Sunday, 22 December 2013

Spa week roundup: all is well

After seven days, I'm declaring Spa Week a great success! I'm so glad I decided to step back from having returned to serious drinking. I feel a lot better. Last week, I had started to feel like my mind was wrapped in cotton batting. Now I feel mentally sharp and clear. And calm. Also, my skin and eyes are clear, and while it may seem shallow to care about that, I do care. I'm not looking for the fountain of youth, or trying to preserve myself in a vat or anything. It's just nice to be healthy, and to look it.

The biggest surprise of the week isn't that skin & mind clarity, though. It's this: all week, I didn't want to drink. (Unless you count that one halfhearted little moment of want that couldn't even work itself up into a craving.) I really wasn't depriving myself. I was relieved.

Since I'm happy not drinking, you'd think I'd have made up my mind about it altogether, but I haven't quite. I still think I might be able to have a drink on occasion. I get all twisted up thinking about that, and then I don't even know what I think, or what I want. So what I'm going to commit to is this: I'm going to pay attention to how I feel, and what I want, and how that works. And in a few days, I'll take stock of what I'm learning from that. And I'll let you know.

If you're still here, thanks for reading. I'm off to make some yummy dinner, and another pomegranate ginger fizzy drink.

Peace and joy.


Thursday, 19 December 2013

Small victory: spicy cod-cakes, fun without booze!

Last night's dinner was fun! I made a parsley salad with marinated feta, then spicy cod-cakes in tomato sauce, all from Yotam Ottolenghi's cookbook, Jerusalem. So yummy! I've made 3 recipes from that book so far, and I strongly recommend it. I haven't had time to cook anything new in months, so it was a treat to try making something new.

I drank my special pomegranate-ginger drink and didn't miss the wine at all. Not even one bit. (I honestly didn't. I was paying attention, because I know I can sell myself on a program and then later doubt the whole thing, so I wanted to know how I was really reacting, not just convince myself that it was fine. For one moment, when I saw the bottle of wine on the table, I did have a small pang, but it passed immediately. And throughout the night, I enjoyed staying clear-headed.) We ate and talked and laughed lots, and I felt so relaxed and happy I thought I would burst! My friend missed the liquor store (the one in our neighbourhood closes early) so he didn't have a lot to drink, because we didn't have it on hand. And my partner never drinks a lot. So despite my worry, it wasn't a super boozy evening anyway. Just good food and good friends enjoying each others' company. Hooray for that!

This week is interesting. Me being me, I've made a zillion plans for how I'm going to deal with this drink problem. But mostly, I'm just paying attention. And I'm surprised to find myself relaxed and happy, enjoying not drinking, just plain pleased with life. For today, that's good enough.

Peace and joy.


Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Spa Week update (Plus a yummy pomegranate-ginger fizzy drink recipe)

It's day 3 of my home spa week: treating myself to sparking water and slightly fancy juices and relaxation, not doing much except what I have to do. (Oh yes, and no booze.) That said, I'm working 5 days this week, so it's not really a vacation. But classes are out, so at least I have no deadlines for a couple of weeks. I have little chunks of unscheduled time, and that's a luxury.

So far it's going well. I'm already starting to feel more clear. I'm remembering how much I enjoy the fancy drinks I concoct when I don't have wine. And how much I like getting a good sleep. Unlike when I quit in June, this time I've had none of the fatigue or insomnia or night sweats, or even crankiness. Just me, enjoying the rest. To help me think my way through this, I've made myself a scorching list of what I don't like about drinking too much. It's too long to post in detail, and not super interesting for all that detail, but the gist of it is what you'd expect: feel better physically, feel better mentally, don't waste so much money, don't worry vaguely about problems with memory/self/others caused by drinking, don't avoid same vague worries. So it's not an insubstantial list. Writing it out in excruciating detail seemed a good idea. I didn't really do that this summer, but I think it might be helpful.

But this time, I am not trying to prove anything to anyone. No challenges, no proclamations. Just me, trying to figure out how to solve the drinking thing. Maybe it's drinking a whole lot less. (Yes, I know many think this isn't possible. But some people do manage it.) Maybe it's giving it up altogether. I don't know yet. I'm just trying to figure it out for myself.

Tonight we are having a friend in for dinner, a very heavy drinker. Ironically, that makes me much less likely to want a drink at all, though there might be a moment at the table when I have a wee pang. But the ongoing heavy drinking stage, that's when all the fun is long gone, or al least it seems that way to me, and I don't want to participate in that. I'm looking forward to the cooking, which I guess I should start thinking about soon.


On a festive note, here's an idea for a yummy drink that tastes as festive as festive gets. It looks good in a big wine glass or in a long, slender tumbler.

1-2 oz pomegranate juice, to taste
a little lime juice (usually I juice 1/2 a lime and use 1/2 that, so a tablespoon or two)
dash ginger juice (I buy it in a little bottle in the grocery juice aisle)
fill the glass with sparkling water or soda water

It really is glass of tart and fizzy joy! Let me know if you try it and like it. (It's also good without the lime juice, or with lemon instead of time, or cranberry instead of pomegranate.)

OK, thanks for reading if you're reading. Peace and fizzy joy to you all.


Monday, 16 December 2013

Spa Week returns!

OK, I admit it: my recent attempt at moderation was a crashing failure! I was moderate for a little while, sure. But then I decided I didn't want to restrict myself, and I returned to enthusiastic wine drinking.

I don't recommend it.

It wasn't all bad. I really do like wine, and I'm not prone to hangovers or doing stupid things while drinking.

But it wasn't all great. Here's a list of things that I think are not so great, not in any particular order:

  • My hands hurt. I know that sounds weird. But they do. And they didn't while I was not drinking.
  • I look hungover sometimes. I don't get the killer headaches or whatever people talk about. But I do look a bit hellish some mornings. And on those days, my hands shake as well as hurt.
  • Sweet Jesus, wine costs a lot of money. A lot. At least $100/week. More money than I can afford to spend on it.
  • I am less sure of myself, somehow. This is a big one. When I quit drinking I shed a lot of this kind of insecurity, the "they're probably not interested in what I have to say anyway." Drinking wine, it's back in full force. 
  • I have gained almost five pounds in less than two months.
  • I miss reading at night. After wine, I try, but really I just fall asleep.
  • I don't sleep through the night. Ever. Four AM wakeup, need water, takes an hour to go back to sleep. Same old, same old.
I could go on, and I probably should, but that's the gist. It doesn't sound like a lot of fun after all, does it?

