Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mood Monitoring

It's a beautiful sunny day today (if a little muggy). It's also a Tuesday and one of my regular cleanse days of the week.

There's something special about taking cleanse days in the summer. Yes, it's fun to be able to have a glass of cold wine on a hot day or hit a patio for your libation of choice after work. But cleanse days have a more serene feeling to them. A calmness. A clarity. I really cherish my cleanse days sometimes. If nothing else, there's a 'different' feeling to them and I think that really helps with the overall quality of a person's life.  The same thing every day - even perfection - would actually become quite dull over time.

It's one of the measuring sticks I use to know that cleansing is still working for me. That I'm not depressed on cleanse days. In the old days, if I did try to 'skip' a day of drinking to get control (and I did try a lot of things before I developed this plan), I would be in such a horrible mood that I usually caved in and poured a glass (or five) anyway.

So to feel peaceful and happy on a cleanse day gives me confidence that the system is continuing to work for me. It's very important to me to monitor the quality of my moods when I'm not drinking. Because I remember very clearly the feeling of depression that overwhelmed me when I couldn't get enough to drink. An entire body-wide sense of despair would swoop and there was nothing I could do to turn it around. Except have another drink. Which stops working anyway. So I relish these days that I can feel relaxed and content without a drink. That's pretty cool.

btw - I missed the eleventh anniversary of my first cleanse last week - Sunday, July 13th. I started that first six-month cleanse on a Sunday too back in 2003 - meaning it was eleven long years ago to the day that I started cleansing regularly. And it's still working. :) Now that's super cool.

So belated Happy Anniversary to me. And just general summertime happiness to you. Enjoy the day - with or without a tipple.

Oh, one more thing. Another great benefit to feeling happy on cleanse days... is that you feel even better when they're over!! :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Heavy Heart

I usually prefer to share good news about moderate drinking with you, but I have a bit of bad news today. Sure, it crossed my mind to sweep this new info under the rug - and maybe talk about Rob Ford's latest antics instead.

But I'm not going to 'hide' this new study because I believe it's important to have as much information as possible about how our habits affect our health - good or bad. So here goes...

Moderate alcohol consumption has long been associated with a lower risk for heart disease, especially reducing the most common form, Coronary Artery Disease, a leading cause of death in North America and the UK. For many years now, researchers have been telling us that moderate drinking was actually a way to stave off this killer - not to mention a fun way since having a drink after work is a lot easier than hitting the gym. 

But a new study co-led by the University of Pennsylvania contradicts all of that. 155 researchers from the UK, North America, Europe and Australia analyzed 56 different studies about heart disease and alcohol. More than 250,000 subjects were involved - all of European descent. 

Researchers found that people with a particular gene - alcohol dehydrogenase 1B - drank about 17% less than people who didn't carry the gene. (Alcohol Dehydrogenase is an enzyme that helps us metabolize alcohol.) 

People with the 1B gene are more sensitive to the negative effects of alcohol consumption, suffering from nausea, facial flushing and dizziness when they drink.  Naturally, these side effects make drinking less pleasurable which results in lower overall consumption. The critical factor found by the study was that carriers of the 1B gene also had a 10% reduced risk of heart disease. Based on this, researchers have concluded that less drinking equals a healthier heart. 

However, since this is the first study in a long time that contradicts the health benefits of moderate drinking on heart disease, some experts aren't completely convinced. Tim Spector of King's College thinks the findings are impressive, but that the study might have its limitations because people with the gene that makes them less tolerant to alcohol might also exhibit other tendencies that could lower the risk of heart disease - for instance, a healthier diet or exercise regimen. And these traits weren't properly measured in the study. 

Most experts feel the results are controversial enough to warrant more research into drinking, the B1 gene and heart disease, this time correcting for possible differences in lifestyle.

I'll be watching the developments with bated breath. In the meantime, maybe one less drink at this weekend's bbq might not be a bad idea. ;)  

Come on! It's not going to kill us!! 

(Or will it...? Hmmmm... I guess the jury's still out. But I'll keep you posted for sure!) 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Home Sweeter Home

I mentioned I was home for my mother's b-day party last month.  She lives in the same house my grandparents owned when I was growing up. The same house we moved into after my parents divorced. '65' as it was known, merely by its street number, became the scene of many 'Happy Divorcee' drinking parties after that. It was real Mad Men material. Mini-skirts. Men. Music. And muchos booze. Throw in a few packs of cigarettes for the mandatory smoky haze and you've got all the makings of raising your very own alcoholic kid!

It's where I got drunk for the first time and also the scene of countless (and, unfortunately, I mean countless) drag-down, no-holds-barred fights I had with my mother when one or both of us were drunk. In other words ... this is NOT a picture of my family.

But this time around - blessed be!! - it was a peaceful, happy loving trip. There were no drunk fights. No projectile vomiting. Not a single angry drunk word traded. 

That's not to say there wasn't drinking! God, no. We're still talking my family here. Though it's changed quite a bit since the old days (i.e. my uncle has given up drinking completely; incidentally, they rented an apartment at '65' for several years while I was growing up, so for a while there, it was multi-floor partying). As for my mom, she's become a very light drinker in her old age, so no problem there.

