Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Day 21 - Hello Halloween!

I have a few drunk memories of Halloween ... even though I'm dry today.

One is when I was a teenager, drunk and underage in my favorite bar at the time - "The President" - with my friends. I was the only person in the place who wasn't dressed in a costume. I looked around at everyone else dressed as - what did we go as back then? John Cougar? Maggie Thatcher? Ghostbusters? I seem to remember someone dressed as a big spliff/joint/blunt that night. It looked like a condom - but actually dressing up as a condom was a bit down the road, seeing as nobody used them much before we knew about AIDS.

Anyway, I looked at everyone else dressed up, some people dancing on tables. Everyone looked like they were having so much fun. Getting drunker than usual and acting wild, not worried what anyone would think because nobody could recognize them.

I was so proud of the fact I didn't need a costume to be crazy that night. After all, I went crazy every single weekend. I didn't have to hide in a disguise to do it. I felt so comfortable that night, so serene. As if I 'belonged.' I even think I danced on a table myself.

My years underage at that bar definitely helped facilitate my drinking problem early on. But I often wonder ... why was I so proud of the fact I was a crazy party-girl without a disguise? Was I actually deriving self-esteem from my fledgling alcoholism? Bizarre.

By the way, the hubby sent me a nice email. It concerned that melting-into-the-couch moment on the weekend. He wrote: "I realized that the fact you had a rough cleansing hour (and didn't have a drink!) is actually proof that your plan does work right? Right! I love you! You're brilliant!"

That's why I love this man. One of the reasons anyway. And considering what I put him through with my drinking over the years, he's a saint.

Someday I must share the only time I remember him getting drunk ... on our honeymoon in Paris ... stumbling back from a thousand dollar dinner at La Tour D'Argent. About 5,000 Francs at the time. I think I remember reading about the famous resto in a Judith Krantz novel when I was a kid. So we went there for my 35th birthday. I had pigeon! Yes, pigeon - though it sounds (and tastes) much better in French. Tres amusant! 

8 days to go!


The unforgettably French La Tour D'Argent

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Day 20 - Drinkin' Thinkin'

I wonder sometimes if I think about drinking too much. 

But then I ask myself: "Do people in A.A. ever stop thinking about drinking?" Of course not. Every day, every night, every meeting and in between. It's hard not to think about alcohol when it's so pervasive, especially if you've had a problem with it.

There's a blog (the link's below) called "Stinkin' Thinkin': Muckraking the Twelve-Step Industry." It's a deep, fascinating blog that basically trashes A.A. Although they're not updating it as regularly as they used to (unfortunately), it's still worth a look. There's a lot of bizarre info there.

Right now they're doing an expose on an A.A. sponsor in California who strangled his girlfriend to death - also a member of the organization. He already violated their code of conduct by acting as a sponsor to this woman (they like to keep it boy/boy, girl/girl) - and he'd just gotten out of jail for beating her already. Terrible case. The parents are suing A.A. for what they perceive as the group's part in her death.

I'm not an A.A. hater - just because I didn't want to join their ranks. I know they help millions of people (even though 95% drop out before the first year). But what a drag that must be! Not only do people have to worry about quitting drinking, but (allegedly) sexual, financial and emotional predators in A.A. can have a field day when a new member shows up. There's such shame attached to alcoholism, newbies must feel so vulnerable ... 

And of course, A.A. is at

9 days left to go! Just love hitting the single digits!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Day 19 - The Longest Hour

As great as it was to have my nephew and brother-in-law in town for the weekend, it wasn't the easiest part of a cleanse I've ever had. In fact, it was the longest amount of at-home entertaining I've done since I started cleansing almost ten years ago.

Despite the fact I was in good shape for the antics which began before dawn on Sunday  morning - including rock climbing, lots of running in the rain and toy shopping at Indigo which was open at 9 a.m. and an absolute shining Godsend ... there were moments on Saturday night where .. . damnit! I just wanted a drink.

Time seemed to go by so slowly - not all night, but for one hour early in the evening. Particularly between 6:38 and 6:52 p.m.(I marveled at how many times I looked at the clock during those fourteen minutes!). I seemed trapped in some Mobius loop on the time-space contiuum or something. No matter what I did, no matter where I wandered, no matter what I thought, I heard the boys in the background enjoying scotch and beer (not the kid of course!), and it felt as if I was on one of those long, slow airport 'movators' ... walking the wrong way.

Maybe I should've made plans to be somewhere else. But I didn't want to miss a minute of the visit. So I kept busy putting out snacks and cleaning up in the kitchen. I had a Red Bull, but it went down like water. (I usually nurse them throughout a social engagement and it seems to work better than chugging!). I had a sparkly Hint. I sipped Coke. I drank lots of water and snacked my ass off (I found munching all night kept my energy up more efficiently than a single full meal - and the boys liked it, too.) Plus it gave me something to do.

Even so ... there was that hour (and maybe it just felt like an hour) where it seemed as if I was melting into the couch ...

There was something 'missing' - that's all I can say. And what it was was my personal pleasure. Not that I don't adore my bro-in-law and nephew. I couldn't love them more and I was so happy to have them here.

But my 'personal' jolt of enjoyment was simply missing - at least for that troublesome hour. The thing is, cleansing really does make drinking pleasurable again.  If you've ever been trapped in the cycle of addiction, you probably know that alcohol doesn't really 'work' anymore when it comes to bringing you joy. For most of us, that realization is depressing - but it can't (at least rarely) get us to stop. Because that's what addiction is.

But even though I'm happy to report that cleansing has definitely released me from the darkness of addiction - it's also enhanced the pleasure I get out of every drink. So on an occasion where I'm used to drinking and I can't because I'm on a cleanse, I can miss it. It certainly doesn't happen often - and I can always handle it. And, in retrospect, the discomfort was brief and passed quickly.

I followed my own hints about dealing with cravings (which usually aren't a problem at all!). Things like taking deep breaths and keeping busy. Then I told myself ... Hell! One rough hour on a single night is not like 'taking one day at a time' forever - as they have to in A.A.

