Monday, December 23, 2013

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!

Well ... I don't have a liquor store gift bag to show you that folding trick. I was literally going to video it and be all like, yeah, Martha Stewart. But as I've proven many, many times already ... I ain't no Martha. I'm Ms. Functional. Basically the opposite of Martha.

So here's the low-tech version. ;) Get a plain flat paper bottle bag. Put the bottle in the bag first. This step is very important. Obviously. Then fold the bag down 4-5 times, alternating directions. First fold back, second forward, third back, etc., like an accordion bellows. The folds should be about a quarter to half an inch wide, depending on how tall your bottle is. When it's all folded, staple the middle of the folded section to seal it. See? This is why it's important to put the bottle in the bag first. Then take the outside free edges of the pleats and pull them upward toward each other like closing a tissue paper wedding bell. Then stable those two free edges together so that you get a sort of circular pleated fan effect. Almost like a flower at the top of the bag. Tah dah!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. A video would be worth a million. But wtf! I thought I'd give it a shot - for those of you into craft projects passed on circa 1800s style. In plain old words. ;)

Hope you're on track for whatever the season holds for you!! And if you're in Toronto, that you're safe and sound. The city is basically shut down because of an ice storm yesterday. Hundreds of thousands of people are without power. Trees and hydro lines are coming down everywhere because of the weight of the ice. And some neighborhoods are expected to be blacked out until Christmas Day. Yikes. I know there are bad storms in other parts of the world too, so good luck to anyone who has to dig out!

Now, for some Grinch-y reason, my computer is acting up and only letting me type about five words before it stops, gives me a dire warning about shutting down, spits out a disc I have running - almost like sticking out its tongue- then it growls at me for a few seconds, before doing it all over again. Obviously, a heathen Scrooge of a machine just wanting to make things hard.

But I had to stop in and say HAPPY HAPPY HOLIDAYS!! Stay well, have fun, enjoy everything! And ... BREATHE!! Oh. My. God. Every now and then, stop and take a deep breath.

This is all supposed to be fun, remember?!!

Much love!
xoxo!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Happy Independence Day!

Ok!! It's not really the 4th of July, obviously.

It's December 19, 2013 - a Thursday. And usually Thursdays are one of my cleanse days. But not today - and not for about the next two weeks. Because this stretch marks the longest Independence Day party of the year!!

I incorporated "Independence Days" into the plan because there are times during the year where sticking to the "two-days-off-a-week" rule seemed unreasonable. Like when you're on vacation, if it's your birthday - or, especially, around the holidays.

For one thing, most people have more social functions or family visits to do this time of year. But everyone's really busy, so saying: "Hey, I'd really love to see you Tuesday, but I can't drink Tuesday. Can we make it Wednesday instead?" seemed like asking for confusion and frustration.

Another drag would be having to sip Perrier at the office party while everyone else gets to wear tinsel on their head and be inappropriate with each other. So 'independence days' became a really important part of making the cleansing process livable, workable - and fun.

But because everyone's schedule is different this time of year, the timing is personal. I work at home so I don't have a string of office parties to go to (unfortunately, actually, because some of those Christmas parties were a lot of fun! Some of them, anyway. ;) ) However, some professionals might've started their must-attend business party season weeks ago.

Here's the thing, though. When you're working out your holiday independence days, be reasonable. Just because the guy who comes to fix your photocopier invited you to his office pot luck on December 1st, that really shouldn't mean your stretch of drinking days starts then. And American Thanksgiving and Black Friday don't count either. At least not for people who've had a 'problem.' I've never pushed the limit like this and I'm afraid if I (or you) did, after four or five weeks of non-stop drinking, we'd both be in rehab or looking for A.A. sponsors.

So I'd say you should be somewhere in the two week range, more or less. I could've started my independence days last week. The hubs even thought it was last week. But I decided to be reasonable. Judging from experience, two weeks of non-cleanse days is more than enough.

btw - you don't have to overindulge every one of those days! Sometimes it might mean a single glass of wine after a long day of shopping or cooking. Or maybe you even want to take a cleanse day in there somewhere. That's totally cool! I think one of the reasons this plan works so well is because it empowers people. It not only lets you make your own decisions about your life - it allows you to see how those decisions play out. So you learn what works for you - and what doesn't.

And - what you may learn - is that you're one of those millions of people who absolutely can't control your response to alcohol. And that toying with 'cleanse days' and 'drinking days' is not only driving you crazy, but it could be dangerous in the long run. So really listen to your heart. No matter how you have to manage your issue, there's no shame in it. If there's one thing I'd really like to contribute to the addiction discussion, it's this: we all have different physiological and psychological responses to alcohol. It's a natural, normal process and it's nothing to be ashamed of. And, in the end, I hope learning about how I handle my problem or becoming more conscious of your drinking in general will help you find your way, too. And if you feel that might mean permanent abstinence, check out the YouTube video below for inspiration.

I was watching Craig Ferguson's Late Late Show last week (funny show!) and singer, Demi Lovato was a guest. Demi's starred on The X Factor and Glee among other things, including writing a new book called Staying Strong full of 365 days of inspirational thoughts.

Demi's only 21 years old and has already accomplished so much. But during the course of the interview it came out that she went into rehab when she was only 18. Craig Ferguson suffered from addiction as a younger man and he's been sober for more than 20 years. It was interesting to see them relating to each other about their issues. It was also interesting to see two happy, successful, thriving people - from different generations - being so candid about their addiction problems. Laughing, joking and so open about everything. It's really inspiring for people who decide to 'kick' completely - or actually anyone who's had to deal with addiction problems.

You can watch the whole interview (about 12 mins) or if you want, you can just check out the part where they talk about 'quitting.' It starts at about the 6:00 min mark.

btw, right off the top, Demi mentions another YouTube video that's had about 65 million hits so far! Meaning, there's a good chance you've seen it. But just in case, I've posted that below, too. It's a baby who laughs hysterically at his dad ... ripping up paper. Man - so cute!! All I want for Christmas is one of those things!! Those cute, cuddly things that just sit on the sofa and giggle non-stop at whatever you do without ever causing any problems. This from a childless woman of course. ;)

Until next time, good luck and enjoy yourself! I'll check in again because I have this cool way to fold plain liquor store gift bags that would impress even Martha Stewart. Okay, maybe not her because she probably sews her own gift bags. From silk worms she raises herself. But it's still pretty cool for everybody else on your list. Hopefully I'll get a chance before the gift-giving season ends!

Here's DEMI!!



And here's DA BABY!!



Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christmas Cheers

It must be so hard this time of year for people who are on the wagon. I remember Christmas ten years ago - during my first long cleanse. I was just a couple weeks away from being able to drink again. I don't remember feeling that hard-done by without wine (I'd gotten pretty used to life without booze after almost six months). But what I did think was funny was when my sister-in-law got drunk on Baileys and kept muttering random Trivial Pursuit answers while she was half passed out on the couch. She'd lift her head, "hic ... Martina Navratilova!" she'd call out. Then she'd try to focus on the rest of us. When she realized we weren't playing Trivial Pursuit anymore, she'd just slump back into oblivion. To do it all over again a few minutes later.

It was extra funny because she's normally a very rational, sensible, brilliant woman. I don't know why I get a kick out of straight people getting sloshed, but I do. (btw, I've mentioned she's a therapist. This is the only time I've ever seen her drunk and/or anything less than perfect - and it was a whole decade ago - so clients, fear not! Still cracks me up though.)

The reason I bring up drinking around the holidays is because I had two back-to-back cleanse days last week - Tuesday and Wednesday. That's just the way the social calendar worked out. And I've gotta say, that second day, I was downtown Christmas shopping, and every roadhouse and chain resto packed with seasonal parties was calling my name with their big bubble glasses of wine. I really could've used a drink, at least to battle the throng of blood-thirsty parents clawing their way through the toy bins for the last box of Minecraft Lego. But I didn't. (Have a drink, that is. I did battle the parents for that last Minecraft, though. And emerged victorious btw!)

Anyway, I certainly could have changed my cleanse days and had a drink - and I've certainly done that in the past. But this time I felt I'd committed to the two back-to-back days and if I broke them up, it would be ... well ... sort of alky of me. ;) You can feel in your heart when you're being sensible or alky about your cleanse days and Wildcard rules.

