There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. ~Anaïs Nin

Monday, January 31, 2011

Let's Recap

      Today is the last day of January  2011 which officially marks the end of my first cocktail-free month.  On January 1st, I, along with much of the free world, made my New Year’s Resolution, which for me was to give up alcohol for one year.

      For the first two weeks, I will admit, I was anxious and frustrated, and counting the days off one by one until 2012.  However, as the month went on, in an effort to deal with those negative feelings, I looked for new activities to take my mind off my beloved martini.

      First, I started this blog.  As a result, I have met some friends online that I otherwise would never have come across.  Second, I joined a women’s soccer league, giving me the opportunity to meet a new group of women, thus opening up the possibility of having a girls night out, and at the same time allowing me to engage in some intense physical activity.
      I played Scrabble for the first time in about 15 years, and I started working on my book, something I have been putting off for too long.  I am challenging myself by reading another Stephen King novel, which I am generally too scared to do, and I have beat my personal best for the amount of Starbucks tea consumed in a month.

      All in all, I would say this has been a pretty good month.  I am excited to see what new opportunities and challenges February will bring.  And I look forward to sharing this next leg of my journey with my loyal group of followers.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Will You Accept This Church?

      I consider my spiritual life to be somewhat eclectic.  My search for God has led me down many paths. I was raised in the Episcopal church, however since that time, I have attended  many churches, including Lutheran, Congregational, Methodist, Pentacostal, Evangelical and Catholic.  I have also spent a significant amount of time researching religions other than Christianity…Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, and others.  All of this in an effort to understand God.

       Currently, I attend four churches.  I like my local Methodist church because I am a personal friend of the pastor, and I enjoy his messages, which are always thoughtful and thought-provoking and I enjoy the traditional church choir.    During the summer, I attend a catholic church because they hold their services outdoors.  I also attend an Evangelical church because many of my friends attend that church, so it’s fun and social.  But lately I have been drawn to a new Pentacostal church because I love the contemporary music, the hand-raising, the shouts of Amen during the sermon, and the pastor is incredibly charismatic, dynamic and he delivers a powerful message.

       I suppose there is nothing inherently wrong with this approach, but it can be confusing at times, because each of the churches I attend focuses on different aspects of the Christian faith, causing me to question what I believe. 

       So how does one select a church home?  Should we select the church that most closely mirrors what we already believe about God?  Is the social atmosphere important?  Should we choose because of the pastor rather than the church in general?  Or is it just about where we feel most comfortable?

       Maybe this has the makings for a new reality show, but instead of finding my mate from a bevy of pecs and biceps, I can jet-set around the world to exotic locations with pastors who are competing to win me over with doctrine and worship styles.

      Ultimately this is about commitment.   Making a commitment to any organization requires a sacrifice of our time, our service and our finances. There are expectations involved and by remaining a fringe member those expectations don’t exist.  Perhaps, the question is not what the church can do for me, but rather what I can do for the church.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Baby Steps

      I love to read. It’s my favorite pastime. Since I was a little girl, I could easily lose myself in a book, completely forgetting my own reality while I was swept away in the story of someone else’s life.  It wasn’t until a few years ago that I also learned I love to write.

      My son, Erik, is a cancer survivor.  While going through treatment, we spent many hours in the hospital. It was then that I started my first journal and I have been writing ever since.  My goal is to one day write a book. I have never taken any formal classes on how to write, but I have read some books on the subject that have helped me understand what’s involved.  One of my favorite books is Stephen King’s   On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

      I enjoyed his memoir and his lessons on writing, but I have to admit, I am terrified of Stephen King.  Or I should say, I am terrified of his books.  Up until that point, I had never read one. Eleanor Roosevelt once said that we should do one thing every day that scares us.  With that in mind, and feeling somehow obligated to Mr. King to read one of his books, (I mean he did go to all that trouble to publish a book so I could learn to write), I decided to read Misery.  And while it did scare me, I loved the book.  And I was so proud of myself for reading it.

      Shortly afterward, we took a vacation which started in Busch Gardens, Virginia.  The plan was to spend a day at the rollercoaster park.  Just the word rollercoaster scares me.  I was nervous from the day I booked the trip, because I knew my boys would pressure me to join them on these death defying rides.  When we arrived at the park, I had Eleanor Roosevelt’s words in mind when I agreed to ride one rollercoaster.  Three rollercoaster rides later, I was on top of the world. 

      Eleanor Roosevelt was right, we should challenge ourselves, every day.  Overcoming a fear is very empowering, but I don’t do it often enough. In fact, I wouldn’t even know what to do to scare myself  that often.  But I agree that forcing ourselves outside our comfort zone is the only way to grow.  The more we challenge ourselves, the braver and more confident we become. 