I reminded myself that I know in my heart the plan works for me and that it's improved every aspect of my life. So big deal if I have a craving for a drink on a Saturday night when we've got company and everyone else is getting tipsy? So what? It's still not permanent abstinence. And it's not impossible to deal with.

I cleanse because I know it keeps me healthy and happy in the long run. And as a person who was once strongly addicted to alcohol, it keeps me in a place where I'm in control of my life. Does it mean bluebirds and butterflies are fluttering out of my ass every second of every day? No.

But it also doesn't mean that I can never enjoy drinking again - which is the fate of so many problem drinkers since abstinence is still regarded as the main treatment of addiction.

Of course, the research and therapy field is changing quickly - and I expect it to continue. Because I'm not the only one who's discovered you can deal with alcoholism in other ways besides abstinence. Programs like Practical Recovery run by Dr. A. Tom Horvath in California are customizing treatment programs to individuals, including other options to abstinence. And as was outlined in The Handbook of Alcoholism Treatment Approaches: Effective Alternatives by Reid K. Hester and William R. Miller, the idea of abstinence and 'confrontational' style counseling - which has been the basis for much one-on-one therapy in the addiction field - simply doesn't work. And might even make some people worse.

Alcoholism is a very serious condition - I know that because I've been there. Many experts even call it a 'disease' (though in some cases, I side with Dr. Gene Heyman of Harvard who is so convinced it's a 'disorder of choice' that he even wrote a book by that name!). Generally, total abstinence has been the only way to deal with addiction - and that would mean a lot more than what happened to me on Saturday night.

I can handle one hour of inconvenience every now and again. The truth is, the only reason that craving was even a problem for me in the first place was because I've never had house guests on a cleanse. But now that I have, I can not only survive it, today I feel happy and confident that I handled a new challenge - and won. In hindsight, it wasn't a big deal at all. This morning, it even makes me want to laugh.

How's that for bluebirds and butterflies?

10 days left to go!

The Handbook of Alcoholism Treatment Approaches: Effective Alternatives (3rd Edition)

A Disorder of Choice

Indigo/Canadian books:

The Handbook of Alcoholism Treatment Approaches: Effective Alternatives (3rd Edition)

A Disorder of Choice

Practical Recovery

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Day 17 - The Good Aunt

My nephew (whom I adore!!) is coming to spend the night at our place with his father this weekend. I'm cleaning and decorating the place with skulls and spiders for Halloween. I'm also digging into the candy supply I got him (just for the sake of his teeth, of course). Damn awesome cleansing this time of year - I'm really appreciating the extra sugar rushes.

This is the first 'sleepover' they've had when I've been on a cleanse. Usually I'm half-tipsy with wine the whole time watching them play HALO. It's always fun, but I pay for it in the morning at 6:30 when he gets up.

We always go out for bagels and hot chocolate at the donut shop down the street and then take a walk around the neighborhood to look at the big frat houses (or 'fart houses' as he calls them) and hit the playground for some running around. I'm often a little hung over for that kind of adventure first thing in the morning, though I always manage to pull it off. This time, though, I should be clear-eyed and fresh. Unless I'm recovering from a sugar crash ...

11 days to go ...!!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Day 16 - Boats and Bubbles

Got an invitation to a Halloween party at the Atlantic yesterday - the Atlantic being a fab seafood restaurant on Martha's Vineyard where we went for my birthday lunch. We had such an amazing time (it was in fact one of the peak experiences of my life!) that not only did I gush to the manager, I signed up for their email updates.

We'd arrived on the 10:30 ferry from the mainland and the famed Cape Cod. It was a sunny day, but brisk - especially for a 45 minute crossing of Nantucket Sound. But I still didn't want to duck into the warmth of the cafe. I wanted to experience every minute of the passage on deck. So we pulled our hoods up and took a spot at the bow - a la Kate and Leo in Titanic (though without the PG-13 PDAs) and watched the marinas and mansions of Martha's Vineyard come into view. I couldn't stop smiling.

We drove off the ferry into the picturesque village of Vineyard Haven. Then we toured the island briefly, driving along the ocean into Oak Bluffs (a slightly more casual'beach-blanket place compared to Edgartown where we were staying).

It was too early to check into the Hob Nob Inn so we wandered the quaint streets of Edgartown and found the Atlantic, a resto recommended to us by the staff at the Hob Nob. A sprawling two-story building with whitewashed balconies, it's located right on the harbor. Like everything else in Edgartown, it was posh and casual at the same time, decorated in a maritime theme.

We were there right at noon so the place was still quiet (though all the rooms would be packed before we left!). We took a seat in the front covered porch area.

During high season people must dine al fresco. But on what was the last official weekend of the season, clear plastic sheeting had been hung to keep out the drafts. Not fluttering Saran Wrap either, but (like everything else on the island) high quality shit. It had the effect of ever-so-slightly warping my view of the harbor - making this pic I took look almost impressionistic.

(How corny is that shot?)

When the waitress came over (she was so charming and articulate she seemed to have a degree in everything from Theater Arts to American History), I made her day - and mine - by ordering a glass of Veuve. What the hell? It was my birthday! The hubs had a screwdriver and we clinked glasses grinning ear to ear. I felt I'd been waiting all my life to get to Martha's Vineyard and there I was. A girl shouldn't be that on her 49th, but it's the truth.

