Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Day 23 - Steps Sister

People who get sober can be so judgmental when it comes to drinkers, can't they? At least that's what I've noticed.

It occurred to me that I was the same way with Bloody Mary the other day. I mean, maybe she was drinking so much first thing in the morning because she was trying to self-medicate her cold into oblivion. Maybe her eyes were so swollen because she was sick. Maybe she needed all that booze because she was afraid to fly ... 

Had I suddenly turned into a judgmental sober person?!


The cold doesn't explain the broken blood vessels in her face. As for fear of flying, she seemed fine. Playing video games on her phone. Watching Parental Guidance on her little screen. I watched it, too, btw. Considering the stellar cast - Billy Crystal and Bette Midler, it was cute in places, but mostly disappointing. 

Here's a movie that was not cute. Smashed. Watched it last week. An indy-feeling flick about a hard-drinking couple who go through even harder times when the wife decides to join A.A. 

Here's the trailer - if you want to go see it, don't bother reading this totally judgmental post. ;) It's full of spoilers.

The script for Smashed was co-written by Susan Theresa Burke, an L.A. actor and stand-up who got sober when she was 24. I didn't know for sure that it was written by a former drunk when I watched it, but I'm not surprised. It definitely had sanctimoniousness written all over it. Garnering a whopping 6.6 on IMDb, I'd actually have given it a higher score than that, despite the easy plot line full of drunken nightmares and A.A. cliches. Because it did seem like a really gritty, personal (if slightly slanted) view into the world of twelve-stepping. 

Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays our main character, Kate, whose drinking is so out-of-control she ends up peeing on a convenience store floor when the clerk won't sell her liquor after hours. She also gets talked into doing crack with a hooker and waking up the next morning by herself in the front seat of a car. Only the seat has no car. It's in the middle of an abandoned parking lot and she has no idea how she got there. 

That's a surefire sign that it's time to seek help, btw. 

Naturally, Kate's an elementary school teacher. Not sure if Burke was ever a teacher but the contrast of hardcore drunk against innocent schoolmarm must've been pretty hard to resist. Especially for a comic turned screenwriter. 

My, Ms. Functional's testy today. ;) 

It's just that despite some fun performances, pretty cool directing, a great soundtrack and a solid script, the main message of the flick really annoyed me. But I'll get to that later. 

So, hungover Kate somehow manages to find her car and drives to work.  In the parking lot of her school she has a (probably familiar) debate with a little flask of booze. Should I or shouldn't I? The booze wins, of course. 

A not-so-subtle vest-wearing gentleman in the background lingers long enough that it makes us wonder ... Did he see her? 

(He did.)

The kids in Kate's class look around six or so. When a wave of nausea overcomes her and she ends up puking beside her desk, the kids ask if she's having a baby. Because one of the girls' mothers "throwed up" when she was having her baby brother.  

Kate, of course, doesn't want to say she's just hungover and it feels like a bulldozer is idling in her brain, so she tells the kids that, yes, she's pregnant. This little white lie ends up burning so brightly that her coworkers eventually throw her a baby shower - and she still can't come clean. 

Of course, there is someone who knows she's lying. And that's Dave, her vest-wearing, bespectacled, squeaky-clean co-worker. The one who saw her drinking in the parking lot that morning. Played by Nick Offerman of Parks and Rec fame, Dave shows her his ten-years-sober medallion from A.A. in the lunchroom one day. And admits he saw her with her trusty flask. Of course Dave off-handedly suggests that, "Hey, maybe she should come to a meeting. They're pretty cool" kind of thing.

So Kate goes. 

I've never been to an A.A. meeting, but I've seen them played on TV. ;) This one was a little different in that it seemed to be in someone's living room with everyone sitting in a circle, but you still had all the major players you'd expect. The soulful sponsor. The average-looking housewives. "Gasp! You're in A.A.?!" The accountant types. And the scrubby newbies sharing their funny/sad horror stories. Through it all, the group support flows more freely than java from the coffee terrine. 

(Talk about addictive, I'm sure all that group love is part of the appeal of people who stick with A.A.)

Aaron Paul plays Kate's lay-about husband, who also has a strong appetite for booze. An awesome actor, he's the druggie sidekick from Breaking Bad. He tries to support Kate's sobriety, but doesn't actually join A.A. himself. His own drinking habits change very little. They not-so-slowly (this being a flick, after all) start growing apart. 

Eventually, Kate's students start wondering why she's not getting fat. One of the confused kids asks if she "killed her baby." Kate, horrified that they might think she had an abortion, says she had a miscarriage and gets herself tangled up trying to explain why some babies just go to heaven ... sometimes. 


Meanwhile, her newly-minted soul can't stand all the deception. "A.A. is about honesty, after all" she says. (Or some such thing.) 

So she comes clean with her principal, played by Megan Mullally, the one who organized her baby shower. With guilt oozing out of her pores, Kate says "I can't take any more lies!" (Or some such thing). She says she didn't have a miscarriage. In fact, she was never pregnant. No, the truth is much worse than that. 

She's an alcoholic. 


Obviously, Principal Barnes never attended any sensitivity training courses because rather than support a nice person and good teacher trying to get clean ... she fires her on the spot.

So what does Kate do?

Come on ... think about it ... 

That's right!

She stops in the nearest bar on the way home and starts ordering doubles. Lots of 'em. 

(Because that's what happens to all alcoholics who hit a bump in the road, right? It's drilled into our heads that we're just that helpless over alcohol. It has to win. At least a couple times or the whole argument falls apart. It's almost a self-fulfilling prophesy ... at least in Hollywood flicks.)

Anyway, her hubby - clean and sober for one of the few times in the film - is shocked when she comes home all sloppy and totally smashed, digging around the house for more to drink. 

I know I'm being snarky about a lot of this, but so far I was quite entertained. This is where it hit the wall for me. 

