Sunday, September 30, 2012

Road Trip

My cleanse is about ten days away and I'm well into the spirit of the time: i.e. no cleanse days during the week. Just back-to-back drinking days. This is a good thing - because I've got another trip coming up!

The hubby sprung my birthday present on me last night. He made a video to show me what it was. Started off the top with a couple photos of me when I was about 3, looking quite tough and unhappy about my plight in the brooding hinterland of a tiny village in Northern Ontario.

"It's Ms. Functional's birthday! Yayyyy! And you're going on a trip ..."

Then with some of my favorite music playing in the background and all the right sound effects (the hubs is a TV producer by trade) I saw what he's been planning for months and months. 

We're driving to Vermont where we'll spend the night in a beautiful inn (more deets later). Then Saturday it's off to Salem, Massachusetts where we'll visit - among other things - the Witch Museum dating back to 1692 and an Ansel Adams photography exhibit. Yes, there will be lunch, yes there will be drinking. Then it's a half hour drive to Boston where he's booked us for two nights at the W. Tres chic. 

I should say this trip was planned because I'm working on a new novel about witches. When I write about a place I always have to visit it first - or I just can't get it right. Boston - not to mention Salem - figure heavily in the story so I'm excited about that. 

Then we're taking the ferry to Martha's Vineyard - and Edgartown where my favorite movie "Jaws" was shot in 1974, Edgartown standing in for the shark-plagued Amity. Like many historic resort areas, the Hamptons included, Martha's Vineyard has very strict building and zoning laws so the village is a veritable time capsule of my fave flick, minus the shark. We'll spend the night on the Vineyard at another lovely inn and then head home. 

The pre-cleanse timing is perfect because the hubs had business in New York when I was on my spring cleanse this year and the Big Apple wasn't nearly as much fun without fermentation. I'm so grateful not to have to travel on a cleanse!

But the trip is also changing when I start my cleanse because I want to be able to relax and have fun the first day we're back, rather than going straight into cleanse mode. 

I love having the freedom to move my cleanse by a day or two if something unexpected like this comes up. This plan really was designed to fit into your life and give you a sense of independence and empowerment. 

But - just as important - is the cleansing itself. For all my jokes about drinking, for all my light-heartedness about it, cleansing is still serious business that takes care of so many problems that heavy drinkers have: Depression, lack of control and increased tolerance. 

But cleansing doesn't just help these issues. It also helps break the habit of regular drinking. Charles Duhigg pointed out the 'habit loop' in his book "The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business." When something becomes too much of a thoughtless habit, we lose our ability to make conscious decisions about it. This can be very dangerous when it comes to drinking. But with cleansing, non-stop drinking can never become a thoughtless habit again, so you stay conscious of your decisions and in control. 

Having said all that ... lots of fun before the cleanse starts!


"Drinking: A Love Story" by Caroline Knapp
"The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business" by Charles Duhigg

Monday, September 24, 2012

Topless Turvey Town

So ... the princess fucked up. And now the whole world knows that Kate Middleton has nipples. I don't know. Maybe she was drunk. I only went topless in public once and I know I was damn tipsy at the time.

The funny thing is, I'm a little disappointed in the princess. I became an INSTANT fan of Miss Middleton the moment she came on the scene and one of the things I loved about her was her perfect, modern ladylike charm.

She seemed smart, strong and stylish all on her own - and then when she, a commoner, bagged a prince for keepsies, I mean - wow. That's workin it out, chick. Especially because she seemed so perfectly suited for the job. She had none of Lady Di's vulnerability or awkwardness (which, being only 19 when she married her prince, took years for Di to overcome). Kate was poised, charming and absolutely beautiful. Plus her manners seemed impeccable without being too stiff. She was so perfect that according to Perez Hilton and others, she hadn't even gotten drunk ONCE in university after she started dating the Prince. I mean ... not even once? Amaaaaazing in this day and age - especially because she also had just enough "edge" to still seem cool - despite her penchant for primary colors and, on occasion, old lady hats. (This never getting drunk thing is not true btw - more on that later!)

