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,