Kate, the one who fell off the wagon, tells her loving husband - who seems very worried for her and is trying to stop her from drinking more - that she can't stay sober and be with him at the same time!!! 



Where did that come from?

Poor hubby was just at home, clean and sober on the couch. In walks drunk wife ... who just got fired ... and it's his fault she can't stay sober? 

Hmmmm ...

The film blacks out in a super-quick edit and picks up "One Year Later." 

And ... guess where we are? 

Man, you're good. That's right, we're at another A.A. meeting and Kate's getting her 1 Year Medallion. 

She looks good. Her skin is clear. Her hair is blow-dried. She seems so together. She stands up to give her anniversary speech.

Her talk didn't bother me as much as her blaming-the-hubby-rant, but it did strike me. She talks about how much her life has changed in the last year. That her marriage fell apart. That she makes less money than she used to. That she doesn't go out as much as she used to. That her life is sort of "boring" now. She laughs sadly. Everyone laughs sadly along with her. Then she smiles and says how damn "grateful" she is for her boring new life. Every day, she's so grateful for it. She gives a clean-and-sober smile and everyone hugs her and pats her on the back and her soulful sponsor gives her that "I knew you could do it" smile. 

Cut to the hubby calling her. He wants to see her. She goes back to the house. They end up in the backyard where they used to play drunken croquet. Only now they're playing sober croquet - because he's sober too. He tells her how much he misses her. How much he loves her. That he's been masturbating a whole hell of a lot. 

Kate seems a little put off by him. He all but begs her to take him back. But Kate shakes her head. No. A strong, firm, sober moment. 

No - she can't be with him again.  

And that's where the movie ends. On her rejection. 

So the two things that really struck me were one, that idea that - even wrapping up a movie - someone couldn't see that there's something dangerous about tying your sobriety to somebody "out there." I mean, I know if there's someone who constantly makes you drink all the time, and you're trying to get sober, you have to get them out of your life. But if someone you were in love with - who seems to want a clean start, and seems ready for one - wants to give it another chance ... and you still can't risk it, how firm is your sobriety? Really? 

Strange message as far as I'm concerned.  

The other thing that struck me - and made me sooooo grateful myself - was that I got control of my drinking without having to change my life completely. (Though I never peed on a convenience store floor or smoked crack with hookers, so maybe the comparison is a bit unfair.)

Yes, cleansing does bring some change to your life. Cleanses have a different, calmer, more personal atmosphere than drinking times. Are they sometimes boring? Well ... I suppose you could say that. Sometimes. But I've learned lots of ways to avoid the boredom over the years - and I'll share them all. 

But the thing I was so grateful for was that I can still be myself. Even a better me. A more in control me. A more self-loving me. A more honest, healthy me. My life has not changed so much that I have to be terrified that so-and-so will come back into it, knock me off the wagon and ruin everything. 

Because I'm in control. I have not relinquished my control to anything. Not to booze. Not to God. Not to fellow members of 12 step groups. 

On the 23rd day of my cleanse ... I can say I'm so grateful that I'm still myself. I still have fun. I still stay out late sometimes. I still enjoy drinking. I still enjoy my life. I have not had to turn myself inside-out to get control of my addiction. And that makes me just as happy and grateful as Kate. 

btw - if you're in A.A. and are having success with it, I'm glad for you. I really am. But A.A. can't help everyone ... in fact, it helps a very small minority. 

As for the flick, you probably don't have to see Smashed now. But there are some cool performances and it is a sobering look into both drinking and abstinence. And when it's over, maybe you'll be grateful - as I was - that you might not have to quit forever to get control.  

Because it's simply not true. Not for everyone. And I'm living proof of that.

Though if you're peeing on convenience store floors or doing crack with hookers ... um, you might want to consider consulting a professional.

Just saying.


(5 days left to go!)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Day 22 - Steaks at Stake

If you usually have wine with dinner, it might take some getting used to sitting down every night without it. Because let's face it - as much as I believe in cleansing - I prefer a dinner with wine.

Having said that, cleansing has helped me so much that living without wine at dinner a couple times a week - and for a couple months a year - is a very small sacrifice, and one I'm more than happy to make if it keeps me out of A.A. 

But I have learned some tips over the years that help make cleanse dinners as enjoyable as ones where you can drink. 

Almost anyway. ;) 

First of all, you have to make an extra effort to make cleanse dinners special. You really want to avoid a cafeteria-type meal where there's a piece of dry chicken in the middle of your plate, the fluorescent lights glaring overhead and only the occasional scrape of cutlery to be heard.  

Don't be afraid to turn the lights down. Light a candle. Put on some music. If you have kids, maybe you want to feed them first and then settle in later in the evening with something more special. You might not be able to do this every night, but treat yourself whenever you can. 

One caveat: I wouldn't recommend trying your favorite wine meals when you first start cleansing. For instance, it took a while for me to get used to having pasta dinners without wine. I love pasta. And I love wine. 

I love them even more together. 

When I first started cleansing, I really missed a nice juicy red with pasta dinners. So I found myself avoiding pasta and focusing on things like chicken and fish at first. These lighter dinners are still a big part of cleanses - and even cleanse nights during the rest of the year.  And we've learned to prepare them in a way that's delicious and enjoyable. 

But since I love pasta so much, it was unreasonable to expect that I could live without it for a month at a time. So we started venturing back into pasta terrain. 

But instead of having our favorite meat sauce with spaghetti (it's actually my mother-in-law's recipe: she cooks it up and freezes batches for us, angel that she is!) we found new recipes for pasta nights without wine - ones that usually involved chicken or shrimp. Once we were accustomed to these meals without wine, we started bringing the meat sauce back in. Pasta nights are now (almost) as much fun without wine as they are with it - even the meat sauce. 