I love Kate so much, one of the most relaxing parts of my trip to Green Bay to visit the cuz had to do with her. It was at the Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee just before my flight home. After a day of sightseeing with Kelly (including a very ladylike lunch of tea and sandwiches at the beautiful Whistling Creeks golf course on Lake Michigan), I found myself with about 90 minutes to kill at the airport before my flight left.

I found a nice, quiet bar, got myself a table in the corner and ordered my first glass of wine for the day, a 9oz glass of pinot grigio (congrats to Mitchell for having the choice of puny 6oz glasses or yay-size 9 oz glasses!). I also had a copy of a celebrity magazine, in this case "Hello."

I'm not a huge consumer of celeb zines, but I often like to buy one when I fly because you can easily kill at least an hour or two of travel time floating around in a numbing, glamorous bubble. Makes the flight go by faster "reading" (and I use the term loosely, cuz it's really more like look-scanning) about pretty Hollywood people living in fabulous houses having movie star/rock star/reality star problems - which are waaaay more interesting than my own. I don't know - it's just fun. I sometimes feel embarrassed to be flipping through such fluff when all the business people around me are reading "The Economist" or "East of Eden" or whatever (I'm serious - the suit beside me was reading Steinbeck), but it's not an excruciating embarrassment. I can deal with it. (Though I think if I was a famous writer with a Pulitzer prize I'd probably save this guilty pleasure for the First Class bathroom).

Anyway, this time around I bought "Hello" because it featured a big spread on Kate - and her style. Her clothes, her hair, her skin, her bod. So I sat there in the airport with my big glass of wine and I not only scoured every word about Kate, I even jotted down a few notes about her beauty routine (i.e. she uses Lancome Hydra Zen Neurocalm Day Cream, is on the Dukan Diet, and keeps that shiny mane healthy with Kerastase Ritual Collection blah, blah, blah). I was so lost floating around in my fancy Kate cloud that I almost missed my plane!

I simply don't know what it is. I just love her. To me Kate Middleton makes everything seem ... well, possible. If that makes any sense.

So ... when rumor started to surface that Kate had been photographed sunbathing topless at a friend's estate in Provence, I was gobsmacked - as the English say. It can't be! Don't tell me! Kate? Topless? Gadddd! Say it isn't so!

Now I don't consider myself a prude in any other way, but - as I mentioned - I've only gone topless in public once in my life and I was very, very drunk when it happened. It was a couple of years ago at the Moorea Beach Club at The Hotel in Las Vegas (fuh-abulous btw!). When we paid our 50 bucks to get in (worth it not to have to listen to screaming kids and bad music at the public pool), the fellow at the door said that "tops were optional for the ladies." I'm like, oh great. Fantastic. Well, looks like the husband's gonna have a good day - and I'm going to be writhing around feeling like a jealous square. Because until that point, you see, I had never gone topless before. Not even when I was in the south of France in my twenties and all the fabulous French women around me were letting it all hang out.
So when the bouncer at Club Moorea announced/warned that it was a topless pool, I braced myself.

When we walked into the groovy pool area, sure enough there were four beautiful young girls sunbathing topless, lying next to each other on loungers. Perfect, perfect, perfect, even MORE perfect. I suspected The Hotel must've been paying models to show their breasts as day jobs. Not a stupid business practice all things considered. Still, my top stayed on.

The wine FLOWED that day. OH MY GOD. We had our own waiter/butler type dude and he did not let my big plastic glass get close to even half empty before he hurried over with another one. You gotta love NOT having to order wine, right? Anyway, I remember drifting around with Mark in the infinity pool, then dog-paddling over to the deck to slurp down my wine on a perfect sunny day. Ahhh ... it was so much fun, the hubs and I even did that thing you hate that drunk couples do in pools: we hugged each other's wet bodies and swam around in semi-seductive embraces, laughing way too hard and then whispering way too quietly and then laughing way too hard again. Sorry. Very rude.