Speaking of which, I was going to mention more about Wildcard rules. The random, personal and private rules you set up for yourself to help you deal with your own particular triggers or weaknesses. For instance, one of mine is that I don't drunk-shop anymore. I used to get wasted when I went shopping. Wandering around from store to store with a bottle of wine in my bag. Sneaking into change rooms with things I was pretending to try on. Then I'd just sit there on the bench or the stool and crinkle my packages and snap the elastic on my bra (or whatever) so that it seemed like I was doing something else besides getting wasted by myself in change rooms all day. Fun times. (jk ovbi!) That was definitely an 'alky' thing to do and doing it made me feel like one. So that's why it's one of my Wildcard rules.

I know it may seem like 'poof' magic! Suddenly, you're just not going to drunk-shop anymore - or whatever it is that you might be ashamed of. Drinking at work, for instance. I knew a young woman who used to keep vodka in her purse and sneak off to the washroom during breaks. She'd be slurry and droopy-eyed by the end of the day. Just FYI - vodka smells, no matter what anyone says.

Anyway - yes, these little tricks problem drinkers use to get 'more' into them might seem like a really hard thing to drop. But you aren't just using your willpower. I honestly believe cleansing - breaking up your regular exposure to alcohol - is what gives you the ability to stay in control. Your system quite simply learns how to live a sober life at least part of the time. Everything else becomes a lot easier after that. :)

We're coming up on the holidays! And - as it says in the rules up there in 'How' - that's one of the times of year where cleanse days aren't necessary. Will talk more about it another time! For now - happy shopping! Happy wrapping! Happy office parties where you don't get plastered and tell the boss something you won't remember in the morning!! :)

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Weight Is Over

More great news from Tony Edwards's book The Good News About Booze. Regular moderate drinking could help you stay slimmer.

Crazy I know! But Edwards has collected the results of numerous studies - conducted over decades - that prove time and again, moderate alcohol consumption leads to slimmer waistlines. 

One of the most surprising studies was conducted by Harvard. It began in the 1990s, tracking 20,000 middle-aged women over thirteen years. When the process began, all the women weighed about the same (US sizes 6-10, UK, 8-12). Thirteen years later, almost half the subjects - or 9,000 of them - had "significant" weight gain. Others were even clinically obese. 

The results were pretty surprising. Women who consumed two medium glasses of wine a day were 70% less likely to be obese. 

And those who didn't drink at all were the ones most likely to have gained weight, particularly when it came to the subjects who'd become obese.  

Edwards claims regular alcohol consumption is such an effective way to prevent weight gain that if the study had been conducted by a pharmaceutical company and marketed as a diet plan, they'd be 'laughing their way to the bank.' 

But the Harvard investigation doesn't stand alone. Here are just a few others: 


  • A six-year study of 43,500 people by the University of Denmark. Key findings: teetotallers and infrequent drinkers ended up with the biggest waistlines, daily drinkers had the smallest.

  • An eight-year study of 49,300 women by University College Medical School, London. Key findings: women who drank below 30 grams a day (around two medium glasses of wine) were up to 24 per cent less likely to put on weight than teetotallers.

  • A ten-year study of 7,230 people by the U.S. National Center for Disease Control. Key findings: drinkers gained less weight than non-drinkers. Alcohol intake did not increase the risk of obesity.



It's interesting to note these results usually involved wine or spirits. There's a difference when it comes to beer. A pioneering French scientist, Michel Montignac, found that different foods were more fattening than others because they produced more glucose when digested - and excess glucose gets stored as fat. His findings? 

Beer actually produced more glucose than pure glucose itself! Which is why it can lead to less-than-flat tummies. Whereas wine and spirits scored lowest on the glucose production chart - an actual "0." Meaning these beverages are far less likely to make you fat. 

It seems counter-intuitive, because alcohol is relatively high in calories, but it all comes down to how the body metabolizes energy from different sources. For more information about how drinking does (and doesn't) affect your weight - here's the full article from The Daily Mail

Next time I want to talk about Wildcard rules. And how to tell if yours are working to keep you in control - or not! 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Hiding Places

We were at the Units' place on the weekend - the "Units" being what we call the hubs' parental units. When we go, we always stop for supplies beforehand at the liquor store. I get a bottle of white for me, one for the Units (they like the 1.5 L size between them) and often a red for dinner. We start popping corks more or less as soon as we get there. In other words, there's never been a time when I've had to feel self-conscious about drinking there.

However ... in the old days, no matter how much I was "able" to drink in front of everyone, I always wanted more, more, more. What I could drink was not the issue. The issue was that I needed more. Always more. There was never, ever enough wine. So not only was my own house full of hiding places for bottles - but I even scouted them out at the Units' place, too.

For instance, yesterday, I was in the upstairs bathroom and I saw my old hiding place. Since we usually spend the whole day there, that means the odd touch-up on the lips or the hair. So I often take a makeup bag of things that I'll need and toss it in the cupboard underneath the bathroom sinks.

Yesterday as I was doing that, I hesitated. I saw the empty space at the very back of the cupboard where I used to hide my wine bottle. Only, it was never actually a 'wine' bottle. Instead, I used hairspray or conditioning bottles to tote my wine around. That way, nobody could ever suspect me. In fact, there's a whole nightmare story about one Christmas of hiding wine that actually made me sick. I write about it in the book. (btw, I just finished the first full draft of the novel, so the non-fiction one is that much closer to getting done too.)

Anyway, I looked at that empty place in the cupboard yesterday. I remembered all the wine I'd hid there over the years. I know Christmas is coming up - a favorite time for "sneaking" in the old days because it was often an extended visit. Meaning more bottles, more hiding places, more guilt.

Yesterday, I just smiled to myself, happy to toss the makeup bag in that empty space at the back of the cupboard, instead of extra wine. ;)

Monday, November 25, 2013

To Your Health!

Hey! My whole last post skipped what was really my most important point.

If you've got a drinking problem or are in the early stages of alcohol addiction - let alone farther along - there's a good chance somebody is going to say to you that you have to quit drinking. Forever. Traditionally, that's the way to handle alcohol addiction.

But if all this information gathered by Tony Edwards in The Good News About Booze is true, then there are real benefits to incorporating moderate drinking into your life. Meaning total abstinence could actually rob you of important health benefits of responsible alcohol consumption. (i.e. I've known people who've quit drinking permanently and who develop Type 2 Diabetes within a couple years. Coincidence? Maybe not. Because as several studies have concluded, moderate alcohol consumption lowers your risk of contracting diabetes - among other things. Once again, here's the list of significant health benefits of moderate drinking.)

So if you're somewhere in the early-to-mid stages of addiction - like I was - there's a chance you won't have to quit forever, as long as you can find a way to get control. A way to stop bingeing every time you pick up a drink. A way to end the blackouts, the fighting, the shame, the guilt. I believe that incorporating regular alcohol cleanses into your life is a way of doing that. You still get the benefits of regular drinking - outlined in the previous post. But you also get control. That's what cleansing has done for me.

I believe that part of the reason I'm in such good health and that people think I'm a lot younger than I am is because I've learned how to take advantage of all the benefits of alcohol - physically and fun-wise - without sacrificing my sanity or my health by becoming addicted again. Cleansing has given me control without robbing me of the many benefits (even joys!) of a drinking life.

So all this health talk - pneumonia, mammograms, etc. - might be a little boring (if not gross!), but it's important to me because good health is important. But so is quality of life. And I believe that alcohol cleansing improves my quality of life in every way. Physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. Am I leaving anything out?!!

It's just a great way to live. And this is what I forgot to mention in yesterday's post: I believe cleansing is even better for you than that 1-2 glasses of red wine a day. Might take a while to prove that ... but I'm totally game. ;) Because I care that much about my health and happiness.

But you know what? I care about yours, too. I really do. I know how painful alcohol addiction can be. It basically ruined my childhood. And it took a good chunk of my adult life too.  Now that I've found a way to reverse alcohol addiction - while still reaping the considerable benefits of healthier drinking - I have to share it with other people looking for a way out.

Because maybe there's a reason we toast "To Your Health!" when we raise a glass. No matter where we live. From Afrikaans to Zulu - and everything in between! - here's a list of 'health toasts' from all around the world!

Cheers!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

"The Good News About Booze!"

Well, Saturday night #2 off the cleanse was a little more responsible. This morning, I'm feeling 100% fine. Whew. Like I said, it can take a while to gauge what your system can handle in terms of drinking. That's why it's so important to take it easy after a cleanse.

btw - even last weekend wasn't a balls-to-the-wall drinkathon. Seriously. It wasn't even in the birthday-celebration ballpark. But that's the point of cleansing. It changes your tolerance levels. It helps keep them more normalized so that you can't drink yourself into oblivion - at least not without paying for it. So a really important part of cleansing is easing back into a normal, healthy drinking routine.