There is however one meal that I've avoided like the plague on cleanse nights. Steak. 

We don't eat a lot of steak but once or twice a month, the hubs (who's the chef in the family) and I have steak with a nice merlot or big juicy cabernet sauvignon. (We usually go for filet mignon or beef tenderloin because even though it's more pricey, it has less fat.) 

Anyway, we tried our steak nights without wine a couple times and ... gulp ... it was awful! The steak was so, well ... meaty!! Beefy! Fleshy! I could almost hear Bossy's poor calves mooing sadly from the other side of the fence with every bite. Blech! So steak nights just became a no-no during a cleanse. 

But recently, the hubs and I have discovered a time-saving, super-delicious trick that actually found us eating steak last night ... the 21st night of my cleanse. 

There are five different mixes in all - everything from Blackened Herb to Fiery Jerk. The seasoning pouches contain dozens of spices, all in the perfect mix. There's a best-before date on the packs so it's guaranteed fresh and each flavor is clearly marked as recommended for chicken, beef or fish, so it takes the guesswork out. 

Wow! They are fantastic! Seriously! So easy and so incredibly delicious! We got into them months ago, before the cleanse started, but they're so great that I actually found myself craving steak yesterday - even on a cleanse! 

This time around, though, I chose a different cut of meat. I was in the grocery store yesterday morning staring at the red hunks of beef tenderloin and filet mignon behind the butcher counter. I remembered how "meaty" those lean cuts tasted on cleanses before, so I decided to try something new. 

Jamie - whose cooking shows we watch, too - often recommends slightly more marbled cuts of meat when he's cooking, so I turned the cart around and headed to the pre-packaged meat section. I picked out a sirloin tip (7 oz or 200 grams is more than enough for us. btw, I see some cooking sites recommend marinating this cut of meat because it's not as tender as sirloin itself: just a note, we didn't bother and it was fine. I imagine any cut of meat would be just as yummy with these spice mixes, too.) 

The meat had quite a thick layer of fat along one side so the hubs sliced that off (as Jamie suggests), but there was still nice marbling throughout the cut itself. As per instructions, the hubs sprinkled a cutting board with a layer of mix. He rubbed olive oil on the meat to moisten and then rolled it around in the spices to coat nicely. Last night we used the Spicy Cowboy mix - it has a delicious southern kick without the sweetness of a barbecue flavor. 

Halfway through cooking, the hubs threw in some sliced red onion and thinly sliced green peppers, just so they got soft and wilted. We had fork-mashed potatoes with a bit of butter and asparagus alongside. It was delicious! (btw garlic-flavored olive oil with a little salt and pepper really elevates asparagus - a veggie with so many healthy benefits, we try to eat it often.) 

After dinner was over, I couldn't believe it. I actually enjoyed steak - without vino?! It was an absolute first. 

Now Jamie's spice mixes are in the spice section of my grocery store. But if they're not available where you live, I'll try and get the list of spices together for you and put them on the blog on a slow day. Because there really are lots of spices in every recipe. If you're super excited to give it a shot, drop me an email and I'll try to get to it more quickly. 

In the meantime, if you're ready to have beef during a cleanse, think of more marbled cuts.  Rub olive oil on the meat to allow the spices to adhere better and a tablespoon or two for frying. Olive oil is so good for your heart and adds a nice juiciness. (btw you don't have to eat all that beef fat in the pan! Let it drain off.) 

And don't forget to light a candle and put some music on! It doesn't have to be typical dinner mood music either. Last night the hubs and I listened to Green Day. It rocked! (Saw them at Hamilton's Copp's Coliseum a few years ago! Actually have a home vid of that. Should embarrass myself and put it up ... nothing like a 40-something chick in an army fatigue jacket and red Cons.)

Just use your imagination when you're cooking on a cleanse. Make the meal special any way you can and your whole cleanse will be easier and more enjoyable. 

Day 22? Are you kidding me?! This time next week - Monday - the cleanse will be over! Only 6 days left to go!! :)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Day 20 - Bloody Mary

Got a clean bill of health from my doctor yesterday. Infection's all gone! So enough about the "pn" word.

(By the way, later note: I have since talked to my doctor and we've both agreed I didn't have pneumonia - but merely a deep lung infection. Because I didn't cough blood or have the D-word or a super-high temperature or the chills. Just malaise and a nasty cough. Wanted to clear that up! Take that pn-word!)

But I did want to share one more story about sickness and a hard-drinking woman I met on the trip.

When I got back from Vegas I was already developing a cold. Sometimes when you have a cold, it makes you more susceptible to the bacteria that cause serious infections: like my latest bout of nastiness. And I think I know who Patient Zero was. (The term Patient Zero usually refers to the first person who contracts a disease and then causes it to spread.)

There were a lot of people sick on the flights to and from Vegas. But one woman in particular stands out. She had dark, frizzy hair, wore a black suit jacket, lots of jewelry and was in her late forties or early fifties somewhere. She was sitting next to us on the trip down. When the first coughs and sniffles started coming out of her, Ms. Functional was like "Figures! Where's the damn Purell?!"

(Of course, considering all the people who were coughing on that flight - and how air-handling works on planes - it would've been hard to find a 'safety zone' anywhere.)

So the flight left Toronto Pearson International at 8:55 a.m. on the nose. The refreshment cart came around less than half an hour later. This woman with the cold sitting beside us surprised me by ordering a double Bloody Mary. That was two shots of vodka - in those cute little bottles - and a small can of tomato juice.

Ms. Functional - still sipping water at that point - personally couldn't believe it. It wasn't even 9:30 in the morning and this woman was already having a double?

Okey-doke. Hair of the dog. What the hell, right? It is Vegas.

Well ... the drinking didn't stop. During the flight, I saw "Mary" order at least four or five times, moving onto gin halfway through. On the other hand, the hubs and I stuck to H20 keeping our hydration up.

