Friday, June 28, 2013

Isn't It Ironic?


1  [ahy-ruh-nee, ahy-er-]  Show IPA

noun, plural i·ro·nies.
the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of itsliteral meaning: the irony of her reply, “How nice!” when I said I had towork all weekend.
a technique of indicating, as through character or plotdevelopment, an intention or attitude opposite to thatwhich is actually or ostensibly stated.
(especially in contemporary writing) a manner oforganizing a work so as to give full expression tocontradictory or complementary impulses, attitudes, etc.,especially as a means of indicating detachment from asubject, theme, or emotion.
an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected.

Everyone gave Alanis Morissette such a hard time back in the 90s when her anthem about life's little misfortunes hit the charts. 

"No, Alanis," we said, "a black fly in your chardonnay is not ironic. It's shit luck." Of course, "Shit Luck" didn't fly at the record company so they went with something more literary instead. 

Turns out - according to definition 5 up there - yes, ironic can refer to an outcome different than what we expected (i.e. we didn't plan for a fly in our chardonnay, but that it happened, yes, is shit luck, but also possibly ironic. One way or another, just pick the damn thing out and drink up already!)

Anyway, as I mentioned I was having lunch with a friend from ballet class this week. "A" is a gorgeous 30-something brunette with a smart, sensitive, cool personality. We met when we were in class together, always chatting at the barre. (Very different from some of my old drinking buddies - whom I would meet at different kinds of bars.) 

Unfortunately, we lost touch when we registered for different classes and it's been almost a year since I've seen her. But we bumped into each other at the school a couple of weeks ago and were so happy, we decided to do something non-ballet related.  

So Wednesday we took the plunge and hit a patio for lunch. In the last post I wondered if 'the plan' would come up. Or if we'd end up talking about my drinking opportunity at all. (You see, I now call it a 'drinking opportunity' as opposed to a drinking problem! I'm a glass-half-full kinda gal! And it better be at least half full or you're in trouble!)

Truth is, I'm not ashamed about my past or the plan. And I've never had a bad response from anyone about it. However, I just wondered if it would come up with A.

Well ... it came up. 

First thing. 

We got a great table in the shade on the patio of a trattoria overlooking a leafy square. The waiter, nose ring and all, came over to ask if we wanted anything to drink. Right away, A said: "Sorry, not for me. I don't drink. But you go ahead." She looked at me with a  smile. 

"Well, isn't that ironic," I said to myself. Ms. Functional's new friend doesn't drink. 

Just the same, I soldiered on and ordered a 'quartino' (small 8-oz carafe) of pinot grigio. When the waiter left, she said "I hope you don't think I'm weird. I've just never had the taste for it."  

"No! Not at all! I don't think that's weird!" Honestly, I think whatever people have to do to stay happy and healthy when it comes to drinking, they should happily do. 

But - the question was, do I leave it at that? Or do I spring something so 'heavy' on her in our very first few minutes together. I took a bit of a breath and said, "Actually, I wondered if this was going to come up. I might as well just come out and say it. I've had problems with my drinking in the past - big problems ..." And I went on to tell her, as briefly as I could, about those problems, about what I do about it, and about the blog. She was supportive and interested and completely cool. 

Because it may be a tad ironic for Ms. Functional's new friend to be a non-drinker. But unlike rain on your wedding day, it ain't shit luck! We had a great time eating a yummy lunch and talking about things other than pirouettes. Though we talked pirouettes too. And I only had that one serving of wine. 

In the old days, none of this would have happened. Because most of my friends were drinking buddies. One of them was even such a big drinking buddy that she's actually in A.A. now. As you could imagine, we don't see each other nearly as much anymore. ;) 

Whether other people drink, don't drink, drink sometimes, drink a lot, it doesn't really matter to me. It would have in the old days. But it doesn't anymore. Because cleansing helps put alcohol in perspective. Life isn't about drinking anymore. At least it's not just about drinking. ;) And really, the last thing I need is a drinking buddy. Because I'd hate for either of us to end up in A.A.! 

btw, A and I plan on getting together more often. And that one glass of wine was splendid! Believe it or not, nary a fly came near. Guess they prefer chardonnay. 