Of course all that laughter stopped when another set of boobs walked into the pool area. I'm sure this girl was also a paid boob model with no modesty, sent into the fray to increase business at The Hotel. The girl was in her twenties somewhere. Very small boned, very tanned, very toned with long black hair - and perfect breasts. I'm pretty sure they were purchased from some plastic surgeon genius in Brazil, they were just that stunning. Taut nipples - you know, the kind of shiny ones? High, firm, full breasts themselves - and YOUCH - did they stand out from her ribs in a haughty "Hey, aren't I sexy?" kind of way. (I wonder why I have such clear memories of other women's breasts ... huh). She lounged there. All. Day. Long.

By this time, I was drunk enough that I was starting to feel falsely confident about everything. You know. Thighs, hair, career ... even breasts. I started to feel competitive with all these hot, young chicks and their stupid breasts. The hubs had been daring me all day to take off my top ... so finally ... I untied the back string of my hot-pink Billabong bikini top and literally flung it at him. I felt sexy, bold, mischievous - and free.

Of course, not long after that I tucked under a beach towel and passed out from all the wine. But my hubs has the picture of my bikini top on the next chaise to prove I was an exhibitionist for a day. Despite the fact the same video footage also shows me huddled in the shade under my beach towel, eyes closed, hair wet, cuddled up and snoozing. By the way, drinking in the sun is a real potent combo, isn't it? I was so hungover the next day I didn't even recognize my own hands. I know that sounds like a weird description of a hangover, but there's no other way to put it. I looked at my hands and they looked like someone else's: my mother's, in fact. After she'd been on a weekend bender. Yuck.

Anyway, that was the first and only time I've taken my top off at a pool or beach. And it was all around pretty pathetic, so I was scandalized to hear that my ladylike Princess - the girl of lace dresses, permanent smiles, and - occasionally - old lady hats - had actually been caught red-breasted on film.

I know it's not a big deal to most people, going topless. But I'm still of the opinion that boobs are sex objects. Sex organs, in fact. So until men can walk around commando (and any time someone wants to pass a bylaw on that one, I'm all for it), I think I'll keep myself to myself.   

Thursday, September 20, 2012

T-minus ...

I'm on my official last non-drinking day before my cleanse begins. Remember, you don't have to take the two days off a week in the two weeks leading up to a cleanse.

But let's not nitpick. Depending on when you start your cleanse, sometimes that means you'll have two and a half weeks of drinking days back-to-back. No worries! As long as you're not getting into three weeks, it'll be fine. Believe it or not, at the end of that period, you'll be looking forward to a nice, long, healthy cleanse.

For now, however ... two weeks of partying is extremely enticing. I'm sure there'll be a trip (or two) to the liquor store to stock up. There will be favorite meals with favorite wines. Favorite restaurants with ... yes, more wine. There will be vodka coolers and champagne, mojitos and ... more wine.

And then there will be ... lots of water, juice and tea for 28 days.

It was the English poet, William Cowper, who first coined the phrase "Variety is the (very) spice of life, giving it all its flavor." But it still makes sense almost three hundred years later. Because I've always believed that part of the reason this plan works so well is because there's a real variety of experiences available.

As an addictive personality (or maybe just a drama junkie), I've always searched for a variety of experiences in my life. Intensity is great. But so is calmness and peace. And I get both with this plan. Lots of freedom in the weeks leading up to a cleanse. And lots of tranquility once the cleanse begins. It's a great balance and, believe it or not, always a welcome change of gear. I'm actually already looking FORWARD to my cleanse.

By the way, Cowper was plagued by madness, religious fervor, doubt, talent - and a firm belief that God had forsaken him and damned him to hell. Maybe that's why he also coined the term "God works in mysterious ways ..."

I'll raise a toast to Cowper ... tomorrow.


Saturday, September 15, 2012


Two full days off - Wednesday and Thursday - went by like a breeze. I SINCERELY did not want to take these days off. I didn't feel that I overdid it on the weekend and I almost felt I was "owed" a bigger drunk.

It's amazing, but the bargaining continues. Especially this close to the end of a drinking cycle. The old demons start rousing their ugly heads - so it's a good thing my cleanse is coming up in a few weeks. I was going to say "Okay, it's SORT of still vacation time (i.e. I'm still recovering from a vacation) so I shouldn't have to take my days off, right? It's in Da Rules!"

