Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Yellowed Out

This isn't funny. But it's a segue that's strangely appropriate. I talked about Big Bird last time - just to clean the palette of mortality rates before the weekend.

Well ... an article from the Daily Mail featured what looks like a human Big Bird yesterday. Gack!! The pic's below - and I'll probably take it down shortly because it's tacky, exploitative and kinda gross.  So if you're eating, you might want to skip this one.

Patricia Murphy is a 45-year-old British woman who basically threw her life away with her recycled wine bottles. She suffered from alcoholism for years and was drinking about 350 units every week. The maximum recommended intake in the U.K. is 14 units per week for women - 21 for men. (A unit is 7.9 grams of alcohol - or one standard drink. Doctors always like to be posh, don't they? Like 'drink' isn't fancy enough for them?)

Anyway, Ms. Murphy had been to A.A. meetings and rehab in her life, but she never could kick the habit. Until ... she turned yellow last year and was admitted to hospital with cirrhosis of the liver.

Cirrhosis - also called alcohol liver disease - kills between 10,000-25,000 people in the U.S. every year. In the U.K., deaths from cirrhosis have increased substantially since 1960 - about 85% for men and 45% for women, probably partly due to the fact alcohol consumption has doubled in that time.

The liver performs more than 300 vital functions in the body - including processing alcohol. When the organ is taxed beyond its capacity, failure is the result and one of the symptoms is jaundice - or yellowing of the skin and eyes.  At the time, Ms. Murphy was given a 5% chance of survival. The good news is, after ten weeks of treatment, she made it out alive and seven months later, she's still sober. Plus she no longer looks like a human Big Bird.

On a lighter note, Lindsay Lohan was bright-eyed and bushy-maned getting out of her schmancy Malibu rehab clinic yesterday. Now she's off to spend some time with her sober living coach. So hopefully the possibility of her turning yellow from liver disease has been dramatically reduced. Though I imagine we'll still see her turn orange from the occasional fake tan.

Here's the full article  about Ms. Murphy and her surprising recovery. And as threatened, the scary pic! (Incidentally, the way it worked out today, this woman's picture is right across from my photo!! It looks like a before/after shot or something! And I don't know which is which! Anyway - I DON'T LIKE IT!)

Y-I-K-E-S!!

           e                 At death's door: Patricia Murphy, last November, when her organs shut down as a result of cirrhosis of the liver and she had developed blood poisoning

Friday, July 26, 2013

Mortality Rates and Big Bird

I briefly mentioned some contradictory alcohol news the other day. I keep wanting to blog it ... but I have this resistance.

When I first read the headline in Medical News Today, I thought "Wow! Another great reason to drink!" Because the slug read: How Non-Drinkers Can Be At Higher Death Risk.

The article went on to state that a University of Colorado study was conducted using data from the 1988 National Health Interview Survey. 41,000 people in the U.S. were asked about their drinking habits, then a follow-up survey was done in 2006. The researchers wanted to determine how drinking patterns affected mortality rates: in other words, who of the participants had kicked the bucket in the intervening 18 years.

They found that people who abstained from alcohol had a "relatively higher risk of dying." The numbers ranged from 17% for people who didn't drink because they never liked the taste, to a whopping 38% for former drinkers who had quit.

Hey, all good, Ms. Functional's thinking. Yay! But then I kept reading ... because the news for heavier drinkers was even worse than abstainers - even though that didn't make for quite so catchy a headline.

1-2 drinks a day seemed to be the safest group with only a 9% higher mortality rate. But for 3-4 drinks a day it went up to 49%. More than that and there was a 58% higher risk of mortality. Meaning more than half of those studied who were heavy drinkers ... were dead 18 years later.

Scary!

Anyway, I've been studiously doing the math on my own drinking habits. I'm really lucky that I don't drink every day and that I take those two months off a year because if I didn't ... well ... suffice it to say, you could very well be sending flowers before 18 years was up. And not because you liked me.

Now over and above my rather impressive layperson research skills ... thank you, you're too kind ... my scientific credentials come from the summer job I had as a chemistry demonstrationist at the science center in my hometown. (I've mentioned it once or twice. Hilarious summer! I worked with a couple of blooming mad geniuses and we ended up in the emergency ward for everything from accidents with homemade fireworks to exploding balloons. We made it out alive, thankfully. Though we were all politely let go before the end of the summer in favor of some safer, more boring nerds. That's not something you put on your resume, btw. ;) ) Anyway, what I'm saying is ... I'm not a scientific expert.

However, I've done enough research into alcoholism over the years to know that these higher rates among heavy drinkers might not just be due to alcohol consumption - but other unhealthy habits that heavy drinkers tend to develop.

For instance, generally alcoholics have poorer diets. Here's more information from a study conducted in 2011 and other research released by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

This information - and tons more on the web - seems to indicate that heavy drinking goes hand in hand with unhealthy diets. Which over the course of almost 20 years could definitely lead to a higher mortality rate among the participants in the Colorado study. Because according to the World Health Organization (and your mother/doctor/trainer/know-it-all-fitness-freak-at-your-old-gym) diets high in saturated and trans fats, sodium, sugars and low in fruits, vegetables and fiber can lead to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, certain cancers, etc.  (Here's the full article from WHO about the implications of unhealthy diet.)

Also interesting to note is that alcoholics and heavy drinkers tend to be smokers, as well. A study published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research found that between 80-95% of alcoholics smoke cigarettes and of these people, 70% were heavy smokers.