When I was planning to take down the blog altogether, both Lilly and Christy suggested just going quiet for a bit instead. I'm not much of an advice taker, but I'm really glad I took their advice there. Thanks to you both, if you see this.

So I'm making a radical change in direction, again. This is going to be Spa Week, an indulgent week of drinking sparkling water with cranberry, reading mysteries, riding my bike (if the weather holds). And no alcohol. After a week, I'll see what I think. I don't want to commit to anything longer than that. Though even saying that last part sounds a bit silly to me. I'm going to keep blogging after all, because I see how the blog works. You say something out loud, and then if it sounds ridiculous, you have to rethink it.

I know I should maybe have enormous regret about having tried this, but I don't. I had hoped the compulsion to drink too much had faded. One thing is sure: it had not faded. So that's a lesson learned, I think. I'm not sure what's ahead, but continuing to drink too much, or returning to old habits of drinking too much, really isn't what I want to do.

OK, I should make my lunch and head to work. Here's to spa week! And to the many fine people here who are such good encouragers, good enough to encourage a poor listener like me.

Peace and joy.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Thanks and so long! (On not being Thirsty anymore.)

Thanks to all the people who have read and commented (or not commented) and kept me company while I've been writing this blog. If you've been reading you will know that a while ago, after my 100 days without drinking, I decided to drink moderately, and I planned to keep blogging about it.

But it doesn't work. The blogging, I mean, not the moderation itself. That part's mostly fine. I am pleased with being able to drink some wine, and I don't have angst or guilt or hangovers or regrets! I haven't sorted it out perfectly, but I am getting there, and that's good for me. But in doing so, I don't have a lot to say about alcohol. For me the key to making this work, I think, is that I don't think about wine all that often. If I want some I have some, but I am not obsessing about more, or obsessing about less.

And if I don't want to obsess about alcohol, then it doesn't make sense to keep up a blog that's devoted to talking about it. So I'm signing off. I'll leave this note for a few days so anyone who reads semi-regularly will see it. Then I'll take the blog down. Time to move on to new obsessions.

Here's wishing that all of you who want to get sober get there and stay that way. And I hope you find the joy and fulfillment you are looking for in life once you take alcohol out of the way. Thanks for keeping me company along this little bit of the way.


Thursday, 21 November 2013

My moderation thing: how it's going

I haven’t written in a couple of weeks. This blogging is tricky stuff. I think I’d written myself into too small a corner here with my moderate drinking experiment. If things were going well, I felt I couldn’t talk about it because I don’t want to be smug about what I’m trying. Smug is definitely not my game. If something wasn’t working, I felt I couldn’t write about it without people telling me that just giving it all up for good is the better way. But in not writing, I felt like I was stopping paying enough attention, and this thing I’m trying requires me paying attention.

So, after about a month of trying moderate drinking (following 100+ days without) what have I got?

There are some things I definitely like about drinking. When I stopped for a while, I found it easy to be hyper-critical of the drinking part of our culture. I had to be if I was going to set that aside altogether. So here I’m trying to balance that. Give the culture some credit.

Good wine tastes very good. I like it, much as I like good food and good chocolate. (Apparently I think chocolate is a separate category than food.) Jason Vale is just plain wrong on this one. Maybe he doesn’t like it, or something. I do. It’s best if I accept that, and not try to buy into pretending I don’t. I can’t keep that up for too long.

People like getting together for a drink. It’s fun. Last week I went to the pub with some folks after a meeting, and we had a really enjoyable conversation that just wouldn’t have gone that way over coffee. This isn’t about the chemical effects of alcohol. People start to relax once they’ve made the decision to go out, before they even arrive, much less order drinks. This is a social change, a shared anticipation, and it is real.

I like the rituals of drinking: nice glasses, pretty liquids. Going to the store and choosing the wine to go with the lamb you’re planning for dinner. It’s fun, and festive. These rituals are rooted in the culture I’m in and the habits I have. It’s best to acknowledge them, rather than pretend they don’t exist. In part, the rituals of culture make up who we are.

Having said that, I want to take a good square look at when drinking goes wrong. And that’s pretty much one thing: drinking too much. There is a point past which drinking really isn’t all that much fun. Worse, it's dangerous, especially for women. In Amy Gutman’s excellent article Why feminists don't get drunk, she points out that excessive drinking lessens personal agency because it disables a person’s ability to make decisions. So it’s best not to drink so much that decision-making is impaired. I think this is, over time, what most people do. They find that "enough" feeling, the place to stop. If you can't learn that, you just can't drink. Our culture is big on taking personal responsibility, but we're really gapping out on that one.

I think I'm learning. Yesterday, I took myself out to a fancy lunch with wine, which is something I love to do. Then I came home and had coffee and did some work, and then went to a movie with friends. No more drinking for me that day. I didn't want to. Still, I realized I should have had one glass with the lunch, not two. The first one was good. Partway through the second one I thought, oops, I don’t need this, but I had ordered it, and I drank it, and yes, it made me fuzzy in a way I didn’t like all that much. No big regrets, just noticing what works and what doesn't. 

I am trying to set up new norms, to structure my routines so that they become real new habits that aren’t much work. So some things have to be off limits—easy “no’s” for things that can trip me up, and that I can avoid. No more than two glasses of wine at a time, and always with a meal. Sip slowly and enjoy. And pay attention here. One might be enough. If it is, stop. If two doesn’t feel like enough, work through that tension somehow. Take a walk. Have some tea. Eat a little chocolate. Do the dishes. But don’t have more. And don’t let it ruin the evening. Part of this is I need to make sure I keep up the new evening rituals I started when I stopped drinking. Sparkling water while cooking is a good one. Herbal tea after dinner is another. Wine has a place and it’s a lovely one. Contain it, enjoy it, and move on.

I know there were a lot of people talking about moderation being torture a week or two ago. For me, it isn’t. It’s not automatic, and I expect I will feel cranky sometimes when I have to say no to myself, but I was cranky sometimes when I couldn’t have wine at all. Mostly, this has been really enjoyable for me, but of course it’s not for everyone.

One final note: guilt is off-limits! I am trying to figure our how to do this. It might not work, but I think I’m getting somewhere. I can get caught in a trap of perfection and guilt, but that just doesn’t make sense here. I’m not trying to prove anything, or be the best darn moderator who ever lived so I can win some bloody prize. I’m just trying to change some habits, using what I know about how habits form and change, so I can live a good life. So far so good.

If you’ve read all this, many thanks. And peace.