But the plan is the plan and this is the way it works and this is how it works and this is why it works, Ms. Functional. Two days off a week! So I dried out for two days and felt absolutely fabulous and happy and proud of myself. Plus I was ready to indulge a bit more freely yesterday.

After two days of not drinking I was feeling it just a titch this morning. Nothing bad, but just enough that I wasn't as bright-eyed and bushy-haired as I felt yesterday morning. So I made some Organic Tea from

I can't recommend this tea highly enough for cleanses or on cleanse days. It's a blend of rooibos which contains iron, potassium, zinc and manganese; sencha which is full of anti-oxidants; our old friend, Ginger, which is great for digestion, lethargy, headaches and overall inflammation; and lemongrass among other things, which is purported to detox your liver.

Like all of David's Teas, this is a loose tea so you need individual bags or a tea ball to steep for 4 or 5 minutes. I also threw in a small bag of Milk Thistle tea - as I mentioned, famous for thousands of years for its benefits to the liver. It's such a mild tea, it doesn't clash with any of the other flavors. And I just wanted to get back into fighting shape.

Not that Saturdays are going to be big party nights for me for the next few months. My adult ballet class - usually at 6:45 on a weeknight - is on Sunday mornings at noon this term. So unless I want to be puking through my plies, Saturdays won't find me indulging too much anymore. We'll see how that works out!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Adventures in Tailgating

Wow! My trip to visit my cousin Kelly in Green Bay was just what the doctor ordered. Four days of fun, wine, Mike's hard, Bacardi Breezers, jello shots (in orange peels like orange wedges!) and beer - though I personally skipped that particular Milwaukee export. Mind you, I made up for it eating cheese. Holeeeeee. It's true that Wisconsinites love cheese!

However, I was a "good girl" and didn't get drunk once. Except for game day, nobody even cracked a drink before 5 pm. Very sensible!!

Game Day however? Totally different story! The Green Bay Packers were playing the San Francisco 49ers in the opening game and, naturally, tailgating was going to be a big part of it.

Some of you may know that I'm Canadian. Here's a list of things that Canadians are really missing that Americans have in spades: Disneyland, regular election dates - and tailgating! Wow. People couldn't believe it when I told them tailgating is not only not done in Canada, it's illegal. (Maybe it's actually illegal to have that much fun. We don't have enough confidence to enjoy ourselves that much!)

It seems bizarre to me that a nation of hard drinkers (19% of us admit to being "heavy drinkers" according to Statistics Canada) that we haven't figured out a way to incorporate tailgating into our sports life. Possibly it doesn't make sense: hockey is our big sport and it usually takes place during ch-ch-chilly winter months, so rather than freeze our asses off outside our SUVs and pickup trucks in a parking lot before the game, we just plunk ourselves in front of the TV and do it in the warmth and comfort of our own homes. Much closer to the bedroom when the game's over and no worries about drunk driving, either.

Having said that, are we missing out on some seriously organized fun. I couldn't believe the amount of effort, time, money, creativity and plain old energy that goes into a good tailgate. My cousin was so busy chopping, shopping, packing up the van and making sure we all had our Packers gear that she was just a blur of blond hair and green-and-gold team colors. Six of us were decked out in jerseys, ball caps, T-shirts, jackets - the ladies even had Packer earrings! Despite the fact I was an NFL "virgin" (nice to feel like a virgin at something again!), I totally looked the part.

But it wasn't just the fans who dressed to show their support. At Lambeau Field in Parking Lot #1, I even saw two huge bulldogs dressed in Packer gear. I'll have to learn how to attach photos to give you your quotient of bizarre/scary/cuteness for the day.

Once everything got underway and we'd set up our own table and hotpot of bratwursts, I got escorted by Kelly's daughter and her BFF around the lot to see all the escapades. Tables, tents, flags, lawn chairs, bar stools, coolers, cars - even an old Brinks truck - decked out in Packer gear. There were bands walking around and big speakers blaring"P-P-Packer Face" to the tune of Lady Gaga's Poker Face. Not to mention grilling, eating, laughing, talking - and drinking. It was amaaaazing fun.