We've all seen this phenomenon in the groups of people huddled outside church basements blowing smokes before an A.A. meeting. It's almost a cliche. This is also something A.A. critics hurl at them (even privately): "Oh sure, maybe you quit drinking - but you're going to die of lung cancer!" Caroline Knapp, the author of Drinking: A Love Story, an A.A. member, smoker - and the woman who started this journey for me ten years ago - died of lung cancer at only 42.

Having quit smoking myself more than 20 years ago, I'm honestly not trying to be self-righteous. Especially because recovering alcoholics may be set up to enjoy nicotine more. (Reasons vary from genetic disposition, to the balancing of stimulating and depressing effects of alcohol and cigarettes, to the nature of addictive personalities.) Whatever the case, it's harder for alcoholics and reformed drinkers to kick nicotine - simply because they enjoy it more. So naturally, people in this group will tend to be smokers.

What I'm trying to get at is a clarification of the findings of that Colorado study. Because the fact that heavy drinkers had a higher mortality rate could also be because they probably also smoked, had unhealthy diets and didn't exercise. The findings didn't provide causes of death (i.e. liver vs. lung cancer) only the actual mortality rates.

Anyway, I'm certainly not trying to advocate heavy drinking! Or trying to refute the scary findings of this study. But I am advocating a healthier lifestyle overall. This is important for everyone - but it's absolutely vital if you drink. Especially because an even more recent study conducted by the University of Colorado (hmmm ... connection?) has found that regular exercise can actually improve the damage done to the brain by alcohol abuse.

So remember, if you're going to continue to enjoy your martini lunches, white wine girls nights, lots of beers with the boys ... then eat your veggies, get enough sleep and do your pushups!

Enough said.

Man. I wish I had something fun and optimistic to add right now. It's Friday! The weekend's starting! All this freaking talk of lung cancer, alcoholism, mortality rates. It's depressing! I can't just leave it here. I can't.

So the cheeriest thing I can think of attaching is ... the opening theme to Sesame Street. Insane, I know! The reason it even occurs to me is that I was going to post it earlier - when I stopped labeling my drinking days and non-drinking days. Simply because I thought: "Today is a drinking day!" was a bit, well, Street-y. "Today is brought to you by the letter D - for drinking!"

But when I watched it that time (couple times actually), it was so damn fun and cheerful that I haven't been able to forget it. Kids. Slides. Sunshine. Big Bird. Wow. Mind you, I don't have little ones running around - so I don't already hear it twice a day (apologies to those of you who do!). But it really can lighten things up.

The first version is from the early 2000's. It's short and super upbeat. The second one is the original from the 60s and 70s. It's longer with kind of murky production values, but it's there if you want a stroll down Memory Lane. Or Street, as the case may be.  Like I said, insane!

Have a great weekend! And get some exercise!

The new! 


The old!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Way, Way Good!

I woke up in a blissful mood this morning, looking forward to a regular Wednesday. Maybe some pasta tonight, definitely some wine. "Man, how come I'm so happy this morning?" I thought.

But then I started poring through all kinds of contradictory news about alcohol - and I'm so confused I have to take some time to sort through it. I might even need a drink for that. ;)

So instead I'm going to talk about The Way, Way Back, a new summer movie that warrants mention here because ... well, there's a lot of drinking in it.

Funny man Steve Carrell gives a chilling performance as Trent, the nasty boyfriend of divorcee Toni Collette. Both single, they take their teenaged kids to his beach house for the summer: his snooty daughter and her misfit son, Duncan. Poor Duncan and Trent do NOT get along. Having grown up in a home with a single mom who had more than her fair share OF IDIOT FUCKING BOYFRIENDS - I can tell you it's pretty convincing stuff. ;)

What made me think I've gotta blog this is Allison Janney's hilarious performance as Betty, the neighbor who makes her first appearance with a big drink in her hand (she almost always has a drink in her hand, btw.) "Thank God you're here! If I had to get drunk alone one more night, I'd kill myself ... Yeah, I'm off the wagon. Accept it and move on."

She says that a lot in the movie. Accept it and move on. Definitely sounded like self-talk from a failed treatment program to me. I immediately pictured decades of heavy drinking, probably some affairs and the inevitable messy divorce. Betty steals every scene she's in, somehow playing an unsympathetic character in a way that makes you want to invite her to your next barbecue, anyway.

And, oh yeah, she has a beautiful teenage daughter who - naturally -  ends up being Duncan's love interest.

As the grownups cook and drink and dance and drink and toke and drink and stay up all night and drink, Betty's daughter sighs in resignation. "Sucks here, huh? ... It's like spring break for adults."

I recognized Collette's poignant desperation as a single mom looking to find a new man. The subtle prioritizing of her boyfriend's needs above her son's, the inability to see her beau's many flaws, the way teenage independence is just a hair removed from parental neglect, the ... Jesus, sorry. This is beginning to sound like a cheap therapy session. Apologies to all the great single moms out there. (And thanks for listening!)

Over and above the fact it's a peek into my own sordid past (actually, we didn't have a beach house. Come on!), it's an awesome coming of age flick. As a viewer, you're somehow trapped between the teenagers and the grownups, living through what ends up being the BEST SUMMER EVUR!!!

There were moments that were so funny and memorable, it seemed to fix every broken heart, bad summer job and bathing suit mishap I've ever had. (Including that Grade 6 swimming field trip where my bikini top flipped up right in front of Billy Saunders ... Okay, maybe it didn't fix that ... accept it and move on ...)

