Sunday, May 25, 2014

One Word ...

So - the cleanse is over! It's a brilliant Sunday morning and - although still sober ;) - I'm absolutely elated. The end of a cleanse is like your own personal extra Christmases twice a year. A celebration. A festival. A victory. 

Am I exaggerating? 

Nope. ;) 

One word comes to mind - and that is:


  1. 1.
    God be praised (uttered in worship or as an expression of rejoicing).
    "He is risen! Alleluia!"
  1. 1.
    an utterance of the word “hallelujah” as an expression of worship or rejoicing.

To bring home my point, here's a selection of artists singing Leonard Cohen's classic song by that name.  From the Canadian Tenors (an 'Oprah Show' surprise with Celine Dion), to kd lang, to the Norwegian Pop Idols, to Lord Byron of Rock and Roll himself, it's such a lovely song, hope you enjoy at least one version! 

btw I've heard them all this morning - or at least part of them. Including Justin Timberlake's beautiful performance from the Hope for Haiti Now concert. But that one's kind of sad obviously, so maybe I shouldn't even mention it. Because I don't want to think of earthquakes today. Damnit. Now I'm thinking of earthquakes. And the 2003 Tsunami because it popped up in the YouTube list (as it sometimes does) when I was searching and I couldn't resist watching the extreme footage. 


I really think Naomi Watts should've won the Oscar for her performance in The Impossible, don't you? That nail-biting flick about the disaster? I mean, I adore J-Law more than anything, and I thought she did a bang-up job in Silver Linings Playbook - and would've deserved to win the Oscar any year - other than the year Naomi was up for The Impossible. But that's just my opinion. 

Okay, now I'm thinking of poor Naomi Watts and how depressed she must've been to lose what could be her last shot at an Oscar to a new starlet half her age. Plus tsunamis. And earthquakes.

In a way, though, that's appropriate for this morning, too. Because even though I'm always trying to bring a little levity and iconoclasm to the discussion of alcohol addiction (somebody has to!), it really is a sad thing. And now I'm thinking about all the sad times my addiction once brought me. And my mother when she was drinking heavily. And so many other people. Oh, man. 


Shit. Anyway, JT's version is gorgeous, so it's there too. 

Wow. This all took a turn for the worse, didn't it? Sorry about that. 

Where was I again? Oh yeah. ;) 

  1. Lenny!

    Celine & the Tenors

  1. kd lang

    The Norwegian Pop Idols


Friday, May 23, 2014

Day 27 - 7th Heaven!

I can't believe it! One more day to go! 

I just love this time in a cleanse. I get these rushes of excitement, relief - pride. Disbelief! That a 28-day cleanse can go by so quickly. That it can be so pleasant and rewarding and restful. That I can have such anticipation about my 'normal' drinking cycle coming up. 

Even if you were to say, "But Ms. F., you really don't have to cleanse anymore. You can control what you drink now. You're not addicted. Or depressed. You don't black out five times a week and fight with your hubby" - (friends/doorman/taxi drivers) - "when you drink anymore, so what's the use?" I still wouldn't stop cleansing.  

For one thing, I'm quite sure that daily drinking would soon find me right back in the same position I was in over ten years ago. Stressed, anxious, guilty, ashamed, out of control - and more than anything, depressed because of a dopamine imbalance. Regular 'breaks' from alcohol like this really re-set my whole system. Physically and mentally.  I believe in my heart that cleansing is what has kept me in control of my drinking for more than ten years now -  when I had a lifetime of blackouts and problems before I started. Cleansing works for me, it's that simple. 

Even so, I'm so looking forward to jumping 'off the wagon' headfirst on Sunday! That's another great thing about cleansing. You can appreciate drinking more, too. While still keeping it in perspective with everything else in your life. 

btw, some controversial news about drinking out of Finland recently. The Daily Mail reported that Finnish researcher, Dr. Kari Poikolainen, recommends about a bottle of wine a day for perfect health (or just under 13 units of alcohol). 

Whoa! Interesting! Because that's way outside the official 'safe' limits of between 3-4 alcohol units per day (women and men respectively). A flurry of outrage followed the good doctor's advice, with The Guardian - and others - questioning these generous recommendations. 