I know that sounds lame to some party heads. And it would've sounded pretty lame to me in the past. But I've learned that I have to pace myself when it comes to drinking.

You drink basically all day and night in Vegas. More than usual, anyway. With the time difference, we arrived in LVNV at about 10:20 a.m. local time.  That's 1:20 biological time - more than late enough in the day for Ms. Functional to enjoy a tipple, especially on vacay - but if you really think about how long the day is going to be, starting to drink at 9:30 in the morning (6:30 Vegas time!) just doesn't make a lot of sense.

Do the math. The average person can metabolize one drink an hour. If Mary kept her drinking pace up during the day - and chances are, her rate increased once she didn't have to wait for the slow-poke flight attendants anymore - before she hit the hay at, say, two in the morning, she would've had at least 18 or 20 drinks - maybe more if she wanted to get drunk. And I'm sure she did.

That's well over double the recommended weekly allowance for alcohol ... in one day? 

Now, if you're in your twenties, your thirties, even your early forties, and you're beginning a fun vacation with your friends or family, I totally understand ordering drinks on an early flight. But if you're not a spring chicken anymore, but more like an autumn hen - late forties, fifties and beyond - like Mary and myself, well, pounding back five shots before noon, that's a little excessive.

Anyway, when we landed I hit the ladies room. I was at the sparkling clean sink, washing my hands, when who walks up beside me? That's right. Bloody Mary.

(btw, I want to apologize to any travelers who've hit the washrooms at Pearson Airport here in Toronto. Oh. My. God. They're absolutely disgusting! I can't believe that in such a clean city, in such a clean country, and in such a lovely new airport, we can still have the most disgustingly dirty, wet, sloppy, toilet-paper-free-zone on the planet! I apologize! It's embarrassing! So sorry!! Write and complain!)

So Mary and I are washing our hands at the sink together. We recognize each other and turn to chat a bit. As we spoke, I couldn't help but check her out. Her skin was very shiny and red, completely riddled with tiny red veins, broken and swollen from drinking. (I had them myself in the day.) She had those pouches underneath her eyes that heavy drinkers get (had those, too). Her eyes were hooded, swollen, bloodshot and very sad and lost looking. They kept flitting around here and there and I knew she was probably thinking Goddamnit, I wish this clear-eyed bitch would stop staring at me! She didn't even have a drink on the plane! What the hell are born-again Christians going to Vegas for, anyway?!! 

Because who else doesn't drink on a flight to Vegas? Besides people in "recovery" - even easy recovery like mine.

And even if she wasn't thinking that, I know she was thinking this:

I need a drink, goddamnit!

Because I'm pretty sure Mary was an alcoholic. And alcoholics are usually just thinking about their next drink. I know that - because that's the way I used to be. Even when I had one drink in my hand, I was worrying about where the next one was coming from.  That's the way addiction works.

As Mary and I parted ways - me in search of the luggage carousel, she in search of the nearest drink kiosk - I felt kind of sorry for her. I sort of wish I had business cards or something. I would've slipped her one. "Don't worry, Mary ... there's hope for you yet. Just, um, maybe have a damn orange juice every now and again, will ya?"

Anyway, I didn't feel that badly for her. Because I think Mary was Patient Zero.

Plus she had a really great Prada bag and matching shoes.

So how sorry for her can you be? ;)

It's Day 20. 8 days left to goooooooo!!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Day 19 - Happiness Update

Regarding Day 17's post "The Pursuit Of ..." about Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky's work: I reached out to Dr. Lyubomirsky just to make sure that I hadn't misrepresented any of her theories.

She was very kind getting back to me, but she did mention that just because unhappy people might be more analytical than happy folks, that didn't mean they were more intelligent.

So I apologize to all the happy people out there - and the unhappy ones, too, frankly. Who, as per the doctor's theories, probably enjoyed feeling smarter than everyone else for a while. ;) Sorry about that! I've made the change to the original post.

Again, Dr. Lyubomirsky's books are: The Myths of Happiness and The How of Happiness. Really looking forward to picking them up - and learning more about getting happier!

9 days left! We're into the single digits now. Wow!

Talk about getting happy ... :)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Day 18 - T-Cell-Minus

Okay, let's get the bad "pnews" out of the way - and leave the freaking pneumonia crap behind. There is a connection between alcohol abuse and pneumonia. Alcoholism can cause this serious lung infection in several ways (the link with all this info will be below).

1) Alcohol abuse generally compromises our T cells - white blood cells that play a major role in keeping our immune systems healthy. Meaning alcoholics are more susceptible to all infections and diseases.

2) Alcoholism seems to negatively affect how the cilia work - cilia are tiny hairs that line the trachea between the nose and the lungs. These hairs literally beat and sweep bacteria and foreign particles out of our lungs to help keep them clean. Alcoholism impairs this movement meaning more bacteria can get into our lungs.

3) Pneumonia develops when certain bacteria festers in the lungs. Alcoholics are more likely to have foreign particles in their lungs because their breathing can be hindered when they pass out and/or vomit. Maybe you remember a nasty night or two where your breathing - or someone else's - seemed clumsy and awkward after a night of hard drinking. Not to mention passing out often means plopping down in some slobbery position that makes it easier for bacteria to enter our throat and lungs, making alcoholics more susceptible to lung infections in general, and pneumonia in particular.

Between 5-10 million people get pneumonia every year in the U.S. - and 40 - 70,000 of those people die. But as you'll see from the link below, it's far more likely to be fatal in alcoholics.

As I mentioned, I've never had a serious disease before - so this has caused some serious soul searching on my part.

Was my wine habit really responsible for this?