Me, on the other hand? Well, you know how you're supposed to 'know your limit socially and stick to it?' That's Rule #5 of the whole system!! Well, occasionally, I get cocky and say: "F*ck it!" Because even if I go overboard a bit - I don't fall overboard, if you get my meaning.  It doesn't become traumatic for anyone. Especially me. So it's a lot more fun to throw caution to the wind - on rare occasions. ;) 

The day started off with wine at the house in the afternoon. More wine with dinner at the restaurant. Then more wine at the house for gift-opening. At one point, sitting in the setting sun on the back deck, I had a glass of wine and a glass of champagne for toasting in front of me on the table. And holy crap, it was one of the fondest memories of my life. Not because of the wine (at least not just because of the wine). But because I was just buzzing with so many happy endorphins at a peaceful family get-together surrounded by people I loved so much. It was really just a perfect night. 

Unfortunately, I woke up with the kind of hangover usually reserved for Vegas. 

But strangely - unlike the myriad times I've woken up in my hometown after a bender - I did not feel guilty. Or worried. Or afraid. I did not say "Never again!" or "I've gotta quit this stuff!" Nor did I feel I had to pick up the phone (and/or roll over in bed) and apologize to anyone for being a jerk to them.

Instead, I said, "Holy crap, Ms. F! That was an awesome night!" Even the hubs was impressed. Because in the old days if anyone drank too much at '65' it usually ended up in ugly drama. 

Alas - it was sweet, super-fun and loving family reunion. I believe I can report such a victorious (if uneventful) trip home simply because of cleansing. It helps me to stay in a good mood the whole night. And despite the fact I amped it up a bit, I didn't 'lose control.' It didn't get sloppy or scary. Nor did I keep reaching for more to drink after I felt buzzed. There was even a bottle of wine waiting for me back at the hotel. In the old days, I'd have polished that one off asap.

Instead, I washed my face (believe it or not) and went happily to bed.

Wait, I swallowed some Advil and gulped some water - then I went happily to bed.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


Well, Mayor Rob Ford is back in office after two months in rehab where he said he spent time battling his 'personal demons.' Since the schmancy treatment centre, GreenStone Muskoka, is located in Ontario's famed cottage country - a place known as much for its black flies as its multi-million dollar lakeside mansions - the Mayor probably had a few bug bites to battle too.

But he looks good - if not great - after two months of clean living. He also says he's ready to take responsibility for all the wrongs he's done to people while he was 'using.' The hubs and I are taking dibs on how long this will last. But I'm sure the talk show hosts will be waiting eagerly in the shadows for the next drunk YouTube footage to emerge.

Not that I want to make too much light of rehab. Addiction SUX. And so far a professional round of rehab seems to be the treatment of choice. Either that or A.A. In both cases, that usually means total abstinence.

However, there are some people who don't put a lot of stock in rehab or 12-step programs. People like Dr. Lance Dodes, retired Harvard professor and addiction expert whose recent book The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industry is about ... well, the title says it all, doesn't it?

I still have to pick up Dr. Dodes's book, so I'll keep the review short here, but I'm soooo looking forward to getting it. It's going to be Ms. Functional's summer beach read of 2014. ;)

Mayor Ford isn't the only one on the rehab path today. After some seriously questionable behavior, Shia LeBeouf has just voluntarily checked himself into an undisclosed facility for alcohol dependence. The 28-year-old actor's peeps are quick to point out it's not 'rehab.' It's treatment. I have no idea what the difference is, but I imagine there are fewer black flies involved.

I've been of fan of Shia's for years - ever since seeing the young, but talented thespian in The Battle of Shaker Heights way back in 2003. LaBoeuf was a child star and had grown up working for the Disney Channel - although this was the first time I had ever heard of him. The film itself is spotty, since it was part of Project Greenlight, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's play-by-play of what it takes to get a first feature made in H'wood.  But I thought LeBoeuf was subtle, witty, natural - and adorable.

I loved him again in Disturbia, the 2007 flick about a young man under house arrest who thinks his neighbor is a serial killer. Totally creepy/funny flick!!

Unfortunately, that year also marked the young star's first appearance in the papers for something other than his acting: his drinking. At only 20 years old, he was charged with criminal trespassing for refusing to leave a Walgreen's while he was drunk. (more here)

His professional life seemed to be a leap-frog of first-run movies like 'Indiana Jones' and 'Transformers,' while his personal world started to become its own 'Temple of Doom.' There was a suspected DUI after a car crash in 2008 and then - bizarrely - claims that he plagiarized the content of his directorial debut. 

After the accusations, LeBeouf hired a sky writer to apologize to the alleged victim - a graphic novelist - and tweeted he was retiring from show business. But then he showed up on a red carpet wearing a paper bag on his head that read: I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE. Which was a sure-fire way to keep being famous, btw.

Then just last week in New York, he was arrested after being drunk and disorderly at a performance of Cabaret where he apparently heckled the other actors. Yikes. Not cool. That must've been the last straw because the 'He's Getting Help' press release was next.

Anyway, I wish the young star much luck with his not-really-rehab treatment and hope - like Rob Ford - he's back at work soon. Sans paper bags and addiction problems.

Speaking of addiction problems! Zowie! I went home for a family visit last recently! But more on that next time!

And just because I like the little drama prince, here's the trailer from Disturbia. It's one of those epic previews where you probably don't have to see the movie after you watch it because, like, practically every scene is in it. But it's still a fun flick for a rainy summer night.