Toss in hilarious performances by Sam Rockwell, SNL's Maya Rudolph and a water park full of quirky misfits, and you come out feeling like you got a psychic sunburn. But the good kind. Before anyone told you, "Oh my God! Put your sunblock on! You're going to get skin cancer and diiiiiieee!!!" (I feel sorry for kids who'll never know that before the hole in the ozone layer, sunburns used to be kinda fun.)

If you can't catch it this summer, it's going to be a perfect winter renter. Especially if you have a big umbrella drink in your hand. ;)

Okay, now that your expectations are blown all out of proportion and you're going to hate it and be all like, "WTF? It wasn't that good!" here's the trailer ... (btw the soundtrack kicks ass too!)



Monday, July 22, 2013

Flu Shots

In honor of the Royal Baby Watch, some news out of the U.K. today:

National Health Service hospital in Hampshire county has applied for a liquor license.  Not for the doctors and nurses - but for the patients themselves! Why not? A spoonful of sugar might help the medicine go down, but a good stiff drink makes you forget you're sick in the first place!

The hospital claims they'll serve wine and beer only and just in a new private wing. They also say only those patients deemed "medically appropriate" will be allowed to partake. So presumably no drinks for anyone who already has cirrhosis. ;)

Critics are quick to point out that the NHS is sending a "mixed message" about drinking, especially in a country that has seen its fair share of alcohol-related problems. Over the last decade, there's been a 51% increase in the number of hospital admissions linked to alcohol abuse, with more than 1.2 million people admitted during 2011-12. At the same time, deaths due to alcohol abuse among young women have been on the rise - in part due to the "ladette culture" of the 1980s which saw young women participating in traditionally male-oriented activities. Like getting super-sloshed.

Alcohol Concern and other agencies aimed at addressing alcohol-related issues, have recently lobbied the government to increase the price of booze, hoping that would reduce the number of alcohol-fueled health problems. But that policy was recently rejected by the powers-that-be.

No telling yet whether that Hampshire hospital will get its liquor license. But there's every chance it will - especially since it's not the only healthcare facility to serve alcohol in the UK.

The private Lindo Wing of St. Mary's Hospital - where the Duchess of Cambridge is currently in royal labor - already has a liquor license - and a fine wine list that includes champagne. For $25,000 (the approximate bill for the Duchess's stay) I guess they could put a little bubbly on the menu, right? And poor Kate. After being in labor almost twelve hours already, she could probably use a little something to take the edge off. I can just hear her plummy accent ringing throughout the halls: "Screw the epidural! Make mine a double! Aeeeeeeeiiigghhhhhh!! I hate you, Wills ... I've always hated you ... I ... always ... aaeeeeeighhhh!! Where's that DRINK, goddamnit!??!"

btw, Royal Mom and Dad-to-be are no strangers to the pleasures of the occasional night out. According to some royal watchers, they were quite posh party-heads back in university. If you haven't already seen it, here's an earlier post about the royal rowdiness: Lads & Ladettes.

Hopefully HRH Jr. will arrive some time today cuz it's a drinking day for me - and I wouldn't mind raising a little toast to the royal bundle myself.

Of course ... I'll probably do that anyway. ;)

Keep calm - and carry a tumbler of wine, Kate! Cheers!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Opposite of Glee

Yesterday the B.C. Coroner's office officially ruled on Canadian actor and Glee star Cory Monteith's death - "a mixed drug toxicity, involving heroin and alcohol." Less than three months after checking out of rehab.

It's beyond tragic. When you see footage of Cory, it's hard to believe, isn't it? This is not what heroin addicts look like. If they're famous, maybe they're skinny rock stars. But they're definitely not healthy, happy-looking, baby-faced heartthrobs. Toss in the money. The fame. The fans. The hit show. The incredible talent. The loving girlfriend, costar Lea Michele.  The bright future.  And only 31? Addiction is one ugly beast to take people like Cory.

Twenty years ago this summer, I was working on a small article for an arts newspaper about heroin addiction. A friend of mine was a doctor and she was volunteering in a methadone clinic, counseling a group of about ten or twelve heroin addicts in a room on the second floor. The clinic was just a crummy former dress shop in a sketchy neighborhood. Think used furniture. Dusty windows. Stained indoor-outdoor carpets. But it was still a busy place.

Downstairs, the addicts gave daily urine samples in order to receive the methadone that was supposed to help them kick their habit. Upstairs, they sat in a circle on the floor - we all did - and talked for three hours about their struggles over the past week.

These people were not like Cory Monteith. Nor were they the middle-class addicts who show up for A.A. meetings. They were junkies. Unemployed, emaciated, scraggly-haired, dressed in tattered t-shirts and jeans. They didn't just looked haunted. They looked possessed. In fact, one of the girls - a thin brunette barely in her 20s - called heroin the devil itself. How much fun, how charming, how pleasurable and promising it was during your first encounters. But one way or another, you sold your soul to it.

They were really good people, too. Sweet-hearted - despite the fact they talked about stealing. Painfully honest - despite their lies. "No, doc, I swear I didn't use this week, I swear ... " Pause. "Okay, maybe just once ..." They would disappear for weeks at a time. Sometimes for good. My doctor friend assumed some of them had overdosed. Though often she wouldn't know for sure.

When my husband and I heard about Cory's toxicology report, he said - not totally seriously - "I wonder if your cleanse system would work for heroin addicts." But I remembered those people sitting on the floor, fidgeting, laughing nervously, full of a hyper kind of energy - and more than anything, unending fear. And I wouldn't recommend cleansing to them. What I would recommend is to stay away from the damn hard stuff. Whether you're walking down red carpets - or sitting on indoor-outdoor ones.