      My biggest fear is flying.  It’s a terrible phobia that keeps me from doing things that I want to do. I would love to see more of the world, but I cannot get myself on a plane.  I know it's time to overcome this phobia but for a fear this big I need a plan that involves baby steps.  So I thought about visiting the airport, researching my dream destinations, buying a ticket, but I’m not ready for any of that, so instead I went to the book store and bought another Stephen King novel.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Playing to Win

      By nature, I am a competitive person.  I don’t understand the concept of playing games for fun.  I play games to win, winning is what makes them fun.  However, there are those who believe otherwise, and when I am engaged in activities with these people, my competitive nature can seem extreme and I will admit, even a tad annoying.

       I grew up in a neighborhood with so many kids there was never a shortage of things to do.  We played kickball, Kick the Can, tag and tennis, and everything was a competition.  We didn’t even go sledding in the winter for fun. We raced. Every activity resulted in winners and losers. 

       I was an athlete in high school, but beyond that I have had little opportunity to participate in any activities that have allowed me to express my competitive nature.  So I set out to find something that would meet that need.  As luck would have it, I came across a women’s indoor soccer league right in my town.  Now, mind you, I have never played soccer, but I figured I’m fairly fit and I know how to run, so why not give it a try.

       Well, last night, during my very first game, I quickly realized that this sport requires more than just knowing how to run.  As a rule, I tend to be more of a greyhound when it comes to running.  Quick bursts of speed followed by long naps.  This is a sport that requires me to be a Border Collie.  I was completely winded well before half time.  I also fell once, tripping over my own feet in a most ungraceful fashion, and I took a soccer ball to the face.  However, I did manage to score two goals, and by the time I finished, I realized that I haven’t had that much fun since my days of kickball.

     But the best part was that these women were playing to win.  They played hard and fast and I was impressed.  So while I do sometimes let my competitive nature get the best of me, I learned that in the game of soccer, not only is that ok, it is absolutely encouraged.   Perhaps I have found my niche.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Growing Pains

      It has been almost one month since I resolved to quit drinking for the year and in that time I have had varied responses to my decision.  Some people responded with disbelief and questioned my decision.  Others encouraged me with suggestions of how to drink more responsibly, and still others completely supported my decision. But today I received a reaction that made me question what friendship really means and how good of a friend I have been over the years.

       As part of my journey into the world of abstention I am hoping to discover some new things about myself and improve on areas that need improvement.  I use alcohol as a way to alter my reality. When I am feeling dissatisfied with my life, bored, frustrated, lonely, I drink and it all goes away, at least till morning.  Handling life this way allows for very little time for reflection and self-discovery.
       An area of my life that I feel dissatisfied is that I often feel lonely.   Don’t get me wrong, I have friends, several very dear and close friends but we don’t get together very often. I always figured it was because our lives are so busy we just don’t have time, and while there is some truth to that, I wonder if perhaps it runs deeper than that. Perhaps people don’t reach out to me as much as I would like because I haven’t been a good enough friend to them.

       This morning I had breakfast with two friends who were interested in my decision to quit drinking. We had a wonderful conversation and we agreed we should get together again.  I offered happy hour, with the bonus that they have their very own designated driver, and they both responded that they would rather support me in reaching my goal and that Starbucks would be a great alternative to the bar.

        Not only were they supportive of my decision but they would be willing to forego their desires to make me feel more comfortable.  And I had to ask myself if I would have done the same thing.  Unfortunately, I would have been more excited about my very own designated driver.

       A journey of self-discovery is not always pleasant, but it is necessary for growth, and I am grateful that today I had the opportunity to learn something about myself and the kind of person I want to be.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Playdates...Not Just For Kids Anymore

      Last night, Scott (my husband)  and I went out for dinner at one of our local restaurants. We settled into our table and my attention was drawn to a group of ladies sitting at the bar. They were laughing,  talking, drinking and having an all around good time.  I felt a twinge of envy and realized that I couldn’t recall the last time I went out with the girls.

      Now, Scott is my best friend, we love hanging out together. We love our date nights, going out to dinner and movies, but there is something to be said for girls night out. In fact, I think it’s a necessary part of a woman’s life.  If only because we love to talk and we do it differently than men do.

       My conversations with Scott are very one-sided and sound something like this…

      “So I went to the grocery store today, they completely changed the produce aisles around, I couldn’t find anything for the longest time, everything was in a new place…are you listening? anyway, then I stopped by Starbucks and saw Christine, she got a new haircut…Scott, you aren’t listening, put your phone down…”

      That same conversation with a girlfriend would go something like this…

     “So I went to the grocery store today…”  “Oh my God, I was there yesterday, they completely changed the produce aisles!”  “I know, I could barely find anything…and did I mention I ran into Christine?”   “Didn’t you love her new haircut?”