Friday, 8 November 2013


When I started this blog, I wanted to get a handle on my drinking. These days, I'm trying to grapple with the wider issue of my own greed. I have always wanted more of everything. I'm not talking about money here, or stuff. I'm talking about good things happening. I am greedy about moments. I want them to go on forever. It's like I don't believe anything good has ever happened before, or will again, and so when there is something fun or lovely or good on the go, I become some sort of glutton for the experience. Whether it's a good book, or an evening with friends, or a three day camping trip, when it's over I am always bereft.

That's no way to live. I know our economy, and our way of life, is based on competition for scarce resources. But I don't really think life is like that. What if somehow, enjoying the moment means letting go of that urgency to keep it going? Accepting that the moment will end, and other moments will happen, instead of trying to cling fiercely to the fleeting one you're in right now. As I wrote last time, I'm pretty good at the extremes, so I can do self-denial with the best of the self-deniers, or indulge myself as well as many gluttons in the crowd. I didn't learn the middle way when I was a young person figuring out how to live. But I think it's worth the effort to see if I can learn how to live it now.

I am trying this with learning to drink moderately. And it's going well. I am not, as feared, beset with cravings, or spiralling into an out of control mess. During my 100+ days not drinking, I did a lot of mental work. I paid attention to the things make me want to drink, and found other, better ways to cope with some of those things. I realized that being drunk is an awful feeling and a waste of life. That I was using drink as one giant "get me out of here! That being clear and able to remember evenings was a better way to live, one I wanted to stick with. All that stuff I wrote about before.

So now that I'm trying to learn how to drink like a normal person, one who enjoys wine but doesn't go overboard, what I'm learning is a revelation. One amazing thing is, a little really is enough. One glass of wine, maybe two, is a good amount. That means two people sharing a bottle of wine have two whole glasses left over, without any deprivation or hardship. That's astonishing to me! I have never, ever been someone who has had a sense of there being enough. I always wanted more and more. I thought it was come sort of congenital condition. But it turns out that learning to pay attention to the taste and the effect of the wine means I can feel my limit when I hit it, and then I genuinely don't want any more. This is what I wanted to happen, and I had some hope that it could, but I wasn't at all sure.

Another thing is, different situations are different. At home enjoying a quiet dinner with my partner, one glass is lovely. Out in a noisy restaurant with a long relaxed meal, splitting the bottle feels OK, but that's not something I'm going to do very often. One night I had a glass of my favourite kind of beer, a locally brewed extra special bitter, and the single glass was plenty for me. After that, I had a glass of sparkling water, because that's what I wanted. Only once did I see how things fail for me when they fail. I had a glass of wine and then a brandy, and the brandy hit me really fast, and then I did have that old more more more feeling. But instead of resisting it, I had a little more, and stayed with the feeling, and I could feel how wrong that wanting more had been. The extra didn't taste good, and I didn't like the buzzy feeling. I didn't feel guilty or scared, though. I just learned from it, one more bit of knowing what "enough" feels like for me. The moment hadn't lasted, and nothing I could have done would have made it last. In fact, the panic that the moment might end is what makes the moment end too early. Relax into it and it's yours until it's really over, and then there's a whole new moment, with its own promise. This is all new to me. I think it's worth learning.

I do have some absolute restrictions, though. I don't have anything to drink is when I think, "I really need a drink now." When I hit that tired, antsy frame of mind, I drink a large glass of sparkling water instead. If I am going to learn to enjoy wine in moderation, the way people do, it's important that I don't use it in the old escape ways. So I don't pour a big glass of wine after work when I come home feeling beat after working the evening shift. Instead I have a cup of herbal tea, and go to bed. I don't mindlessly pour wine as soon as I come through the door at dinnertime. I pour a sparkling water, and enjoy it, and I always realize I was more thirsty than I had realized.

In this new way I'm learning, wine is something I can have in small amounts, with food and with other people. I am seeing whether I can learn the practice of social drinking that I wish I had learned as a young person. So far, it seems promising. Don't get me wrong, it's not like I have magically fallen into some perfect zone of moderation and now it will all be fine. I am just trying to use the same mindfulness I use in the rest of my life. If I don't want to ride my bike because I'm tired, I have learned to pay attention to know whether I'm really tired or just feeling lazy. If I crave something sweet (or savoury, more likely!) I have learned to figure whether I am hungry, or whether I just want some comfort, and then whether food is really the thing for that. Learning that with wine feels like part of the same process for me. No, it's not going to be perfect, nor does it come naturally to me. That doesn't mean I can't get good at it, though. Learning to ski wasn't natural, but I'm glad I did it. Becoming a fit adult after a couch-potato childhood wasn't natural. Nor was going back to school after years out. I think we can learn to make some changes, slowly and carefully. I'm not saying  this is all OK now, or that I am sure it's going to work out easily from here. But I am trying, using the things I learned from not drinking, and using what I have learned in other changes I have made as well. Mostly I am kind to myself, but not indulgent, and that feels right to me.

I'm not out to convince anyone to do something different; I'm just saying what works for me. Someone mentioned to me that one reason people are afraid of moderation is that people who become moderate drinkers simply drop out of the conversation. (I think more often, people try to do the same thing they did before and just call it moderation, and big surprise, that leads back to where they were before. I know, because I have done that. ) So I plan to drop in once in a while and say, honestly, how this is going for me. I'm actually not doing this for other people, though. I am writing because I want to pay attention to what I'm learning, noticing it so I can hold onto it when I need it.

And for now, I am learning that there is such a thing as enough, and I can recognize that when I come to it. If I really get a handle on that, I won't have to oscillate between my usual poles of deprivation and greed. So far so good.

If you've read this, many thanks. Peace.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Black and white thinking, and the A-word(s).

When I started writing this blog, I wrote about the implicit pressure to say some things and not others, and I wanted to resist that. But resistance is hard. On the one hand, we value people speaking their minds. On the other, some kinds of conversation feel unwelcome in this blog-world. I don't think I get it right, and then I don't want to. I grew up in a closed religion, and as an adult I am wary of things that can't be discussed openly. I know self-censorship is the enemy of real conversation, but I know we all do it. It troubles me.

A couple of years ago, I went on a paleo-inspired diet, and completely changed the way I ate. I lost some weight, felt more energetic, learned a whole lot of new things to cook, ate less crap, and so on. In doing this, I didn't eat wheat for over a year. That was a big deal to me. I had been bread-obsessed my whole life. I used to wake up in the night and think fondly of the buttered toast I would have in the morning. Giving that up was hard. What I ate changed as I paid attention to what worked and what didn't, but for the most part I've stuck with the changes, and they work for me.