Here's the Coroner's announcement  about Cory's death. And more about what the cast of the show was trying to do to help him deal with his problem - from HollywoodLife.com. And details about the dangers of overdosing soon after rehab. Also caught one fan's tribute to Cory and Lea on YouTube.
glee

/glē/
Noun
Great delight or pleasure.
Synonyms
mirth - joy - gaiety - rejoicing - merriment - gladness

Here's hoping Cory has finally found some. RIP ... 




Saturday, July 13, 2013

Happy Anniversary To Me!

I don't have much to say today. (Later note: this is a lie! I end up saying quite a bit!) But I want to write because it is the 10th anniversary of the first day I started cleansing - July 13, 2003.

It is truly the most perfect summer Saturday. In a year that has seen such crappy weather - barely a single day without some kind of rain or snow or strangling humidity or incredible heat - it's really perfect out there. 1973 perfect. It's not too hot. No humidity. Light breeze. The trees and flowers are so lush from all the rain. They sky is clear and blue. I sat out on the balcony for a while by myself - it was just turning noon - and everyone down on the street seemed so relaxed. Walking slowly. Easily. Alone, with friends, pushing strollers, walking dogs. Truly a perfect summer day ...

I'm taking today as a cleanse day. The anniversary is only half the reason though. The hubs went out of town this week so I changed my off-days to accommodate that. And I wanted to be able to have a glass of wine with A at lunch yesterday. It was a lovely time btw.

But even without the circumstances, I think it's right for today to be an off-day. I remember back when I started my first cleanse ... this day ten years ago ... oh my God ... it was not a fun day. I was terrified. I was listless. I was resentful. Pulsing with anger and rage.  I was ... did I mention terrified? I was so so SO scared. I knew my drinking had gotten out of control. And I knew I was looking at A.A. or something like it very soon if my recently-hatched, homemade 'alcohol cleansing' idea didn't work. And I had no reason to believe it would.

But I knew I had to do something. Because it wasn't just that I wanted to drink back then. The way it is now. It was that I had to drink. As much as my conscious mind said, no, no, no - I will not start today with a bottle of wine - I would watch my hand reaching for the bottle of wine. I would watch it like I was watching someone else's dismembered arm. I even look back on it that way. So many times. Watching someone else's arms, someone else's hands, opening the wine, pouring the wine. Someone else's eyes looking down into the glass - or, as often as not, just chugging straight from the bottle because it was one I had hidden in my closet or under the kitchen sink.

Someone else's limbs living my life because I had no control of those limbs.

Honestly, I don't yet know every medical, physiological or neurological reason that cleansing has given me control. But I'm determined to find out. I might even put my body up for scientific research at some addiction clinic somewhere. But I doubt I'll go back to school to become an addiction counselor or even a sketchy on-line certified therapist. I don't like school enough! I love to learn. I love to read. I love love love to research. But I like freedom, too. And I haven't given up on my fiction writing.

Someday I may have a complete change of heart. Gray-haired, knobby-kneed, eyes still twinkling: "Hey! Ya know what! I feel like going back to school!" And I'll become a counselor or a neurobiologist or something. ;) Instead of being some crazy writer with two flopped novels and a homemade strategy who decided "I have to share this! It's helped me so much, it might help other people, too!"

But you show me one method (one single method!) of rehab or recovery that works 100% of the time, and I'll consider it. But you can't. Because there is no method of guaranteed recovery for everyone. Especially one that still includes drinking.

There are other moderation methods out there. Maybe you know what they are. I definitely want to talk more about them in the coming months. But I will probably never try them. Because I sincerely don't want to risk changing what works for me. Why would I jeopardize that? Because I'm here 100% sober today - and 100% happy. An impossibility in the old days. The only happiness I had back then was in the first few instants after I had a swallow of wine.

Sometimes I wish I had some degree or title that would allow me to say: "MD/PhD with twenty-five years clinical experience treating thousands of addicts!" Because I sometimes imagine counselors or doctors reading this and thinking: "Wow, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, isn't it?"

Even my brilliant sister-in-law who is a professional therapist indirectly brought this up a few weeks ago.

"Well, your blog is very interesting, Sheri. You're very brave to share all this ... but ... um ... well, I'd like to see something a little more ... um ..."

And then she got this perplexed smile on her lips, which she was trying to hide from me. Not her whole face. Just her lips. Her forehead actually rumpled. She didn't want to insult me, but as a life-long academic over-achiever (she has more letters after her name than some people have in them!), she can't possibly completely buy into a layperson's version of something that is usually done in a clinical or organized group setting. My jokes. My anecdotes. The occasional news flash about who got a DUI or some new alcohol research. The sarcasm. The casualness. The lack of judgment.  The occasional swear. All this would run completely contrary to what she - and most professionals - would consider serious addiction help.

I mean, even as a blog on its own, this one's not very impressive. I know that. Anyone who's read older posts can see my learning curve has been very long and very slow. (Man, to be a writer born in an age when you have to be a tech wizard and a used car salesman self-promoter to boot! Oh cruel twist of fate!)

She was still struggling with how to finish her sentence when I said, "Clinical?"

"Well, yes," she said. I'm sure she wanted to enroll me in one of her classes right then and there. Because she teaches as well as having her own practice - though she doesn't specialize in addiction. (btw she has two perfect kids, she's ten years younger than me and she's really pretty, too! So yeah, poor me!)