Can there be a normal, healthy drinking routine, you ask?

The latest - incredibly welcome - news out of the U.K. is that alcohol is actually good for your health. In some cases, very good for your health.

It's based on a comprehensive study of half a million different research papers about alcohol from all over the world. And the findings were at least mildly surprising. Though probably not so much to Ms. Functional - who, btw (*** overshare warning ***) had a healthy mammogram toward the end of her last cleanse. Cleansing is such a good time to get your boobs squished and/or prostate squeezed and/or other health matters seen to. It just "feels" like the right time to do that kind of thing.

The results of these studies have been compiled by author Tony Edwards who devoted much of his career to producing award-winning health and science programs for the BBC. His newest book, The Good News About Booze will be coming out in a few days and provides a really surprising overview of alcohol research.

Culling information from hundreds of thousands of international studies, he found that moderate, regular alcohol consumption had a positive impact on everything from heart disease to arthritis to osteoporosis. Regular drinkers were also less susceptible to the common cold, bowel cancer, macular degeneration and diabetes, among other things. (More info below.)

But I have to come clean about something: the research is generally based on people who have 1 or 2 glasses of red wine - every day. Sporadic alcohol consumption seemed to have no positive effect on health and drinking too much counteracted most of the benefits, too.

As you know, I do not drink every day. I have two non-drinking days a week and two non-drinking months a year. However, I'm in excellent health. Even my bout with "pneumonia" in April was not actually "pneumonia" but a simple respiratory infection. Shortly after, the hubs and I were looking for health insurance. Contracting pneumonia increased premium costs at most companies, so I did my research more thoroughly. I learned that I had none of the major symptoms of pneumonia - fever, chills, chest pain, coughing blood, diarrhea (sorry!), etc. I just felt like sh*t and coughed a lot for a few weeks.

Turns out it was a lung infection caused by - most likely - the fact I was not cleaning my aging humidifiers well enough. I think this is the case because while I was on antibiotics, I was still coughing. I had this breakthrough idea that the humidifier next to my bed was aggravating me. I shut it off and ... the coughing stopped. My recovery was almost immediate after that.

(This year I'm trying to live without humidifiers. But I don't know how much longer I'll be able to live with all the Cling-ons on Planet Static Cling.)

Anyway, the original pneumonia diagnosis was made by a doctor at an after hours clinic, not my own GP - and was never confirmed by X-ray, which is usually the case before a proper diagnosis can be made. So my own GP made it official last time I saw her:  for any insurance people who are curious, I'm in excellent health and I've never had pneumonia. Take that. Um. Somebody. ;)

Another interested benefit of daily drinking was on osteoporosis. According to a 2010 Oregon State University study, not drinking for two weeks can reduce 'bone turnover' - the rate at which cells reproduce - by 40%! When women in this study were allowed to drink again, bone turnover went back to normal. Fascinating! But also an indication I should not have my bone mineral density tested when I'm on a cleanse!

Of course, cleansing is not just about overall health maintenance. It's about solving a drinking problem. Because we are talking about alcohol addiction in my case - not simple health maintenance. I feel that if I drank even one glass of wine every day, I'd soon find myself with a problem again. Besides, I'd miss cleansing. As I've said many times, I love the variety it brings my life.

Of course I've long been aware - as most of us have - of the health benefits of daily red wine. So when I cleanse, I often take a Resveratrol supplement (the antioxidant in red wine that provides most of its benefits). Not every day - because there is some controversy surrounding it - but a few times a week. Plus I eat a lot of grapes and other fruit high in the anti-oxidants you find in red wine. I feel this helps me keep a healthy balance when I'm not drinking. (btw, here's a full list of the benefits and potential side effects of Resveratrol supplementation.)

I know I'm my own guinea pig with The Cleanse System. And your guinea pig, too. ;) Happy to do it. I've been experimenting with my own health all my life. And I've gotten damn good at it. It's not over yet, so I'll keep you posted.

It's almost impossible to detail all the benefits of regular moderate drinking Mr. Edwards's research has found. But here's a comprehensive excerpt printed in the Daily Mail: "Alcohol Is Good For Your Health."

Prepare to be surprised. And then have a glass of wine. ;)

As long as you're not cleansing. If you are ... don't worry, you've got another drink coming soon enough! Stay well!

btw, I'll be happy to go to ballet class today, hangover free. Holy crap. The class did not ease my hangover last week. Ouch!!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Ugh!!

Wednesday morning? Yay!
Thursday? Yay!!
Friday, Saturday? Yay yay!!
Sunday - ugh.

First hangover in weeks, obviously. It's so easy to overdo it when you come off a cleanse - and I overdid it yesterday. So ... when you come off a cleanse, do as I say - not as I do. ;)

Fun, though.

I'm rehydrating, drinking ginger tea & lots of water. I've got ballet class this morning, too.
DOUBLE-UGH.

Somebody stop me! Somebody!! Please!!

Apparently, though, working out is a great cure for hangovers. I've never personally used it (aspirin, water & time seem easier), but I remember reading in Drinking: A Love Story that Boston-native & A.A. member Caroline Knapp used to go rowing on the Charles River when she was hungover.  Talk about a high-functioning alcoholic. A little out of my league, though. Will have to see what happens when I belly up to the barre. ;)

I'll also be navigating the crowds for Toronto's Santa Claus Parade today. It'll be in full swing when class is over. Wish me luck!

Speaking of class, I briefly mentioned my ballet buddy, Alisha, a while back. We had a lovely wine-free lunch during the last week of my cleanse. Dessert can be just as yummy as a glass of wine, btw. ;) And nothing beats good company. It's funny - but there have been people in my life that I haven't spent ten sober minutes with. I'm serious. Because the wine and/or bubbly got opened the second we said 'Hi!' And didn't stop flowing until we said "Bye." I think you know real friends by how much sober time you can spend with them! ;)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Day 27 - For Sake's Sake

The last weekend of the cleanse is over!! Yayyyy!!

I wanted to mention I did something sort of unusual, cleanse-wise, last week. I booked two back-to-back non-drinking social engagements.

Wednesday night saw me have sushi dinner with Alison, a college roommate - and one of my oldest friends. We've been trying to get together for a while now, but she's busy with her own film production company and it's not always easy for us to meet up. When we were trying to schedule, the hubs was a little shocked. "Why don't you wait until after the cleanse is over?" he said. "Then you can have wine with dinner."

That made me laugh. Because it's true. I usually prefer to schedule lunch/dinner/coffee/everything ... around drinks. But I lived with Ali for years. She probably saw me sober more than any other person I went to school with. Because she was there in the morning for coffee and toast. (Not to mention those rare occasions where I was actually in my bedroom, at my desk, sober and working on assignments.)

I told the hubs that I spent a good part of my youth with Ali. "If there's one person in the world I don't have to drink with, it's her." When I mentioned it to her later, she said it was the highest compliment I could pay her. And she's right. ;)

Alison got to the resto first. She wasn't sure I was still on my cleanse, so she ordered a large flask of sake. (Ali was the person who introduced me to sake, sushi - and the dangers of wasabi mustard - years ago btw.)

When I got there, I ordered a cranberry and soda - one of my fave cleanse drinks at a resto because nobody bats an eye at you. (Some people might even ask when you're 'due.') Ali seemed to feel badly at first - the way people are taught to feel badly around alcoholics who can never drink again. But I told her it didn't bother me at all - and it doesn't. For one thing, I'm not staring at a whole lifetime of abstinence. Just 'X' more days. So I told her to enjoy the sake on her own and we raised our glasses - cheers! We didn't stop talking the whole night. Catching up on new stories. Sharing some old ones.  I had an amazing time. I really did.

I know this might be hard to believe for people trapped in the cycle of addiction - that you can actually have a good time out with a friend - even when you can't drink. Because one sober night by yourself seems impossible. Let alone sitting across the table from someone who's drinking when you can't touch a drop.

But regular cleansing helps you become accustomed to living without alcohol. You learn to be a sober person - at least some of the time. You learn to handle life without the effects of alcohol. Essentially, you re-learn how to be you. Stripped of the easy padding that drinking gives you. It's important to learn to be okay with life when you can't drink. And regularly cleansing helps you do that. At least it has for me. (Of course, I am looking forward to dinner with Ali when I can partake in the sake!)

Next time, I'll talk more about lunch with Alisha, my friend from ballet class, because I went out with her the very next day. Even though your social life might scale down a bit when you cleanse - especially when it comes to hard drinking friends - it doesn't have to disappear completely. You can still be yourself - and enjoy yourself. Even when you can't drink.