      Girl talk is fast paced, highly charged and very interactive. Men are bottom-line people. “Tell me your story in 10 words or less and move along.  Better yet”, they say, “can you email it? I will read it during half-time.”
      Girl’s night out is essential to a woman’s mental health and I’m certain my husband would appreciate the quiet time.  Yes, what I need is a playdate.  Now, I just have to find a group of ladies….

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Fashion After 40

      Growing up I was a bit of a tomboy, so I never paid too much attention to fashion, and trips to the mall were more about meeting boys than shopping.  As I grew older, I cared more about how I dressed but I still didn’t quite have the knack for it.  Shopping left me feeling frustrated. I was terrible at mixing and matching pieces. I needed Garanimals, but unfortunately they did not exist in the ladies departments. So I learned to buy whatever the manikin was wearing.  I figured if it was good enough for the headless piece of plastic it was good enough for me. 
      Then after 3 boys I was blessed with a baby daughter. Although, Rachael was never really a baby. She was born a teenager.  Wise beyond her years and as luck would have it, a fashion maven.   Thereafter, I never ventured to the mall on my own.  Rachael has been dressing me for years even going so far as to lay out my clothes for me the night before.

      However, it's not all as easy as it sounds.  On every trip to the mall, Rachael brings me to stores like American Eagle or Abercrombie and Fitch. The conversations go something like this…

      “Mom, try on this sweater.”
      “Rachael dear, we are in American Eagle.”
      “So? This sweater would look awesome on you!” (Bless her heart)
      “I’m 46. There are rules.”

       Then Rachael rolls her eyes, and we head to the ladies section of the nearest department store.

      Why do these rules exist? Who made them up?  Why can’t a 40-something woman shop in the trendy stores? And for that matter, who decided an older woman can’t wear a mini-skirt? Who says we can’t wear white after labor day and that our shoes must match our belts.

      Does freedom of expression extend to clothing after 40?  I heard a quote recently that went like this… your right to throw a punch ends at my face.  Does this fall under the same principle? Does my right to wear a mini-skirt end at your line of sight?  Should I take into consideration that the general public might not want to see me in leggings? 

      I don’t know the answer to those questions. What I do know is that I love Rachael’s style, she writes her own rules and I strongly support her in doing that, but for me, I will embrace my age and pass on the beautiful sweater from American Eagle.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Facebook...A Popularity Contest?

      When I first joined Facebook I found it very exciting.  I added new friends almost daily, and spent time checking out their pages, their pictures, the activities they were involved in.  I chatted, changed my profile picture constantly, commented on everyone’s status and received comments in return.

        Then slowly, things started to change.  As time went on there were fewer comments on my status updates.  I noticed that some of my friends just disappeared never to be seen or heard from again.  There was no longer a flurry of activity on my page, but I was aware that for some of my friends this was not the case. They never lost the activity, the comments on their status updates, the friend requests and I realized that even in Facebookland, there is a popular group.

       My cousin Heather is part of this group.  She updates her status many times during the day and tweets constantly while her entourage hangs on her every word, showering her with praise and compliments over her pithy statements and pictures of her children.

       Then there’s my friend Ronnie, also a member of the popular group, with his band of followers.  An update from Ronnie might include a general comment about the 27 hours of overtime he is going to work today and he gets at least 6 “likes” and 14 comments.

       Perhaps it’s the nature of my status updates.  Generally they read something like this: “going to the grocery store” or “going to Starbucks” but even when something particularly exciting happens like “dog groomer coming today” the response is underwhelming.

       So I deactivated my account and entered the Blogosphere.

       The wonderful world of blogging.  Where there is no competition for space, my words don’t get lost in a scrolling news feed, and my 9 loyal followers come here daily just to hear what I have to say. (Actually, I have no idea if they come here daily, but let’s go with that.)

       Yes, this is my venue of choice.  My own little slice of cyberspace pie where I can go on and on about every stray thought that enters into my head.  A place where I can share my soul-searching journey with anyone who cares to read about it.  And perhaps when I find what I am looking for I will have a status update worthy of comment.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Downloading Destiny

      I am amazed by the advances in technology.  I am not very savvy with all the new devices out there, but my husband is, and he gets great pleasure in showing me all the latest and greatest apps and such.  I, on the other hand, am still trying to figure out my iPod.

      Just today, he downloaded a new app that will find local restaurants.  For date night, we are always trying to come up with new places to eat. With this app, we just punch in the type of food we want, how much we want to spend, what town we want to go to, and voila, it finds the perfect restaurant.  Ask, and you shall receive.

      But what about the bigger questions, the questions about life and our purpose, our destiny?  When I was young, I didn’t think much about these questions. In fact, from the time I was 16 years old, I knew that my purpose was to raise a family. I had even picked out the name of my first son, Zachary.  And 10 years later my son, Zachary, was born. Three more children later and I was fulfilling my dream of raising a family. 