Early in this process, sometimes people would get really irritated at me for not eating bread. Friends, acquaintances, the guy who runs the restaurant across the street, they all reacted as if it were an inhuman deprivation. Usually, I would answer with, "It's just bread, and there's more for you if I don't eat it. What's your problem?" But their reactions rankled. On the other hand, the (mostly online) paleo community was down on bread. It was addictive, it was bad for you, you shouldn't really be eating this crap to begin with, and if you are, you are just being suckered by a society that values quick good-time taste over real food. After a while I thought: it's just bread. Why the fanaticism?

I can fall into black and white thinking, and it doesn't serve me well. But one thing I am pretty good at these days is spotting it, and delving in to see what's really going on. When I started seeing a counsellor this summer, we talked about this all or nothing tendency I can go to in my life, and how I might try practicing mindfulness when it crops up.

I was drinking too much. That's for sure. I had some other stresses and some emotional stuff, and it was all tangled up in a knot, and I decided to stop drinking and get a handle on some of it. I wrote about this before. First I decided a week, then a month, and then 100 days. It's been good for me in many ways, and I'm really glad I did it. I feel a lot better not downing a bottle or two of wine every night. I can't imagine how I had the time or money or energy to waste doing that. It seems like a nightmare now, and I am never, ever, ever going back to that. (As I type, my partner just handed me a sparkling water with a dash of bitter. It's my new favourite drink!) I don't crave alcohol these days, and it doesn't take up a lot of my thoughts.

But there are some things about problems with alcohol that are always accepted as givens, and I'm not so sure about them. The argument seems to be this: if you have a problem with drinking you are an alcoholic. If you are an alcoholic, you must stop drinking and never drink again. If you could moderate, you would have done it already, and since you couldn't, you can't. Any questioning of this accepted wisdom is attributed to a wolf, or a wine witch, or some other demon that is separate from the good person you are, and that must be opposed at all costs. (It's just sneaky and wants you to drink. You are smarter than that, and so you won't think about it. One up for you, the good person, one loss for evil demon-wolf-witch. Until the next round.)

But isn't it good to question things? On the one hand, many of us are doing this online, and not through AA, because we want to avoid a dogmatic one-size-fits-all solution. I know I do. I would love for there to be a magic answer, but I have to take me as I come, and I come with questions that I will have to answer for myself.

So what if it's not a black and white problem with black and white answers? Can there be a problem with alcohol that gets resolved so a person can enjoy the rituals and flavours without falling into a big pit of messiness all over again? I think change is possible. Yes, alcohol is a problem that abstinence does solve, in part. But many people who are abstinent don't sound comfortable with it. People still seem to long for it sometimes. And that longing engenders a fear of alcohol, as though the demon-wolf-witch could come get you when you're not vigilant. I've felt this fear myself.

Fear doesn't work well for me as a motivating force. I used to be so anxious that I feared everything almost equally. Now when I'm afraid of something, I think about how to get rid of the fear, rather than how to avoid the thing I'm afraid of. Usually it means heading straight for the scary thing, not finding new ways to get away from it.

After a year away, I decided to start eating bread again. Despite the predictions, my life didn't change. I didn't die, or get fat. I don't eat toast for breakfast, and I don't eat very much bread. Really good bread with butter is a pleasure. Sure I can live without it, but sometimes it's nice to have. The change in habit worked for me. Fear might well be just another kind of obsession, and a healthy relationship with eating avoids both extremes.

Now I am trying the same thing with wine. I realized I was starting to be afraid of it. It's everywhere. What if I caved some day, like people say will happen, and then it's all over for me? So I decided to face that square on, and have some. It was OK. The glass felt nice, and it tasted good, not poisonous. Before I did that, I talked with my partner about it, and said I would see how this goes. Since then, we had wine with dinner one night. It was nice. I didn't want more and more and more. I didn't want any the next day. I wasn't conniving how I could get back to it again, like I had feared. I just enjoyed it, and then I had a cup of tea and went to bed and read. Next morning I felt good as usual. The next night I wanted sparkling water with my dinner, because that's what I now like to have with my dinner.

I'm not obsessed with alcohol these days, and it's a relief that now I'm not afraid of it either. Accidentally having a glass won't send me unwilling into a hellish pit of addiction and despair. I don't plan to be drunk, and I don't plan to drink very often. I will not use wine as an escape or a regular stress release, and that's an enormous change from what I was doing before.  But I am going to have some once in a while, and see if I can make it a small but pleasurable part of my life, like I've done with the bread. This will be a process, and I'll see how it goes. It might work easily, or I might have to make some changes as I go.

OK, if you've read this far, thanks. I'm doing well, and will keep writing as I keep on figuring this out. Black and white thinking won't work for me, and there is no one word that describes all of our problems, or no one route to solving them. I value real conversation, back and forth dialogue that really tries to get at what's going on, and that's what I'm trying to do here. The one thing we do all have in common is that we're trying to figure it out.

Peace and love to you all.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

"Sea, light, and vertigo": more thoughts on wonder

On the wall next to my desk, I have a few favourite poems and quotes. I used to be able to see them while I was on my computer, but a year or so ago I switched to a stand-up desk, so now they are kind of over my right shoulder, and I sometimes forget they are there. This morning, I read a blog post about the passions that sustain our lives, and I was reminded to read a Wallace Stevens poem that's been on my wall for a while. Right under that, I have a line from Jose Saramago's masterful novel, The Stone Raft:

"happiness exists, said the unknown voice, and perhaps that's all it is, sea, light, and vertigo."

I love that line. I don't always know why I do, but I do. Today it's been speaking to me in a different way, and I'm going to try to talk about that.

I live in Canada, and I think many of us agree that North American culture (Western culture? Global culture?) can be pretty darn shallow at times. People feel buffeted by pressures to perform and produce, and find solace in consuming. (That's way oversimplifying, I know, so please don't jump on me too much, if anyone is even reading here!) For people who have decided that excessive drinking has been causing a big problem in their lives, the consumption part of this equation starts to become obvious, and obviously out of whack. So stopping the drink becomes a priority. At that point, sometimes the world seems like a big boozy carnival, one that's dangerous to step into but dull and lonely to be left outside of.

There is so much emphasis on happiness, but it's often equated with pleasure or comfort, so that when faced with the disconcerting fact of not knowing how to live, we are (bizarrely, to me) advised to eat cake, or that we all 'deserve a break,' though what that break is from, I'm not really sure. I like my sweets, and a little distraction can be healthy when you're wound too tight, but I don't see this focus on consumption as ultimately sustaining. I know about hangovers and liver health and all that, but really, this essentially doesn't seem all that different from drinking too much. It won't work for me, anyway.