Hella weekend coming up! Happy Pride! Happy Canada Day! Happy Run-Up-To-The-4th! Use your sunblock, stay safe, have lots of fun but don't end up in emergency having to get your stomach pumped, ok? Because that might be ironic, but it would definitely be shit luck. 

With that ... here's Alanis singing a song that somehow still feels fresh after all these years.  It's also inspiring to see what must be the cheapest mega-hit video ever made! Have a great weekend! 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Eight Is Enough

 James Gandolfini's funeral is set for tommorow, Thursday. His death was ruled a simple heart attack - and I don't want to cast the shadow of alcohol abuse over that. But the star has struggled with cocaine and alcohol  addiction in the past - and when I heard the news, I wondered ...

But even if those troubles were behind him, Gandolfini had eight drinks over dinner the night he died. We can say that's excessive, yet this kind of alcohol tolerance is almost inevitable for heavy drinkers. The more you drink, the more you can drink.

That's because the livers of heavy drinkers produce more alcohol dehydrogenase, the enzyme needed to digest alcohol. The fact he was eating a large meal also helped slow down the absorption of alcohol which meant he probably wasn't even feeling the true effects of all the booze that night.

Don't we all remember a night like that - probably on vacation with people we loved - where the drinks just kept flowing and the food just kept coming, but we didn't feel drunk - so we kept having more, more, more?

I know I had a much higher tolerance to alcohol before I started cleansing. But regular breaks from drinking have lowered my tolerance substantially. I can say this because even as a 28-day cleanse approaches, I feel the addictive nature of alcohol setting in. I feel my tolerance beginning to raise. I can drink more (and I want more!) than I did just five months earlier when the last cleanse took place.

But that's exactly how this plan evolved. I kept working on it until ... it simply worked.

By regularly interrupting my exposure to an addictive substance, I can keep a balance in my life. I can still enjoy what's pleasurable about drinking - because there is real pleasure, can't deny that. But I no longer get to the point where I can't stop. And that was really the crazy pain of addiction. Wanting to stop and not being able to ... So I consider myself lucky. :)

btw - having lunch with a friend from ballet class today. It's a drinking day, natch. She doesn't know about my past troubles ... I wonder if it will come up. Hmmmmm ... ;)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Erin's Error

Erin Brockovich - the most famous law clerk in the world - became even more infamous earlier this month when she was charged with drunk boating in Nevada. She was arrested after police saw her doing a pathetic job of trying to park her boat on Lake Mead.

Erin explained she only had a couple of drinks that day, but without eating and after being in the hot sun, the booze must've gone to her head. Here's the unglam mug shot - sunburn and all. She's since been released on bail. 

Although some people are having a go at Erin for the blunder, drunk boating can be a serious problem. Alcohol plays a factor in 1/3 of all boating fatalities and some states, like Washington, are even increasing penalties to boaters who blow over the limit (0.08). In Canada, a third charge could send you to prison for 90 days. 

So with summer starting up, stay safe! Bring your sunblock, eat some sandwiches - and if you're the captain, save the beer for the dock!

Erin has apologized for the incident and hopes it doesn't detract from her work. She continues to be a consumer advocate, almost twenty years after winning the biggest class action law suit against a California gas company that allegedly poisoned the drinking water in Hinkley, CA. The incident inspired the 2000 flick starring Julia Roberts, who won the Oscar for portraying the ballsy, busty - and, as it turns out, occasionally boozy Broad-kovich. ;)

btw I was hoping to steer clear of James Gandolfini's death from here on in - just out of respect. But in light of the fact he had eight drinks with dinner the night he died, there's more to talk about. Just letting the details sift down ...

Friday, June 21, 2013


Today is a Drinking Yay! I mean Day

Lots to celebrate today. It's Friday, it's an on-day and it's the first day of summer!

In honor of the solstice, here's a lovely summer cocktail. A little more challenging than my usual pop & pour libations, but the lady's got a nice accent and there are lots of gorgeous shots of a dreamy life in California.

btw if you're not into complicated cocktails, below is YouTube footage of summer solstice celebrations at Stonehenge. About 20,000 people show every year to mark the turning of the seasons. 