Now when it comes to alcohol consumption, Dr. Poikolainen is no slouch. As a former advisor to the World Health Organization on alcohol use and retired Research Director of the Finnish Foundation for Alcohol Studies, he's been examining the effects of alcohol consumption on public health for decades. 

His book, Perfect Drinking - And Its Enemies, outlines a different view of healthy alcohol consumption than most experts recommend (i.e. he believes the current levels of what constitutes 'moderate drinking' are too low).  He also thinks that 'abstinence, alcoholism, inadequate information and myopic alcohol policies' are the enemies of healthy drinking - and that alcohol consumption is actually vital to your health. 

Well, I totally agree there! Naturally! I don't think I'd go so far as to say, 'Hey, drink a bottle of wine a day!' Even though, yes, I can and have and seriously enjoy drinking that much every now and again. And again. And again. ;) 

The difference for me now is that if I do indulge myself, I'm no longer out of control. One bottle of wine doesn't turn into two or three - like it did in the old days. And I never - and I mean never binge - anymore. Which is the real danger. In fact, a recent study out of the University of Massachusetts claims that just one single binge session (four glasses of wine for women, five for men, in less than two hours!) can be extremely harmful to your health. ((read more)

Luckily, my bingeing days are long behind me. Since I started cleansing regularly, I am physically incapable of ingesting that much alcohol in one sitting. Period. And I'm very, very proud of that because binge drinking used to be my favourite - very dangerous - hobby. And by 'hobby' I mean one that has become unmanageable and uncontrollable. Like my grandmother's addiction to those little racks of souvenir spoons. Man, she was a sick woman when it came to those things. Totally out of control. ;) 

At any rate, I would never go so far as to say how much - or little - people should drink every day. Not because I necessarily disagree with Dr. P's findings, but because I honestly believe everyone is different - and that even individuals will differ over the course of their lives when it comes to appropriate alcohol consumption. But if you're interested in what your own Powers-That-Be regard as safe drinking, please consult the International Centre for Alcohol Policies International Drinking Gudelines. 

btw, I wasn't surprised Dr. Poikolainen was a Finlander. At least not at first. I'm of Finnish descent on my mother's side and - well, put it this way, I grew up around more than one seriously drunken Finnish accordion party, if you know what I mean. Ever seen a four-fingered former lumberjack try to play Beer Barrel Polka on the old squeezebox after bingeing on vodka for three days? When you're six? Well, you haven't lived. ;) (Btw, my grandmother, on the other hand, was a near teetotaler. I saw her tipsy once - on Kahlua - on her 50th wedding anniversary. She was an absolute rock that way. And responsible for the messy end to more than one drunken party and/or fistfight. God rest her soul.) 

Another reason I wasn't surprised Dr. P is a fellow Laplander, is because Finlanders have often been accused of being some of the heaviest drinkers on the planet. Knowing my own problems - and many relatives and family friends who suffered from alcoholism - I thought when it came to drinking, Finlanders took the Grand Prize. 

Not so! That goes to Luxenbourg, believe it or not. With France coming in a close second. Finland is actually 19th on this list of countries organized according to annual alcohol consumption. The U.K. is 15th, U.S. 23rd, Canada 26th.  To see where your neighbourhood falls, check out the complete list  compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

One way or another, I do think Dr. P. has an extremely valid point. Researchers should be more open to what really constitutes healthy alcohol consumption and that information like his - as much as it flies in the face of current research - should be given serious consideration. If only because it keeps the conversation going on a very important topic: the natural benefits of alcohol consumption and inherent dangers of alcohol misuse.

And on the topic of alcohol consumption, did I happen to mention? One day left to go!! 

Um ... yay!! :)  

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Day 17 - Street-Wise

Absolutely unbelievable! I'm more than halfway done this cleanse! 