By the way, I don't know how to put this but ... the people on Martha's Vineyard are not the most outgoing or effusive folks I've ever met. Maybe it's the fact most of the summer people are Old Money from Boston. Maybe it's the harsh life of farming and fishing on the cold Atlantic that's hardened islanders for four centuries. Maybe it's just the fact they resent tourists disrupting their vibe - much as they need them financially - there are only 4,000 people in Edgartown, but the island's population mushrooms to 100,000 in the summer.  (This mild antagonism between locals and summer people isn't unusual in resort towns. My second novel, By Invitation Only, co-written with social fixture Jodi Della Femina was about the Hamptons - and the same strained relationship existed there, too.) Not that I had a problem with the reserved islanders. I personally don't give a shit if people who serve me become my BFFs. I sort of like the stand-offishness of people on the island. They aren't rude! They're just not nearly as bubbly as champagne. ;)

The server seemed to intuit that we were game for just about anything, so after appetizers - clam chowder and tuna tartar, delish! - she thought we would like the Seafood Tower. The resto was full by the time it came and all eyes turned in our direction. It was an incredible presentation. Enormous! Tons of lobster, crab, oysters, muscles, shrimp, all on two tiers of ice with lots of dipping sauces (that's the hubs not enjoying his cameo). I didn't think we'd get through it - but we did.  As astute observers might notice, the bubbly is gone. I'd moved onto white wine for the main course. Girard Sauv Blanc from Sonoma. Lovin' Sonoma wines lately.  Anyway, it was a really memorable feast and having that glass of champagne was truly one of the happiest moments of my life. Sigh ... I'm a simple girl.

Here are some more random shots of historic Edgartown, colonized in 1642 ...

12 days of the cleanse to go!! :) 

By Invitation Only

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Day 14 - Heartbreak Grape

We watched the truly creepy movie "The Girl" last night, HBO's interpretation of the tumultuous and abusive relationship between director Alfred Hitchcock and actress Tippi Hedren, who starred in "The Birds" and "Marnie" for him.

What caught me - wine wise - was their very first meeting. We see a gorgeous Sienna Miller as the icy blonde showing up at a large movie studio. Apparently, she has no idea she's there to see the famed director. When she's shown to his office, he plies her with lunch and a bottle of red wine.

As he's pouring the vintage, he announces that it's a very fine California Pinot Noir - called "the heartbreak grape" because it's one of the most delicate wine-making grapes. With a very thin skin, it's highly vulnerable to diseases, molds and frost. The grape is so fragile that what does survive results in a sophisticated vintage highly prized by oenophiles. With about thirty different varieties of Pinot Noir, the wine can be described as everything from "fruity and subtle" to "rich and mysterious."

I've recently started drinking more pinot noir because I came across some information that stated these grapes are higher in Resveratrol - the powerful antioxidant responsible for fighting cardiovascular disease among other things - than other red wines. Plus I just liked the idea of a new alternative to cab et al. I've found it to be lighter and fruitier than many red wines and, as I mentioned, I've even ordered it with seafood. 

The hubs and I had a wonderful Sonoma Pinot Noir on Martha's Vineyard at Alchemy, a great restaurant in historic Edgartown. It was a charming, two-story space with a mezzanine overlooking the main floor and lots of white wood - as per the main decorating scheme on the island (and one I've always loved) - whitewashed woodwork. It looks so fresh and clean, formal and casual at the same time. Which seems like the overall vibe the island has developed over four hundred years: proper but relaxed. 

At dinner, I was still so full from my birthday lunch (more about that later) I could barely finish my tender, tasty scallops - but we enjoyed the wine even after the plates were taken away. The vintage started out very light and fruity and deepened quickly as the night progressed. By the end, it seemed we were drinking a totally different wine from the one we started with. Which is always a good thing for people who are easily bored. ;) 

The hubs and I took the last two glasses out to the covered second floor wraparound balcony to watch the mist settle on Edgartown.  The quaint streets were quiet, everything slick and gleaming with a light drizzle that had fallen most of the night. 

While we were out there, a church bell struck - I don't quite remember what time (eleven?) but several mid-timber chimes peeled out gently across the village, into the night. This bell tower struck every single hour we were there. Through the night, it felt like a lullaby sending you off to sleep. During the day, it seemed to evoke another era, making you feel relaxed, yet so alive at the same time. Which is basically how the Vineyard made us feel in general ... Yes, we're dreaming about real estate. ;)

Here's a shot from outside Alchemy that misty night we were there ...

Day 14 - halfway through! Always an awesome (and extremely welcome!) milestone! :) 


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Day 13 - Reuni-non

It was the 25th reunion of my university graduating class earlier this month. Since I hardly ever attended class while I was actually going there (and was usually hung over when I did), the idea of dragging my ass to a school-related event that wasn't obligatory didn't appeal to me. Especially because we had just got back from the trip and my alcohol cleanse had started.

It also helps that about two or three years ago there was an impromptu reunion - our 22 1/2 or something like that - and most of the people I wanted to see after a couple of decades of being out of touch were there and we all had a chance to catch up. It was an awesome night of reminiscing and drinking and hanging out with (surprise) the drunken slackers I usually hung out with when I was actually in school. Fun! 

There were however some no-shows at that reunion. You know, the people who had gotten quasi-famous as reporters on TV and/or moved to Hollywood to make it big (I took broadcasting). I looked around the room at the people who had become teachers or ... teachers or ... teachers ... and I felt pretty proud of myself, reporting that - yes, I actually had become a novelist (my dream) and yes, I actually had published two books. And by that I mean - no, I didn't pay $10,000 to publish them myself. Actual New York publishing houses were involved. So big deal if the books didn't hit the bestseller lists (actually it was a big deal, personally - but the tears had dried by that time so I didn't bring it up - natch). People seemed suitably impressed and - what's more - my hair had turned out. So all in all the night was a big success. 

Anyway, one of the people I ended up talking to was my ex-boyfriend. We still bumped into each other occasionally and he even worked with my husband sometimes, so we were still friendly. The old clique was there, gathered around, drinking and laughing and occasionally watching screens that were running old photos from our yearbooks. (Why is it that I never warrant a random shot in yearbooks? I mean - never. Sure, I got my little mug on the main class pages, but I've never been one of those people on the volleyball team or dressed up at the Halloween dance, or hanging out on the stairs just smiling and being a teenager ... I was even cajoled into becoming secretary of the Student Council by the class president of my high school - a cute senior I couldn't refuse. Being secretary gave me a great opportunity to skip class - "I have photocopies to do, sir" - but I don't think I even made that photo, either. I think from a very, very young age I cared an awful lot about being 'cool' and mugging for the school photographer didn't seem cool. Drinking and smoking, on the other hand, did. But they didn't take pictures of underage kids in bars and/or in the smoking area (we had smoking areas back then) so I didn't make the yearbooks. Btw, I quit smoking more than twenty years ago. I'm a great quitter! Ask anyone! ... End of digression ...)

