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.

Forgivn.

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: Depression.about.com, "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

ASA ASAP

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!

Source: bodyecology.com; letsrun.com

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: All-about-Beethoven.com; 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.

Source: Alternativereel.com

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11

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.

Heroes

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.

Yet.

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.

Cheers.