I know I often say this when I'm on a cleanse, but I totally mean it: this has been one of the easiest cleanses so far. They all seem to get easier as time goes by. I really feel my body enjoying the break. I feel healing taking place. I feel rest taking place. Plus my skin looks waaaay better. ;) 

I mentioned 'swifties' last time I wrote, that civilized UK tradition of popping into a pub for a 'quick one.' ;) Gotta love a swifty. However, there was some swifty controversy (pronounced con-TRA-vah-see) while we were in London.  

We were walking through Soho our last Saturday afternoon and passed this ancient pub we had visited the week before, Nellie Dean's. It had been a Friday night and the place was SO packed, dozens and dozens of people had spilled onto the sidewalk outside. In fact, Soho was absolute mayhem that way. Spring Break times a million. Every single one of the dozens of pubs had big groups of people outside, laughing and drinking and flirting, oblivious to everything but their mates and their pints. 

At any rate, as we were passing the pub again that afternoon, the hubs said: "How about a swifty?" And I'm like: "Absolutely, old chap!! High ho! Just to keep our energy up, of course! Onward!

I should mention that you don't always get table service at pubs in the UK, you often have to go to the bar to order. So to save me from looking like the old lush I am - and so that the hubs could illustrate his British-style gallantry - he always went to the bar to grab his beer and my wine. 

But as we walked into Nellie's for the second time, the bar was right by the door. There were plenty of tables available, so no worry hurrying to nab one. Instead we both walked up to the bar. When the bartender asked us what we wanted, the hubs stepped aside. Gallantry can verge on sexism if the boy orders when the girl's right there, right? 

"Pinot Grigio please!" I chirped. The bartender did the usual then, further illustrating the incredible civility of English life: "Would you like large or small, miss?" (Well, he probably called me 'mam' but for the purposes of the story, I'll say 'miss.') 

Hmmm. Large or small glass of wine. Hmmmm ... decisions, decisions. Wrong!! Are you kidding? I think you can probably count the number of times I've ordered a 'small' glass of wine when given the choice, so naturally, I said "Large, please!" I think I might have even clapped my hands in excitement. Keep in mind that a 'swifty' is usually a small glass of wine and a half-pint for the hubs. Also keep in mind that we'd already had one swifty that day (if not two) and we hadn't even had lunch yet. 

*aside: Hey! Don't judge! You take Ms. Functional on holiday to the pub capital of the world just before her cleanse starts and there's bound to be some serious indulging, okay? That's what London/pubs/cleanses are for! 

So we took our drinks and sat down at a pretty table by the window.  Even the most rundown pubs in London have fresh flowers around. It doesn't matter how old/new/grungy/chic a pub is, there are fresh flowers on the tables or bar - sometimes both - and Nellie's was no different with a little bud vase on the table. Also very civilized. 

But as we settled in for our drink, I could tell the hubs had something stuck in his craw.

"Sup?"I ask him, sort of thing.

"I can't believe you ordered a large wine," he said. "This is just supposed to be a swifty. We haven't even had lunch. I don't want you to get too drunk or tired and have to go home." 

Gulp. That's me gulping my wine, btw. Not gulping in fear.

There was a day when I would gulp in fear/anger/resentment when somebody commented on my drinking - especially the hubs. In fact, according to the experts, being offended when someone brings up your drinking is a red flag that you've got a problem. And in the old days - whoa - good luck to anyone who had something to say about how much I was drinking because they would have a serious fight on their hands. 

But those days are honestly over for me. I talk about my drinking and I let other people talk about my drinking. However, it's been years - many years - since my husband has had to say anything about my drinking at all. Very different from before I started cleansing when just about every occasion (and even just hanging around at home) was prefaced by: "Be careful how much you drink" or "Don't drink too much" or "Should you really be having another already?" kind of thing. 

At any rate, there it was. I was getting some mild chagrin for my big glass of wine. I looked down at my glass - still half full (gleaming pale gold in the sunshine). The hubs was already almost finished his own half-pint, but I knew if I gulped the rest of my wine quickly I probably would be feeling it. Especially on an empty tummy. 

On the other hand ... I really hated the idea of leaving half a glass of perfectly good wine behind.

The hubs intuited my dilemma and a little lightbulb popped on above his head. "I've got an idea," he said and got up from the table and went to the bar. He came back with a plastic glass. Because in London they have a solution for the dilemma of leaving a half-finished drink behind. 