But even without the credentials to back it up, I know this plan has worked. What's more, it's a lovely, relatively easy, enjoyable way to live.

Will you be perfect at it all the time? Maybe not. Will you sometimes drink too much? Probably. (I certainly do sometimes - that's part of why I love it!) Will you sometimes even break a wildcard rule? You might. I have in the past - occasionally. But you keep it to a minimum and you forgive yourself. Don't get discouraged by imperfection. Trust yourself and go on.

The important thing is to try not to break the cleanses. Because I believe that's the real crux of why this system works. Interrupting your exposure to alcohol so your body can learn to live without it on a regular basis. Cleansing helps give you the emotional confidence and the physical ability to do that.

I know living without alcohol seems scary. I remember that day ten years ago, staring down the shotgun barrel of six months without booze. Holy fuck. How terrifying. How frustrating. How enraging. How impossible.

But it's not impossible. Because here I stand - well, sit actually. Ten years later.

Now I know cleansing won't be for everybody. And only you will know if it's right for you. You will feel it in your bones. In your heart.  And you will also know if it's wrong for you. If you can't stop drinking even for a day on your own - knowing there's an actual plan waiting to help you through - then obviously you'll need another way out. There are many - and I mean many! - other moderation options out there. Abstinence is not the only way to treat addiction anymore. And I will share the ones I know about in the coming months.

But for some of you, cleansing will be the way. And it's because it'll work with who you are as a person and how you like to live.

You will probably not be someone who needs a lot of social attention. The idea of going to meetings once, twice, three times a week, and talking about your personal problems will not appeal to you. You may not even care to leave comments on blogs or forums.

You may not have the time to go to rehab for a month.

You may not have the money to go to rehab for a month. (Who the hell does?!)

You may not have a health plan for supplements or drugs. You may be leery of using pharmaceuticals, anyway. Because there are medications out there that have been proven to cure or ease alcohol cravings and addiction in some people. But they do have side effects. And you may not want to risk that.

You may be easily bored. Meaning you would prefer variety in your life - drinking days and non-drinking days - as opposed to X-number-of-drinks-a-day-every-day-for-the-rest-of-your-life.

You may be independent of spirit. You will not necessarily want a counsellor or doctor to guide you through every step. You may want to do it on your own.

And you will probably enjoy as much freedom in your life as you can manage.

Alcohol cleansing responds to all of these traits. It's simple, natural, mostly enjoyable - and very, very cheap. (Even when I get the book out - it'll be cheap. I promise you that.)  And when you start, you'll know if it's right for you. And if it's not right for you ... I hope it will help you find what is.

Because today - this perfect summer Saturday, ten years after I sat in a crazy heap of nervous terror, confusion and shame - I know it's right for me.

btw, the hubs will be back tonight and I'm pretty sure I'll stay up for midnight and toast the anniversary! I might even make it champagne!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Stalling

It hasn't been five years since I've seen my mother!

It's been less than that. She came to town for a wedding a while back. Her brother was getting remarried - to a woman about fifteen years younger than him. This bride has also taken my place in the family, incidentally. Dotes on my mother like a long lost daughter. At the wedding, my mother gave a drunken impromptu speech in her honor. Dragged a chair over to the middle of the dance floor, made them turn up the lights, put on her glasses, and read from a crumpled sheaf of handwritten notes.

Ten minutes. Fifteen minutes. Twenty minutes. About how much she adores this woman. How close they are. I sat at our table, staring at my (nice) uncle and aunt, my husband, my brother, my cousins ... inwardly rolling my eyes, shaking my head. Nice. I guess I deserve it. I'm no longer the doting daughter myself.

Anyway, the bride's a very organized, buttoned-down, Type A person. So you could imagine everyone's shock - especially mine - when she got soooo damn sloshed at her own wedding! I mean, falling down drunk. In her off-white three-quarter length dress and low heels. You've never seen a bride this drunk on her wedding day - not even in the movies. In fact, maybe you've never seen anybody this drunk at a wedding. You'd hear something fall in a corner of the reception room - you'd look over - and sure enough somebody would be helping the bride off the floor.

At the podium, she made a long speech and cried all the way through it. "Dreams do come true!" she declared triumphantly. At 50-ish, she'd never been married. She had brought her old Barbie dolls for some reason. Had them up there at the podium, all bedraggled and limp, shaking them in the air as she talked. The adorable little flower girls - a handful of them - were standing in a clump on the dance floor in their pouffy little dresses, staring up at her, crying and wailing themselves, their fancy ringlets trembling as they looked around in confusion because they couldn't understand why Auntie was sooooo sad. Wow. I find it hilarious when buttoned-down people get so drunk. It's like a personal triumph or something. It shouldn't be. But it is.

Next day there was a brunch at a restaurant. Twenty of us maybe. The bride and groom showed up, none the worse for wear. I'm serious! I was expecting some indication of embarrassment, a headache, a little nod to "Some night, huh?" from the bride. But not one word. Nothing. She was right back to her Type A routine.

Incidentally, this was a post-wedding brunch for an uncle who - if I'll be honest - has always detested me. I think he's never gotten my ... ahem ... free spirit. Before I got published, he was like: "You know, Sheri, you really shouldn't give this writing hobby too much more time. Your brooding years are almost over, you know." Brooding years. Seriously? We're civil to each other  - we always have been - but let's just put it this way, somehow it's fitting he'd bring a surrogate daughter to my mom.

