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! :)