But for now, I can't sign off without mentioning two high-profile people who laid their drinking problems out in the open last week.

20/20 uber -anchor Elizabeth Vargas announced she's checked herself into rehab for what she calls her increasing 'dependence' on alcohol. This is exactly the kind of problem Ann Dowsett Johnson outlined in her new book, Drink. According to Dowsett Johnson, it's typically highly-educated, professionally successful women who tend to drink more than ... well ... the rest of us. ;)

But unlike, say, Lindsay Lohan, whose rehab stints usually involve a few embarrassing crotch shots and/or drunken cat fights before check-in time, Vargas handled her problem with characteristic grace. She simply stepped quietly away from the anchor desk a few weeks ago and will return when rehab is over. Like everyone else with alcohol addiction, she says she'll be taking things 'one day at a time.'

Of course, we can't forget Toronto mayor Rob Ford's latest escapades, either. For anyone who doesn't watch the news or late night talk shows, where Ford has provided the longest running joke since David Letterman's Top Ten List, the mayor of my fine city finally admitted to smoking crack cocaine last week. His excuse was he was in a 'drunken stupor.' Wow. The lesser of two evils, I guess.

After another video was released - this one showing the drunk mayor uttering death threats and doing his best to imitate what appears to be an albino baboon fending off a pridme of lions - pundits are asking the mayor to seek help for his drinking problem, too.

But Ford's family doesn't believe he needs treatment for booze, so it's doubtful Rob Ford will be doing Betty Ford any time soon. According to CBC News, if the people closest to you don't think you need help, it's far less likely you'll get it. So we'll just have to see what Mr. Mayor has in store for us next.

In the meantime, like Elizabeth Vargas, I'm handling my drinking problem 'one day at a time.'

As in - one more day to go!!

Um ... yayyyy!! :)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Day 19 - Cloud 9

Um ... it's Day 19. I'm into the single digits, going in the other direction. The fun one! ;) Only 9 days left!

It's Sunday morning and I'm just about through the third weekend of my autumn cleanse. Each weekend seems to have a different feeling to it - and this second last one seems to be the most peaceful.

The first weekend can be ... well, a bit boring. And maybe there are even some nail-biting moments thrown in.  Are you f*cking kidding me? I have to do three more of these before I can have a drink?!! 

The second weekend, you feel a real sense of accomplishment. You have lots of energy and focus. The cleanse is far from over, yet you've put enough mileage behind you that you realize this truth about life: time doesn't actually stand still when you can't drink.

The last weekend of a cleanse is happy, free, exciting and fun. You might even make a trip to the liquor store to stock up on supplies. One thing is for sure - you can see the light (wine/beer/martini, etc.) at the end of the tunnel. So you're walking on air.

Making this one, the third weekend, the most peaceful, reflective and quietly joyous one. I'm serious about the 'joy,' you know. I feel joy that I'm obviously not addicted to alcohol anymore. That I can happily live without it. Yet - and I should be ashamed to admit this - but with the end in sight, I actually feel 'joy' looking forward to drinking again. I get this little skip in my heart. I have a real sense of anticipation. Senior prom-Christmas-vacation-type anticipation. (I'm not kidding!) I know all the experts out there will shriek in disgust. But I have a great sense of happiness knowing life will soon be back to 'normal' and I'll get a dose of a particular kind of pleasure that I can't get anywhere else. :)

Having quit smoking more than twenty years ago - and having 'quit drinking' many, many times since then (on a temporary basis at least), I can tell you that there is no replacement for an addictive substance. My husband knows that firsthand, too. He quit smoking in January of 2009. We're coming up on his fifth anniversary. He's doing very well, but we sometimes discuss the fact that the incredible pleasure you get from those first few drags of a cigarette ... can never be replaced after you quit.

I remember when I quit, I tried filling that void with everything I could get my hands on. Unfortunately, that usually came down to food. I remember one night in particular running out to the store for a bag of caramel-covered popcorn. I had been sitting on the couch, watching TV (Twin Peaks to be precise) and I'd been riding out non-stop nicotine cravings all night. I was convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that if I could just have some caramel-covered popcorn, the nic-fit would go away.

The popcorn didn't work. Nothing did. Ever.

Some ten or fifteen pounds later, I started jogging on a regular basis and losing the weight. I also realized the following truth: there was absolutely nothing in the world that was going to make me feel 'exactly' the way having a cigarette did. There was no longer anything that was going to bring me that unique pleasure. It was a hard lesson - and one I've had to watch my husband learn, too.

It's the same with drinking. I love my teas. I love my soda and (insert juice here), my Hint Water,  my Gus Grownup Soda,  and my new Rise Kombucha (a mere 24 calories a serving btw!!). But there's really nothing that actually brings you that distinct pleasure of alcohol. That complex, basically all-encompassing (i.e. physical, emotional, neurological, behavioral, even cultural) relationship that exists between humans and fermented stuff.

There is so much to be said for sobriety. There is. I love it. I'm happy right now. I've been happy most of the time during this cleanse. I'm getting tons of work done on the novel and tackling my To Do list. It's really been one of the fastest, easiest cleanses I've ever done. It's been so pleasant, in fact, I can see why so many problem drinkers decide to abstain permanently.

But to me, there's a difference between 'pleasant' and 'pleasure.' Kind of like the difference between kissing and sex. ;) To expound, cleansing is kissing - and drinking is sex. Meaning, as much as I love kissing, I'd sure miss sex if I could never have it again!

So - with apologies to all happy, successful abstainers out there - I don't want this for my whole life. But I also don't want non-stop drinking for the rest of my life, either. I really love the variety of a sober life and a drinking life. It works for me on every level.

And it really has worked. There's no question in my mind. I was nervous about this cleanse, I mentioned that before. Partly because I wasn't going to be blogging as much. But also with all the milestone celebrations and trips in the months leading up to my cleanse, I really wondered if this time I couldn't do it.  I worried that the combination of not blogging and heavier-than-usual-drinking would leave me helpless and out of control.

But - I am SO DAMN HAPPY TO REPORT - that didn't happen. As I said, this cleanse has been a cinch. :)

I am simply no longer addicted to alcohol. I am not an alcoholic in the way it's defined by most quizzes, experts and experience. But there's no question that - according to those same quizzes and experts - in 2003 (and for years before) I was definitely an alcoholic. In the early to mid-stages of alcoholism, to be precise.

But here I am. Almost three weeks without a drink. Happy, healthy and looking forward to the future.

Especially ... 9 days from now!! ;)

******

I'll probably talk more about this later, but for now, here's a peek at Ann Dowsett Johnson's new book Drink.  Dowsett Johnson is an award-winning journalist, academic - and recovering alcoholic. She quit drinking permanently 5 years ago when her 'high-functioning' problem started taking a toll on her relationship with her son - and her life. Check out these reviews from the Washington Post and The Globe and Mail.

Incidentally, I've noticed that it seems to be more shameful to have a drinking problem and not want to quit forever (like me) than it is to have a drinking problem and actually decide to abstain permanently. I'm fascinated with why that is ... Hmmmmm ...

Friday, October 25, 2013

Day 10 - Perfect!

Hey! How are youuuu? Awesome I hope!!

It's Day 10 of the cleanse. Perfect 10 day! I always love hitting this milestone. Double digits. I'm more than a third of the way through the cleanse.

Things are totally peachy by this time. I have absolutely no cravings at all anymore. The first two or three days were the worst. They always are. But once you get in the swing of things, an alcohol cleanse no longer feels like a 28-day cleanse, but more like a 5-7 day cleanse. Because once you're accustomed to cleansing - and living without alcohol at least part of the time (during cleanses and on off-days during the week), it's only those first few days that are challenging. And this time around, I did have a few more cravings than usual. Nothing a few deep breaths couldn't handle, but still.

I think it was partly because I was wondering how I'd fare not blogging on a regular basis. I've blogged all of my cleanses for the last three years or so. It's (you've!) always been such a great release and connection for me, I was worried not doing it would make things harder. I miss you, absolutely! But I also relish the time to focus on my novel. I felt I was starting to waste time (yours and mine!) writing about every celebrity DUI or rehab stint - all the while procrastinating publishing The Cleanse System. 

I sincerely don't know what's wrong with me. Why I keep putting off releasing this book. My husband asked me a couple months ago - "Do you really want to publish this book?" And I immediately burst into tears. That's how confused I was.

I do want to publish this book. I do. And yet, I have resistance. It seems like an enormous responsibility - not to mention an arrogant one - trying to help fellow problem drinkers when I only have my own experience to go on. Maybe that's why I keep putting it off. Maybe ... but there could be a deeper reason.