Anyway, I really could've used a glass of wine at that post-wedding brunch - just to take the edge off. It was well past noon and it was brunch after all! What's brunch without a nice glass of something snazzy? But as the waiter circled the table, I heard the others ordering: "Coffee, please." "Me, too." "I'll have an orange juice." "Oh, just water for me, thanks."

I'm like ... this is my family? Come on, people! Have a goddamn drink one a ya! But nobody did. So I ordered a juice myself, absolutely thrilled that I WAS able to sit at a table with my family - all our skeletons rattling quietly in the closet - and not have a drink. Before I started cleansing, that would've been impossible. Maybe I wouldn't have been the only one at the table who ordered a drink, I would've been too self-conscious of my problem for that. But I certainly would've snuck off to the bathroom to pull the bottle of wine out of my purse to get through it.

In fact, one of the low points of my entire drinking career had to do with sneaking off to a bathroom because I was uncomfortable with these people. Years ago, before I started cleansing and just about at the peak of my dependence, my mother was in town and my uncle and his girlfriend (before becoming the bride) took us for dinner. I had already spent all day with my mom and this woman, who was squiring my mother around to different doctors for various reasons. Nothing serious. Checkups and whatnot she'd arranged. See? The doting daughter. So I had already spent most of the day in waiting rooms with this woman, trying to make small talk.

We went for lunch at one point and of course! it was the only resto for a ten block radius that didn't have a liquor license. I almost died. We're talking the sort of disappointment reserved for death row inmates who hear at the last minute the governor changed his mind about that pardon. It was the one thing that had gotten me through a whole morning of this strange situation. The idea of a drink at lunch.

I don't know why I had decided to go on the outing without a trusty bottle of wine in my purse. Or maybe I had already finished it.  Anyway, at one point, I just couldn't take it anymore. Especially since we'd be meeting Mr. Brooding Years for an early dinner. So I excused myself from the festivities and dashed (and I mean out-of-breath dashed) to the liquor store.

In my panic, I stupidly settled on a four-pack of strong vodka coolers. Bright blue. I think they were even in glass bottles. It was probably the worst choice I could've made in terms of sneaking. Insane. You hear criminals want to get caught, right? Anyway, I left the liquor store and ran to a woman's bathroom, locked myself in a stall and swallowed back at least one, possibly two, bottles right there. Feeling the alcohol ease my tension. Feeling all the pieces of this bizarre puzzle fit together for me, even just for a minute ... Aaaaah ...

I tossed the empty bottles and took the others in my bag, walking slowly, stiffly, so as not to make any clanking, sloshing noises when I moved. You get very good at 'floating' everywhere when you're sneaking alcohol around with you all the time.

We hit the restaurant. Uncle was there. Fake hugs. More small talk. I ordered a glass of wine. And then another maybe. But I didn't want to order more than that. I was so self-conscious of my 'problem' at that point that I didn't want anyone to see how much I was drinking.

But one or two glasses of wine was just not enough. So I would sneak off to the bathroom and pull out my vodka coolers and swig away. Get a moment or two of peace. Aaaaah. Unfortunately, at that point I was so addicted and so lost in dopamine depression that alcohol rushes didn't last very long. That's because when you're dependent on alcohol, your brain actually starts shutting down dopamine production when you drink. So even if you're drinking a lot, the buzz won't last very long. Every swallow will actually start making you feel worse in a very short time.

Finally, my guilt and shame was getting the better of me. I lived 24/7 in guilt and shame back then btw. So, sitting in a stall in the bathroom, I looked at my last vodka cooler. It was half empty. The guilt, the depression, the bone-melting shame. "Okay, that's it," I said. "That's it. I'm not having the rest of this. I'm just not." Guess I was trying to muster at least a little self-discipline.

I could hear women at the sinks outside so I knew I couldn't walk out to throw a half-empty bright-blue vodka cooler in the garbage right in front of them. Instead ... I checked the sanitary napkin disposal on my left. It was one of those old-fashioned stainless steel kinds bolted to the wall - not one of those new-fangled ones that seem to suck used thingies deep into the bowels of the earth. Just a plain silver container with a brown paper bag for a liner and a hinged lid. It was empty at the time, so that kept the 'ugh!' quotient down to a minimum. And the half-empty cooler bottle fit perfectly. Yay! I tucked it in there, proud of my self-discipline, and went back to the table.

The conversation dragged on. My wine was finished. My depression was settling in. The uneasiness. The fidgeting. The worry. The fear. The insane, intense, uncontrollable craving. GOOD GOD!! I need more! I need more! I mean I need more! I can't even hear things! I can no longer understand words or voices! Just this banging and whirring in my head: More, more, more!! I NEED MORE!

So, yes, I went back to the bathroom. Yes, I pulled that half-empty vodka cooler bottle out of the (thank God) still empty sanitary napkin disposal. And yes, I slugged the rest of it back right then and there. Ahhhh.

With the tenth anniversary of my first cleanse coming up tomorrow, I know my life may not be perfect - but it's much, much better. I have control of my drinking. I can stop when I want to. And - yay! - I can actually hear voices when I'm not drunk.

Definite improvement.

Having lunch with A today! I think there'll be a little wine. But thank God - I won't be fishing anything out of the used pad bin. ;)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Milestoners

I'm coming up on the ten year anniversary of the date I first started cleansing. On July 12, 2003 - at my aunt and uncle's house - I had my last glass of wine for six months. (My last several glasses of wine, actually.) The cleanse started July 13th.

