at least some people reverse serious drinking problems and improve their lives.

However, as much fun as the concert was, birthday drinks at a bar with a bunch of partyers was too much to ask on the first night of a cleanse. I think you would've found me sobbing in a pool of cranberry & soda under a bar chair somewhere before the end of the night. Most of my friends know I cleanse and that it affects my schedule, so she understood. I'll catch her next time!

But there was one other outing last night that I wasn't expecting. Remember how I said we usually take dining out way down during a cleanse? Here's another first: after the concert, I was so hungry (probably from not having the extra calories from drinking) that I couldn't even make it home for dinner. I asked my husband if he wanted to go out, so we did.

We stopped at a great Italian place in Yorkville, Trattoria Nervosa, and I had penne with sundried tomatoes, basil and goat cheese, and the hubs had Spaghetti Gamberi. He drank a Coke (sweet soul is certainly welcome to have wine with dinner when we go out, but he usually chooses something else. It's not bad for his liver to cleanse every now and again either!) and I had plain old tap water, which looked way sexier because of the cute enviro-friendly glass bottles they had for each table.

The food was delicious. The atmosphere was great. We toasted our alcohol-free drinks to a new tradition: no worries about going out for dinner on the first night of a cleanse.

Incidentally, as long as you're following the basic tenets of the plan (i.e. you don't break your cleanses, takes your nights off, etc!) improvising and customizing the plan to work for you is part of why it can be so successful. Changing things up keeps life spontaneous. It keeps you feeling confident and in control of what's happening to you, and not as if you're on some kind of crazy booze "diet" that bores the hell out of you. Abstaining or even moderation can almost feel like a "real" diet with too many rules and restrictions. Maybe the reason 95% of all A.A. members quit within the first year is similar to why so many people "fall off" diets when they're too strict. Your body is starving.

But with alcohol, maybe it's not your body starving: it's your mind. Your heart. Your soul. You love the pleasant effects of alcohol and you want to keep them in your life, but you also want your life back. Cleansing gives you both. Just follow the general guidelines to make it fit your life - and it will work for you.

By the way, we got out of the restaurant for under $50. That's something that never happens when we're both drinking. So saving a bit of cash is another benefit to the plan! Maybe you even want to use the money to buy yourself something nice ... Treat yourself however you can! Be good to yourself. Love yourself. Move into yourself with curiosity, confidence and eagerness that you will find a new core of strength and well-being inside. Because you will.

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