It's called drinking on the street!! Or 'in' the street as they say over there. 

From Wikipedia: Drinking in public is legal in England and Wales – you may carry a drink from a public house down the street (though it is preferred that you request a plastic glass to avoid danger of breakage and because the taking of the glass could be considered an offence of Theft as only the drink has been purchased), and you may purchase alcohol at an off-licence and immediately begin drinking it outside. Separately, you may drink on aeroplanes and on National Rail trains, either purchasing alcohol or consuming your own.

Seriously? "Um, excuse me, Mr. British Immigration Officer? Canadian woman wants Visa! Asap please!! Will work for wine!"

So with a big Cheshire cat grin on my face, I poured my vino into the little plastic glass and nursed it for the next half hour while we kept wandering around Soho. It helped keep a smile on my face and my energy up - without letting me get too drunk chugging it down in the pub. 

Btw, I wasn't the only one drinking in pubic. It was like one huge outdoor festival in Carnaby Street. Thousands and thousands of people out in the streets, block after block, drinking, talking, laughing, sitting on sidewalks and in parks, singing, playing guitar. You could hardly move!! The police were everywhere, but we didn't see any fights or angry drunk guys or anything. Everyone was just having so much fun. Very civilized! 

Of course, partying in public may explain why alcohol abuse costs the National Health Service more than 6 billion pounds a year. Which is why Ms. Functional really has to get that UK visa application in - pronto. I've got some livers to save! 

11 days left to go! 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Day 6 - Old Friends & Swifties

Almost a week into the spring cleanse. All good so far. I definitely tucked in a bit earlier than usual last night, but I also have tons of energy during the day. In fact, I even tackled my bathroom already - just because it hasn't been good for my self-esteem to go in there lately. ;)

Anyway, I thought everyone in London was so fashionable. The girls are so pretty, so well-dressed, the boys are spiffy and for the most part, more into 'presenting' themselves than men seem over here. At any rate, the reason I bring it up is because of an old friend of mine. This friend and I have been in each other's lives off and on since university. I won't get into the details, but unfortunately, we're 'off' right now.

imageAnyway, the reason I bring it up is because I saw so many girls in London who reminded me of this friend when she was young. "S" was pretty and funny and full of energy (still is actually). Back then, her style was different from everyone else's, too. She was a bit of a rocker chick. Black leather jacket, long curly dark hair, lots of black eyeliner, skinny jeans. Since they weren't making skinny jeans back then, she'd actually bring her Levi's to a seamstress and have her take in the legs so the jeans would fit snugly all the way to the ankle - a unique look for the time. She also always wore flat suede boots, usually black, and had a certain swagger to her walk. Put it this way, you couldn't miss her amid all the backcombed, pastel-wearing Gogo's wannabe's back then. (Though to be honest, the chick on the far right up there is a pale imitation.)

Before I go on, I should say that S is about the world's biggest Stevie Nicks fan and I'm about the world's biggest Fleetwood Mac fan. Rumours (an impressive #26 on Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Albums of All Time) is my fave record. My desert island record. My you ask me what record I want to hear next and there's a 90% chance I'll say Rumours type-record. So, as you could imagine,  S & I listened to a lot of Fleetwood Mac when we were in school. Usually consuming several drinks while getting ready to go out. ;)

Well, I couldn't believe all the girls in London who reminded me of S - swagger and all! Black leather jackets, skinny jeans, flat boots, smokey eyes and long hair are de rigeur lately and London was teeming with them. Student-age girls with that certain 'who-gives-a-f*ck, I'm young and cool and you're not' attitude. I kept thinking I'd see S pass by on the street and have to do a double-take. It always made me feel sort of ... well, wistful. I think about S often and miss her every day.

At any rate, one morning the hubs and I were heading out for a day of adventure. It was just before noon when we left Lady Lucy's Notting Hill flat. On the way to our tube station, Westbourne Park (I still can't get the sound of the female announcer's voice out of my head - Next stop, West-bone Pawk - so elegant), was a great pub called The Metropolitan. It was literally a two minute walk from our flat.