** Strange confession alert** - which I will probably delete at some point out of embarrassment. But for you - my royal loyals!! - I will share.

I saw a psychic about twenty years ago - almost exactly twenty years ago actually, in April of 1993. I had never been "into" psychics or astrology (beyond occasionally checking my horoscope in the newspaper) but I had a friend - a boy-type-friend - who I was quite smitten with at the time. He was a writer living in New York and the brother of a good friend of mine.  We all went out for lunch one day and - despite the fact I was in a relationship at the time - I went into adolescent infatuation mode. He was smart, sophisticated, funny, articulate, from an influential family. And a writer to boot. Everything a f*cked-up AWIC (alcoholic writer in training) admired back then.

We never consummated the relationship. But we sent scads of hot and heavy love letters to each other (in the days just before email) and wracked up crazy long distance phone bills. Anyway, this fellow was "into" just about everything. Aura reading, psychics, astrology, reincarnation, eastern religions, etc.

At that point in my life, coming out of almost fifteen years of 'atheism,' I was suspicious of anything spiritual. (My atheist boss at my part-time high school job turned me onto the philosophy and like the AWIC I was, I fell hard. I thought atheism made me cool and intellectual.) Yet, after more than a decade of it, I was starting to crave a deeper spiritual connection. I had been very religious as a young girl (Christian) and I think I missed the idea of meaning beyond my own thoughts and the material world. At least, that was my interpretation of atheism back then, so the 'coolness' was wearing off.

(Incidentally, my husband has a running joke: he says I was never really an atheist. I was just mad at God. Ha!)

So I was beginning to feel more 'open' to things when this writer came into my life. My tutelage started with books like The Sun My Heart by Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, and The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Buddhist lama Sogyal Rinpoche, eventually moving into sending him photos so he could have his aura specialists 'read' me. I'm a Warrior-King for what it's worth. ;)

Eventually, at his urging, I went to see his psychic. He consulted this woman about almost everything he did. He couldn't say enough about her 'gift' and he claimed many people were addicted to her for everything from relationship advice to lottery numbers. So, reluctantly, one cool spring day in 1993, I took the morning off work and went to see her.

It was a very strange, but important day in my life.

I'm a bit embarrassed to say that. I know what some people think of psychics. In fact, I know what I think of psychics, most of them anyway. I'm still a skeptic at heart, but ... this woman ... I don't know. It was a little difficult not to feel changed by my time with her. She knew things about me that were impossible for her to know. Certainly, our mutual friend didn't have access to the kinds of things she told me about myself, my past - even my future.

For instance, she said there would be a big change in my life in March of 1997 - almost four years away at the time. She claimed I would move into a period where I was "sheltered" from the world. It was only after it had happened that I realized she had the timing down to a T.

Because midway through 1996, I applied for a voluntary separation package from my job at the CBC to finish the novel I was working on at the time (Devil May Care was eventually published in 2003 by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster). Though I applied for the package in 1996, it actually came into effect in March of 1997. That's when I left my day job. The exact month she said this change would happen.

And ... ever since, I have basically been "sheltered" from the world. Working from home on my writing - mostly novels. But screenplays, poems, and recently for me, the blog and accompanying book I hope to publish about alcohol cleansing. Whether or not I'm making money or have a book deal, this is what I do. Here's hoping you have - or find! - a partner who's just as supportive as you need him or her to be about the things that are important to you.

Anyway, that's just one example of the uncanny timing she had. Was it a 'vision?' Or a coincidence? Who knows? But it's something I've never been able to forget. Because remember, she forecasted this change four years before it happened and the timing was random. It's not as if I had a 'choice' when to leave. It had something to do with the end of the fiscal. Which she couldn't possibly have known. Because I didn't know that was my future yet either!

At any rate, she had a whole theory of life that was fascinating. I'll leave her link below if you're interested. But one of the things she told me that morning was that the purpose of my soul was to be 'an inspirational leader.'

Clunk.

That's the way I felt when she said those words. Clunk. Not eureka or ah ha! but 'clunk.'

She must be kidding me, I thought. I was so fucked up back then. Don't even get me started. My burgeoning alcoholism was just the tip of the iceberg.

Anyway, whe also was baffled by all the paradoxes in my astrological chart.  Including the fact that I would "not feel ready." 

Not ready. Not ready. Not ready.

And that's the way I feel about the cleanse book. It's not ready. I'm not ready. Nothing's ready. But will it ever be? Is anyone really ready - for anything? Especially important things?

At some point, she let out a sigh of relief. "Okay, you'll feel ready then" she said, as if she 'saw' some milestone that I would hit that would free me from this feeling of ... of ... what? Not stagnation. Not simple procrastination. But this feeling of being 'incomplete.'

Of not being ready.

So as I work diligently on my next novel, I continue to 'sit' on the cleanse book.

It makes me wonder, during quiet times, uncertain times ... is part of my purpose to release this book? But I won't because I'm simply caught in that 'not ready' phase she talked about? Or am I just making things up, using pointless information someone told me twenty years ago to justify simple insecurity, fear or procrastination?

Strange, heavy - some might think insane! - stuff, I know. But there it is.

Anyway, for those of you interested in an intriguing spiritual person, regardless of how far-out it seems - her name is Taina Ketola. (She thought it a strange coincidence that we were both of Finnish heritage btw.)

I only ever saw her once - and spoke to her on the phone once a few months later. But that was it. So mentioning my  name won't get you a discount. ;) For believers, you're welcome. For skeptics, yes I know it's crazy.

btw - if you're wondering whatever happened to that sophisticated writer from New York ... well, I met my future husband that year, too. ;) Nuff said.

** End of strange confession alert **

And now! Normalcy returns!

I've actually made a couple videos this cleanse, but I'm having trouble transferring them to my computer. I got a new camera for my b-day that I haven't fired up yet so I'm hoping when I do that, it'll work out.

One of the vids I shot was about how important it is to have lots of yummy beverage alternatives on hand when you're cleansing. Especially in the fridge where you usually keep your white wine or brew. Or in the cupboard where your booze or red wine usually sits. Fill those areas up with yummy drinks! Don't let the empty space depress you! And the pickle jar doesn't count!

Try to choose healthy options, though. Stay away from too many drinks with lots of sugar or empty carbs and calories. You can enjoy those as treats, but go easy.

I always love Gus Grown-up Soda. It's lighter in calories than regular pop and not quite as sweet - yet, it's still fairly high in carbs and sugar, so don't overindulge. Hint essence waters aren't quite as tasty, but they're more interesting than plain water and they're calorie-free, so you can practically drown yourself in them during a cleanse. My Hint waters aren't pictured here, but FYI, they come in carbonated and still varieties, with lots of flavors.



The real news this cleanse is that I discovered Rise Kombucha. There are several flavors and the pretty bottles fit nicely into the place where I usually keep my vino bianco. ;) So no depressing empty spaces to just get filled up by pickle jars.

BEE-TEE-DOUBLE-YOU!!! I looked up Kombucha - a fermented Eastern drink. It has 0.5% alcohol by content! I only noticed this after I started drinking it. But the alcohol content is so low, it's not really an alcoholic beverage so it doesn't impact the cleanse.

However, that fermentation gives it a little 'bite' which is really rewarding for people accustomed to alcohol. I drank this bottle over the course of the first 2-3 days of the cleanse. Had it in a champagne flute. It looked gorgeous and tasted delicious! The natural fermentation is also good for your digestive system - and a base of black tea has tons of anti-oxidants. I found mine at Whole Foods, so if you're having trouble locating it, check a health food store. I'm looking forward to picking more up!

Note to the wise, if you have it in a champagne/wine/beer glass or something else you reserve for alcoholic beverages - just to make it seem special - don't leave the dirty glass hanging around on the counter when you're finished! Wash it or tuck it in the dishwasher right away. I just plopped mine on the counter and the next time I saw it - fingerprint marks, lipstick smudge, juicy dregs in the bottom - it reminded me of seeing the glass on a drinking day, ready for the next installment. In other words, it gave me a little craving jolt. Just an understandable force of habit. So get the evidence out of sight!

Of course, you should be drinking more water than anything else on a cleanse. Flush yourself out. Detox. Ease inflammation. Feed your entire body - with plain old water. But when you're sick of that, there really are a lot of fun and mostly healthy options out there to drink during a cleanse. So explore - and enjoy! Cheers!

18 days left to go!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Day 1 - Begin Again!