Well, the night of the reunion, I got an email from the ex. "Where are you?" he wrote. "I don't even recognize anyone! They're all 50!" (Or close to, unfortunately.) He was probably drunk when he wrote it. My feeling is, exes only write to married exes when they're drunk. And he's never done it before. 

I didn't see the email until the next morning and I wrote back that we'd been out of town and that I didn't get back in time. I also mentioned that I wanted to look "cool" by skipping it. ;) Just like those quasi-famous and/or Hollywood transplants that didn't show up for the last reunion.

Anyway, I didn't mention to the ex that I was on an alcohol cleanse and that this, too, would at least slightly discourage me from something as potentially traumatizing for a woman as her 25th anniversary college reunion. (To wit ... the hubs got me the new 'Grease' BluRay for my birthday cuz I love the movie and there were lots of extra features I'd never seen. One of them was a reunion of the cast in the 90s - more than 20 years after the release of the film. They performed 'Summer Nights' and there were at least three times more men on the stage than women. Stockard Channing/Rizzo didn't show (though the silver-haired waitress from the malt shop did ... feh.) Olivia Newton-John was there, of course. Her arms looked a little unfortunate in the harsh lighting during her solo of "Hopelessly Devoted" but otherwise, ONJ looked lovely - and how could she possibly miss the reunion of the film that cemented her in our hearts and minds even more firmly than seeing her in leg warmers and sweatbands in "Let's Get Physical." Still, I couldn't help thinking that some of the other women didn't show because women are more self-conscious about being in their forties and fifties than men are ...) 

So as I was saying, I didn't mention the cleanse to the ex. Though I could have. Because the ex was certainly on the receiving end of countless - and I mean countless - of my angry, drunken, raging binges when we were together in our 20s. Like my mother, I would get ruthless when I was drunk and I unloaded whatever negativity I had on him. And I was brutal. Nothing went unsaid. The more I could hurt him, the better it felt at the time. Though I would feel terribly remorseful in the morning and promised I'd never do it again - the #1 lie/promise of alcoholics. 

I didn't know back then that most of that negativity was because of the fact I was suffering from Dopamine-Depression due to alcohol abuse and addiction, but in the end, it probably didn't matter because ... it happened. And you can't take those things back. Just like I can't take back the horrible things I said and did to my husband when I was lost in the throes of addiction. 

But the fact that the ex knew about my heavy drinking wasn't the only reason I could have felt comfortable mentioning it. He was also obliquely involved in what I did to turn my problem around ...

It was almost ten years ago - late spring - when I learned about the book that would change my life: "Drinking: A Love Story" by Caroline Knapp. I was actually getting my author photo taken for my first novel. I had had a couple glasses of wine before I left the house just to 'loosen up for the lens' - but, as was my habit back then, I'd also taken some wine with me. In this case, 2 or 3 mini bottles of sparkling wine which I tucked into my knapsack and sipped on while I was changing outfits for the photog. 

It was the makeup artist who mentioned the book. She was dabbing at my skin with her various products and she commented on how irritated it was. I told her I had rosacea ... though I know what she had noticed were the tiny broken blood vessels on my nose and cheeks - swollen and/or burst from drinking way too much ... every single day.  

"It's about a woman who deals with alcoholism," she said, dabbing, patting, primping. "You'd like it I think."

I felt self-conscious as she mentioned it, cringing inside, in pure agony. Why on earth would she bring up a book about drinking? Can she smell the booze on my breath? Does she know why my skin is so red and irritated? 

I was extremely depressed from my dopamine depletion at this time, by the way. It was baffling to me. My 'dream' was coming true - I was getting published! What the hell was I so depressed about all the time?!! 

Anyway, over the next couple of weeks things continued to escalate/deteriorate and I finally reached my breaking point. After drinking probably four bottles of wine by myself all together (and all alone), spending several hundred dollars on a cross-country long distance conference call between myself and my two best friends from childhood (talk about a drink 'n dial $$$) and passing out listening to the Beatles only for my husband to come home and find me blinkered in bed. 

"What the hell happened in here?" he snapped, pulling the headphones off my head. "Smells like a distillery." 

"Fuck off," is all I said. I rolled over and waited for him to leave the room. Then I reached down into my bed stand and polished off the last bottle of wine by myself in the dark. 

The next morning, I woke up very hungover. My husband had already left for work, though I could feel the angry chill he had left in the room. At that point, I was at my lowest and these horrible drunks were happening several times a week. I woke up late, so hungover I couldn't even stand up. I glanced at the clock and realized I was already late for lunch with a friend. I called her and told her I couldn't make it. But when I hung up the phone, I knew things had gotten way out of hand. I mean, they'd been out of hand before ... but they were definitely waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyy out of hand. I could feel it in every bone in my body. I knew I had to 'do something.' I just knew it. 

I probably surfed the A.A. website that day - I usually did after a bender. But rather than giving my name at a meeting, I decided to go find that book the makeup artist had mentioned. "Drinking: A Love Story."

The hubs and I headed out on a warm sunny day ... We went to one of our favorite bookstores in town. He headed off to the business section ... I gingerly stepped into Self-help. I found the Addiction aisle. I found Caroline Knapp's little black paperback. I also saw a big green book with the words: "RESPONSIBLE DRINKING" emblazoned on it. I picked that one up, too. Then I went to find my husband. 

But as I was leaving the self-help section, who did I bump into? That's right. The ex. 

The "Hey, howayas" went down as I blushed crimson, feeling my cheeks get hot as I inconspicuously tried to make sure the names of the books in my arms were covered. I must've looked guilty or something because the ex said: "Whatcha readin'?" 