      I have seen my kids through everything, from bruised knees to bruised egos, from championship wins to heartbreaking losses, from stitches to cancer.  There has never been a shortage of crises to handle, feelings to soothe, stomachs to feed. In other words, there was no time to contemplate life and its greater meaning.

       Now, 20 years later, with 2 kids in college, a senior in high school, and a 12 year old daughter who is more independent that I ever was, I find there is too much time to contemplate life and its greater meaning.   I have made some changes in this new year, with the hopes of finding the answers to life’s bigger questions and ultimately finding my new purpose but so far I have no answers.

     Isn’t there an app for this?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Agony of Defeat

     In an effort to occupy our time with non-drinking activities, I decided to implement family game night.  So last night, my husband,  my daughter and her friend, and I gathered around our kitchen table for a good old-fashioned game of Scrabble.

      When I took the game out of the box I was pleasantly surprised by the upgrades. The game spins now, so I can look straight at the board without uncomfortably distorting my neck. A bonus at my age as it doesn’t take much to pop a disc anymore.  And the game board has raised borders for each tile so when someone bangs the table the pieces don’t fly all over the place.

      But the most significant change I found was in the rule book under 10 Ways to Become an Instant Scrabble Expert.  The last item, number 10, was Attitude and this is a direct quote:

     “Keep in mind that anyone can beat anyone else with a certain amount of luck. Also remember that everyone draws poor combinations of tiles at times, so when you do, take pleasure in making the best play you can. Finally, don’t dwell on your mistakes. Everyone makes them, so go easy on yourself and just enjoy playing!”

      I appreciate that Parker Brothers is taking an active interest in developing my self esteem but game playing is serious business.  This is not the time to go easy.  The competition is what makes playing games so fun.  If I wanted to play for fun, I would join a T-Ball team, where everyone wins…and gets a trophy for that matter.

      I revel in the thrill of victory, and I suffer in the agony of defeat.  I’m not gracious in either scenario but neither do I expect my opponent to be.  If you want to rub your win in my face, I will be more than happy to return the favor next time we meet. 

      Last night I lost, so I picked up my Scrabble game and went to bed.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

“Mirror Mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of the them all?”
“I’d like to help you out, my dear, but I reflect the truth, I fear…”

Why do I allow this wretched piece of glass into my home?  This constant reminder that my clothes don’t fit quite the way they used to, that I have one more gray hair, and a few new wrinkles around my eyes.

I look at my reflection and I see the mistakes I’ve made, the regrets I have, the years gone by that I can’t get back.   I look into my eyes and I see deep within me the imperfections and the areas that need improvement.

“Mirror Mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”
“Speak your thoughts with care my dear, for I reflect the words I hear.”

As a child, I heard the legend of Bloody Mary and I would stand in front of the mirror and say the name Bloody Mary over and over again until I could see her face.  The words I said changed the reflection.  Can I still change my reflection based upon what I say?

Changing my thoughts, my self-talk is challenging. These are old habits, deeply ingrained, and yet, if I choose to believe that my words change the reflection, as I did as a young child playing a silly game, perhaps the mirror is not the enemy, but my friend.

“Mirror Mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”
“A kinder, gentler soul stands here, and I reflect the truth, my dear.”

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Lesson Learned

      Date night is one of my favorite nights of the week. Every Wednesday, my husband and I take a few hours out of our schedule to reconnect as a couple. We generally go out for dinner or head to the movies. What we do is less important than why we do it.   It’s our time and we do whatever necessary to clear our schedules.
      But last night, we stayed home.  We gave up our date night for the first time in a very long time.  And why? What was so important that I would allow it to encroach on our sacred evening together?
      Two words…American Idol.
      I am a huge fan.  In fact I watch most reality TV. Survivor, Amazing Race, Housewives of Beverly Hills, but there is something inspiring about American Idol. I love to watch the young hopefuls reach for their dreams.
      I have watched every season, and Simon was my favorite judge. So I was especially nervous and excited to watch the new judges and see how they would fare. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised.
      I am a long time fan of Aerosmith and J.Lo so perhaps it was easier for me to make the leap away from Simon. Jennifer Lopez was stunningly gorgeous.  And Steven Tyler was hysterical, although a tad creepy flirting with the 16 year olds.  
As judges, I think they let too many people through, but it was the first night, I have faith that they will find their groove.
      All in all, I’m looking forward to the new season, but will this permanently replace date night?   No. In fact, as a rule, television should never overrule real life. 
     I just have to remember to set the DVR. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mere Coincidence?

     How do we know if God is talking to us? What does His voice sound like?  I have some friends who have made major life decisions because God “put it on their heart” to make those decisions. Personally, when I feel something on my heart I pop a couple of Tums into my mouth. Am I missing something?  Is God talking to me, and how do I know its Him as opposed to my own thoughts?