And then there's another thread in our culture, linked to the humanistic psychology of the 1960s, and hippie counterculture and the self-help movement, that links back to Rousseau. Here it is understood that the world is craven and shallow, and true happiness comes from within. It makes sense that, if you are now critical of the surrounding consumption-oriented culture, you might turn away from it. There is a whole lot of emphasis on turning inward in the sober world.

But some interesting writers have raised the question that the inner world as we think of it might simply not have the resources we need to deal with the questions we are going to face. What if the person I am is made up of my engagement with the world? What if meaning is really something we share in the world, whether we even understand that or not, and it's not something I should go spelunking for in the hidden cave of myself? What if I can only find meaning through ongoing participation in the world?

Sometimes, when I have been thinking like this, I am reminded of being a bored and cranky child, admonished by an equally cranky adult to "go outdoors and play." I used to hate that! Yet these days, that's more likely what I tell myself. I ride my bike. Have dinner with my partner. Read. Go hear some music. (Another great show last night. Steve Reich drumming! Wow wow wow!) I'm not saying I don't exist, or there is no self, no me to engage with the world or be moved by people banging on drums or by Trout Lake in the morning mist. I exist. But more and more I have been wondering whether that existence is made up out of the interactions I have in the world. 

So I'm telling myself, don't fall into this introspection trap. Enough with the looking in. Look out!  Up or down or wherever, but out there somewhere. And go out into it! 

I think wonder is going to save us. And I think we encounter the wonder--sometimes in little sideways glances, sometimes head-on--when we're interacting in the world, doing things we love (or sometimes just stuff that has to get done) not when we're looking inside ourselves. Sea, light, and vertigo. If that's where the magic elixir of happiness is, we will have to step out into it. I will, anyway.

OK, that's what I'm thinking about these days. Now I have to go participate in my schoolwork! Peace and love to you all. And a little bit of wonder.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

An ecstatic post about being sober, music, night-time bike-rides, and chatting with strangers, in case I forget about it later

I love never, ever being drunk. Love it! Not even a wee bit tipsy. That realization hit me last night, and I'm still a bit gob-smacked, to tell the truth. Here's how it went:

After dinner, my partner and I were cycling to a music show. It was a clear night, the moon almost full and promising to get even fuller. We'd been looking forward to the show: small ensembles playing contemporary music, with a fantastic bass clarinet player in from Montreal, sounds ranging from quiet moody percussion to glorious cello, finishing off with a bass clarinet and bagpipe duet that shook the room. I know this is not everyone's cup of tea, but it is mine, and it was wonderful.

But first: on the ride there, I mentioned to my partner that I was happy to not be drinking wine with dinner, because the ride was so much better feeling clear enough to enjoy the crisp night. Same at the show: the music blew me away, made me cry and laugh all at once. Thank God and the world and musicians and composers and volunteers and ticket-sellers and parents who pay for music lessons and everyone who helps bring us live music. And my partner for getting me a ticket. I love you all.

At the intermission, I ended up chatting with the man seated next to us, something to do with some seats having been reserved and whether we were allowed where we were. (He said had removed a bunch of pointless "Reserved" signs just before we arrived, so we had rock star seats, despite nearly being late, and as it happened, he was someone vaguely important and could get away with that sort of thing.) After the show, my partner and I walked to our bikes with guy we didn't know, a musician who had been a the show, whose bike was locked up with ours.

None of this sounds anything but normal. Which is the whole point! I am so, so used to doubting myself after those conversations, wondering whether I was too friendly or too loud or whether I said something I shouldn't have or made the person uncomfortable by saying hello or by laughing at the wrong time or whatever. As far back as I can remember, I have had that sort of wringing doubt after social events. And last night I didn't. Simple as that. I felt at home in my own skin, delighted to have heard such wonderful music and happy to share that with my partner and some people I didn't know. As far as the conversations went, the people I spoke with were as happy as I was to be there, and as happy to share that with someone in a bit of conversation.

Riding home, the moon was still out, the night still clear and crisp but not outright cold. Part of the ride is across a concrete viaduct (outing myself as a Vancouverite here). It's a monstrosity and it's going to be torn down one day, but it's got its beauty too. Riding on it in the night time means riding above the Skytrain and the low brick buildings, way up in the middle of the lit-up skyrises and the weird round ball of lights that is Science World, the whole lit-up city spread out all around. It's like a 1960s sci-fi scene come to life!

A few years ago, when the Olympics were here and the city was awash in cultural events, I quit drinking for a month. I remember one night attending a great literary reading, where the bartender had scrounged a kettle and made me a peppermint tea while everyone, it seemed like, everyone else drank beer. I was alone that night, and pretty lonely, fighting the edge of what I feared was another round of being depressed, but the reading was grand. Heading home afterwards, I rode my bike along a waterside pathway, admiring the lights of the city across the way in the cool night air, and I thought, This is everything I want in the world, right here, and right now.

Somehow I had forgotten that moment. At the time, I never connected it so much with not drinking, just with a great show and a beautiful night ride. Last night, revelling in the post-show glow and beautiful ride,  I remembered the magic of that earlier sober night. It felt the same. And I realized, I love never ever being drunk anymore. Love it love it love it!!!

It's not like every moment is so crack-me-on-the-head magical. (That might hurt!) But I am deeply grateful to be awake and present so that when those moments happen, I am there, too. I never have to suck the moment dry by losing myself in neurotic second-guessing whether I was too something-or-other because of drinking. I am open to the magic that there is, as long as I can keep my mind open and live it.

I needed to write this down, in case I  forget, as I most certainly will once in a while. It really is great to never be drunk. And there's an easy way to do that, right?

OK, that's enough documenting my bliss for one day. Now I really do have to get cracking and study for that research methods midterm.

Peace and thanks to you all. And much love.


Sunday, 13 October 2013


It's been 100 days since I drank. For me, that's the longest spell without alcohol since I started drinking at 18, except for about six months during an illness about 20 years ago. So hooray for that! I will try to think up something pithy to say about it sooner or later. Right now I'm just happy to have made it this far. To be honest, despite my questioning last week, I know I'm in this for the long haul. Day 100 is a hell of a lot better than day 0 was, that's for sure!

Thanks to all the readers and commenters and lurkers and fellow sober bloggers who have helped me so much along the way.

Happy (Canadian) thanksgiving! 