The stadium itself was spectacular. So bright and colorful and vibrant in the warm sunshine. Unfortunately, the boys didn't play as well as the fans would've liked and the game ended in a loss to the 49ers. Everyone dragged their asses back to their cars and many of us waited until traffic died down to indulge a little more in the parking lot. Superfun!

Fortunately (though it feels unfortunate right now), today's the first of two back-to-back cleanse days. Not feelin' it, but ... it's the plan!!)

Thanks to everyone in Green Bay for being so wonderful to me! I had a blast! Go all ye tailgaters! Have a happy 2012-13 NFL season!

Source: "N.W.T. Has Highest Binge Drinking Rate"

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fair Warning

So I got 'the talk' yesterday.

I mentioned I'm going to see my cousin in Green Bay, Wisconsin a few posts ago. Her name's Kelly and although we're about seven times removed or something, we were always very close growing up. I'd visit her during the summer at her cottage up north, learning to flirt with boys and how to wear a bikini (She could always pull one off! Even when she was eleven!) Or one of us would visit the other in their hometowns, moms and brothers in tow.

The last time I saw her was about thirty years ago (!!?) when we were both still teenagers. Then we lost touch. She went onto marry, divorce (amicably) and raise two wonderful children who are both stellar athletes and scholars. I ... well ... I got married, published a couple of novels, and worked on my drinking problem.

About a year ago, we found each other online and we've been talking and emailing ever since. It's like we just picked up where we left off and it wasn't long before the idea of a visit came up. When her boyfriend won tickets to the Green Bay Packers opening game on September 9, they generously invited my husband and me.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, as the case may be) my husband is too busy to make the trip - so I'm going on a solo adventure. Been doing the shopping and packing and picking up souvenirs, feeling like a kid buying new jeans and running shoes, as if I'm getting shipped off to college.

Anyway, 'the talk' happened after I was trying to determine what cleanse days to take this week (I'm leaving Friday morning). Since you don't cleanse on vacation, no worries there. But I also want to enjoy the last few days I have with my husband. When I was trying to figure it out, he said: "I don't care what you do here. Just be careful when you're there. No getting drunk."

This warning fresh on the heels of him having to keep me from falling at that restaurant last week. Actually, I'm glad that happened. Nothing like a close call to remind you there's a reason you have 'a limit.' Remember - you can never have too little to drink, but you can always (and easily) have too much!

By the way, Kelly's dad had a brush with football fame when he was signed by the Packers as a young man. A knee injury took him out early, but his NFL career was always a source of pride for the family, no matter how short-lived it was. After all, the Packers have won more championships than any other team in NFL history - thirteen. Maybe this season will make it a lucky fourteen!

More about the last time I saw Kelly in a future post ... cuz it was the occasion of my first one-night stand.

Yes, I was very drunk.

And no, it wasn't with Kelly.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Impossible Dream

So I open the fridge this morning and there sitting on the top shelf is a half-finished glass of white wine (lipstick mark included). I put it in there after dinner cuz I switched to red - with the intention of drinking it later. And I forgot all about it.

Too drunk to even remember? NO SUCH THING! I remember the days/nights when it didn't matter how blotto I was, I could sniff out the last drop of alcohol in the place with my eyes closed. Nothing got saved. It all went into my gullet. But last night, I simply forgot. Small victory, I know, but you take 'em where you can get 'em.

Last weekend was a different story. Friday night saw us having another couple over for drinks - and then heading out for dinner at a pub down the street. We started here with a lovely cocktail that always feels fun and special. We actually got the idea from these friends - the woman owns a gourmet food shop.

You have to find Wild Hibiscus flowers in syrup. They're lovely edible flowers in a cherry-flavored liquid. You put one flower in the bottom of a champagne flute and add a teaspoon or so of the syrup. Then you pour champagne or sparkling wine over the flower (I used Astoria Proseco which worked really well). The bubbles make the flower open up in the bottom of the glass, all the petals floating about, and the syrup makes the drink slightly pink. It's very festive and fun - and as pretty as it sounds, even the guys enjoyed it. My husband especially.