      I recently got it in my head that I should try a Zumba class.  I searched online for classes offered in my area but found nothing.  Frustrated, I left my computer and said to no one in particular “if I’m meant to take a Zumba class , someone will cross my path with the information I need”. 
      Four days later I met up with a friend I hadn’t seen in awhile and one of the first things she said to me was “I just started taking Zumba classes, you should  come with me!”
      Was this God at work? The Law of Attraction?  Or just mere coincidence?  I would like to say it’s a coincidence, because I doubt that God or the Universe cares that much about whether I take a Zumba class.  But things like this happen all the time. 
       Two weeks before my son, Max, got his drivers license, I felt compelled to drill it into his head what to do if he got into an accident.  We discussed that he should call the police, then me, and I showed him where the insurance and registration cards were kept.   I covered this information daily with him, but when his older brother went for his license, I barely mentioned it.
      The day Max got his license he totaled the car.  Thankfully he was ok, but I was left wondering...did I bring this to him as the Law of Attraction suggests? Did God in His infinite wisdom “put it on my heart” to prepare Max because He knew what was coming? Or was this a random event that just happened because Max was a young and inexperienced driver?
      I have decided to set aside 20 minutes each evening to sit in solitude and listen for God’s voice.  I am operating under the assumption that God has a plan for my life and if I listen hard enough, I will hear that plan, act on it, and live happily ever after. But is that the way it works? Is God going to dictate my future to me?  Is my life already mapped about before me and all I have to do is read the signs? Or is it up to me to forge my own path.  Who is the author of my story?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Redefining the Commute

My first job was in the insurance industry. I worked in the Worker’s Compensation department, investigating claims for people who were injured on the job. I enjoyed my work. I felt like I was providing a good service to people who found themselves in difficult situations.
      My commute to work was about fifty minutes each way. I enjoyed being out on the highways with all the other workerbees.  I especially enjoyed the ride home, because it allowed me the time I needed to transition from work to home. 
      I used that time to hash out any problems I had, go over claims that were still unsettled and work out solutions. By the time I arrived at my front door I was ready to put the work day behind me and relax into the evening.
      When I left my job to raise my kids, I learned quickly that there is no such thing as transition time.  Days and nights blended together as one 24-hour blur of feedings, diaper changes, play-times. There was no such thing as bedtime. It was more like grab a few hours of shuteye whenever possible.
      As the kids got older, my days continued to be one endless cycle. And even now, with college-age kids, their friends come and go at all hours, they make snacks for themselves (and when I say snacks, I’m not talking about cookies and milk, I mean pasta, sandwiches, meatball grinders) at 2 AM. My house is a constant state of activity. I live in a 7-11.
      This kind of lifestyle goes against our nature.  When God created the Earth, right off the bat he separated the light from the darkness. Calling the light day, and the dark evening. They are two separate and distinct times in that 24 hour period and should be treated as such. Hence, the need for transition time, or cocktail hour. But having sworn off that for a year, my new transition time is now my quiet time or as I like to call it, my commute. And I started last night.
      Much like during my working days, I was able to clear my mind of the issues of the day, to listen for God’s voice and relax into the evening.  Twenty minutes of piece and quiet to recharge was all I needed.  And while I didn’t actually hear from God, I am sure that He was aware of my effort and saw that it was good. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

God's Version of God

        I have been curious about God my whole life. Ever since my well intentioned Born- Again Christian friend told me I was going to Hell, I have tried to understand Him and why He would punish a nine year old girl for all eternity.
       At that time, I couldn’t understand words like love and forgiveness as they related to God. The God I met was an angry God, a tyrant.  So I turned my back on Him the day I discovered that I could escape His wrath with a bottle of Budweiser.
       It wasn’t until I was married with children that I gave the idea of God another chance.  I was determined to get to know Him. So I read everything I could get my hands on. I read the Bible, I studied all the major religions…Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam.  I read books like The Secret, books about the Universe, positive and negative forces and energy. 
       And I got more and more confused.  How does someone get to know God?  Not an author’s version of God, or a friend’s version, or even a pastor’s version of God. How does one get to know God’s version of God?

     As I reflected on that question, it became clear to me that I haven’t given God a chance.  I have not been willing to hear from Him personally by sitting quietly and listening. I don’t “sit” well. I like to fill my time with distractions and my biggest distraction is alcohol. The thing I have used for most of my life to keep God at arm’s length.  It is my idol.
         Upon recognizing this I had a talk with Him that went like this…
        “Ok God, I’m not ready to surrender my life to you, but I am willing to surrender  all alcoholic beverages.  I will give you a year.”  

        That was pretty much the whole conversation.