"Nothin'," I said, literally shoving the books behind my back.

"C'mon! Whatcha readin'?" he said again, laughing. And he started circling around me, even spinning me to see the names of the books. 

I will tell you that with the possible exception of two people on the planet - one I'm related to by blood, the other marriage - there is almost no one in the world who would badger me about what book I was buying in the self-help section, except for the ex. And figures I'd have to bump into him. I tried to shove the books into my Burberry tote before he could see, but the big green one wouldn't fit and he saw the title. 

He stopped fooling around and a serious look came over his face. "Oh," he said. He gave the sort of smile that was half sad and half encouraging at the same time. "Good for you," he said. 

Then the hubs came over from the business section and we all caught up for a minute or two. I left the bookstore feeling mildly ashamed - but only a bit. Because if there was one person in the world who knew about how bad my drinking was (besides the hubs) it was the ex.

Within a couple of days I had read Knapp's book. I had learned about the connection between drinking, my depression and dopamine depletion ... I decided to take six months off drinking to "heal" my abused brain and coax it into starting to manufacture happy feelings again ... It was only the first step and I had no idea what would become of me or my 'experiment' - but I was actually on my way to changing every aspect of my life for the better ...

16 days to go! Almost halfway there! 

Random Snaps

I've added some pics from the New England trip to earlier posts - having finally graduated to locating the 'add picture' icon. (Yay! We did it!) To save fishing down through older posts, I'll include them here.

Here's a shot from the car of the turning trees in Vermont ...

The hubs way back there - in King Cemetery in Salem ...

Willows so perty they make you weep ... Boston Common.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Day 11 - Zzzzz ...

Getting into the 'double digits' is always a great milestone on a cleanse. Whew!!

But there's always one day - usually on a weekend - where I feel so damn tired - and that was yesterday, Saturday afternoon.

I remember this sensation from my first long cleanse almost ten years ago. At the time, my hubby and I were having dim sum lunch at our favorite Chinese restaurant and I was looking across the table trying to focus on what he was saying and his voice sounded sort of cotton-y and far-away.

In fact, my whole head felt as if it had been wrapped in cotton batting and packed into one of those crates full of straw they use to ship precious artifacts in. Or Tasmanian Devils - in Bugs Bunny speak. Well, I was a cotton head yesterday.

In all honesty ... fatigue is one of the mild to moderate psychological withdrawal symptoms of quitting drinking according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. I'm ashamed to admit it - that I may be suffering from withdrawal - but I don't want to lie and avoid it. Because these are things I monitor and track very carefully when it comes to my own health.

Of course, I could just be tired. I was up at the crack of dawn doing three loads of laundry (ahhh, the extra morning energy you get on a cleanse is amazing) and it had been a busy week. Plus I find it hard to believe that almost two weeks after my last drink I'd actually start suffering the first of withdrawal. Especially since other symptoms like anxiety, tremors, irritability, depression, etc. don't bother me at all.

But still, I wouldn't be surprised if alcohol - tricky devil that it is - would be lying in the tall grass saying "Hey, all good here. No worries. You're a queen! This is a cinch!" for the first ten days and then all of a sudden, jump up and pull me down into the grass just to show me it still thinks it's boss.

But you know what? If it is a sign of withdrawal, it's a very mild, manageable one. And if it IS withdrawal from alcohol, then I'm glad damn I'm feeling it because suffering signs of withdrawal is a symptom of addiction - which is exactly what I'm trying to avoid. Alcohol is, after all, an addictive substance and I've been heavily addicted in the past. It's left me helpless, hopeless, angry and depressed - and I know those things no longer bother me. So if cleansing means a day of 'kicking' twice a year by suppressing the odd yawn - I'll take it. Because I know how much it's has improved every other aspect of my life.

In the meantime, I'm feeling bright and energetic this morning. Drinking my Organic Detox tea, eating a fruit salad full of healthy anti-oxidants: fresh tangerine wedges, blackberries and pomegranate and getting ready for my ballet class at noon. And trust me, plies and pirouettes are much easier when I'm not dealing with the effects of a 'traditional' Saturday night.

17 days to go!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Day 9 - Cheers!

We woke up Sunday morning after a fitful sleep at the W and headed out on an overcast day to explore. We wandered through Boston Common - originally donated to the city in 1634 as a place to practice military maneuvers and raise cattle. It was absolutely glorious with enormous Weeping Willows, Elm Trees, picturesque ponds, gardens and chic young couples pushing strollers.

There was a man dressed up as Benjamin Franklin standing outside the gates of an old cemetery (Franklin was born on in Boston in 1706, doing only two years of formal schooling there as a boy because it's all his family could afford). Beyond the gates of the graveyard stood a cluster of people in the spot where Paul Revere was buried - Revere was also born in Boston (the town is a who's who of important Americans) in 1734.

Then we hiked through Beacon Hill - a neighborhood of hilly cobblestone streets and ancient red brick walkups all very tony and well-kept. The streets were dotted with young families and dog walkers. Everyone was very slim - Boston itself is a city of slim people I noticed. Everyone seems to walk everywhere and you can't go a block without seeing at least one jogger.

One of the highlights of the day was early on ... Cheers! The bar that was used as the inspiration for the 80s sitcom. Both the hubs and I are big fans (we still throw in a 'Cheers' DVD now and again) so we squeezed past the other tourists and went downstairs. That wooden Chief cigar-store statue is there, right next to a big friendly bouncer who asked if we wanted a table. But Sam, Norm and the gang were replaced by middle-aged tourists eating burgers and fries.

There was another bar upstairs - one decorated to look more like the set. It was busy but not packed, so we grabbed a seat at the bar. The clock was barely striking noon when we ordered our first drink of the day - from a pretty blonde waitress. I looked down at the polished wood counter in front of me and there was a small brass plaque that read simply: "NORM" I was sitting in Norm's seat. Awesome.