Thursday, 10 October 2013

97 days: thinking things through

The last week or so was super busy with school deadlines etc, and it still is. But somehow, and I don't know why, I made that even harder for myself. I also had to think my way through this not drinking thing all over again. After three months of doing just fine, thanks very much, I had another round of wondering whether I might be able to drink like a normal person again. It's not clear to me why this was suddenly such a burning issue. I wasn't craving wine, or anything like that. I just, out of nowhere, got extremely irritated with all things to do with being sober. I didn't want to think about it, or talk about it, and I certainly didn't want to pretend it was anything other than a royal pain that I couldn't have a glass of wine if I wanted to, even though I didn't at that point want to. It's convoluted, I know, and also typical. Bog standard.

I didn't drink anything. But I did plan to. About a week ago, I decided that, after 100 days, I would start to have an occasional glass of wine. I would set strict limits, and see how that went, and if it didn't work, I would go back to not drinking. Mainly, I didn't (don't) want to live in fear that one drink will wreck my life, so in response to that, I thought having one would solve that. (Maybe not logical , but it was my way of facing the fear, as they say.) At that point, I decided that in twelve days, at day 100, I would have that one drink. Or split a bottle of wine. And then I'd have none for a month.

But a day or so later, I wondered if I needed to wait a month after that first one. Maybe I could have a drink once a week. Or twice. Anyway not every day. And then I thought if I was going to do that, why wait until day 100? Why not just go ahead? Somehow, in all this, I just sat with the thoughts. Finally I decided I might just buy some wine and cut the suspense, but I didn't really want any. I was riding my bike right past the wine store and thought, nah, maybe tomorrow, but not now.

The next day, I did some careful thinking. It seems to me there are two ways this could go wrong, and one is definitely, way way way worse than the other. One, I could actually be someone who, after a period of not drinking, could have an occasional drink. If that were the case, then I would be depriving myself unnecessarily in the meantime by not doing so. The other thing that could go wrong is that I might not be that person, in which case having a glass of wine would start the whole nasty ball rolling again.

I'm busy these days, and I don't want to have to deal with a crisis, self-imposed or not. At worst, I don't actually mind not drinking, and at best, I prefer the sober me. And it kind of frightened me, how quickly that one glass I might have became wine 3 or 4 times a week, all in my mind. It's just like I've always done when I've quit for a little while and started again: it starts again small and reasonable, but it doesn't stay that way. Even just thinking about it--with no actual alcohol, just the thought of it--I was already scheming for more.

So no wine for me. Not after day 100, and not soon after that. I may think this through again after six months is up, which will be late December. But then I have another school semester. More likely I will finish the academic year first, and by then it will be April, close enough to a year that I might as well quit for a whole year and see where that takes me.

I don't know what happened to my forever idea. Maybe in a way I'm back to it, or almost. Maybe it doesn't matter. I'm not too worried about that for now.  I guess I just have to think my way through things the best way I can, and that might change up once in a while.  Throughout this, though, I was firm on one thing: no surprises. I can plan do do whatever I want, drink or not, but I have to be honest with myself about it. So far, being honest means this: I know it won't work out if I do drink, and I don't have anything to lose by not drinking. It's not rocket science, is it?

The whole process, getting caught in this and thinking my way out, it wasn't any fun. I feel like saying I wish this were easy, but I know I haven't had it so bad mostly, and my tough few days came out just fine. Anyway, here I am, day 97, not drinking and not planning to, and I'm pretty darn happy about that.

I'm glad you're out there, fellow sober folk. I'm pretty sure I couldn't do this without you.

Good night.


(I had to do a slight edit, as it's 97 days today, not 96. Apparently counting isn't my strong suit!)

Sunday, 29 September 2013

86 days: quieting down for a while

For almost 3 months, I have found that the world of sober blogging has been a tremendous help to me. Finding other people online who are sober, or struggling to be sober, has been a big part of my being able to make the changes I've made, and I'm super grateful for that. But now something needs to change. I'm starting to feel unbalanced, and I think it's got to do with the energy I'm putting into online support for being sober. As a result, I'm wondering whether new practices might be more truly nourishing for me.

So starting today, I'm trying something new. For the next week, I'm stopping all internet use that's not necessary for school. (I do that once in a while to reorient myself away from the computer, especially when I feel time slipping away, as I do now that classes are clipping along into week 5 of the semester.) I'm not announcing this because I think there's any great drama involved, just reminding myself that I sometimes need to set limits on things so what's helpful doesn't become unhelpful. I can read sober books, go for walks and runs, ride my bike, and write for myself, but I won't interact online for a week. I'll see how that goes.

I'm not planning to drink, or to rethink being sober, or anything like that. I'm just going to be quiet: not take in so much, and not talk so much, about all this. Whish't child, whish't.

So ciao for a week. Hope y'all keep well. Happy almost October!

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Thank you, fellow sober bloggers!

Today it's been 83 days since I quit drinking. I'm doing fine. Great, actually. Feeling better, clear-minded, just all around good with it. Not drinking again is the plan. I look at the sober people and I think, yes, these are my people. That's how I want to live. All good.

Yet I've started thinking, well, OK, I'm doing really well, but I didn't really drink all that much and now that I'm doing so well it will be nice when I can get back to having an occasional drink. Wait! What? No no no! I'm not really thinking this, not in any meaningful, planning-oriented way. I've just noticed that thought slipping in once in a while, and I root it out and go on. Still, it's persistent. My usual, old-me way of doing this would be to go with it. I'm so used to trying to be smarter and better and all that, and of course I would have thought I'd one-upped this booze problem, and then started in again. That's my old pattern, anyway.

But I have to say, so many excellent people have written about about exactly this, how at about 80-something days they started thinking, "Oh, maybe I wasn't so bad" or "what if now I can try having a drink once in a while" or some such. I read those when I was in the full pink blush of newly sober, say at about two weeks or three, and I thought, no way, I will not be so silly as to think that. And now here I am, noticing myself having those same thoughts. Who's silly now, I wonder? I know, because I know me, that if I hadn't read so many smart people who had wrestled with the same thing, I would not have seen this as sneaky addict-mind talk. And I would have fallen for it. It's seductive, after all, thinking I can do it differently, my way, because I'm stronger or smarter or craftier or whatever-er.

I'm not, though. I know that, too, by now. Reading other people's stories, I've been able to see that this getting-over-drinking thing has a pattern, and when I think like this, it's just me in that same pattern. So I can shake off those thoughts, and quietly remind myself how much better life is now. Last night I wondered whether I needed a full list of the gory details of how bad the last days of my drinking were: blackouts, panic, sweats, puffy eyes, despair. I don't think I want to detail it any more than that. I just know I'm not going back, and when I start to think those seductive, addictive thoughts, I'm immensely grateful to all you who have gone ahead and then told your stories, so I can avoid at least some of the holes a person can fall into. I like this being sober. Like it a lot. And at 83 days, I know I couldn't have done it without all the help of a whole lot of fantastic people I've never even met. Thanks to you all!