I was SO hoping to have the book version of the blog finished for that milestone. I'm excited about it. I think it's going to be so helpful. Cleansing is simple - and mostly easy. But because it's an overall lifestyle choice, it's far-reaching. So I think an actual 'guide' will be great.

Unfortunately, the book will NOT be ready for the anniversary. I was going to DIY it, but I want it to look and feel just right. So I'm researching professional cover and text designers. The whole process is taking a lot more time than I thought. Meaning I'm a tad down on myself for missing the deadline. Luckily, after cleansing - I'm much better at self-forgiveness than I used to be. So I'm not exactly punching myself in the head. Just sort of giving myself the cold shoulder. ;)

Talking about that first cleanse, I've got a trip coming up in September that should prove interesting ... My Aunt Linda and Uncle Michael - the two who unknowingly became part of my cleansing process when I had my last drink at their house that night - are on their way for a visit to my hometown in September.

And I'm going with them.

The first trip I've had home in five years.

The first time I've seen my mother in five years.

The last time was in August of 2008. I went home for the 100th Anniversary of my high school.  Back when I graduated - sometime in the early 80s (how can I not remember?!) - my alma mater was a badass place. The only high school in our blue collar town that was on a semester system, students from all over the area - rich and poor - came to take advantage of finishing a year early or catching up on a lost credit in half the time. It was also the place where they sent students who got kicked out of all the other high schools in town. So hockey players, preppies and geeks were often overrun by stoners, delinquents and truancy cases. Crazy times.

I got expelled myself just before I graduated - for skipping class. A favorite pastime of mine. I'd go down to the local coffee shop, smoke cigarettes and scribble in my journal ... about how much I hated school. Very original. (Incidentally, I was also secretary of the student council, so schizo tendencies started early.)

Luckily for me, Bruce The Mechanical Shark (what I called the V.P. who persecuted me - his first name was Bruce) gave me an option: if I showed up at the detention centre every single morning at 8 a.m., I could graduate. So guess who showed her sorry ass up at school every day at eight sharp? Even if she didn't have a class until 1. Poor Miss Functional. To tell you the truth, we were so close to the end of the term I only had to do it for about two or three weeks, but still, it hurt. The good news is I was finally able to don my graduation gown!

btw my alma mater is no longer a pace for stoners and delinquents. It has recently undergone a multi-million dollar renovation (which included tearing down a lot of the old school ... sniff) and has become a shiny new arts school.  Ballet dancers and all. Coincidental, seeing as I now wear ballet slippers once a week.

I should say the place wasn't just for stoners and delinquents in the old days. Our stellar alumnae include Tim Horton, NHL hockey star and founder of Canada's most beloved coffee & donut shopsJoe Bowen, sportscaster and "Voice of the Toronto Maple Leafs (he also happened to be my Uncle Mike's costar on the hilarious morning radio show they hosted when I was growing up); Alex Tilley, creator of that packable hat senior citizens seem to favor; and ... wait for it ... Alex Trebek, the charming host of Jeopardy. Prague-born Olympic swimming star Alex Baumann was also at the school while I attended. (Weird! So many Alex's!) Looking very clean and sober when I'd see him walk by from my perch in the detention center.

I don't know why I'm listing the famous graduates of my high school today. Started thinking about that reunion, I guess. Maybe getting sentimental about a trip home. And like I said, I'm feeling a bit down about missing that deadline. So to pump myself out - hey! Why not brag about other people's accomplishments?! Google your own high school and check out if there are any famous grads. It's good for the ego. Sort of.

Anyway, we made a video of that reunion. Pretty hilarz. Drank quite a bit of wine in plastic cups that night. I'll have to dig it out and post it.

btw, Alex Trebek didn't show.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Love All

Excellent Wimbledon series this year! I haven't enjoyed tennis this much in ... ever! To keep the spirit alive, the Wimbledon Cocktail. Summer's still young! Lots of time to enjoy! Here's the recipe.


Wimbledon Cocktail

So when I say I don't binge anymore, that doesn't mean I don't get stupid. ;) Saturday night we decided at the last minute to head out into the sultry night and walk fifteen blocks to the old pizzeria we used to go to when we first started dating - twenty years ago this summer! 

Lots has changed. For one, the joint has moved across the street. For two, I don't remember the 55-year-old bleached-blonde hookers back then. Seemed a little sketchy. Times change, I guess. But the pizza was still great!

We shared a bottle of Masi Campofiorin - at forty bucks, the best vintage they had on the list.  With lots of choice in the $20 a bottle range. Unfortunately, our shaky young waitress must've been used to screw tops because she broke the corkscrew trying to open it for us. Emergency dash to the kitchen and ta-dah, she returned with the open bottle which felt hearty and rich on the warm night. Went straight to our heads. 

We walked back through the park where we had our first kiss ... :)

It was a perfect night. And a great weekend. Drinking ginger tea this morning, btw ... an excellent anti-inflammatory! 

Oscar Wilde

“Everything in moderation, including moderation.”


― Oscar Wilde


(From GoodReads.com)

Friday, July 5, 2013

Memories ...

Are you having trouble with bingeing?

I don't mean having trouble to binge (most of us can figure that one out!).  I mean having trouble not bingeing? An interesting new study out of the University of California, San Francisco may be of some help in the future.