To be honest, I haven't actually been drunk in ages. Not even on the Vegas trip. (Boo hoo, right?) Let alone passed out in a stupor. And as I reported in the post A Quizzical Day this past January, according to the Johns Hopkins Alcohol Abuse Screening Quiz I'm not even in the danger zone anymore. So as wary as I continue to about my health and my drinking, I'm convinced alcohol abuse didn't cause my pneumonia.

I think faulty humidifiers might be partly to blame. I try to keep them clean, but you know ... it's a tough job. The other night, I woke up coughing, turned the humidifier off, coughing stopped. So the humidifiers have been shelved for the season.

I have another theory that I'll talk more about later - because it does have to do with someone's drinking, though not mine (the woman who sat next to us on the flight to Vegas actually). But that story's for another day.

For now, I just wanted to point out yet another link between alcohol abuse and disease. Because alcoholism doesn't just damage our livers. It compromises our health on every level - physically and mentally. So it's just another reason to get control ... and I honestly believe that cleansing can help us do that.

Here's that article about pneumonia and alcoholism from The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

So that's the bad news. The good news? (For me anyway ...)

Ten days left to go! :)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Day 17 - The Pursuit Of ...

Last night was my first good night's sleep in almost three weeks! I want to talk more about the link between alcohol and pneumonia soon - because I learned some interesting things (nothing to be alarmed about, just some important info to tuck in your cap). But I'm sick of talking about sickness so I want to talk about wellness instead.

In particular, happiness.

I didn't start cleansing just so I could keep drinking. The main reason I started cleansing is because I wanted to get rid of the misery of addiction and move in the direction of more joy in my life.

As part of that ongoing 'project,', every cleanse I usually have some sort of psychological self-help book to read. Reading is an excellent thing to do when you're cleansing. It's peaceful, personal and relaxing. And it gives you a real sense of accomplishment when the book - and the cleanse - are done.

I haven't been able to focus on all that much reading this time around. But I did manage to get through the New York Times on Sunday. I was particularly interested in an article about Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, a Moscow-born psychologist who came to the U.S. at the age of 9.  Now a successful author and professor at the University of California, she's devoted her career to a relatively new science: the pursuit of happiness.

One of the things that really leapt out at me was the fact that unhappy people were generally more "analytical" than happy ones. Unhappy people also felt more satisfaction when others around them performed poorly (in life, on tasks, etc.)  compared with themselves. The article contends this phenomenon could explain why most of us are familiar with the German expression schadenfreude (deriving joy from another's suffering) but probably haven't heard of the Yiddish term shep naches (feeling happy about someone else's success).

I was also fascinated by the idea that Dr. Lyubomirsky seems to have discovered that we all have a happiness "set point." Sure, good things can happen to us and they can float our boat for a while. But before long, we'll revert to a mood that's more familiar and comfortable to us.  Meaning, ultimately we "adapt" to happiness and probably need more stimulation to feel it again.

She used the example of her husband's desire for a new big-screen TV. The 52 incher (or whatever) was fun in the early stages, but the doctor's hubby eventually "adapted" to the new tube and it wasn't such a big deal anymore.

In other words, we get used to the acquisition of goals and possessions and before long, we need "more" to feel happy again. 

That makes a lot of sense to me.  If I think back on times when I should have been overjoyed in my life (hearing I got my first book deal, for instance, or got into the school of my choice), my happiness lasted, oh, all of about twenty seconds before I start thinking of all the things that could go wrong. 

It also occurred to me that alcohol works in our lives the same way. In the early stages, a drink or two can make us feel really blissed out and joyful. But after a while, those two drinks don't do the trick anymore and we need more, more, more.

Happiness - like alcohol - must be addictive, though a much healthier addiction obviously. Because the pursuit of happiness addiction keeps us moving in the direction of our dreams,  goals and desires. And that keeps us growing as individuals - and as a society.

I agree with Dr. Lyubomirksy's work and I'm looking forward to reading her books, The Myths of Happiness and The How of Happiness (the latter being praised as one of the only self-help books backed by empirical data) - whether I'm finished the cleanse or not.

But there is one thing I want to mention when it comes to happiness "set points."

As much sense as Dr. Lyubomirsky's theories make, I can tell you one thing: if you're addicted to alcohol right now and wallowing in the depths of dopamine-depleted depression, the idea that you have a "set point" when it comes to your mood might make you suicidal!

What if I feel like this forever?!!

I know if someone told me when I was so depressed due to addiction that "this" was it, this was as good as my moods were ever going to get, I think I would've pulled out a map and started looking for the nearest bridge.

But I can tell you this: although alcohol cleansing might not bring you rainbows, unicorns and smiley faces every moment of every day for the rest of your life - it can help you out of the pit of despair you might be feeling right now. I know that because I've been there.

I've been there - and I got out.

As I said, life may not be perfect once you move past addiction (shit happens: i.e. pneumonia!), but the absolute bone-deep, relentless sadness you might feel right now can not only be improved - it can be a thing of the past. Forever.

I honestly mean that. Because it happened to me.

It's now Day 17 of my cleanse. More than two weeks - and two weekends! - without a drink. 11 days left to go! I'm well past the halfway point!

Um ... yayyyyy!!

Here's the original article about Dr. Lyubomirsky from Sunday's NYT.

And in honor of today's happiness theme, I want to leave you with a video from a band that meant a lot to me back in the 80s. The ironically-named The Pursuit of Happiness was a Toronto-based group that was huge on the college circuit (and pretty damn big elsewhere too). Their hit I'm An Adult Now was practically my theme song back then ... even though I was barely an adult at the time.  It's fun to remember what Toronto looked like back in the 80s, too. We're so polished and scrubbed up now! Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Day 16 - Sweet 16

Hi there! Thanks so much to my well wishers! I'm not 100%, but I'm definitely on the mend.

I know I poke fun at the traditional medical community every now and again. And that I have a real independent streak when it comes to handling my own ailments. Mainly because because I've had so much success at it.