        Its been two weeks and I haven’t heard a thing, but yesterday, I was in my car on the way home from dropping my son at college and as I drove in silence I realized that while I gave up my cocktail hour (which really only lasted 20 minutes} I filled in that time with other distractions. TV, music, trips to Starbucks.  I think I am missing the point.  
        So I’ve agreed to give my complete and undivided attention to God during what used to be my cocktail 20 minutes.  Perhaps now I will finally get to know Him….

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Road Less Traveled

      It has been suggested to me twice that I join a 12-step organization such as Alcoholics Anonymous.  AA is a wonderful program that has helped many people maintain sobriety.  However, I do not believe that is a path I personally must follow. I do not believe I have a disease. What I do have is a poor relationship with alcohol.
      I have vivid memories of being in high school at the social activities, dances, sporting events, and watching the “popular” kids have more fun than anyone at these events. Why? Because they were drunk.  I was not secure enough within myself to do my own thing. I wanted desperately to fit in, to be part of the in crowd. So I made I pact with myself and my best friend at the time that I would never show up to another school function without being drunk. To my mind, that was the road to popularity.
     Unfortunately, it worked.
     Forever after, I associated alcohol with popularity, beauty, fun, everything good in life. I went from being a wall flower to a cheerleader almost overnight because I was now a party girl, accepted.
     Associations such as these are difficult to break.  But just as I made the conscious decision to drink, I can make the conscious decision not to drink. Without any help. 
     I have read that to achieve successful, long-term sobriety, I must change my habits, the places I frequent, even the friends I choose to socialize with. I understand the mindset behind that because when those activities involve drinking, which in my case they do, it can be difficult to not succumb to pressure and old habits.
     I have not made any of those changes. I will not give up my friends. They are important to me. They’ve been there for me through thick and thin, and while they might not understand or agree with my decision, they do support it. 
     In the world of psychology, it is human nature to continue to do things, even harmful things, if they are in some way providing a benefit to us. Reward is a powerful motivator.  We work because we are rewarded with a paycheck. We diet because we are rewarded with a lower number on the scale.  And I am rewarded every morning when I wake up with a clear head, knowing I stuck to the commitment I made to myself, I feel strong, confident and in control…and that is a very powerful motivator. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

This Drinking Game Called Life

      Friday nights in the winter are perfect evenings for building a fire, pouring a nice cocktail and making  dinner at home.  Scott (my husband) and I can stretch a meal out for the whole evening.  Martinis and appetizers, wine with dinner, and finally cordials.  Last night, however, we learned that we couldn’t linger over Pellegrino in the same way.  We cooked, we ate, we cleaned up…done, by 8:00.
      So we decided to play a game. One that Scott just happened to pick up the day before.  The  game was called Yoomi and the object was to be the first player to get rid of all your tokens.  Each player takes turns selecting between two activities, for example play the piano or play the guitar. The player selects based on their interests. The other players have to guess which one is the right choice by placing their tokens on top of this mechanical game piece that turns and deposits the winners token into the “bank” below. 
Seemed simple enough, so we dragged the boys away from their computers to play this ultra-fun family game.  We sat around the table, each placing our tokens on the activity we thought dad would choose and….nothing.  For some reason our game did not work. The tokens did not drop into the “bank”.
After several attempts to trouble shoot, my husband called the game a few choice words, and tossed it out.  And almost simultaneously the four of us said, “this might  have made a fun drinking game.”
      What is it about alcohol that makes everything better?  In college, we could turn anything into a drinking game. Even a sitcom. I remember gathering around the TV to watch Bob Newhart. Every time anyone said the name Bob, we drank. My boys, now in college themselves, turned a hatchet into a drinking game.  Let’s consider that thought process…
      “What do you guys want to do tonight?”
      “I don’t know.”
      “Hey, I have a hatchet. Let’s toss it back and forth, whoever drops it, or slices their finger off, drinks.”
      “Perfect…let’s go get a 30-pack.”

      And who knew ping pong could be so fun.  But I have faith. Faith that fun can be had sans alcohol and I’m determined to find it. In fact, I must because my whole social life hangs in the balance. If I fail, these cold winter nights are going to get a lot colder…
      Scrabble, anyone?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Destiny or Bust