On a side note: last night was my first fancy restaurant meal out since I stopped drinking. And it was beautiful. We arrived early, and I ordered sparkling water in a wine glass, and when the rest of the group showed up and wine was being ordered, I just smiled and said, "None for me, thanks," and that was all I had to do. The food was great and the conversation wonderful, and I didn't miss the wine one bit. Another wee accomplishment on the way to staying sober. Hooray for that!

OK, that's my story. So far so good. Good night all, and sweet dreams.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Holy emotional rollercoasters!

OK, so I'm being as zen as I can here and I'm not planning to go out drinking after work or any such thing, but man am I ever getting hit with the emotional ups and downs. Yes, I know this is all part of the process. Any chance I could be spared this part though, please, because I really don't like big emotional drama? Apparently not.

Yesterday I snapped at my partner because he suggested we eat dinner and I pointed out that eating dinner was a bad idea because then the whole day would just be over and what was the point of that. Admittedly not the most rational response. We made dinner, and ate it. It was good. There was still an evening. Crisis averted. ( I apologized today, and he didn't even remember. So he's wonderful. Which should help, and it does, but still.)

Today I'm at work, and my lovely, really lovely coworker, who I rarely see because of schedules, chatted with me while I was on my break. I made polite conversation, but in my mind I was yelling, "WHY ARE YOU TALKING TO ME NOW? IT'S A BREAK, DAMMIT!" Later another colleague did the same (aka actually spoke to me) when I was on lunch break. OK, you people, I'm thinking, do I look like someone who wants to have a pleasant conversation? Can you all not go away and let me sit silent? (Of course, if they did, I'd find that irritating. There is no winning in this little racket!)

Every day, at some point in the afternoon, I get a whopping big dose of "Get me out of here!" Some teeny thing happens and I want to yell, or I snap at someone, or I start crying for absolutely zero reason. It's all OK, I'm not planning to drink, (repeat as needed: not planning to drink, not planning to drink) but holy mother all this up and down when there is absolutely nothing wrong is a bit much! Is this what we're avoiding by drinking? Could I just stick my head in a paper bag and avoid it? Would the paper bag thing go over well at work? I'm thinking that's a no.

It will go away, I expect. Running works, and riding my bike, and eating chocolate isn't a bad substitute sometimes. But sometimes those aren't an option, and waiting out the eternity of the crazy up and down minutes or hours is a weird new hell. Ack, I say. Ack.

OK, this is me yelling and screaming like a wee spoiled brat, and that's all for now. Seventy-eight days sober, not exactly sane but that's still pretty darn fine. I'll try to take the Mary Oliver advice Christy posted earlier today. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. I'm going to look around here and find something to pay attention to. Come on world, astonish me. I know you can do it. Here goes!

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Listen. What do you want?

Lately I'm not finding that not drinking is a big problem. Yes, once in a while I want to, and no I don't, and it plays out more or less the same way. But I'm noticing some new patterns that parallel my troubled drinking pattern, and they need attention.

The other afternoon, reading in my study space after a good day of classes, I found myself a little bit hungry, so I ate some chocolate. Actually, I ate the whole bar. First three blocks, then three more, then the rest of the first half, and I put it away. Then, I took the bar back out of the drawer and ate the rest, voraciously. I want to say mindlessly, but it wasn't quite that. It was a weird combination of mindful and "who cares" that I recognize from pouring myself more wine when I knew I had had enough. It was really good, dark chocolate. I can't say I enjoyed it, nor can I say I didn't. It was more like the chocolate happened to me.

Some background on me and food: like many women, I have had a troubled relationship with food. I went through a lot of the usual: chubby 12-year-old became a dieting 14-year-old, then a skinny, occasionally fainting teenager who thought I was fat. I have dieted and exercised, been fit and fat, and left off the whole thing many times. Almost three years ago, I changed to eating a kind of paleo diet, which I still do in a modified sort of way. It didn't solve everything in the world, but I felt a lot better. I wasn't tired all the time. I could go a few hours without food and not have a shaking, weepy meltdown. No more massive mood swings, a lot less anxiety. I lost some weight, and kept it off without paying much attention. I was physically and emotionally a lot more stable. (It's hard to imagine doing all this and letting the alcohol problem creep back up and out of control, but I did.)

When I quit drinking (almost 3 months ago, hooray!) I didn't have the big booze cravings a lot of people talked about, and I didn't seem to have the same huge sugar cravings either. As much as there's cultural pressure to drink, there's also a lot of pressure to be kind to yourself and have cake, reward yourself with sweets, not worry about the sugar when you're tackling the booze. And yes, I did that a few times. The cake (and pie) was good, but I didn't fall into a cake-frenzy. I could see that pressure for what it is, and mostly it didn't get to me.

Yesterday afternoon, I was once again sitting in my study space reading after some long school hours. And I got a bit antsy. It was the kind of shifty feeling I would have answered with wine, and I'm getting better at recognizing those spells. No wine then. But that turned into, well, maybe some chocolate. I had a little talk with myself about having had the whole bar the day before, and what was all this about, but I remained antsy, so I decided to pack my things and go do something else. First I was heading for a coffee, but the coffee at my campus really is terrible. Then I thought I might just go home and have a coffee at a cafe near my house, and have something sweet along with it. There were lots of tasty possibilities. I put my bike on the bus for the first leg of the trip--it takes just over an hour, part busing and part biking. So I had some time to think.

What is it? I said to myself. Do you want cake? Another whole chocolate bar? And since I was trapped on the bus, I gave myself permission to have whatever it was I wanted once I got home, as long as it was really what I wanted. I thought about cake, and pie, and all the sweet things I might have, and I knew I'd feel kind of awful if I ate any of those. I thought about having some of my favourite thickened yoghurt with a spoonful of maple syrup, and that seemed more like it. But I wasn't hungry, and I knew it. Then I saw a truly horrific bakery sign. I think it's called Sugar Planet or something, with chipped blue paint and greasy windows. It's like the dive bar equivalent of a bakery. I thought, that looks gross. No sugar planet for me. Maybe I could buy some pears and have a pear and yoghurt for dessert after dinner. That OK? And yes, it was OK. But still I wondered, what is it? Why so antsy?

I didn't get a straight answer, or not right away. I enjoyed the bike ride part of the commute when I got to it, and once I arrived home, I read some blogs and then talked with my partner about my day. In the telling I realized my day had mostly been fine. I had some funny stories to tell, some good interactions with people that I wanted to share with him. My classes had gone well, and I got done most of what I had planned.