This mysterious World Heritage Site, believed to have been built around 2500 BC by aliens and/or Druids and/or Witches and/or Various Other Pagans - or quite possibly just some really strong folks who hadn't discovered cocktails yet - is getting a multi-million dollar revamp to improve traffic congestion and generally protect the area. (Stonehenge predates the Roman Empire, so contrary to popular belief they probably didn't have anything to do with it.) 

I made a pilgrimage to Stonehenge back in 1989. On foot. With my backpack. I can't remember if we walked because we were ambitious - or just hungover and missed the bus. But it really was an eerie, moving, 'magickal' place.

I wonder if the renovation includes putting in a bar? Because I don't remember a single cocktail in sight back then. Good thing there were several stops at ancient pubs on the trek there. btw, I still use my black leather Stonehenge bookmark everyday. Twenty-five years later, it's still in mint condition ... Hmmmm ... Spooooky!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Happy, Healthy Heart

Cleanse Day

So I showed up with the humble vintage yesterday - and it was much appreciated! :) The two of us happily polished off the bottle.

Which meant of course ... extra wine for me yesterday. I didn't actually get day-drunk but put it this way: my system is going to appreciate a cleanse day today. ;) I even found myself popping back a couple aspirin this morning.

But the great thing is I'm not cringing with shame, guilt or remorse - like when I overindulged in the old days. There's no comparison in terms of scale of course , but still - the whole point of cleansing is to be able to enjoy yourself every now and again. Besides, the experts say aspirin is good for the heart, right? And I know cleansing is good for the soul. 

A questionable segue here, but one I want to make.  Especially in light of James Gandolfini's death yesterday - of an apparent heart attack - at only 51. Because I just learned some IMPORTANT news about pain killers and your health.

As I mentioned, aspirin can be good for your heart, but to make sure it's right for you, check out this info from the Mayo Clinic.

MORE IMPORTANTLY- I always thought ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) was also good for your heart. But I just learned ibuprofen can actually raise the chance of a fatal stroke in healthy individuals by as much as 29%!  Other common pain killers like Voltaren can increase the risk of heart disease by 91%! If you're concerned about how your pills perform, check out the results of this Danish study about the dangers of common drugs.

I'm sure you'll be hearing a lot about Mr. Gandolfini in the coming days. But here's a tidbit you might miss: his father was a chief maintenance worker at a Catholic high school and his mother was a school lunch lady. In New Jersey, no less. Doesn't that seem perfect somehow? Especially for our conflicted anti-hero, Tony.

If you have five minutes, here's the final scene from The Sopranos. Even more moving now than when it went off the air almost six years ago to the day - June 10, 2007. I actually started to bawl.

RIP James. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Too Cheap Or Not Too Cheap?

Today is an On-Day or a Drinking Day 

Getting ready for last-minute visit with a friend this afternoon. I want to bring a bottle of wine to the house, but I only have a cheap French white in the fridge. $11.95 here, even less in some places.

I love it as one of my everyday wines, but I usually try to be more generous when I bring a bottle to someone's house.  So, do I rush out early and stop at a liquor store to pick up something more flashy? 

Or do I let the chick know that - hey, cheap French wine ROX!!

Of course ... so does cheap Californian ... and cheap Italian ... and ... you get my point. ;) 

For the record it's La Vieille Ferme Luberon - and the connoisseurs didn't diss it, so I may save myself a trip.  The experts also say not to let this vintage "age."  

So I guess that's another check in the hellz-yeah-drink-it-today box!! 

Ahh ... dilemmas. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Drinking Diet?

Today is an Off-Day or Cleanse Day

So who says dreams don't come true?

A study published in the Journal of American Medicine is getting some attention lately. Because it claims women who are moderate drinkers are actually less likely to gain weight than women who don't drink at all - or those who drink to excess. (Sorry, fellas, this one's for us - though if you're interested, Ms. Functional does have a great weight loss secret below.)

Researchers believe that moderate drinkers metabolize alcohol differently - and that it affects everything else they consume. Because these women were also able to eat more food than teetotalers or heavy drinkers, while still maintaining a leaner overall body weight.

The experts are still zeroing in on all the factors at play here, but they believe that people who learn to moderate their alcohol intake may also be more health conscious in general - and that may play a role.