According to researchers, "memories" of past binges are one of the things that causes alcoholics to relapse. They pass a bar they used to go to. Or see a glass of white wine on a tray at a restaurant. Or hear ice tinkling in a glass. Any memory connected to past binges can trigger addicts to drink again. If only that connection could be broken, perhaps fewer relapses would happen ...

Working with a drug called Rapamycin, typically used to help transplant patients from rejecting new organs, researchers went to work on some lab rats - who were in for one helluva ride. They allowed the rats to binge on alcohol for several weeks. (Several weeks?! Did they have drunken rat fights? Sleep with skanky rats? Regret it in the morning? Crazy rats.)

After letting these critters party their tails off Rat World-style, they called the Rat Patrol and shut the party down. For ten days, the rats were not allowed to drink alcohol. I'm sure rat withdrawal ensued. Hallucinations of puddy-tats and all.

Then after this "dry" period, they allowed the rats to have a drop of alcohol. Something that other studies have shown triggers the memory of drinking in rats and causes them to binge again. However, rats who had been administered Rapamycin were "significantly less likely" to drink alcohol because the drug interrupted the mTORC1 signaling pathway - a neural mechanism responsible for memory. The rats who took the drug simply didn't have any memory of those crazy parties and, unlike their poor pals, could get on with living a full and constructive rat life.

Researchers believe the drug could also help curb bingeing in humans, but more research is needed at this point. That's good news for problem bingers. Not so good for the rats who didn't get the drug. They had to check into rat rehab - and are now sharing a dorm with Lindsay Lo-rat.

I couldn't resist. ;)

I'm glad my bingeing days are behind me. I really can't binge anymore - even if I wanted to. I finally have a shut-off valve! But all this talk of rats and memory pathways has 'triggered' another memory for me. The song 'Memory' from the musical Cats.

For the broadway phobic, here's the full article on the Rapamycin study from the New York Times. And if you already haven't seen it, check out hamster bingeing from a post during my April cleanse. Hilarz! 

Here it is! Memory! Rats wouldn't like it - drunk or sober. But with almost 14 MILLION views on YouTube, somebody did! (I never actually saw the musical btw. My mom sent me money to go see it for my birthday once ... but I spent it on bingeing instead. Go figure.)



Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Great American Drinkers

In honor of U.S. Independence Day celebrations tomorrow, a nod to great American writers who drank a tad too much. AlternativeReel.com has compiled a list of their Top 10 quotes. My faves are below ...

Also caught an awesome article about how alcohol has fueled some of the world's great writers over the years. Check it out from the NYT: Booze As Muse. It'll make you feel smart ... even if you get a little stupid this weekend. ;)

For a less snooty story, Hey! Lindsay Lohan celebrated her 27th birthday in Malibu's Cliffside Rehab Clinic yesterday. It's her 6th visit to rehab so far, so let's hope this one sticks. The Great American Ice Cream Company, Carvel, donated the cake which Lilo generously shared with the other patients. Overheard: "But it's not a birthday without Jell-O shots! Waaah!!"

What was not served for Lindsay's b-day party? This yummy-looking red, white & blue cocktail - perfect for the 4th! But it would impress anyone this summer - no matter where you are. As long as it's not rehab. ;)

Have a Happy Healthy Independence Day!

(credit: BLT Steak)
(credit: BLT Steak)

Red, White and Blueberry Spiked Lemonade, BLT Steak

106 East 57th St
New YorkNY
(212) 752-7470
BLT Steak and BLT Fish have created two festive cocktails for our national holiday. The “Red, White and Blueberry Spiked Lemonade” features muddled raspberries and blueberries, gin, lemon sour mix, triple sec and a splash of water for a refreshing sip of summer.  (From CBS New York)

#05 - F. SCOTT FITZGERALD [1896-1940]
F. SCOTT FITZGERALD [1896-1940] Image
"First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you."


#02 - Tie: ERNEST HEMINGWAY [1899-1961] & HUNTER S. THOMPSON [1937-2005]
Tie: ERNEST HEMINGWAY [1899-1961] & HUNTER S. THOMPSON [1937-2005] Image
"An intelligent man is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with his fools." - Hemingway
"I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me." - Thompson

(Here's the full list ...)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Bumps & Booze

So I got a fly in my chardonnay on Saturday. Seriously. At a backyard barbecue. And it was a motherf*cking Navy Seal of a fly too. No picking that sucker out. As I poured what was left of my wine out onto the grass, I remembered the last post and thought: "Now that's definitely ironic."

Know what else smacks of irony? And after this, I'll leave the topic alone. Promise. ;)

It's ironic not drinking for nine months when you're pregnant - or almost as bad, having a couple drinks and then enduring whole trimesters of guilt, shame and terror as you picture your baby coming into the world with two heads and flippers. Ahhhhhh!!

And then - once baby is safe and sound in your lap, you're trembling and sweaty and leaping for your first drink in nine months - only to learn from your perfect sister-in-law who just got pregnant (with twins, of course) that moderate alcohol consumption is perfectly fine for pregnant women. She says this as she pops a bottle of Veuve to celebrate.

Gack!!!!!!

The study was conducted at the School of Social and Community Medicine at the University of Bristol.  It found that moderate alcohol consumption (up to seven glasses of wine a week) does not harm the baby - and will probably be much appreciated by Mom, too. The key is moderation, of course! Heavier drinking will still cause dreaded Fetal Alcohol Syndrome so steer clear of too many tequila shots on girls' night.

Hmmmm. This certainly makes the prospect of getting pregnant a lot more appealing, doesn't it? For more information, here's the full article from The Guardian. I predict a baby boom!