When our drinks came we held up our glasses. "Cheers!" we said, grinning at each other. I don't think we ever meant it more. :)

Day 9 ... almost 1/3 done ...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Day 8 - The Kitchen Sink

Yay! Week 2 begins!

This is going to be a catchall post about our first night in Boston. What a crazy damn town that is.

But it's also about my REAL kitchen sink. Like I've mentioned before, tackling odd jobs around the house can be really rewarding on a cleanse. So the other day I woke up and decided it was time to finally clean under the kitchen sink ... which has become a place as spooky and terrifying for me as the furnace room in my grandparents' basement used to be. 

I have no idea how the underside of a place that's supposed to get things clean can become such a cesspool of splashes, drips, crumbs, dust and God knows what else, but I gloved up and went at it and came out about an hour later with an increased heart rate, a sense of accomplishment and a new respect for Martha Stewart. An added bonus is that I just love looking under my clean sink for something to do when I'm bored ... I can almost hear the shine - PLING! Really makes me feel proud of myself. ;)

As for Boston, after wine and chowder near Fenway, our next drinks came after checking into the W where we were staying. We gussied up just a titch (the lobby bar at the W Boston seems like THE place for local movers and shakers ... not to mention the kinds of hip old tourists who like to stay at the W) and took a cool little table by the window to watch the Bostonians trekking home from work.  

I started with my fave cocktail - a kir royale - which I discovered in Paris on our honeymoon almost fifteen years ago. You start with a splash of creme de cassis (a blackberry liqueur) in the bottom of a champagne flute and then top it off with sparkling wine or the real thing if the budget allows. It's a fizzy pink drink that's not too sweet or tart. Love it! 

The rain started to come (not the first we'd see on the trip) and as we watched the umbrellas come out, we ordered edamame with parmesan (bizarre combo), lobster rolls and another drink. I moved on to a New Zealand Sauv Blanc, generously proportioned. So by the time we left the lobby bar, I was feeling pretty zippy.

Then it was up to the room to freshen for dinner. I'm not going to say too much about the W Boston. I complained enough in their official "How Was Your Stay?" questionnaire already. After an email tussle with the manager's assistant, 15,000 bonus points in our Starwoods Preferred Guest account has bought my relative silence. 

But suffice it to say - it's a damn bizarre hotel. The big problem is this: there's no wall between the bathroom and bedroom. I'm not kidding! I've been in hotels where there's a glass wall between the bathroom and the bedroom. Like the Hudson in Manhattan. The standard rooms at that hotel are so small you get the feeling you're traveling steerage class. To create the illusion of space, they installed a glass wall between the shower and the sleeping area, with a curtain to close for privacy. That makes sense in a small room.

But the room at the W was a good size. But still, no wall at all. Just a thin translucent woven blind between the bathroom sink (speaking of sinks) and the bed. This was great for, say, conversation while getting ready ... but use your imagination. Not so great at night. 

Every time you turned on the light in the bathroom, the bedroom was flooded with light too. Every sound - every tinkle, clatter and click - transferred so clearly it was as if you were in the same room. Because you were. There was a water closet, but there was no light switch in it, the door was loud as a bank vault and the granite walls amplified sound like a cathedral ceiling. Not a romantic combination in the middle of the night, if you get my meaning. 

Anyway, before I even knew I was in a wall-less room (I assumed there was glass beneath that blind at first), I was still in good spirits for dinner. We popped the brolly and skipped down the street through the drizzle and hoards of post-secondary students (Boston is a real university town) to The Rustic Kitchen, a casual-chic place on Stewart Street. 

It was cozy with low lighting, beamed ceilings, stone walls and - if I remember correctly - wood burning pizza ovens. We took a seat at the bar and ordered a dozen mixed oysters, tuna tartar a salad and some California pinot noir. Yum. Pinot noir is a lighter red wine that I've found works really well with fish. A new waiter made us feel like welcome regulars, so we sang his praises to the manager, Tom Holloway. A bear-chested man who seemed warm and gruff at the same time (like a lot of people we met in Mass), he told us a cooking show based on the Rustic Kitchen was in the works. Not surprising, there are four locations, including one in Mexico. 

At this point, we had no idea about the hellish night we were going to have in the W torture chamber yet, plus we were so pumped with happy endorphins from the wine and yummy seafood that when we heard about a possible TV show, my husband - a producer - almost turned over his resume ... 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Day 7 - Considering ...

Day 7! Basically 1/4 through.

Last night I told the hubby this has been the best first week of a cleanse ever, all things considered.

And he said "Considering what?"

And I said "Considering I can't drink." :)

By the way, am getting "Drinking Diaries" by Caren Osten Gerszberg and Leah Odze Epstein today - the book about women and drinking based on their popular blog. Should be a great book to read on the cleanse!

I've tried following the "Drinking Diaries" blog but they seem out of my techno-league right now - I can't find the old-fashioned follow 'widget.'

A great thing to do on a cleanse is tackle a project you've been meaning to ... and one thing that's been hanging over my head is my isolation with this blog. I don't know if I'm self-conscious, shy or just plain lazy ... but it's time to learn something new ...

21 days to go!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Day 5 - Witches and Wine

Day 5 of the cleanse and my first weekend is behind me! The most pleasant first weekend of a cleanse ever! I'm drinking a cup of my own homemade anti-inflammatory chai tea (recipe later) which is always good for a hangover, but just as delicious when I'm clean and sober. At times yesterday, I was so happy I could literally feel the dopamine surging through me. It's so encouraging to be without alcohol ... and not be depressed!

But more from the trip ...

After a stunning drive through the autumn colors out of Vermont, we made our way toward the winding, historic streets of Salem, Massachusetts.  The site of the infamous Witch Trials of 1692 - a period that lasted only a few months and saw at least 20 executions with many others imprisoned - Salem has become the symbol of hysteria, corruption and religious excess.