The Metro is a real authentic old 'local' with lots of wood, leather and low tables, but it also has fresh flowers on the bar and serves Dom Perignon. Since the place was usually full of soccer fans watching TV and/or the young after-work crowd drinking beer, I doubt much Dom was ordered, but still, you get my point. An authentic place with panache. As we were passing the Metro, the husband got a great idea: "Hey, how about a swifty?" he said.

Ahhh. The 'swifty.'

If you're not familiar with this great British tradition, Oxford defines it as 'an alcoholic beverage consumed swiftly.' Since it is something you're supposed to drink quickly, a swifty is usually a small drink. (i.e. a half-pint for the hubs and a small glass of wine for me - btw, most pubs and restos in London have at least two, sometimes three, different sizes of wine! The wine glasses are actually marked with different levels all the way to 250 ml! Very civilized!). Need I say there were a lot of swifties consumed on the trip? ;)

So, it was barely noon, but I'd been up since about six, I'd had breakfast and - well, I am Ms. Functional after all, so it's kind of hard to say 'no' to a swifty - especially a week or two away from a cleanse, so into the Metro we went.

The place wasn't empty - there was a family on the other side of the bar, Mum, Dad, grandparents, child in pram, everything - but it wasn't packed either, so we got a high table by the big window. It was a bright sunny day, if a little chilly, and the streets outside were dotted with people coming and going from the tube. At one point, the hubs realized he had forgotten his phone at the flat. He asked if I was OK sitting alone at the bar - and damn right I was - so he downed his pint and left me there while he dashed back to Lady Lucy's for the phone.

So there I am, sitting in an English pub, sipping a very decent white wine, on a sunny day, thinking, Ahhh. The swifty.

Ahhh. The swifty.

Ahhhhhhhhh, the ...

Stop it, Ms. Func! For crissakes!!

Sorry, sorry. Get carried away with the memories sometimes.

Anyway, it's the first time I've ever been in a bar alone. Restaurants sure, hotel lounges, absolutely. But a bona fide bar? Not that I know of - and this was definitely a bar, despite the flowers and the pram. ;) The music was kick-ass awesome too (many kudos to the management not only for their selection of wine, beer and their great service but their taste in tunes, too!) Wow! Just perfect going-on-noon swifty-type music. Mellow but cool.

I was sitting there sipping my wine, people watching, when another one of those girls in black leather jackets walked by the window. She had just the right amount of swagger in her step. Her hair flicked just the right way as she walked. I felt myself getting wistful again. Then the song changed and another one came on. Full, sweet - and very familiar.


It's not Stevie's song, it's Christine McVie's. But it's still Fleetwood Mac and it's still a Rumours tune. What timing! And God, it's a beautiful song - the lyrics are heart-melting. With that girl in the black leather jacket still fresh in my mind, tears started to flood my eyes. Especially when I heard the opening line, For you, there'll be no more crying ... OMG. I'm sitting alone in a pub in London crying? Really? I dug in my purse for a Kleenex. It wasn't depression, no. It was just this strong wave of emotion because I was so reminded of S.

The hubs came back to find me wiping my eyes. "You OK?" he asked worriedly.  I didn't want to get into it for fear I'd get even more emotional, so I just motioned to the speakers. "Fleetwood Mac," I said. The song was just ending - that's how quickly he'd run - so he understood. Fleetwood Mac often affects me that way. I smiled and told him I was fine. Satisfied he wasn't going to have to deal with hormonal issues the entire day, he leaned forward on the table. For the first time, I noticed he was panting.

"I haven't had to run that far that fast this early in the morning with nothing but beer in my stomach since Frosh Week," he said gasping. That made me laugh. I finished my wine and we went out into the sunshine.

Anyway, I hope S is doing OK out there. I think she is. I sometimes check her Twitter and it's awesome. I hope she knows I'm OK too. And that some day we'll be listening to Fleetwood Mac together again. I'm sure of it.

btw our beleaguered mayor Rob Ford is checking into rehab for substance abuse issues. But more on that another day.

For now, here's Ms. McVie and her lovely Songbird.