I kept paying attention to what was going on, though. At the butcher shop, the guy who was taking my pork chop order asked me too many questions, and I really did start to cry. He counselled me to get home and have a nice big glass of wine to straighten me out. But I said, "No I'm just tired. I need to go to bed." Was that it, I asked myself? Why could I tell it to the butcher when I didn't even know myself? I wasn't tempted by his wine suggestion, and by then, two hours after the antsy spell had started, I wasn't craving sweets either. I was just tired from my new early morning schedule and hard work at school, and the long bike rides, and all the social interaction that goes with taking classes and figuring out what's up next year and everything else.

So I could see that earlier, when I wanted that sweet something, I had been starting to do the what I have been doing for years, probably reverting to what I used to do before the drinking. When there's a whacking big something I don't want to feel, I give it food and drink and make it go away.

I'm not all that great at listening to what's really going on with me. I think that's common among serious drinkers, and it's also common in people who have used food to quench the emotions. So this seems small, but it was a big victory for me. Just listen. What is it? Yes, you can have cake if cake is what you want, but is it? Or is it a rest, or a change of pace, or a bike ride in the late afternoon sun, or just a change of scene while you keep working on school stuff? I'm new to this. But I figure, for a start, that whenever I'm suddenly overcome with a pressing need to eat a whole chocolate bar, it's not so different than when I want a drink. It's all is the same me, wanting something. I just need to learn to listen to find out what it is.

When I was small, whenever I'd get cranky or fussy, my grandmother would say, "Whisht child, whisht," and then she's give me a nice big glass of Tang to drink. (She added sugar to the Tang so it would be the way she liked it, nice and sweet!) I know this stuff runs deep. As an adult, sometimes when I've felt a bit wibbly, I would think of her saying that, and it would make me smile. Now I need something different. Instead of whisht, child, (loosely translated, it's a cross between "there, there"and "be quiet") I am asking myself, "What is it? What do you want?" And I'm trying to listen, to find out what it is I'm really thirsty and hungry for.

Whew! That's a whole lot of words from someone who is talking about listening. This is me, so far, 76 days sober and trying to figure this out. If you really did read all this, wow, thanks for reading! Happy late September to all.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

71 days sober: thoughts on forever and small moments

This week, two blog posts about forever got me thinking about how I deal with the forever versus one day at a time issue. Amy at Sober-bia wrote a thoughtful piece about forever, which I liked a whole lot. And this morning, Running from the Booze wrote about having a hard time with "forever" and I found that to be just as true for me. I wondered, can both perspectives be right for me?

Mostly I think I am never going to drink again. I need to think I am making a change that will improve my life in an ongoing way, over time, and it's long-term. In that frame of mind, if I started to think I was not drinking now, but that tomorrow might be OK, then I wouldn't see the point of it all. So far, that’s usually been working for me. That’s sets me down smack in the middle of the forever camp, right? But not it’s not quite that straightforward.

Sometimes the future is too much to for me. Here’s an example: I have a friend who is on a month-long trip to Spain. It’s a well-deserved break for her, and I couldn’t be more pleased. The other night, I was looking at some pictures she’s posted online, and I spotted a glass of wine in one photo. There were 93 beautiful pictures of people, building, plants, street scenes, and so on. She is a great photographer, so there was plenty to see and enjoy in the photos. But I realized I had scanned all the tables in all 93 pictures and I had found exactly one glass of wine, and with that I was off on a sad string of thoughts about how someday I will travel again in Europe and when it happens I will not be able to have a glass of wine, and then I questioned whether I had to decide that for now, which led to me thinking that surely one wouldn’t hurt, I was in Spain (or should I go to France? Belgium?) after all, and why couldn’t I have one wee glass of wine on my vacation? I tell you, I was staring at this glass of wine and a whole possible future spun out in front of me, filled with tortured moments of not being able to have that glass of wine, and wanting it, very much wanting it. After a few moments, I got a grip. I thought, I don’t have the personal strength to deal with all these future moments right now, and so I won’t.

If I start this kind of thinking, then the terrifying weight of the future all starts to pile up on me and I start to think, maybe I can't face doing this forever. Which leads to me thinking, maybe I’m wrong about everything. Maybe I should just have a drink no wand get it over with. That's when I say, OK, I just have to live today. I don't have to have the strength to face every possible future challenge right now in this moment. But I'm not drinking now, and that's enough.

That’s my version of forever, and my version of one day at a time. It’s making a decision that orients me towards the future. At the same time, it’s accepting that the future is a bit abstract, and it includes all of the past and present, and I can only act in the present. It's a balance between the two, and I shift my thinking depending on what works. I think shifting between the two kinds of thinking is part of the process.

So the other night, when I realized I was staring at that wine on the Spanish table, and it really was knocking me for a loop, I turned off the pictures, poured myself some sparkling water with fresh-squeezed lime, and remembered that I am not now in Spain, France, or Belgium, and I am certainly not on vacation. I am home and sober. The next day (yesterday) I had to be fresh and rested to write the GRE, a truly nasty exam that’s required for grad school applications, and that was about as much future as I could carry for the moment.


As a postscript, I wrote the GRE yesterday. It took about 4 hours with virtually no breaks, and drew in part on the algebra and geometry I learned about 30 years ago and haven’t used since. It was both excruciating and OK. Afterwards I was exhausted, in exactly the state I would normally have really wanted to drink, just to celebrate the horrid thing being over. For the most part, I knew I wasn't going to drink. But I was sad that I couldn't, I could see that I was so tired that even thinking about it was pointless, and still I kind of wanted there to be champagne of something. Instead my partner met me at the test so we could bike home together, and then he made an amazing dinner and concocted three different bitter no-booze drinks for me over the course of the evening. We had a beautiful evening, and I fell into bed afterwards, sober and happy.

Now it’s Saturday, and I have work this weekend and schoolwork to catch upon for next week, all folded into the next two days. The looming threat of a possible future European vacation and the dreaded worry about what to drink while I’m on it has waned. I’m back to thinking in the long-term and doing what I'm doing right now. But I know I will be hit by this same thing over and over, and I will have to do a bit of hunkering down into the moment just to get through it when that happens. I think that’s how time works for people: we shift between the long view, as we make sense of our lives, and the short view, where all we can face is the living moment. Maybe there’s no need to decide between the two.

Thanks for reading. Hope you have a good weekend. Oops, so much for thinking about the future. I have to leave for work in twenty minutes!