In the 1600s, the idea of supernatural spirits was common. Farmers used 'magic' to help with their farming - incantations that probably amounted to not much more than modern day prayers. But in a time when Puritans ruled the land, any kind of religious accoutrements associated with the Church of England were opposed, including the simple use of crucifixes during baptisms. It was a time of superstition, fear and control. 

When two young girls began to suffer from unexplained 'fits' in the winter of 1692, a female beggar, a remarried woman who didn't attend church, and a slave were blamed for the behavior and charged with witchcraft.

The first woman to be hanged in the Salem Witch Trials was Bridget Bishop. There was some speculation it had to do with her second husband's property rights, but she was also known to be a bit of a wild woman by Puritan standards. She even hosted drinking and gambling parties (gasp!) at 'unseasonable' hours. Considering how the Puritans frowned on drinking (and fun and freedom of any kind) so started the campaign against people who can only be classified as 'different.' 

I've wanted to visit Salem most of my life. So as we began closing in on the small town of about 40,000 people, I grew excited. Especially seeing the old Federal style and Victorian mansions lining the narrow streets. 

Repeat ... narrow streets. 

Salem might've been the perfect spot for witches ... but it ain't no place for modern day traffic. Because apparently THOUSANDS of other tourists share my fascination for witches - especially on a Saturday afternoon. We sincerely couldn't get within six blocks of the famous downtown streets of Salem, full of witch museums, historical buildings and, apparently, sixty restaurants to feed the throngs. 

It was insane! You know how you're not supposed to 'block the box' in New York? Well, blocking the box is par for the course in Salem - at least when it comes to tourists. And when you're talking about streets that seem about 12 feet wide, flanked by overgrown trees, churches and imposing old mansions - with not a single parking spot for non-residents - it was modern day gridlock trapped in the what seemed like the dark ages.

After several useless circles of the blocks, we said "Fuck this nonsense! Another time!" But the hubby did find a graveyard for me to shuffle into to research a scene for my witch book. The ancient King Cemetery was about the size of a city block, surrounded by old mansions in ironic candy-color shades. It was elevated from the street, with old crypts built right into the weed-infested earth.

With my iPhone in hand I tiptoed around as respectfully as I could, taking shots of the grayed and crumbling stones.  Most of them dated back to the late 1600s and early 1700s. Many of the graves were for children aged five or younger. There were great trees shading the area and one spooky dead one in the middle. 

I knew lunch was still more than an hour away, but I wasn't even thinking about a drink. 

It's amazing to be in this place. Because ten years ago, we couldn't leave the house for two hours without a stop for me to have a glass of wine. I would be miserable and I would make sure the hubs was miserable too. He actually started scheduling wine-stops into our afternoons so that we could get the damn grocery shopping done without a tantrum. I NEEDED to drink - always. 

So it's a wonderful feeling to be able to spend hours on the fiery fall roads of Vermont and then hours more in traffic in Salem or at graveyards and to feel ... fulfilled, happy and free - without a drink. 

Drink #1 for that day came about 4pm in Boston. After another hour of insane traffic - where the GPS took us back and forth across the Charles River several times because of all the one-way streets, we finally pulled the fully-packed car over and went out in search of snacks. (Though I was fascinated to see the Charles River because our cousin, Meghan - an accomplished young woman in many ways - rowed for Boston U back when Facebook was still "thefacebook" at her main competition across the river, Harvard. Super cool!) 

We ended up in Boston Beer Works right next to Fenway Park. It was a cacophony of flatscreen TVs all blaring college football games. The fella had a brew, I had a glass of pinot grigio (not the most generous I've ever had) and we each had a cup of New England Clam Chowder - natch. It was so thick you could stand a baseball bat in it. Not the best we would have (we had clam chowder every day of the trip!) but very tasty. We clicked glasses, happy to be out of traffic, away from witches and sitting down for some refreshments. 

That was the first of many memorable toasts in Massachusetts ... 

"A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials" by Jess Blumberg, Oct. 27, 2007,
"Bridget Bishop - Salem Witch Trials" by Jone Johnson Lewis,

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Day 3 - Great "Hint"

Found a great new sparkling drink yesterday (non-alcoholic, natch). It's "Hint Fizz" - a yummy, refreshing, no calorie carbonated drink.

According to, the company initially released a non-carbonated, unsweetened still water drink back in 2005, flavored with natural fruit essences. It was so popular, they've just released a carbonated version to satisfy the desire some of us have for bubbles.

It comes in four flavors - Strawberry-Kiwi, Watermelon, Peach and Blackberry - which is what I had last night, my first Friday night without hooch for a month.

Trust me, the first Friday is not usually the most fun night of the cleanse. A dry Friday kind of reminds you of all the millions of drinking Fridays you've had since you turned legal - or in some cases, many years before. But last night was an awesome Friday night! As I said, I felt really relaxed and grateful that the cleanse was upon me. I even told a friend that cleanses seem to get easier and more enjoyable every time I do them.

Maybe it was the leaves turning bright orange outside my window. Maybe it was the way the setting sun was almost electrically bright. I've mentioned before that really paying attention to your surroundings and finding something to love about them is really important on a cleanse - or any time, actually. As Dr. Wayne Dyer suggests, practicing 'radical appreciation' for everything around you will make you a happier person in general.

But part of the fun of last night was Hint Fizz. It had so much of a refreshing 'snap' to it that I even watered it down a bit with plain water. I don't need my tonsils freaking assaulted with C02 personally. Though it was fun for a while. And I'm sure most people accustomed to drinking tons of soda would enjoy the super-lively bubbles. But even after toning it down a titch, it was still refreshing and so delicious. I have no idea how they get so much flavor into no calorie, no sodium, no carbohydrate drink ... but they did it and I think it's genius!

Of course another part of the fun of last night was throwing in the first episode of the fourth season of "Sons of Anarchy." Remember, another great hint for cleanses is to keep yourself entertained - and that includes catching up on whole seasons of fave shows you might've missed on the tube. Man, what a show that is! Really looking forward to the rest of the eps.

25 days to go!


