Thursday, February 27, 2014

Woman Walks Into A Bar

So I feel a little judgmental about something I saw yesterday, wanted to share.

The hubs and I had an appointment yesterday afternoon and when it was over, we decided to go for lunch. We went to one of our regular places because the hubs likes the burgers and I like the fact they have the supersized wine. ;) 9 oz in fact, delivered in a gorgeous (large!) carafe alongside elegant stemware. 

We found a nice booth at the back. I was enjoying my wine - along with a yummy Thai Beef-Ginger soup, a big salad and as many of the hubs' fries as I could steal. The restaurant has a bar set up in the middle of the room where after 5 pm, you often see friends or couples meeting up for drinks. This was about three in the afternoon. The bar stools were all empty - except for one woman in her forties, hunched over her iPhone, with - yes - a big honkin' carafe of white wine in front of her - but no food. 

I motioned to her. "Bet she's an alcoholic," I whispered.

The hubs glanced over. "Why do you say that?" 

"Well, she's sitting at a bar alone, with a huge glass of wine in front of her and no food -- in the middle of the afternoon. I've never even done that." 

"Sat at a bar alone?"

"No! Not with a big glass, especially. And I always order food." 

In fact, I'd been to that restaurant many times by myself to enjoy a glass of wine. But I've never grabbed a seat at the bar - especially with nobody else there - and 99% of the time, I order food. I told my husband as much. 

"So just because someone doesn't order food, that means they're an alcoholic?" 

"Well, no. But it's a 'line' to me. I just wouldn't be comfortable doing it. I'd feel too desperate, drinking alone at a bar with nothing to eat." Pause. "Mind you, I would've saved a lot of money on salads over the years." ;) 

But it made me think. I was being harsh on this stranger - whatever her circumstances.  What if she was waiting for a friend? What if she was coming from a meeting with a divorce lawyer? (Who couldn't use a drink then?) What if this single glass of wine is the only treat she allows herself all week? What if - like me - she doesn't like to drink alone at home? I mean, if there's anyone who shouldn't judge people about their drinking, it's gotta be me, right? But apparently even Ms. Functional can be vulnerable to the judgmental attitude society has against addiction.  

So today I'm amending my opinion: Hell, if you're a woman (or man!) and you got the guts to sit at a bar by yourself and order a big drink without anything to eat - damn good for you! Only you know where to draw the line. As long as you're content with your situation, who cares what anybody else thinks? Including moi. I might even try it sometime. In the name of research. ;) 

btw - I have to send out this little message: If you were the woman with the great Birkin bag and a pretty pink wallet with the loop closure who brought back three bottles of white wine to a Toronto liquor store a couple weeks ago because you were 'going on a cleanse and didn't want it around,' I was behind you in line. I wanted to ask a dozen questions about your situation ... but thought it would be a gross violation of your privacy. But if by any chance, you're out there -  please get in touch! I'd love to hear how it's going!  - Totally confidential natch!! 

btw, I'm trying to plan my spring cleanse. Timing it might be a challenge this year because there's some travel involved. Will explain more later! But it's coming up. Time sure does fly when you're having fun ... slash drinks. ;)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Minimally Buzzed, Maximum Help

Here are some interesting findings from a recent study out of the University of California, San Diego: there is absolutely no safe drinking limit when it comes to driving.

The researchers studied almost 600,000 fatal car accidents between 1994 and 2011. They used the U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) because it monitors the exact alcohol content of every person involved in a crash, starting with a BAC of 0.01% percent.

As you probably know, the legal limit for drunk driving in most countries is between 0.05 and 0.08%. But researchers found that even with a BAC of only 0.01% - or what they call 'minimally buzzed' - drivers were 46% more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than sober drivers. Yikes.

The study's lead researcher, sociologist David Phillips, concluded that based on the findings, there is "no point at which it is harmless to consume alcohol and get behind the wheel of a car." The results also support the National Transportation Safety Board's  recommendation to reduce the legal drunk driving limit in the U.S. to 0.05%. Though Phillips suggests the findings should indicate an even lower limit.

So if you're drinking, get some serious designated driver friends ... or take a cab. (read more about BAC and driving.)

Here's some good news if you're having trouble cutting down on your drinking - and aren't averse to drug therapies. The American Journal of Psychiatry has published the findings of a recent study that found the drug Topiramate can help heavy drinkers curb their habit significantly.

The anti-convulsant drug - normally used to treat epilepsy - has already been found to ease alcohol cravings in people who are trying to abstain completely. But these latest findings show that even people who want to 'cut down' can be helped. After a 12-week study, subjects who were given Topiramate had fewer heavy drinking days and more abstinent days than the group given a placebo.

However, the study found that the drug only helped those people with a particular genotype: a variant of the receptor for the neurotransmitter glutamate. Meaning it's yet more proof that brain chemistry and genetics play a major role in who develops a drinking problem - and in this case, who could benefit from certain drug therapies - and who would not.

btw, it's interesting to note that data for the study showed that 23% of people older than 12 can be considered heavy drinkers, reporting having 5 drinks or more on a given occasion at least once in the past month. For more info, here's the full article.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Walking on Sunshine

So I woke up with a bit of a hangover today. A Thursday. Kind of unusual for me to have a hangover during the week, but I had lunch with a friend yesterday. Had some nice Mission Hill Pinot Grigio. It might have something to do with that because B.C. Wines have always had a potent effect on me.

I remember a few years ago, the hubs and I were in Whistler, British Columbia for a few months while he was working on a reality show about Whistler kids (Peak Season) - and how much they love to party. (This just before Jersey Shore immortalized bad behavior in resort towns btw.)