But when it comes right down to it, there's nothing like a medical degree to soothe the savage beast. :) So thank you to all doctors, nurses, pharmacists, medical researchers, nurse practitioners, dieticians, medical office assistants, occupational therapists, lab technicians, radiologists, X-ray technicians ... 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Day 11 - Doctor, Doctor!

Well, after a lifetime of self-diagnosing and self-helping and doing a damn fine job of it, Ms. Functional has finally met her match.

I still wasn't feeling well, so I went to my doctor's after hours clinic yesterday evening ... It ain't a cold. It's pneumonia!!

I've been sworn to rest, rest, rest for at least four or five days, so I don't think I'll have the energy to blog. (Believe it or not, it actually takes energy to do this! ;)) I'll miss you!!

I hope you can enjoy some of the older posts if you haven't read them. And if you want to know what real suffering is like, check out some of the sobriety blogs and stories on the upper right side over there.

btw, getting my prescriptions yesterday, the pharmacist told me I wasn't allowed to drink alcohol with these drugs. I'm like "No problem there!" Timing couldn't be better.

17 days left to go! Almost half done!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Day 8 - Marbles Mayhem!

Okay, it's always AMAZING to get the first weekend behind you on a cleanse. Psychologically it feels like the most challenging one because ... well, it's the first one.

I'd be SUPER happy if I wasn't still dealing with the dregs of this damn cold. Wondering if it was turning into pneumonia, I googled the symptoms and - guess what? According to chealth.canoe.ca, the 'misuse of alcohol' can (somehow) cause pneumonia. Don't ask me how. They don't explain that part. But alcohol abuse causes everything, so what can ya do?

But I'm like, forget it! The whole reason I'm sick is because I didn't abuse alcohol! When I feel a cold coming on, I usually pour myself two BIG glasses of white wine, bundle up and sweat it out in bed for a couple of hours. Works like a charm. (Tylenol used to be part of that routine, but apparently Tylenol and liquor together are murder on your liver so ... I dropped the Tylenol! Go figure!)

Anyway, for whatever reason, I didn't do my home remedy of the wine when I started feeling sick last week and - if you ask me, medical.doctors.com - that's why I'm still sick!! I'd be out enjoying the first nice day in years if I'd just abused some goddamn alcohol in the first place!

But one thing has made me stop coughing and laugh today and that's blogger Jenna Marbles - and her hilarious Jenna Marbles YouTube Channel. This California-based comic/producer/all-around-crazy-gal has about eight billion followers, has won numerous awards and has made her pretty young ass very rich just by being her kooky self and letting the world see it.

In honor of the cleanse, here's her Drunk Makeup Tutorial! (Just a warning, she swears a lot ...)

20 days  ... and three weekends ... left to go!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Day 6 - Sober Drugs?

Getting the first Friday night behind me is always a nice milestone. The pace of the weekends change when you cleanse. Things are calmer and quieter - for me anyway. Most of the people I know have always been 'drinking buddies.'

I've got one friend in A.A. whom it would make sense to see on a cleanse. I have in the past. But to tell you the truth, because she's in A.A., she doesn't necessarily "agree" with my cleanses, so we don't see each other as much anymore. She's never come right out and said that "you're insane for trying this!" or anything, but I get the little judgmental roll of the eye every now and again. Who knows? Maybe I'll look her up this cleanse ...

On the news front, researchers at UCLA have developed a 'nanocapsule' to counteract the effects of intoxication. They haven't tried it on humans yet, but it seems to sober up drunk lab mice.

The drug contains enzymes that act like liver cells in the stomach, digesting alcohol at a much higher rate. Consequently, the drunk mice are ready to get behind (on?) the mouse wheel sooner than the Mickey's who didn't receive the drug.

If it proves effective on humans, some day you could imagine bouncers and/or vending machines selling sober-up pills before you hit the parking lot after a night out.

For now though, it's just for mice. Which is a good thing because we all know the troubles caused by alcoholic mice. Broken cages, confused cats, mousey rehab. Sad situation.  (Here's the original article from the Daily Mail.)

I had no idea mice liked to drink so much until I YouTubed it. You can't keep the furry varmints out of the stuff. They seem to like to roll around a lot after drinking. One drunk mouse can even do mid-air somersaults - all day long.

But they're mice sooooo ... um ... there's still something sort of creepy about them, drunk or not.

Hammered hamsters on the other hand? Hilarz!!

I had hamsters when I was a kid and never once did I get them drunk. Wish it would've occurred to me. Could've charged the neighborhood kids admission for this one ... ;)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Day 5 - Alive & Well-ish

I started crossing days off on the calendar this cleanse. I don't usually do that. I do use a calendar to mark my cleanses - both the beginning and end dates - but I wondered if crossing days off like kids waiting for prom or convicts waiting for their release date would make things more interesting ... Ya know what?


So far anyway. I have a feeling crossing days off will be more effective, say, three weeks down the road when I've got some crosses behind me. Right now it feels more like crosses to bear. ;)

I'm being dramatic. It's really been super easy so far. I highly recommend getting a cold for the first week of your cleanse. I've had absolutely no cravings and no feelings of being deprived of alcohol.

However, I don't usually have those feelings anyway. If you're following the whole plan and taking two regular days off a week all year long, you get accustomed to living without drinking. You know what life feels like. Sure 28 days is longer than 2 days a week, but the overall 'atmosphere' of not drinking is the same.

You really start feeling closer to yourself. You get a clearer vision of your life. Drinking is pleasurable, and (when it's under control) it definitely enhances just about every occasion I can think of.

But it can also be distracting. It can become the highlight or reward of your day. It can become what you do for enjoyment. A kind of pastime or hobby that stands in for any number of other things you might be able to explore and enjoy.