Hey. Okay, really. I mean what is my damage? Was I that looped out on my post-birthday crash during my last post that I remembered every single ounce of booze I drank that day right down to the last drop - but screwed up the start date of my cleanse? Yes. That's what happened.

So today - Wed Oct 16 - is actually the first day of my fall cleanse. Not the 15th as I so groggily reported last week.

I'm deep into the novel right now so I'm thinking instead of writing as much on the blog this cleanse, maybe I'll post some videos and things. Hints, pics, maybe even readings from the cleanse book. I think it'll be helpful - and it'll keep me in touch. I've gotten so used to blogging during my cleanses, I don't think I could go cold turkey without you. ;) So stay tuned!

In the meantime, when you're starting your cleanse ... check your calendar dates carefully before you announce it to the world. You know, so then people will think you know what you're talking about. Which is really helpful.

Another hint? Especially on the first morning of a cleanse (I've talked about this before - and I'll mention it many times, I'm sure), when you feel that first craving or regret or "Oh no! Man, I can't do this!" creep into your thoughts (or pound you over the head, as the case may be), take a deep breath. Just take a deep breath and smile to yourself and know a month is a very short period of time. So is six months, for that matter. So when you feel those fear and insecurities, breeeeeeeeeeeathe.  Because deep breathing feels almost as good as a slug of wine. ;)

Almost, anyway. But that's why we invented wine in the first place.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Binge Brigade

Hey! How are youuuu? I missed you!!

Had to check in to let you know the cleanse is going to start Wednesday, October 15. And ... I'm needing it! ;) Because not only am I into the two-week no-cleanse-day routine, but there have been a few special occasions recently. Anniversaries, birthdays, general debauchery. ;)

Okay, not debauchery exactly. But picture this ... a husband who was once terrified of his wife's alcoholism, actually has a cute half bottle of Moet & Chandon chilling in the fridge when she wakes up on said birthday. And it's not for dinner. It's for morning glories before we even leave the house for lunch! That's the way to start a b-day!

So here's how the rest of the day went, alcohol wise. Only for the experienced drinker btw. Not recommended for children, pregnant women or basically anyone who respects their liver.

A.M. Morning Glory (Moet and Tropicana)
Lunch - Proseco and Pinot Grigio
Pre-dinner getting ready - More Moet!
Art Gallery - Chardonnay
Dinner - Kir Royale and Chardonnay
After-dinner - Cabernet Sauvignon
Nightcap - Liqueur (Grand Marnier - liqueur is a real rarity for me btw!)

So that's nine (9!!) drinks in total for the day. If you're following your recommended daily allowance of safe alcohol consumption as prescribed by doctors worldwide ... I basically had a week's worth of booze in one day. Gulp.

Needless to say, I was feeling it the next morning. But since the abuse was spread out over the whole day, it wasn't ""official bingeing" - meaning I didn't have the shoot-me-now-before-I-die-anyway hangover I might've had if I'd drunk all that alcohol over a few hours in the evening - which wasn't unusual for me in the old days. And (sadly) isn't unusual for many young people who party on a regular basis today.

But ... even though I was slightly hungover the next morning, I did not wake up depressed. I did not black out or freak out at any point the day or night before. And I didn't feel (all that) guilty. ;) (After all, I'm a drinking role model, right? I should try to be more responsible!)

But here's another place cleansing kicks in. Back in the old days, my only cure for alcohol abuse one day, was even more alcohol abuse the next day.  I'm not kidding. The more hungover I was, the more I'd want to drink again. As much or more than I already did. I was completely stuck in the cycle of addiction. Alcohol was my lifeline and my grave marker. I had no control. Either consciously or unconsciously.

But instead of bingeing again, the following day I felt my system say: Enough! My body didn't want to party again. It wanted to recover.  It was a natural, healthy, welcome feeling. And it made me feel "safe." I know that's hard to understand, but I didn't really feel "safe" around alcohol before I started cleansing. Every time I drank it was basically like walking out over a rickety extension bridge and hoping all the ropes held. Because I could never be sure what would set me off or make me lose control. I'd be sitting there drinking one minute and then ...

I'd be waking up the next morning having no idea what happened.

Only that there was a fight involved (at least) and I was sick with regret and alcohol poisoning. Which is why I just reached for more booze as soon as I could to drown out the negativity. Drinking was not "safe" for me. It was like a dangerous adventure every time I picked up a bottle.

But on my b-day, regardless of the fact I overindulged, I was lucid, in control and very happy all day and night. Then the next morning, I had some ginger tea - and lots of water. Under normal circumstances, I probably would've taken the whole day as a cleanse day. But seeing as I'm in the ramp-up-to-cleanse-mode, I bit the bullet. That night, I had two glasses of wine - pretty small ones, too - without any desire for more. Drinking is not a scary suspension bridge anymore. Not only do I not lose control - even when I'm overdoing it - my body automatically knows how to recover.

Having said all of that, I'm really looking forward to the cleanse. I got some great books for my b-day and a new iPhone to play with. Plus I feel myself coming up to a cleanse. I'm drawn to it. I actually want it - and, in the end, I need it.

Of course ... there's six more days of partying until then. So ... gulp ... onward! Wish me luck! ;) Stay well! I'll check in again!

*Disclaimer: Ms. Functional is a wry and ironic person. Despite the fact she "bragged" about having nine drinks on her birthday, she does not encourage bingeing, alcohol abuse or the consumption of week-long-drinking limits in one day on a regular basis. In fact, she's (usually) very sensible. But she's also a big fan of the following Irish writer, in particular this quote:


Oscar Wilde

“Everything in moderation, including moderation.”


― Oscar Wilde


Friday, September 27, 2013

The Truth Is ...

Hey! You've probably noticed for the last couple months I've been blogging a bit less. It's because of my books. Both of them.

I thought I had given up trying to write fiction. I broke my ass writing two novels that I loved and like 99.9% of most books published (and I'm not kidding about that stat), they, ahem,  kind of underperformed. ;) I'm a pussy, I'll admit. It broke my heart. After a life of dreaming about being a novelist, I thought my fiction career was behind me.

But then an idea came to me, in a dream - the first time something like that's happened. It wasn't a complete story or world, but when I woke up, I wrote down what I could remember and I knew it was my next book. The story has inflamed me like nothing I've worked on - fiction-wise - in years. The characters, the location, the idea, the scope, the fun, the sex, the violence, the gritty main chick coming to terms with her destiny. Sometimes it's a mind-bend to work on, but I just love it. It reminds me of why I wanted to be a novelist in the first place, typing away on my used Underwood when I was a kid.

Although I've been interested in self-help books all my life, it's only in the last few years that I considered writing one myself. The book is soooo close to being finished. It's a tough one to complete because more information about addiction keeps coming out every day and I want to keep the book as up to date as possible. Because I'm 100% confident that it's going to help many people who, like me, were on the brink of losing everything important to them - from their loved ones to their health to their sanity.

I honestly believe in my soul that cleansing works to curb alcohol addiction. 2+2. Two cleanse days a week, two cleanse months a year. I feel the system working. I feel myself staying in control - more than ten years after my first cleanse. While still enjoying drinking (tremendously actually!). I believe regular cleansing works not only with my body - but with life. So there's a part of me now that has branched out from that little girl who wanted to be a novelist. My personality as a writer has split in two.

I want to write fiction - at least this story. And I want to write non-fiction - at least about cleansing.

So I'm at a crossroads. I really am. I feel myself not being able to work as effectively on anything because I'm juggling everything at once. I think I've been doing a decent job of it so far and it's all been straight in my head. More or less.

But I'm a stone's throw away from finishing the first draft of the novel - and the final draft of the cleanse book. Which means it seems every day that goes by, there's less room in my brain to be a worthwhile, consistent blogger. I love to blog! I really do! I love the connection, I love the research, I love the writing. But I'm not the world's fastest blogger. It can take me hours to write a single post. I edit and re-edit and re-edit everything I write, I always have. And it's the same with my blog.

I envy those people who have real skill at blogging. Not only tossing off a brilliant post at least once a day, but tweeting and promoting and writing other books and raising children and walking their dogs and having cool careers - while Instagram-ing pics of the gourmet meals they whip up in fifteen minutes every night. I honestly wish I was like that. (Who doesn't?) But I'm not.

So as lame as I think it is when bloggers come online and confess: "Hey, I'm gonna be really busy right now, so buh-bye" - and I do think it's lame and weak and clearly means a person isn't meant to blog (okay, not really), that's what I'm doing. On a temporary basis, at least. Because the idea of giving up this blog - or the corresponding book - really breaks my heart. As much as I love fiction, I can no longer picture a happy life without this. Without you.