The hubs definitely enjoyed the B.C. wines, but every time I had some (especially too much!), I'd get a mountain of a hangover.

Of course, it's not just the wine at lunch. The hub's schedule has been insane because of his current gig, so I think I might've quaffed my full-night's wine too quickly last night. Stoopid. So I'm paying for it with a midweek hangover. Just like in my 20s and 30s. Only this time, I only woke up with a headache, not a scorching soul-ache over having fought with whoever was closest to me the night before. Or a blackout that encompassed the whole night. Not just being a little foggy about how The Following ended. Or even if I finished watching it at all.


Omg, I'm kidding. Not about the laughing. And not really about The Following. But in my defense, I don't always remember the endings to my fave TV shows - even when I'm stone cold sober.  Must have to do with watching them late at night.

Downton Abbey on the other hand? I always remember that one. (omg! Is Bates going to kill Lord Gillingham's valet next week - or what?!! I hope so - but that he gets away with it. That they bury the evil bastard out beneath the new pig barn. Because pigs are very stinky! I know that because I've been to a pig farm before. I actually jumped off the silo on a pig farm for a college film production I was working on with my roommate - a professional stuntwoman. She jumped from the top of the 90 foot silo into an airbag, btw. I could only flop from about 20 feet into it. And it was so damn scary! Took me so long to let go of the ladder, the camera operator had to change the battery! But I was sober. Bet if I had some 80s boxed wine in me, it would've been a lot easier. It's pretty safe to say there was a lot of boxed wine after the jump. Why? Because there was always a lot of boxed wine flowing for me back then. Whether I was jumping off silos or not. Anyway, from what I remember, that pig farm was very stinky. About the stinkiest place I'd ever been. And that's why I want Lord Gillingham's creepy valet buried beneath the new pig barn!)

btw, I'm submitting that one to the 2014 Digression of the Year Contest. Your support will be greatly appreciated when voting begins. ;)

So for my hangover, I had some Milk Thistle tea because it's good for liver detoxification (read more here) and I squeezed lots of lemon juice into my water. Lemon is a great anti-inflammatory and what I'm using right now because my current ginger tea (normally my fave morning-after drink) contains some kind of other herb that I may be having a reaction to.

But I also took a nice walk to the store. It was about 11 am and such a beautiful winter day out there. So sunny and not as cold as it's been. I knew I had a few things to pick up, so I bundled up and trundled out into the sunshine. A nice walk is always a great hangover cure. In fact, a nice walk is a great cure for just about anything that ails you.

If you have a 9-5 job, it might be hard to just pack up at 11 am for a walk. But go out on your lunch or coffee break, especially in the winter when you might not be getting enough sun. And ditch the shades - at least for a few minutes. Why? Because when sunlight hits your eyes, it increases the manufacture of  serotonin in your brain. Serotonin, like our other neurotransmitter BFF, dopamine, is responsible for feelings of wellness and joy.

Ever since I learned that, I've been making sure that I don't wear shades 100% of the time when I'm out in the sun. I haven't been able to conduct a scientific study yet, but after a little bit of sunlight on my face - even 5 minutes - I really do feel a lot better. Um ... btw don't look directly into the sun, of course. That's not the way it works. Just sunlight glancing around you does the trick. That way you won't burn your retinas out. Which would totally suck. (Learn more about serotonin, sunlight and your moods here.)

I really did feel better when I got back from my walk. And I've been able to have a good productive day since. But it is a cleanse day. Which makes my liver - and my head - very happy.

In the old days, long walks and sunshine were not my favorite hangover cure. My favorite cure back then was another drink. A lot of other drinks, actually. In fact, it was the only thing that worked. If that meant walking to the liquor store in the sunshine, well, put it this way - it was the liquor store part that worked, not the walking.

But back then, before I started cleansing, I was lost in the throes of depression because my brain had suffered so much alcohol abuse, it had stopped producing dopamine on its own. My brain needed alcohol in order to feel even the smallest jolt of relief - let alone 'joy.' I'd left that in the dust decades earlier.

But since cleansing, a nice walk in the sunshine really can and does improve my mood. I can feel happy again - even without alcohol in my system. And even after some overindulging. Impressive.

For the record - a cleanse day and a long walk is a much better hangover cure than getting drunk again ever was.

Honest. Try it next time. You'll see.

Speaking of the 80s, walking and sunshine, I can't resist!! Here's Katrina and the Waves and their smash hit Walking On Sunshine.  A fun tune anytime. And, as coincidence would have it, one of that stuntwoman friend of mine's favorite songs ... :)

btw, there's absolutely no sunshine in it at all. The 80s were so ironic, weren't they?

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Talented Mr. Hoffman

A sad day as the brilliant Philip Seymour Hoffman was remembered at a private ceremony in Manhattan. I was always stunned by Hoffman's talent as an actor. He had such range, yet such a subtle touch in every role. I hate that we'll never see him create another ...

Hoffman's addiction to heroin has been widely written about, so I won't go into it here. Addiction is such a hard beast to slay, and heroin seems the worst of all. I had the sad honor of getting to know a group of people suffering from heroin addiction when I was working on an article about it many years ago. If you haven't read it, here's an earlier post I wrote in the wake of another actor's tragic death, The Opposite of Glee.

For some reason, this song has been going through my head since Mr. Hoffman's death: Vincent by Don McLean. Originally written about another troubled genius, Vincent Van Gogh, it still seems appropriate today. Whenever we lose someone like Mr. Hoffman, I always think 'this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.'