     Do I drink because I’m bored or am I bored because I drink?
     I have spent the last twenty years raising my children. Some years were so busy that they are only a blur to me now. The years of Little League and travel soccer required me to move out of my house and into my car. I packed the back of my Suburban with extra clothes, uniforms, food, Gatorades, first aid kits, and handheld video games. Everything I needed to be out of the house from 7 a.m. till 9 p.m. navigating practice and game schedules with the efficiency and focus of an air traffic controller.
       Then in the blink of an eye, the kids got their drivers licenses and my life, as I knew it, was over.
      So I did what any mom with some spare time would do…I joined the fire department. Becoming a firefighter was one of my greatest accomplishments, but it didn’t last long, because as will often happen in life, I was thrown a curve ball and I had to refocus my energies back to the home front.
      Finding myself with far too much time on my hands, I found solace in my ever faithful friend, Kendall Jackson.  Unfortunately, cocktail hour soon became the highlight of my day.  Well, that and checking to see if anyone commented on my Facebook status.  
      How easy it has always been for me to succumb to old habits, drinking to deal with unpleasant feelings, like boredom.  But not this time. The famous words of Albert Einstein come to mind…”Insanity – doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
       Hence, the decision to give up drinking for one year. Next December when I reflect on 2011 I am hopeful that my life is going to look different. That I will have grown in new ways, perhaps finally finding my true purpose…my destiny.
       But if by that time there is no significant change, rest assured, I will be in the bar at midnight on New Year’s Eve buying the first round of shots.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Live Like You're Living

     Live in the moment….a common theme in most self help books. But what does that mean exactly.  I understand that the past is gone, let it go. And the future has not yet come, so don’t waste time worrying about what may or may not come to pass. But what does it really mean to live in the moment?
    To my black and white line of thinking, it means if it feels good, do it.  Why spend the afternoon doing housework, if a friend calls and invites me to lunch?  Why save for retirement when driving that new car would give me such pleasure now? And why worry about tomorrow’s hangover when that second martini is what I want in this moment? 
     Kris Allen’s song Live Like Your Dying teaches us to use today wisely. Don’t waste this gift called life. Don’t hold back. Treat those you love as if you will never see them again.  All good advice, but this line of thinking is how I justify my drinking habits.
     It’s the middle of winter in New England. Dark, snowy, and cold.  Right now, in this very moment, I want to have a drink. Why not? I’m not going anywhere. My day has come to an end. Who am I bothering by having a cocktail?  And I’m supposed to live in the moment, right?
     I am approaching the age of 50.  And I have somehow gotten this idea in my head that my life is over. My kids are grown, I’m not quite an empty-nester yet, but that is the next stage of life for me.  So I have a choice to make. Am I ready to give up on myself and live like I’m dying or am I willing to discover my next venture.  Do I go back to school? Should I get a job and learn a new skill? There is a world of opportunity for me, so with all due respect to our young idol, I think I will live like I’m living.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Crutch Is A Crutch

       One of the most interesting comments I received in response to my decision to quit drinking was that I shouldn’t worry about my drinking habits, after all, everyone needs a crutch.   Now, a crutch is not an inherently bad thing.  In fact, it’s a necessity for a person with a broken leg.  But when referring to alcohol, or cigarettes, or anything of that nature it becomes derogatory.
      Does everyone need a crutch? And what constitutes a crutch.  By definition, it is simply something that supports someone. By that definition anything could be a crutch.  Since I stopped drinking, I have had an average of four cups of tea each day.  Has tea replaced alcohol as my crutch?
       I guess that depends on why I am drinking it.  First, let me be clear. I am not just drinking tea. It must be Starbucks tea. Well, actually that’s not true, it can be a tea I fixed for myself at home, but I must drink it out of a Starbucks cup.  That is because the Starbucks cup is an accessory. It means something.  When I have a Starbucks cup in my hand I have an identity, I belong to the Starbucks-drinking club.
       Consider Ugg boots.  Could footwear be considered a crutch?  Again, I suppose it depends on why I might choose to wear them.  Is it because they are comfortable and I generally like the look of them? In which case, any warm fuzzy boot would suffice. Or is it because they are Uggs, and I want to belong to the Ugg-wearing community.
       There is nothing wrong with desiring a sense of community, of fitting in, belonging. God Himself declared that it was not right for man to be alone.  So the question remains…do we all need a crutch?  And is the goal to find the least harmful crutch or is it to learn to walk on our own two feet without support.   Perhaps my journey will lead me to the answer to that question. In the meantime, I will hold my head high as I cling to my green and white cup with the cardboard sleeve that announces to the world that I belong.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What's The Problem?

          I read an article recently about a woman who entered into therapy because she drank one glass of wine every night at 5:00 and she wanted to stop.  My first reaction was… why?.  That didn’t seem like a problem to me. One glass of wine per night?  In fact, health professionals now recommend a glass of wine per night as part of a healthy diet. But this woman admitted to not being able to get past 5:00 without the wine, and therein lies the problem.
         When I tell friends that I am going to stop drinking, I generally get the same reaction. Why? After all, I really don’t drink that much.  One martini every night, maybe a little more on the weekends. Some wine, an occasion cordial.  Its not like I’m sneaking vodka into my morning orange juice, but much like the woman I described above I can’t get past 5:00 without it. So I quit.
        Now I have read enough articles online to know that many people believe that in order to quit I must admit to being powerless over alcohol and that I must surrender my life to God.   I might be able to get behind that second part. God is, after all, the Creator of the universe so it is possible He knows better than me what’s best for me, but I have never been able to get past that first step.
       I don’t believe I am powerless over alcohol. The vodka is not pouring itself down my throat.  I am the one opening the bottle, pouring it into the glass and raising that glass to my lips.  I have a choice to do that or not, and I have to take responsibility for that choice.
       As for the God part? I’ll take that under advisement…