Friday, October 12, 2012

Day 2 - Very Vermont

Recouping from the trip on this cool, autumn Friday. I've gotta say that was the best Day #1 of any cleanse I've ever had. I don't know if it was overdoing it the night before or just the time of year - post b-day/anniversary, pre-Holiday celebrations ... I love the fall. It feels right to start cleansing now. I didn't even have a craving yesterday ... It was a lovely, relaxing day and I feel great this morning. Starting my routine of detoxing teas, ginger and lots and lots of water.

I want to talk about our first stop on the New England tour. Vermont. The French explorer Jacques Cartier apparently discovered Vermont in 1535. The name - originally Verts Monts - literally means 'Green Mountains' in French. Only for our drive, the mountains weren't green - but aflame with yellow, orange and red. An early chill had brought down some of the leaves already, so the autumn colors were sprinkled with the silvery spires of bare tree branches. It was breathtaking, especially with the farms, villages and churches dotted here and there.

The roads themselves deserve special mention - the hubs said he's never had such a beautiful, challenging drive. It's one for the fellows at Top Gear, for sure. 

We stayed at the lovely Deerhill Inn in West Dover. It's a nice size inn - not too small or too large - perched on a mountain overlooking Mount Snow, a popular ski hill in the winter. It was quaintly and romantically decorated, without being tacky or cluttered. We stayed in the Evergreen Room with a balcony overlooking the mountains. The hubby had thought of everything - before we left, he packed a three-pack of those cute pink Henkell Trocken sparkling wine bottles. He grabbed a beer from the bar downstairs and I popped a pinkie and we sat out on the balcony to watch the sun set.

Dinner in the main restaurant was DELICIOUS. Their wine cellar has earned  "Wine Spectator's" coveted Award of Excellence for twelve years running and the wine list proved it. I had the Arctic Char with a nice New Zealand Sauv Blanc, the hubs enjoyed red with whatever he had. Don't remember. But the food was excellent - and the wine glasses were not chintzy. Always nice to see!

After dinner we took our drinks upstairs to the library and thumbed through their collection. It was cozy and relaxing. 

The thing about a driving trip is this: you really don't drink very much cuz, well, you usually can't drink IN a car. Most state troopers frown on that one. So I woke feeling rested and refreshed after a great sleep. We were ready to hit the road for that Top Gear drive which took us down towards spooky Salem ... 


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Day 1 - Rough Landing

Do not attempt this at home. Professional drinker on a closed course ...

So birthday week - and the trip - ended with me spewing up pizza and red wine last night.

We weren't exactly sure when we'd get back from our tour of New England, but I planned one more party day when we did. It started yesterday with bubbly at noon and opening late birthday presents. Then it was on to chardonnay. Lots of it. More bubbly. Then tons of pinot noir last night.

We looked at pictures from the trip - which was amaaaazing btw (I'll write more about it on my cleanse), planned on having pasta dinner but decided to order 'za at the last minute because we were both too drunk, tired and lazy to cook.

Not long after that the hubs was holding back my hair and I was riding through a three-flush bout of system backfire. And there wasn't even a hot tub or a helicopter ride involved (as in my last toss-up session in Vegas in the NASCAR parking lot - see 'Engine Failure' in March). It was just good old fashioned over-indulging.

That's the way to bring the cleanse home ... if you're a professional drinker.  Now I'm not condoning imbibing so much on the last day of a drinking cycle that your stomach revolts on you ... but at least I'm not hung over today. :) Well, not THAT hung over anyway.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Pop/Fizz Songs

It was our wedding anniversary yesterday, but rather than going out for dinner, we decided to stay in and have pasta - and a nice California merlot. With so many restaurants ahead of us on the trip, it's cozy to enjoy the comforts of a home-cooked meal. Especially with a cleanse coming up. Because spaghetti doesn't taste quite as yummy without a glass of red wine. It's still delicious, but there's a zing that's missing and that's the unfortunate truth. So it's fun to enjoy a favorite dinner with wine, especially in the week leading up to a cleanse.

A big part of the night (as always) was the music. We went retro. The hubs put on "Frank Sinatra and Count Basie Live at the Sands." It's a good old-fashioned record that evokes tuxedos, mink stoles and martinis.  

Lots and lots of martinis. 

Frankie even sings about finding some 'exotic hooch' in ol' Bombay in the classic, "Come Fly With Me."   

I've really been struck lately by how many pop songs there are about drinking. I can't remember any real reference to drinking or getting drunk in music when I was growing up. Sex. Dancing. Nuclear war. Sure. But booze?

So I went on over to the New Music Express website where they've got a list of the top ten songs about drinking. From the Smiths' "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before" to the Replacement's "Here Comes a Regular," from Janis Joplin's "What Good Can Drinking Do" to Underworld's "Born Slippy" there have been plenty of songs about drinking in pop history. 

But today, it seems to be a growing phenom. Pink, Kei$ha, Rihanna, Mr. Snoop Dogg/Lion, LCD Soundsystem, Usher, Katy Perry, The Black Eyed Peas, there's barely a pop act out there who isn't on the party bandwagon in at least one of their hits. 

But the song that really gets me is "We Are Young" by fun. In that one, not only is everyone getting drunk and high at a bar - but the singer's girlfriend is trying to explain to someone how she got a scar ... that the singer himself gave her 'months ago' that still hasn't healed.

How she got this scar isn't explained, but considering the scope of partying mentioned in this tune, it's sort of understood that Mr. Songbird must've gone on a drunken bender that turned violent. But because she's still with him despite all this, if she's too drunk to walk after the bar closes, he'll be a good boyfriend and 'carry her home.' Ahhh, holding each other up after a drinking binge. Now that's young love.

Hell of a bizarre twist to a pop song - domestic violence. But I still can't help myself: I love this tune. Maybe partly because of its controversial honesty. Because if there's one thing this song gets right, it's this: drinking isn't always just fun.

Sources: "Listomania: Ten Best Songs About Drinking" by Priya Elan, October 13, 2011 - "We Are Young" by fun.