Anyway, I've got a 28-day cleanse coming up in October/November. Usually when I cleanse, I write more often and there are plenty of other cleanses on the blog to follow if you want. But the count might be down this time because I really, really, really want to finish both books as well as I can. So I might not be checking in as often. But I will when I absolutely must.

That might mean just saying hi or linking to an article or sharing a quick thought. Twitter would be really great for this, I know, and I admire people who are good at it. But right now, tweeting still feels like swallowing razor blades to me. I hope that will change, but that's the way it feels right now. And - as my husband says - what you do with your life should feel like "a natural extension of your heart." I love that. And I believe it. Because as low-tech as my blog is compared to the schmancy ones, it really does feel like a natural extension of my heart. I just won't be using that part of my heart to tell you about every Texan who can brew beer in his stomach for a little while. ;)  But that doesn't mean my interest in cleansing is fading - it means it's more important than ever.

If you're struggling with addiction, stay strong and do what you need to. You know in your heart what that is. It might mean cleansing - all the information you need is here and the book is on the way. Or it might mean counseling or A.A. Just know there is a brighter, easier, happier future out there - no matter how hard things feel right now. If you need to reach out, please contact me. I'm still here!

In the meantime, I want you to know, I'm thinking about you. I miss you. And I thank you!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Pleasure/Pain Principal

Oh boy, did I not want to take a cleanse day yesterday.

Around 4 in the afternoon, I was ready to say: "Screw this! Tonight's going to be an on-night!" Because I felt like having a drink!

I didn't have that drink btw. It ended up being a great cleanse night and that moment of craving was short-lived. It's cleansing itself (both the days and the months) that allows me to stay in control, even when I want to drink. 

I notice this toward the end of a five-month drinking cycle: taking cleanse days can sometimes become more challenging.  It's amazing to me. To watch the addictive nature of alcohol sneak up on me again. 

The reason for this is because I'm predisposed to become addicted to alcohol. Everything in my past, everything in my physical makeup, everything in my family, even in my DNA, has singled me out to become an alcoholic. The more I learn about the specifics of alcohol addiction, the more I recognize the patterns in myself.

And this close to the end of a drinking cycle, I can feel the subtle signals starting again. Drinking a bit more when I do drink. Wanting to drink when I'm cleansing. Making sure I get time for a trip to the liquor store. But this is the WHOLE REASON I cleanse in the first place. Because I know what my body feels like when it's addicted. And I  know what it feels like when it's not. Which is why I'm actually looking forward to my coming cleanse. On every level.

I know it's hard to believe. That a whole month of not drinking is actually something I'm looking forward to - even though I actually want to drink more at the end of a five-month drinking cycle. It's a paradoxical equation. But alcohol is a paradox in itself. It can bring such pleasure. But it can bring such pain. And I know them both - very well.

The reason cleansing works for me is not because it stops alcohol from being an addictive substance. It can't do that. Alcohol is addictive - and cleansing can't change that. What cleansing does is work with your whole body - and your life - to interrupt the cumulative effects of an addictive substance on your system - so you can't get hooked. Your body and your brain and your soul know that you're in control.

It's a really simple - but strangely complex system. Becasue I know in my heart that a month-long cleanse resets my whole system. I love the feeling of health it brings me. Of control. Of relief. Of safety. I love the way life changes when you cleanse. I love the freshness and the newness and the clarity of it. I love the simplicity of it. Not worrying if this is a cleanse day or that's a drinking day. More than anything, I love the feeling of knowing that I don't have to face the challenges, obstacles and temptations of 'abstaining' or the dangers of 'relapse.' Every minute of my cleanse, I love knowing that I can work drinking back into my life in a healthy way. That I don't have to quit forever.

Regular cleansing can stop addiction in its tracks - while not depriving me of the real pleasures of alcohol in the long run. It's an amazing system. :) 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Brew-It-Yourself

So this 61-year-old Texas man walks into the emergency ward, stumbling, slurring, obviously drunk. They check his Blood Alcohol Content and it's .37 - five times the legal limit in the Lone Star State. The man swears he hasn't had a drop of alcohol all day, but that this isn't the first time it's happened to him. He just gets spontaneously drunk. Hmmmm ...

Once the lab coats got hold of him, they found an overgrowth of a certain strain of yeast in his stomach - and it was fermenting all the carbohydrate-rich foods he ate (pasta, potatoes, bread, etc.) into beer - right in his stomach! Kinda gross. But you can't beat the convenience. Or the price. ;) 

It's a very rare condition (they've only seen a handful of cases in thirty years). The doctors who treated him believe it can be traced to a round of antibiotics he took in 2004. The meds killed all his 'good bacteria' and the bad guys have been growing ever since, basically turning his body into a micro-brewery. He was put on medication and a low-carb diet and is expected to make a full recovery. 

My guess is within a couple months of not getting spontaneously drunk, he's going to want his yeast back. ;) 

Here's the full story.

btw ... that video I shared last time.  For the record, the young drunk trio did not spend the entire night in the loo. We laughed and drank and listened to music and danced and drank some more. Only when my BFF had to toss her cookies did we end up in there. She was soooo sick that night - and yet I was feeling unbelievably great. And I was ready for more. 

It was my first indication that I didn't handle alcohol the same way as most people. That I could drink more. And that I wanted to drink more. I remember that moment in front of the mirror so clearly, I had to share. Comet cans, old toilets and all. ;) I write about that night in the new book btw. It's one of my Blackouts and Memories stories. The book's 'in the fridge' for a few weeks before I take one last pass. But it's out soon! :) 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Home Buddies

 Hey! Good news to report from the home front. No drunken fights, no projectile vomiting, no attempted murders!! Yayyyy!

It was actually a really wonderful trip. Lots of love and good vibrations and great food! If you're ever in the Great White North, you gotta check out Tommy's Not Here for dinner. Some of the most delicious and creative cuisine I've ever had outside of a megopolis. And Tutti Frutti for breakfast was awesome too. 

We had to go to Science North - just for old time's sake. I worked there one summer as a science demonstrationist - I mentioned that before. We had a nice lunch at the center - certainly more pleasant than the last time my mother and I were there, about fifteen or twenty years ago. That day ended in a drunken strangulation attempt. In a moving car. I'm not kidding. I was the drunk one. Not Mom. Good God. Honestly, I was so angry at her, at myself, at everything back then, that I actually tried to strangle my mother while she was driving the car. 

That time, after a nice lunch at Science North, my mom drove me to a friend's place where I polished off a whole bottle of rum, one big glass after anther. My friend looked at me as if I'd gone insane. When my mom came to pick me up, I basically was insane. And nonsensically drunk. I lashed out at her, for no specific reason that I remember, except that we used to push each other's buttons a lot more back then. 

Now, for instance, I don't care that she has different decorating tastes than me. Or that I'm not from some rich family on the Upper East Side. Or that I grew up in a home where alcohol abuse was normal. I don't know whether it's getting older or wiser (or both), but here's Mom and me at lunch at the same resto a few days ago: smiling, healthy and happy to be together. And no attempted murders!

I honestly believe that cleansing has put me in a better place - in general. I drank quite a bit this weekend (fun!) but I never turned into a basket case, I never got angry or depressed, and I didn't lose control. That's par for the course for me now and I have confidence in that. So I think all the stress and tension associated with drinking (and life!) eases and I can just relax and enjoy myself more. 

By the way, I'm on back-to-back cleanse days right now - two in a row. The day after we got back, I tried to get into the swing of things, and felt a bit sluggish. I just couldn't face a dry night. So midway through the day I decided to make it a drinking night, not a cleanse night, which is what it would normally be. Which is why I'm doing two back-to-back cleanse days right now. I think I should make up a new Wildcard Rule - that a vacation actually lasts until the second night you get home. No cleanse days necessary! ;) 

Anyway, two non-drinking days will be good for me. Especially with a monthly cleanse coming up. I haven't decided when it's starting exactly, but one way or another, there'll be a couple of weeks without cleanse days. And then one whole month of them. So I might as well get in the swing. 

btw, here's evidence of one of the big milestones of my drinking career: the upstairs bathroom where I remember being drunk for the first time. I was with my BFF and my little brother. It was a formative experience for me - obviously. I just loved the feeling of being drunk so much. Shoulda known there'd be some problems down the road. Anyway, here's me talking to myself in the same mirror I looked into that night ... while also showing off my mom's new bathroom reno. (I'm kidding about the reno. ;) 

(removed in the sake of good taste!! Honestly ... an old toilet? Good God!! Who needs to see that? I've outgrown the shame I felt about growing up poor -  but not enough to permanently subject anyone to photographic evidence! So picture a bathroom circa 1976 ... and picture me waaaaay too young to be staring at my drunk reflection in a mirror! If you must see the damn thing, write me and I'll send it to you! Honest!)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Booze Cruise

So with my first visit home in a few years looming, I've been thinking about trippin'. You know - what to pack, what to do, what to drink. ;)

Apparently, so have Beyonce and Jay Z who just did a 5-day luxury cruise of the Mediterranean. They made sure they had all the sailing essentials, too - like $20,000 worth of booze. And we're not talking cases of brewski and boxed wine here, but twenty grand worth of Dom PerignonRemy Martin and Belvedere, the world's "first super premium (yes, super premium) vodka." Jay Z loves his fancy spirits, apparently. But when it comes to eating on board, he's much more laid back, because the crew also stocked things like Skippy Peanut Butter and Cheerios. (I just love thinking of the uber-power couple eating cereal on deck ... cute!) Here's the full story from Express. 