But becoming accustomed - training yourself - to live without alcohol on a regular basis really opens up your perspective. You start to see so many other options for enjoying your life.

Now, if you've decided to take the six-month cleanse to start, as I did - because you feel your brain has stopped producing dopamine - you're probably not seeing a million happy options ... yet. But that will change. Things will evolve. You will evolve ... and it really is a wonderful feeling after being trapped by addiction.

btw, I was up early the other morning and heard Roz and Mocha on Kiss 92.5. Luh-HUV those guys!! Roz, who at thirty-something is the more 'mature' of the two (if you listen, you know that's a bit of a stretch) was teasing Mocha (a twenty-something) about his drinking habits. Telling him he was like a 'college girl,' always bingeing on the weekends. Mocha said it was true, he didn't drink much during the week - maybe a glass of wine with dinner every now and again. But he did most of his drinking on the weekend.

Roz said for himself, he's a 'regular' drinker. He drinks every day. But for the first time in as long as he could remember he'd gone three days without a drink. There hadn't been anything in the house and his whole family was sick (colds I presume - 'tis the season) so somehow or other it just worked out that he didn't have anything to drink for a solid 72 hours.

He seemed a little shocked and surprised with himself. Also maybe a bit sobered by the fact that he hadn't gone that many days without a drink in so long. It's funny how drinking works its way into our lives. How it, y'know, just sort of shows up a couple times a week in the beginning, knocking on the door and asking if you can come out to play.

Then, things start getting serious and before you know it, you're hanging out every other day. Then every day. Then ... drinking decides to keep a toothbrush at your place. And maybe a pair of under-things. But everything's still more or less rosy.

Cut to twenty years later and alcohol is standing in the doorway - blocking you from either coming or going - anywhere. With a shotgun its hand.

But I'm thinking, 3 days, Roz? You're a PUSSY!!

23 days left to go!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Day 3 - 100% Proof

The cold's been bad enough that I finally broke down and bought cough syrup yesterday. Benylin. Reminds me of being a kid. Staying home from school. Mom would go to work so I'd be alone to watch age-inappropriate movies in the afternoon. I remember Rosemary's Baby was a real eye-opener as a kid.

I wondered though, since alcohol is the first ingredient in most cough medicines, was I breaking my cleanse already?!! 

Turns out, most cough syrups contain about 5-10% alcohol, so it's not exactly Jack Daniels. I'm only having two teaspoons a couple times a day, so until I start pouring highballs or having it on the rocks, I'm sure I'll be fine. ;) 

25 days left to go!

btw here's a peek at the trailer for Roman Polanski's creepy thriller: a flick that saw me through at least a couple sick days way back when ...

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Day 2 - Sweet Insanity!

So I decided to go for it and just begin cleansing early.

But this has gotta be the lamest beginning of a cleanse ever. Usually there's so much FUN going on before a cleanse that you really feel 'ready' to take a break. In fact, that's why no 'off-days' in the two weeks leading up to a cleanse are worked into the system. I wanted cleansing to bring as much fun to my life as possible.

But this is the first time there's been, like, only this much fun before - and to top it off, I even started it two days early!!


Yet I know that my cleanses have always evolved. The system is adaptable - and that's why it works so well. Cleanses are always at least a little different from each other. Yet there's always something calming and welcoming about them, too. And this one, despite all the firsts, is no different. I feel 'ready' to begin ...

Yesterday wasn't the most difficult Day 1 - mostly because the idea of partying doesn't really go hand-in-hand with blowing my nose. So I don't feel 'ripped off.'

(I just wonder if I will before it's over ... Will keep you posted on that.)

Had another first yesterday. Took a bottle of bubbly and a French sauv blanc out of the fridge and tucked it in the back of the cupboard out of sight. Poured what was left of one open bottle down the drain. Usually there's not that much left for me to hoard before a cleanse. ;)

But that's one of my tips. Get your alcohol out of the way when you're not drinking. It's not as if seeing a bottle is going to make you fly into a bender, but I've just found it's easier when you don't have to see your yummy fave every time you open the cupboard or fridge.

Incidentally, when you start cleansing - especially on the first day or two - there will be times where you think: "This is nuts. There's no way I can do this! It's crazy! How can I possibly ... gulp ... twenty-eight days ...?!!!!! Are you outta your #@&*!!!!???"

Even after cleansing regularly for years now, there are still moments during the first couple of days where I think: This is insane. It's impossible! What the crap am I doing this for?!!! 

These thoughts don't necessarily come with cravings (they haven't yet this cleanse), but it's almost as if your whole system goes into denial.

I'm sure that's the addictive qualities of alcohol talking. Because by the time five months of drinking have gone by, the soothing, entertaining, pleasant, alluring qualities of alcohol will definitely start catching up with you. You'll be drinking more than you did after your last cleanse. You'll probably be thinking about it more. I believe that's the beginning of inviting the 'problem' back into your life. Which is why regular cleansing is so important.

Vital, in fact ...

Twenty-six days to go!!

No problem. Nahhhhhh ... not at all ... ;)

Monday, April 8, 2013

Day 1? To Cleanse or Not To Cleanse?

I got another first here. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas - except when it's the goddamn rhinovirus from hell. There were so many people sick on the flights that sure enough I've come down with the mother of all colds. I'm feeling 'okay' now but last night, I was literally brought to tears. The coughing? It's absolutely painful!! Or was. Like being thrown off a high cliff and hitting every craggy rock on the way down. In the dark. Naked. Let alone the aches and the chills.

I'm a little embarrassed to mention it because it's not the first cold I've had this winter. It's like the third. It's been a bad year for colds. Usually my immune system is in much better shape. 

But I've been toying around with vitamins and mineral supplements this year, concocting my own mix of pills and potions in the morning, thinking I know better than the people at, say, Centrum. The reason I think I know better than the people at Centrum - or wherever - is because, well, all modesty aside, I really do feel I know better than a lot of experts most of the time. 