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Word About Moderation

       My friend sent me an email after reading my first blog entry suggesting that I consider moderation as opposed to going cold turkey with regard to my decision to quit drinking. Unbeknownst to her, I don't function well in the gray area. And moderation falls in the gray area. In any situation, I am either fully engaged or completely disinterested. (I like to call it passion, my husband calls it obsession.) And drinking is no different.
       I'm either not drinking or I'm drinking to excess. The idea of having one glass of wine just simply does not appeal to me.  After all, its not about the taste, its about the effect.  Consider the wine connoisseur who revels in pairing the perfect pinot noir with his elegantly prepared salmon. What does he think wine is...a condiment?
       I suppose if I could retrain my brain to think of alcohol that way I wouldn't be in this predicament. But I learned very early on that alcohol is an elixir.  It seduces, it beckons with promises of a better life saying come to me all of you who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.   Trust me this is no condiment...

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Reality Sets In

      When I first made the decision to quit drinking for a year, I was filled with a sense of excitement. The kind that comes with any new venture. But reality has all too quickly settled in.  Allow me to recap my first week.  During the first few days, I was still riding on the high of setting a new challenge for myself. But then it was date night.  My husband and I instituted date night several years ago. As our kids got older and started going out on the weekends, Scott and I wanted to be home, so we started going out on Wednesday nights. It is our time to get away from the kids, reconnect, and talk about...well...the kids.
      Some nights it's dinner and a movie, and sometimes just dinner. But always, there's cocktails involved. A couple martinis, a bottle of wine. Very special. Very romantic.  So I have to be honest and tell you that date night and gingerale just don't mix.   The dialog in my head went something like this...  
          "Do I really want to stop drinking completely? Or just cut back. I mean it is date night
            after all... I could JUST drink on Wednesdays, that will make it even more special.  I'm
            only doing this for myself. I can make up the rules as I go along. Whatever works for me,

So I marched into that restaurant and ordered a gingerale.

        Friday night was the next big challenge. I can't remember the last Friday night that I didn't have a drink.  The whole wonderful event of celebrating the end of another week. A roaring fire, nice dinner, and very well chilled double martini.  Again with the mind chatter about the rules, my reward for getting through the first week, but I dug my heels in and poured myself a glass of water.

     But here's the thing, its now Sunday morning, January 9th.  And I am still waking up feeling like I'm hungover.  Where's the vitality??  The sense of well-being?? The clear-headedness? (I don't know if that's a word but my head is too foggy to come up with something else).  I don't feel any better off the booze than on it.  Is this some kind of cruel joke?  Are evil forces at work here?  Today, I am not asking how to give up alcohol for a year, but why....

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Trials and Tribulations of Mid-Life

Have you ever woken up on any random morning and wondered about your life?  And by that, of course, I mean what happened to your life?  I'm not complaining about the things I have. I love my kids, I have a great husband, but is it wrong to wonder about what else there might be? I suppose this is the makings of a midlife crisis. The only problem is how many midlife crises is a person entitled to have. I am 46 and I seem to be having alot of them. Or perhaps its just been one long crisis.  I chose to stay home and raise my kids so I haven't "worked" (as is always so eloquently pointed out to me) in 20 years.  Now that my kids are older I have the luxury of deciding what I want to do with the rest of my life.  I haven't figured that out yet, but I have made a critical decision for myself.
On January 1, 2011, exactly 8 days ago, I made the decision to stop drinking for the entire year.  Now, I wouldn't necessarily consider myself an alcoholic but I do love to drink. I'm really good at it. After all, I've been doing it since I was 13 so I have had a significant amount of practice.  I don't actually remember a time I didn't drink except during my four pregnancies, with one exception. Last year, on my 45th birthday, I made the decision to stop drinking. I journaled every day. And I learned alot about myself in the process, but about three months later, as the holidays approached I decided that it was time to venture back into the world of alcohol seeing as I so clearly did not have a drinking problem and could obviously control it. Hmmm...
Fast forward to the holiday season again, and I have found myself back to where I started. Although this time the drink of choice was vodka rather than chardonnay. For some reason drinking a double martini every night seemed so much more socially acceptable than a bottle of Kendall Jackson.
So this brings me to today...
I am 8 days into the New Year (as we all are) and I have again made the commitment to take alcohol out of my life for one year.  While I journaled the last time, I did not blog. I am hoping the public accountability will keep me on track and in the process maybe I will discover what it is I am supposed to do with the rest of my life...