Beyonce posted lots of pics of the trip on her Instagram account - and here it is: Bey's Vacay Pics. (You're welcome!) 

Incidentally, there's a cruise in my hometown too - and my mom wants us all to go on it. It's a tour of a really pretty lake right in the heart of town and I'm sure it's a lovely way to spend an hour - especially since the cruise is licensed!  (Um, yay!) Still, something tells me it ain't no yacht in the Mediterranean, so probably no need to Instagram pics of me in my parka sipping cheap wine from a plastic glass. But ya never know. ;) (Sudbury Boat Tours)

btw, E-Online is reporting Queen Bee circulated this pic of herself having a drink of something fun looking on a beach - but it's in Brazil. Hmmm ... Either E's researchers got their facts wrong - or, yes, B & J are just sailing around the world getting drunk on Dom. (Sigh ... one can always dream.)

Beyonce, Instagram

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Buzz Off!

You probably remember a night when you and some friends were out at a club or bar somewhere and a drunk guy (or girl!) started coming onto you and just wouldn't take 'no' for an answer? No matter how many dirty glares or cold shoulders you gave him or her?

Turns out there could be a scientific reason for that. It has to do with what happens to the brain when we get drunk. Researchers at Chicago School of Medicine have found that alcohol intoxication prevents the brain from properly understanding social signals. (Is that the point, I wonder?)

Anyway, test subjects were all considered heavy social drinkers (bingeing about twice a week) with an average age of 23. They were either given a strong drink (16% alcohol) or a placebo, then they were asked to try to match photographs of people with angry, happy or fearful expressions to the correct mood.

After a fMRI scan, the lab coats found that the two areas responsible for interpreting social signals (the amygdala and the orbitofrontal cortex) did not communicate as effectively when someone's been drinking, so these people had trouble matching the expressions to the correct mood. They especially didn't react to angry or fearful faces in a typical way - which is why that guy/gal just kept coming onto you that night.

Plus, yeah, you're irresistibly hot. Everyone knows that.

Here's the full article from Medical News Today. Or you can read more in your September issue of Psychopharmacology when that comes in the mail. ;) The September issue? That's always the big one, right? Enjoy!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Dry-Day Friday

So yesterday - a Friday - was a cleanse day for me cuz the hubs was out of town. So I made Thursday a drinking day.

A serious drinking day, apparently.

Um ... okay ... so it's not like I ended up in a drunk tank. Or even blacked out. But I was moseying back into the living room after dinner, topping up my red wine, when I saw how much in the bottle was gone.

I know the hubs didn't drink a lot of it - he was finishing off another bottle of red. And I'd already had a glass of white before dinner. In the old days, noticing that I'd had a lot to drink (and it was a lot more back then, btw), I'd be so full of guilt, shame, fear and anger that ... well, I'd just finish off everything that was left in the house. And hate myself for it in the morning.

But you know what I thought this time?

"Guess cleanse time is coming up!"

And it's true. I already mentioned my next 28-day cleanse starts some time after my birthday in October (I haven't set the day yet). But I swear to you, if I didn't take my regular cleanse days - and especially cleanse months - I'd be in serious trouble soon (i.e. I'd be spending Christmas Eve in that drunk tank).

But I know in my heart (and my brain and my liver) that the coming cleanse is going to re-set my whole system. And you know what? I'm actually looking forward to it. I feel my whole self moving toward it. Being drawn toward it actually. And actually wanting it. I'm not kidding. Imagine right now - if you're feeling worried about your drinking - knowing that you can get to a place where you actually want to take a break? Where you actually enjoy being sober and the different things it brings to life?

It's an amazing feeling because it takes the fear of the equation (and the guilt and the shame and the depression, etc.).  Instead, I have this whole-body-knowledge that cleansing is good for me on every level - and that it works for me. So consciously and unconsciously ... I love it. And that's how I can look forward to a whole month of not drinking.

btw, despite the surprising amount of obviously low-%-alcohol wine (yeah, right!) I imbibed on Thursday, it wasn't so bad that I woke up with a hangover. I spaced the glasses out reasonably over the night. But still, I know where this increasing tolerance could lead. And it's a scary path - as anyone who's struggled with addiction knows.

I'm being totally honest about the changing nature of how much I can drink because I want you to see how the System works - both in terms of drinking and cleansing. Fun and responsibility. Freedom and structure. It's an intricate balance that just works with life.

On that note ... glad today's a drinking day! ;)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Top 40 Ouncer

Does listening to hit music lately actually make you want to 'hit' a bar? You're not alone. ;)

From Wiz Khalifa to Miley Cyrus (whose recent tune We Can't Stop  is really about partying until the sun comes up - and not about being half-naked Twitter fodder), you almost can't listen to Top 40 radio without wanting to order a shooter.

I commented on this phenom last year in Pop/Fizz Songs because I had noticed how many pop lyrics were tempting me to drop everything and just have a drink - or ten. Turns out Ms. Functional, ever on the cutting edge of science ;), has been proven right by the lab coats.

David Jernigan from the Center for Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health helped conduct a study of contemporary music from 2009-2011. 720 songs - from urban to country - were analyzed for references to alcohol, drinking or specific brands (i.e. Petron).

Turns out nearly one in four tunes contained some reference to alcohol - and it was always in a fun, positive light. Although rock songs didn't rate, 22% of country songs and 15% of pop songs referenced drinking, with hip-hop winning the crown (royal) at almost 40%.  If you're just talking about Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Lion, however, you can probably edge that number a bit closer to 99%. ;)

The lab coats think this is tantamount to marketing alcohol to youngsters and that it's helping contribute to the many problems associated with underage drinking. According to the CAMY, more than 10% of alcohol consumption is by minors and 6.5 million underage kids actually binge drink. Which is sincerely alarming, since early alcohol exposure increases the chance of adult alcoholism by 16%. Having started my own drinking career at 13, I'm living proof that under(under)age drinking can lead to serious problems down the road (so glad that's behind me).

Obviously, alcohol abuse is a complex problem and I sympathize with parents who have to deal with it. However, there are options out there. The Century Council, an organization of distillers fighting drunk driving and underage drinking, claims that good ol' fashioned punishment can prevent minors from drinking again.

For instance, getting into trouble with the law (the big winner) results in a 68% reduction in repeat drinking. Getting grounded and/or losing computer privileges are tied neck and neck at 42%. Even the threat of punishment  resulted in 52% of underage kids saying they wouldn't drink again. (Full list here.)

Obviously, no punishment is 100% effective, especially with our most popular artists singing about drinking almost every other song. But it's still good to know parents aren't powerless when it comes to keeping kids safe.

By the way, DrinkAware claims that setting a good example by being a moderate drinker yourself is still the best way to ensure your kids are responsible. So there's more reason than ever to take a cleanse day (or month!) now and again. ;)

Here's the full report on pop music pushing from Time.com. For the detail-minded, here's a compilation of all the songs about drinking. Or almost all of them - i.e. Mr. Khalifa didn't make the list. ;)

And in honor of today's theme, yay! here's Miley Cyrus singing We Can't Stop at the VMA's!

Are you kidding? Would I do that to you? I think we've all seen enough foam fingers and plastic undies for, like, ever. Instead, here's Wiz and Snoop singing (and being) Young, Wild & Free.

btw - the first line of the chorus is "So what, we get drunk?" Which is why I always thought it was mostly about drinking. But having just watched the video, it's more about weed than drinking. But it's still fun to watch.

Of course ... that's the problem. ;)