Since I was a young girl I've been a self-diagnoser and a self-helper. I've cured everything from frozen shoulder to eczema to angular cheilitis without doctors. (btw A.C. are those painful little cracks some people get in the corners of their mouths. It can seem like Herpes, but it's not and it's not contagious. But it is an infection and it can be sorta gross and uncomfortable. And it's VERY difficult to cure - but i did it! So if you or someone you know has A.C., email me and I'll send my cure free - not like the $79 the guys on the web are charging. Cuz I paid for that one - and it didn't work!)

Anyway, that's one of the reasons I was so confident tackling my drinking problem ten years ago. I may not have the professional credentials (and being a lifelong truancy case, I don't expect to get them any time soon), but I've always had the know-how, the determination and the ability to research and assemble information that helps me so much. 

Which is why I've been topping up on zinc and magnesium and at least ten other separate vitamins and minerals every morning now. I feel like a goddamn geriatric with my little Mon-Tues-Wed pillbox. But I really thought I could get my immune system in Superman shape and fight off all these nasty bugs.

So when I found myself suffering from an even worse cold than the last one, I knew I was doing something wrong. I Googled "how to improve your immune system" or some such thing and the first non-commercial hit that came up was from the Harvard School of Public Heath. I've consulted the HSPH for some really important drinking research over the years and feel that by and large they're a pretty trustworthy bunch of people. Despite the fact they all must really like school. ;)

Here's the full article, but the gist of it is that nobody - not even Harvard types - know very much about how the human immune system works. Only that it is a system and that many different things are involved in making perform well. 

The one thing that did hit me is that a deficiency in some micronutrients can hamper the immune system and that the best way to avoid that is not by being some Dr. Jekyll in your own kitchen and whacking together megadoses of individual vitamins or minerals. They recommend a good multivitamin every day to avoid micronutrient deficiencies. So the people at Centrum win again. ;) And they suggest that more than 25 mg of zinc a day on a regular basis will actually weaken the immune system. 

So this morning I opted out of my regular vitamin routine. I'm just down to two supplements - milk thistle for my liver and ginger for overall inflammation. We'll see what happens from there. 

But what does this have to do with my cleanse? 

Well, Day 1 was supposed to be Wednesday. I work it that way so that I don't have to face Cleanse Day 1 on a Monday - today. And Wednesday makes more sense because then on the 29th day, when I start drinking again, it's a Wednesday - not, say a Friday, when I may have too many drinking days together coming off a cleanse. So I usually start on a Wednesday.

But yesterday, in a pre-cleanse record I only had two drinks. And both of them made me feel like shit! The first - a glass of pink bubbly - took my already sore head and blew it up about ten dress sizes. Yikes! I literally had to take a nap. Then later in the evening, I had a glass of red and after it was finished, I laid down on the couch for about half an hour and when I got up, I felt so bad ... that's when I actually broke down and cried. 

So I'm torn here between the fact I wish I could have my two drinking days back. Because they're so much fun just before a cleanse. And ... the fear that if I have a drink I'm going to feel worse again. 

That's my quandary. I'm leaning in the just start the damn cleanse direction at this point. Because I feel much better than I did last night and I'm loathe to have a drink and feel worse again.

By the way, I suffer through colds mostly without drugs. But last night I was feeling so bad I popped back two Advil Cold and Sinus and within half an hour I was feeling so much better. I was able to sleep and feel comfortable all night. And, as I said, I feel pretty good right now - sans drugs. 

So this post is dedicated to the pharmaceutical industry I guess. Centrum, Advil, et al ... ;)  

Friday, April 5, 2013

Mixed Drinks & Emotions

Between the cocktails and the SPF rubdowns, I managed to get some very depressing reading done in Vegas. More stories from Drinking Diaries, the book based on the popular blog.

Like how one woman's friend - a 'sparkling' personality and wit - ended up dead of cirrhosis at only 26. Sad, sad, sad. And yet I couldn't help but feel a jolt of hope about it, too. I'm so convinced that cleansing can help people get control of their drinking before it gets to the point where disease is the natural conclusion of addiction and abuse.

Even in the desert sunshine reading sad stories I could feel it.

Why? Because I have control now - and I simply didn't before. I knew what it was like to not be able to stop drinking. To open the first bottle sometime before noon - and not stop. All day or night. To get sloppy, slurry, angry, depressed, clumsy - totally out of control. And terrified.

But this was not the most debauched Vegas trip that ever happened - and that's because I can now drink when I want and stop when I want. It's a little sad to think how many glasses of wine I didn't quite finish at dinner. ;) Just because I knew I didn't need it at the time - and could grab another at any of the seventeen million bars a bit later.

Another first was bringing wine back from Vegas. We stayed in a suite and picked up a few bottles for the room - drinks to get ready by. But I didn't even crack the cheap but cheerful Coppola Sauvignon Blanc we picked up. Packed it in the suitcase to bring home.

That's why I get such mixed feelings about hearing drinking horror stories. Because as sad as they are, I really feel there's a way out ... at least in the early stages of a problem. Regular cleansing. It's fun and it's joyful and it's full of hope. Which is the exact opposite of how addiction makes you feel.

By the way ... five drinking days left before my next cleanse!! ;)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Water Into Wine

Hope the Bunny brought some fun to your place over the long weekend. Or at least that you had some fun of your own!

At the risk of sounding like an A.A. meeting with all the God talk lately, one last nod to this season of religiosity: if you could turn water into wine they'd be talking about you for a long time too! Great freaking party trick. ;)

Btw 10 days to my spring cleanse. Remember you don't have to cleanse at this time of year - the choice is totally personal and up to you - but I've tried several options and it's pretty pleasant around now.  Beats February hands down.

But much revelry until then - Vegas style!