"Moderate" in this case means 1-2 drinks a day - and these are not super-sized drinks. But 4-oz glasses of wine or 1.5-oz of liquor. And none of this applies if you're saving your drinks to binge on the weekend - because the body doesn't adapt to those kinds of drinking habits, so the excess calories in the alcohol will be stored as fat instead.

Does this mean we should drink every day? 

I don't. As you probably know. I take two months off a year and two days off every week. But I will tell you that even with this plan, my metabolism must have adapted to alcohol consumption in much the same way as moderate daily drinkers because I have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of about 19 (18.5 - 24.9 is considered normal). I think an overall healthy diet and lifestyle contributes to this, but one way or another, I'm quite lean. 

As for keeping alcohol intake down to 1-2 drinks a day, congratulations if you've been able to do it. If you have, you really don't need this plan. 1-2 drinks a day is not alcohol abuse. 

However, if you're reading this blog, chances are you left "moderate" in the dust years ago. Making the jump from alcohol abuse to moderate drinking is a real challenge. In fact, it is the challenge for the problem drinker who doesn't want to abstain.

I know before I started cleansing I made countless promises to myself that I would become a moderate drinker. I'm just going to have two drinks today. That's it. Then I'm gonna stop! I promise! No way I'm having a single drop more than (hic) ... Cut to me passed out in bed with a half-empty bottle of wine (sometimes my third for the day) hidden in my nightstand. So much for my grand plans of becoming a moderate drinker. And it happened. All. The. Time.

However, once I started cleansing, getting my drinking down to a healthier level became so much easier for me. I believe 1-2 drinks a day could even be a reasonable goal for me now. 

But I'm very leery to start drinking every day again. I would hate for it to eventually lead to another loss of control. And I really don't envy the 1-2 drinks-a-day lifestyle, anyway. I enjoy having days where I don't drink at all - like today. And I enjoy having nights when I drink more than two glasses of wine. I just enjoy the cleansing lifestyle. It works for me. I love it so much in fact, I have no desire to change it. 

But if you're drinking too much now and moderation (1-2 drinks every day) is really your ultimate goal, maybe cleansing can help you get there.  I believe this lifestyle can really help problem drinkers learn to manage their alcohol intake and 'get control.' And once you're in control, setting your own personal goals for drinking is much easier. 

btw, I mentioned I'd share my biggest healthy weight secret. I've never been obese, but ever since I was a teenager I definitely battled with my weight. Particularly the hip and thigh area. In 1997, I started incorporating protein into every meal and most snacks I had. Until then, I was still living like a student on toast and pasta with jarred tomato sauce. Carbs, carbs, carbs. 

But ever since I started eating more protein with every meal and snack, my weight has no longer been an issue. Even though I eat quite a bit. Whether the protein helps keep you more satisfied or actually has an effect on your overall metabolism, I'm not sure (I'm a Ms. not a Dr. remember?), all I can say is ... it works. Probably in much the same way it satisfies people on the Atkins and other high-protein diets - only you can still enjoy eating carbs in a healthy way. 

If you don't believe me, try this trick: Next time you find yourself in front of the cupboard or fridge chowing down uncontrollably on chips, cookies, ice cream, chocolates or whatever high-carb, high-fat snack that is your current weakness ... stop yourself for one second. 

Open a can of salmon or tuna - and have a few spoonfuls of that. Add a smidge of low-fat mayo if you absolutely can't stomach the plain fish (but try it plain first because that'll immediately kill your appetite, too!).

If you're ambitious and really want to be healthy, chop up some celery and onion and make a full-out super-yummy tuna or salmon salad. But that's not necessary if you don't have the time. Just try the tuna or salmon - or ham or chicken or tofu wieners or gefilte fish or whatever handy protein you have (try at least 1-3 ounces). 

It's unbelievably effective for immediately stopping an uncontrollable empty-calorie carb pig-out in its tracks. You'll be able to walk away from the cupboard feeling satisfied for hours. Plus you'll have the feeling of being in control of the binge, which is great for your ongoing confidence when it comes to controlling excess food intake, too. 

After all, Ms. Functional isn't just concerned about healthier drinking. I'm into good health overall. And that includes a healthy body weight. "Take that, bastard Doritos!"