We finished that bottle off and then the boys switched to beer and Shannon and I went on to white wine. We had a couple glasses each here and then went for dinner.

It was a perfect night, balmy and warm, but not too hot. We got a great corner table on the patio right by the street so we could people watch both ways. Not that there was a lot of that. There was mostly talking - and more drinking. Shannon and I polished off another bottle of white wine there. So I was going on at least five glasses of wine ... maybe more. Who knows? I sure don't. Because yes ... I had a rolling brownout.

I do remember standing up from the table and stumbling badly enough that my husband had to reach out and grab my arm so I didn't fall. I remember thinking: "Whoa! That was too much to drink!" And it was. Though you won't find an MD who'll agree that four drinks on a social occasion should be my limit, that's what it is. In fact, one of the MAIN RULES of the whole plan is to know your limit socially and stick to it.

But I was just having too much fun! So - I threw caution to the wind. And - yes - got too drunk. I came home, washed my face, and went straight to bed, knowing I'd had waaaay too much to drink. In the morning, holy f*ck!! Did I feel it!! I was soooo hungover. The ginger tea and milk thistle supplements (not to mention Advil) were in high gear.

Even so, I got up a couple hours before my husband so that gave me lots of time to stew, worry and feel guilty. As I said, I don't remember every moment of the night (but, in my defense, I don't remember every moment of every night even when I'm stone cold sober!) and I knew I'd passed my limit. So I felt badly. Not the sort of soul-wrenching guilt that I used to have because I knew I didn't fight with my husband. But I still felt pretty awful about it.

When my husband woke up, I was back in bed with him. The first thing out of my mouth was: "I'm so sorry!"  He's like "For what?" - legitimately confused. I said, "For drinking so much." He said, "So? Nothing bad happened." He gave me a kiss and we spent the next little while in bed.

He honestly wasn't angry. In the old days, when I overdid it, it usually meant a terrible, drag-out, no-holds-barred fight between us. But it's been so long since that happened, he just doesn't have the same tension about my drinking. It was such a relief. (By the way, the last time we did have a bad blackout fight was four years ago - almost exactly to the day - at Shannon and Wil's wedding. It was one of the first vicious blackouts I'd had in years - since I'd already been on the plan. But it was a real learning point for me - I'll write more about it later.)

Anyway, I was obviously SO thrilled and relieved that on top of my hangover, I didn't have to deal with any fallout from the hubby. My "guilt" evaporated instantly and was replaced by an overwhelming sense of gratitude and happiness. It lasted all day - and night. Even now, really.

The next night, Saturday, was impossible dream night. Believe it or not, I poured one (generous) glass of red wine before dinner - and I nursed it all night. One glass of wine - all night? And I didn't even get it finished. I enjoyed myself so much and I was so goddamn proud of myself in the morning. Still am. One glass of wine a night? It's been a while since I've been able to pull that off. Say twenty years?

But I think it was important too. The more research I do for this plan, the more I learn about the dangers of alcohol. It doesn't mean I'm a shining example of moderation - as you can see. But it does mean that I'm much more aware of the damage I'm doing to myself say, when I pass my limit or have a bad hangover.

Alcohol is absorbed by every organ in the body. Which is why it can cause everything from cirrhosis of the liver to pancreatic cancer to cancers of the stomach, mouth or throat. When you overdrink, it's a good idea to give your body a chance to recover. Even the Department of Health in the U.K. suggests a break of at least 48 hours after heavy drinking to "let your body recover." Nursing one glass of wine is not exactly a perfect recovery, but it was much better than doing it all over again the very next night. Because when I woke up on Sunday I felt not only proud of myself, but so healthy. And I'd had so much fun the night before - even on one glass of wine.

It really does make me wonder sometimes why I drink more than that so often. But it's a process. I know that. I'm learning from it and even though I'm not perfect, I get better all the time.

And it didn't even cross my mind to polish off that glass of white wine in the fridge with breakfast. Well, hardly anyway. ;)

Sources: "Drinking: A Love Story" by Caroline Knapp
International Center for Alcohol Policies - "International Drinking Guidelines"