Here's the full article about the effects of moderate drinking on weight levels from registered dietician, Karen Ansel: "Drinking To Shrink."

Monday, June 17, 2013

Midnight Mayhem

Today is an On-Day or Drinking Day 

It was great waking up Saturday morning completely cobweb free. Because Friday was a cleanse day, I got tons done. Normally I get more drinking done on Fridays ... and a little less of everything else. ;)

But I'd totally recommend shaking up your week like this. Part of the reason the plan works so well is because it's flexible. So if Friday's a really busy day or night for some reason, take it as a cleanse day. You'll be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Saturday morning - great for taking the kids to soccer practice - and you'll be really looking forward to the rest of the weekend. Because both Saturday and Sunday were drinking days for me. Plus it's fun to turn one of your other cleanse days into a drinking day to make up for the change. In this case, as I mentioned, I took Thursday as an on-day, when I usually cleanse.

btw - if you're up past midnight on a cleanse day and the clock strikes midnight, officially it becomes a drinking day, right? So if you're in the mood, there's nothing wrong with a late night sip on the plan.

For instance, the hubs got in late from being out of town on Friday. We chatted a bit and suddenly it was midnight. Saturday! The cleanse day was officially over.

"You feel like a nightcap?" the hubs asked, looking at the clock, grinning.

I thought about it. Yawned. Stretched. Blinked. And decided, nope! I was too tired. It would be a waste of energy, time - and good wine. So I hit the hay and had a nice long sleep instead.

But there have been occasions where I've poured a glass of wine at midnight after a cleanse day. It can be fun and relaxing - especially if it's not a school night.

However, you shouldn't be sitting by the clock with a glass in one hand and a bottle in the other, waiting for the clock to strike twelve after every cleanse day! That's taking advantage of the already pretty cushy rules of cleansing! So try not to make it a habit!

btw going to have some good news for tomorrow! Drinking moderately can actually help you stay slimmer. Sound too good to be true? The scientists can back it up. Will have the deets next time!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Stepping Out

 Today is a Cleanse Day or Off-Day

Oh man. I noticed I screwed up my very first 'on-day/off-day' thing! Yesterday I said it was a Cleanse Day when it was actually a drinking day. I've fixed it now, but that must've been confusing! Sorry!

Anyway, it's Friday today. My first non-drinking Friday since finishing my cleanse just over a month ago. All good though! Tons to do - and last night was fun with pasta and vino! 

I mentioned that I'm trying to illustrate how manageable a lifestyle cleansing can be. Key word here: 'manageable.' Because the very first step in A.A. is admitting that you're powerless over alcohol and that your life has become "unmanageable."  I know abusing alcohol can make life unmanageable. I've been there. But I can honestly say cleansing has helped me feel in control again.

It's still interesting to take a look at the steps and refresh your memory about them (below). A lot of people object to the religious overtones of A.A. But the steps would sound religious even without all the direct references to God. The guilt these rules must entrench in members is pretty astounding. Then again, alcoholics are accustomed to guilt, so it's a good fit.

More than the references to higher powers, I personally have a problem with the self-critical nature of the steps. Take a look especially at #6 and #7. They both refer to God removing our 'defects of character' and 'shortcomings.' I really hate that! It's so self-punishing. That's one thing the plan will never do. Make you tell yourself you have some fault or defect of character. Nope - the plan is all about self-love and forgiveness. 

Which sounds sort of religious, too, doesn't it? Huh. 

Anyway, I think the steps should read more like this: 

Step 7 - Humbly asked God to remove the GABRG3 gene on chromosome 15 that makes us more susceptible to alcohol abuse - which, I may humbly remind Him, He put there in the first place, God knows why!

Of course, they didn't know much about genetic research in 1935 when A.A. was founded. ;)

So here they are, from

  • Step 1 - We admitted we were powerless over our addiction - that our lives had become unmanageable 
  • Step 2 - Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity 
  • Step 3 - Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God 
  • Step 4 - Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves 
  • Step 5 - Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs 
  • Step 6 - Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character 
  • Step 7 - Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings 
  • Step 8 - Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all 
  • Step 9 - Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others 
  • Step 10 - Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted
  • Step 11 - Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that out 
  • Step 12 - Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs