May 2023 deliver all your dreams and desires. Remember, this is more likely to happen if:
1. You write down your goals
2. You break theses goals into smaller parts
3. You measure your progress
Much LOVE and HEALTH to everyone as YOU start writing the next chapter in your book of life.
Here are some blog posts I have written over the years relating to significant changes I have made in my own life (losing weight; quitting alcohol (PART 1, PART 2, 7 REASONS TO QUIT, ANXIETY); dealing with childhood crap). I hope this inspires YOU! If you ever have questions or want support, holler!
Back in 2017, I broke three long-term bad habits. Ones that I had for decades and decades. At the time, I did not set out to make these changes permanent, in fact, I probably thought I was going to fail. Now, at the start of 2023, I look at my original post on Facebook, and I’m so grateful I chose to sustain the choices I made then. (Read about my transformation.)
Grateful I have kept these unfulfilling habits and addictions from my life.
Grateful I developed new habits that serve the “ME I WANT TO BE”.
Grateful I choose to do my daily routines of journaling and mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation in order to sustain my choices.
Remember, all habits are–good or bad–is how you are spending you time. Which means, if you want to implement changes that are going to stick, you need to honestly analyze how you are spending your time.
As we head into another New Year, I want to inspire you to trust yourself enough to take the steps to change those things that are not serving you, not serving your short and long-term goals, those that are not helping YOU be the greatest YOU you can be!
It starts with knowing what your bad habits are, and knowing you can change whatever you want, because it is within YOUR CONTROL.
Habit #1: I had this one for 45 years.
Habit #2: 15 years.
Habit #3: 30 years.
Habit #1: Nail biting
As long as I could remember, I’d bitten my nails. My mother used to, but stopped in her late twenties. My sister, Lizette, did as well. Remember: kids mimic the habits of their parents, good and bad (ask me where my drinking habits developed). Back in 2017, I wrote: “I still don’t like the sensation of long nails, and will continue to keep mine short(ish), but this will be because I manicure them that way, not because I am mindlessly gnawing on my fingers like a crazy cannibal.”
This is still true today, but I have learned a couple of new things:
1. I love getting mani/pedis now, and often “reward” myself with this–which is a Big Deal because it took me almost fifty years to learn to reward myself with things that are actually good for me or at least not actively bad for me (like alcohol). This one might seem obvious, but genuinely… when you analyze your personal rewards system, it is very telling. Pay attention when you think or say the words “I need” or “I deserve” X. Is that X objectively healthy or unhealthy for you?
2. I often inspect my nails and feel a jolt of joy every time–the reverse of the subconscious shame I felt my whole life when I looked at my hands. My brain is now rewired to appreciate the positive change I made. It’s obviously super helpful that this reminder is physically attached to me and unavoidable, but I recommend finding a talisman like this for yourself. One that gives you joy for something you chose to do that makes your life better. For example, I like to wear rings now, which I never did before because I was ashamed of the way my hands looked. Now I rock my great-grandma’s rocks!
Habit #2: Nicotine gum
I was addicted to nicotine gum for fifteen years. Holy jaw-smack! I first starting smoking when I was 16. Both my parents smoked too (ahem) and quit in their forties. I quit for the first time when I was 21, and didn’t smoke again until I was 30. After that, it was mostly social, on again, off again–only at events, never habitually at home, but sometimes, on Big Binge-y weekends. I finally quit cigs on Thanksgiving Day 2016. But I continued to ignore my non-stop, chow-down relationship with nicotine gum, which finally ended in 2017.
But, since I’m not perfect and neither are you, full disclosure: I am still addicted to chewing gum, but at least it is sugar- and aspartame-free! Chewing gum doesn’t seem like the worst addiction to have but the compulsion of it bothers me. I definitely behave like an addict: I’m aware of where my gum is at all times, I worry when the Amazon delivery is late, I notice when the flavor is slightly “off,” etc. Not to go full Freud 101 on my ass, but seems, between the nail-biting and gum-chewing, I might have some sort of “oral fixation” I need to figure out (yes, it is true, Mommy did not breast-feed me; am I cured now? lol). That said, I suspect if the constant jaw-moving stops, some body-rocking might start… I don’t know… I just feel more “normal” when something is constantly moving…
Habit #3: Daily drinking
In 2017, I said: “You have never seen me show up without a box of vino under my arm. My Facebook feed is filled with people making ‘wine ‘o clock’ and drunk jokes at my expense. This surprised me at first, because it certainly wasn’t the way I perceived myself, but it was very telling that others did. I started to examine the role alcohol was playing in my life, read books highlighting how alcohol (ethanol) is a neurotoxin and depressant. I want to live a long and healthy life (forever, bitches!) and I have a ton of important things I want to accomplish. My habit was hindering me and my goals, so know what? I kicked it to the curb! I don’t feel comfortable (yet?) making definite statements like ‘I’ll never drink again,’ but for now, booze and I are taking a much deserved break…”
I drank my last drink on Boxing Day 2017 and now, at the start of 2023, I am willing to say: I will never drink alcohol again.
Alcohol is a neurotoxin that rots your brain. Alcohol is a depressant that causes anxiety. If you are suffering from either of these symptoms, and you are self-medicating with booze… you are literally using the substance that IS CAUSING THE PROBLEM. FFS, stop! You can read more about my journey to alcohol-free living HERE, HERE, and here are 7 REASONS TO QUIT if you need a primer to get started in the New Year. YOU CAN DO IT!
Nervous habits are the result of underlying root causes…
What do all these habits have in common? Other than my parents, who I am not dissing; they did the most important parts of parenting right: Loving us unconditionally, teaching us to think critically, and encouraging us to be the best people we can.
All these compulsions are arguably “nervous habits.” Am I a naturally nervous person? Maaaaybe. I know I am shyer and more introverted than people think, but maybe that is the case for all of us? That saying “Fake It Till You Make It” has been a personal mantra for a long time, but I’ve grown tired of that outlook.
As I discovered back in 2017, I didn’t want to “fake it” anymore, for one, YOU CAN’T FAKE SKILLS. Also, I wanted to know who I am, discover what I love about myself, and what works, but equally, what I didn’t like, and figure out how to change.
I am still learning, but here is the one thing I do know now that people told me for years and years that I never believed and never did (especially us “people pleasers”) but I now live by: It’s okay, indeed, it is healthy to put yourself first. Do it, and soar!
Hemingway famously said: “I drink to make other people interesting.” (He also said: “Write drunk; edit sober,” which perhaps does not bode well for this essay since I am writing and editing sober.)
To be candid: When I gave up alcohol, one of my fears was I’d discover people bore me. I often half-jokingly say, “I’m either a low-functioning genius or a high-functioning idiot,” but the truth is, I am a witty, highly intelligent woman with many interests and a low tolerance for inanity. A part of me did think, I drink to make other people interesting.
What would the world feel like without the fog of wine clouding my every moment?
For a while, as I was trying on my new “Sober Me” skin, I avoided my regular socializing scene. Then I decided to test my sobriety at Artsy Fartsy, a Free Stater event I’ve regularly attended since its inception, only missing a few performances over the eight or nine years it has been running. We do stand-up, recite poetry, read stories, play music, sing, dance, and laugh. It’s a lot of so-so “art,” no real farts, and a fun night out.
In the past, I’d be at least a bottle of wine, and then some, into my night by the time I showed up. Dutch courage, what, what! That night, I’d planned ahead: I smoked a pre-game bowl; I had several bottles of bubbly Pellegrino stuffed in my handbag; I had a texting buddy on the ready; and, if it got too much, I would simply cut and run.
I won’t pad it: I didn’t have fun that night.
Everyone seemed loud and obnoxious. Drunk and inconsiderate. The couple sitting behind me were whisper-fighting throughout the entire performance–FFS, EVERYONE CAN HEAR YOU! I wanted to cut a bitch.
During intermission, I sought out a friend who doesn’t usually drink. Even he was sipping a cocktail; traitor!
“Drunk people are so annoying,” I whined. He gave me a knowing look and said, “Tell me about it.” So I did.
As I spoke, I realized I was going to have to cut my friends some slack while I figured out what my social life would look like sober. Regardless of the frustration I was feeling, I knew I should be proud of myself for having read my essay without the shield of Three-Sheets-ness, the first time I had done a reading at Artsy Fartsy sober–the first time, in fact, I had done anything with a microphone in my hand without having alcohol in my system. I would just have to learn how to find new, different joys in these experiences, or edit those things out of my life that didn’t serve the new and improved Sober Me.
But I chose that night, that event, with those people, as a test, and I passed. Not with flying colors (more grumpy colors!) but I had chosen to be there, in that milieu, amongst my friends and fellow artists, without the crutch of alcohol, and, that night, I discovered I could still be an artist without a drink in my hand. Take that, Hemingway![Aside: WHY do we revere the artists with the worst substance abuse records? Hemingway hit women and committed suicide. Nothing but pithy insights in declarative sentences to emulate there. When I look at my artistic heroes now, I know I want to be like the ones who lived long and prospered, not like the ones who suffered endlessly and fucked up their lives. Guess I am… maturing?]
My not drinking is not about your drinking, at all, unless you want it to be and then I am here for you
This one is a hard: When you stop drinking, no matter what, the people you used to drink with will feel judged, abandoned, or both. Somehow, we conflate other people’s decisions about their lives with having waaaaaay more to do with our own than they actually do. One of the most profound things I have learned in sobriety is this:
Let me state it clearly: My decision to stop drinking has nothing to do with you…
Unless you want it to…
Face it, the reason people feel judged is because, often, if there’s problem drinking for one person in a group, it might be the case for others in the same social circle. But, please, please, please, do not conflate MY decisions about MY life and MY alcohol abuse with you or your relationship with booze. I’m the master of my destiny. I decide for me. You have to decide for yourself. I can share my knowledge and experience with you, but you and your drinking? That’s between you and your conscience.
My decision to quit alcohol was a mindful, conscious choice that no one else could make for me. Not Louis, not my teetotaling friends, not you. Similarly, I can’t decide for you, and I don’t want to: I have my hands full achieving my own life goals–today, thankfully, without a poisonous neurotoxin mucking my vision.
But, if you are like the scores of people waking up to the downsides of alcohol, if you are becoming “sober-curious,” I hope you will give alcohol-free living a chance.
Think about it this way: What do you like about hanging out and drinking? At the start of an evening, before everyone is sauced up, everyone is chatting, laughing, catching up; present in the moment. You are enjoying the company you keep. You are there in the now.
It is later, after more and more alcohol is consumed, when your speech slurs and you keep losing your train of thought that things start to go downhill, the nonsensical spats, the stories on repeat, that time of night when you don’t even notice you’ve told this same story before, tonight, to the same people.
Being sober allows you to see that, for the most part, nights only get boring or repetitive because of the impact alcohol has on your cognitive functions: your shortened attention span, your pitiable forgetfulness. It’s not the people, it’s the booze IN the people!
Chose to BPHAB!
For decades, I shut down bars: New York, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Hanoi. I know the lyrics to every “Last Call” song. Now, instead of sticking through to the bitter end–certainly, in retrospect, called that for a reason–I am able to sweep in, attend events, be fabulous, and leave.
This is empowering.
I look and feel great, am the life of the party for a short while, am able to actually converse with people, remember their names, their stories, and genuinely connect with them in the present, and then… I leave with my head held high. Walt Disney said, “Always leave them wanting more,” and now I can, and do. Instead of being the one stumbling home after a night of ranting and raving (often on repeat), I now leave with my dignity intact.
“A quality or state of being worthy.”
When we drink too much, we rob ourselves of our self-worth, thus robbing ourselves of our dignity. Whether it is the cycle of guilt because you are drinking more than you told yourself you would (breaking your own promises and thus destroying your integrity with yourself), or the regret you feel the morning after (assuming you can remember what to regret), or the unexplained bruises from smashing into things, or the puke stains you have to clean.
Face it: Drinking in excess is not dignified, and surely we want to feel worthy in our own lives? Now, after five years without alcohol, I live in dignity, and I love it!
Another consideration, and this was a particularly hard one for me to admit to myself, is how boring I had become. Not just telling those same stories over and over, but, because of my drinking, how little I was actually doing. Instead of attending that new gallery opening, or exploring a new hobby, or going to that baby shower, I would sit at home and drink.
If you open a bottle of wine for lunch, and continue to drink it throughout the afternoon, you should not be driving, and for the most part, I didn’t, but I would use it as an excuse to just “nest” at home, just me and my vino. Pop another cork! Drink till midnight! Stick a fork in her, she’s done!
I was lucky: I didn’t have a shocking wake-up call like some of my friends and get arrested for a DUI. In fact, one of the crazier stories I told myself and anyone who would question my ability to get behind the wheel after a few drinks, was that I’d learned to drive in South Africa in the Eighties, and drinking and driving at that time was not nearly as frowned upon as it is in America today, so, I would joke, if I was ever caught driving over the limit in the States, I would make the argument to a jury of my peers that since I learned to drive while impaired, the science says I would likely be a better “impaired driver” than the average sober driver. The bullshit we tell ourselves!
No one drives better drunk
Today, I no longer bullshit myself… I no longer have to bullshit myself. I don’t tell myself absurd stories or twist the truth or fabricate justifications or wake up with immediate dread, wondering what I did the night before, who I insulted, or texted, or… possibly, who I bored to death.
Now, I wake up invigorated, ready to stare down the day, knowing I have made the best choice for me for a happy and fulfilling life, one that is there for the taking, one that has so much to offer, one that I look forward to every day.
Hemingway, turns out, can go pound sand, I’m ready for guidance from a new kind of person. Lady Astor, the first female member of the British parliament, said this, and I concur: “One reason I don’t drink is that I want to know when I am having a good time.”
I’m having a good time. I’d love it if you joined me!
If you’re ready to quit drinking alcohol, a neurotoxin that causes anxiety and depression, I’ve got you! I quit five years ago, and have never looked back. (See Sober Me PART 1, PART 2, How to Change, Are You Anxious?)
Here are 7 reasons to get you started on your personal journey to better health. Quitting is in YOUR control.
- Save money!
- Sleep better!
- Improved health and better focus!
- Look better!
- Better relationships with loved ones!
- No hangovers ever again!
- Respect yourself!
1. Save money!
Alcohol is expensive. Here in the Free State of New Hampshire, booze is sold at state-owned liquor stores. By choosing not to drink, I have defunded the state by thousands and thousands of dollars. We don’t want to admit how much money we spend on our drinking, but you will immediately notice the extra bennies when you quit. I even started a “fun fund” to reward myself with an occasional excursion–as simple as an afternoon a few towns over for a delicious meal–as a reminder of how far I have come.
Need an embarrassing story to drive the point home? Years ago, I found myself in my old NYC neighborhood on the way to a house party. I’d already quit drinking, but stopped in at my old regular liquor store to grab a bottle of wine for the host (I have since changed my opinion on this and no longer gift products I think are unhealthy… I now give something I would like to receive, candles or flowers, say). The store owner behind the counter lit up when we walked in, and yelled, “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN. YOU BACK?” Her response was so over-the-top that afterwards, my husband and I calculated how much money we’d been spending there on a monthly basis, and then understood why the shopkeep so desperately wanted us back. She’d lost more than $10,000 a year when we moved. $10K on booze? You can pay off debt with that kind of money. You can go on a decent vacation or start a college fund with that kind of money. Make home improvements, or finally get that sauna for greater health. How about a nest egg for a midlife career change? The sky is the limit! Start planning what you will use your newfangled extra cash on because….
Once you realize how much money you are wasting on something that does not enhance your life, and actively detracts from your health, the choice is obvious. Quit!
2. Sleep better!
Look, sleep deprivation is the Number 1 Torture Technique. Let me repeat that: Lack of sleep is literal torture.
So ask yourself… WHY are you choosing not to sleep well? The way we live–24/7 screens, binge watching TV, junk food, everything on demand, our alcohol and sugar abuse, etc.–has created an incredibly unhealthy environment for optimal sleep, and REM sleep is vital for good health.
Lack of sleep causes the release of Cortisol, the stress hormone, and, I recently learned, dopamine and serotonin deregulation–the hormones that are supposed to keep you happy–can only occur when you are releasing too much Cortisol. In other words: stress deregulates your happy hormones, and the No. 1 cause of stress is… lack of optimal sleep!
The Bad-Sleep-Torture Cycle looks something like this: You’re sleeping badly, so you drink “to relax,” that leads to not sleeping well, which starts to make you stressed and anxious… So, you drink more, and you sleep less… And your stress and anxiety increases… So you… Drink more…
Have you ever stopped to consider whether you are “medicating” with the very thing that is… causing the issue?
This realization was a massive wake up call for me: Alcohol is a poisonous neurotoxin and depressant. You cannot self-medicate yourself into a better place using alcohol. Period.
For most of my adult life, I told anyone who would listen that I drank, in part, because, “It’s the only way I can fall asleep.” Now technically, blacking out after 2 bottles of wine is *A* way to “go to sleep,” but at what cost? The quality of your sleep is junk when you’re drunk, and lack of quality sleep has a cumulative negative impact on your health, causing heart attacks, strokes, brain fog, lowered sex drive, high blood pressure, weight gain, and it ages you.
No thanks! Instead, I have now implemented a bedtime ritual–think of it as the opposite of my former PON (Passing Out Nightly) Routine–I make soothing Lemon Balm Tea which I drink in bed while journaling long-hand about my day (not using a device is important step for me as I pursue digital minimalism); this time for self-reflection is vital to keeping me on track. I highly recommend you start your own bedtime ritual that includes quiet time to write down your thoughts in your own handwriting where you honestly assess what you did/did not accomplish that day in order to achieve your longterm goals.
You will soon discover you can make more of your dreams a reality without alcohol. Quit!
3. Improved health and better focus!
Want Dementia or Alzheimers when you’re older? Me neither!
We’re told that as we age, we need to expect less from our health and brain function… but does it have to be this way? What if the cumulative degradation of our mind and memory is the result of lifestyle choices, and what if, with better choices, better inputs… you will have better outcomes?
Now add the idea that you’re voluntarily ingesting a neurotoxin and poison that is known to destroy your organs, literally a poison that eats your liver, heart, and brain, and then… well, Double Duh.
While the science is still playing catch up on what is causing the mental decline as we age, to me it is undeniable that alcohol must play a part. I want to be as sharp as possible as I get on in years, and so I’m going to do my damnedest to protect my mind, body, and soul. One easy step is to eliminate alcohol. Quit!
4. Look and feel better!
We are all a little vain. And that’s OK. And while we aren’t all equally attractive or talented or intelligent or whatever, we CAN control the choices we make that influence our quality of life.
Quitting alcohol is one of the best ways to improve your looks and feel more alive! It’s empty calories, so you will likely lose weight when you stop. (I switched to Keto when I quit and lost and kept off more than fifty pounds.) You will also have the benefit of sleeping better, which improves lackluster skin, fine lines, and dark circles.
No one looks at an alcoholic and thinks, That person looks in tip-top shape, more of THAT, please! You instinctively know there are underlying health issues. Now that I’ve been alcohol-free for 5 years, even as I’ve entered my Fifties, when I look in the mirror, I feel like the person looking back at me, is ME. This comes from a deep sense of integrity I have developed with myself, that I have consciously CHOSEN TO DEVELOP through actions like meditation, yoga, journaling, calls with friends and family, and mindful living.
Now that I quit drinking, friends tell me I am “reverse aging.” If you want clear eyes, beautiful skin, and that undeniable glow of health… It’s yours for the taking. Quit!
5. Better relationships with loved ones!
When you feel better, mentally and physically, you are able to show up better in your life and in the lives of others. If your drinking is negatively impacting the people you care about, then quitting allows you to restore those relationships. Don’t take this step for granted: make the conscious effort to include them in your new life. Imagine how happy your decision to live an alcohol-free life will make them!
One caveat: YOU are quitting for YOU. Not for anyone else. Not a spouse or partner. Not a close friend. Not a family member. YOU are monitoring your own choices because that is what YOU CHOOSE to do… for YOU.
One amazing gift for me by choosing to quit is spending more quality time with my husband. More frequent hikes in the beautiful Free State, more gardening, more art and music shows, more plans about the future, from new travel destinations to home improvements, and even… better sex! Quit!
6. No hangovers ever again!
My memories of drinking as a senior in high school involve the most deathly hangovers ever. Like, every Sunday, I would have to hole up in my room with the curtains drawn. To explain the retching, I would tell my parents I must have eaten something bad. Food poisoning every weekend? I mean, Dear ‘Rents, come on!
My sporty and healthy sixteen-year-old body was desperately pleading with me to stop the poisoning. Instead, I diligently trained my body to accept the headaches, puking, upset stomachs, lethargy, sweating, general brain-fuzziness, and non-stop thirst as “normal.” Since “Perseverance” is my middle name–not really, I don’t have one, but it could be–as long as I avoided hard liquor (we know how that went), the hangovers became “manageable” over time, meaning I could always, always function the next day through my own sheer will.
Waking up every day dehydrated with a pounding headache is no way to live. If this is your reality… Quit!
7. Respect yourself!
Do you often tell yourself, Tonight, I’ll only FILL IN THE BLANK, and then you end up doing something different? Tonight, I’ll only have a couple of beers. OK, by “a couple,” I meant, you know, six. This type of behavior is a recipe for disaster because the more you break your promises to yourself, the more you lose respect for yourself, then the more you seek solace in things that are causing the problems to start with!
When your thoughts and actions are not aligned, you are on a path to drive yourself bonkers. For real.
Think about it: You know what cognitive dissonance is, right? From Psychology Today, it is the “state of discomfort you feel when two or more modes of thought contradict each other. The clashing cognitions may include ideas, beliefs, or the knowledge that one has behaved in a certain way.” I think of cognitive dissonance even more broadly, to include your actions that do not align with your thoughts… Meaning you are telling yourself one thing (e.g. I want to drink less tonight) but doing another (I had a second bottle of wine with dinner).
This “cognitive dissonance” causes a constant spiral of disappointment… And who wants to live like that?
The good news: Once you identify this cycle of behavior, you are already on the path to recovery. You can stop the “Drive Yourself Bonkers”-ness by implementing one simple thing into your life… A promise, to yourself, written down in your own handwriting, and kept somewhere, to quit alcohol.
All you have to do is keep that one promise to yourself!
When you choose to live an alcohol-free life by keeping your promise to yourself, you gain self-respect.
I did this really hard thing, for me, and no one else. I frigging ROCK!
I feel alive and happy every morning when I wake up. I am so grateful for the choice I made to live alcohol-free!
I will never have a hangover again. Hallelujah!
I love meeting my eyes in the mirror. You go, grrl!
I am proud of myself for simply keeping one promise to myself. I did it!
When your thoughts and your actions are aligned, your life is aligned. When your life is aligned, you can thrive. Quit!
You can only accept the gift of alcohol-free living if you stop denying you have a problem. This is a bitter pill to swallow, and it tastes worse than that first sip of alcohol you took years ago, that one you had to force yourself to drink because it tasted so foul.
Foul because alcohol is a toxin, and your entire body was screaming, “WTF, yo? You trying to poison me?” But you prevailed, mimicking the adults around you, you kept drinking until your body and mind adapted, learning to accept the neurotoxins as the “new normal,” while the seed of your addiction grew.
For years, as my daily drinking increased, I was in denial. What? I’m having fun! I feel great with a glass of wine in my hand! It’s a social lubricator! I don’t feel shy! It relaxes me! I deserve a drink after a hard day! (This one is particularly ironic because: 1. Who “rewards” themselves with poison? And, 2. You will discover days are not nearly as hard when you’re not poisoning yourself on the regular.)
Unlike many, I didn’t have a dramatic wake-up call—no car accident or DUI, no physical fight or embarrassing blackout (I should say, an extra embarrassing blackout, because I had many “normal” blackouts)–so my denial was easy. My life was grand and my drinking enhanced it!
But did it?
Your Own Rules Are Not Made To Be Broken Unless You’re Trying to Drive Yourself Batty
By the time I weighed two-hundred-and-thirty pounds, I had “Drinking Rules”.
No hard liquor. Well, not too regularly. But sometimes, in moderation, if there was an occasion. But not at home. And never alone. But sometimes, in moderation, if there was an “occasion,” then at home, alone.
This “No Hard Liquor” rule came about after a New Year’s Eve party in NYC when I drank seven, SEVEN, martinis. Gin, up, two olives, a little dirty. I loved saying, “a little dirty” to waiters, making it sound, you know, a little dirty.
The last thing I remember about that night was talking to an incredibly attractive couple right before Midnight. They were very tall—probably models—looming over me at the hightop at the crowded bar, me cooing up at them, “My God, you are the most beautiful people in the world!” Dragging my husband, Louis, into the conversation: “Aren’t they the most beautiful people in the world? Can you take a picture?” He was mortified.
The next day, I woke up under my eight-foot dining room table, my cheek stuck to vomit on the floor. I had no idea how I got there. I sat up fast, bonked my head, swallowed down more vomit, started crying, tears rolling down my cheeks as I crawled out from under the table. That hangover was deathly. Edgar Allen Poe style: dark and foreboding. A murder of crows swirling in my blackened brain.
But, even after waking up in the shame of my own puke on the floor, I didn’t slow down or stick to the “No Hard Liquor” rule for long. And whenever I broke down, things turned ugly.
One time, at Bardo Fest, a weekend-long camping event at friends’ off-the-grid farm in New Hampshire, I was double-fisting gallon jugs of alcohol: one tequila, one scotch, taking sips throughout the day, sharing swigs with other partygoers as we milled around the apple orchard.
The last thing I remember–or rather, the first thing I remember after a long “functioning” blackout–was trying to untie my shoelaces so that I could curl up on a sofa in the farmhouse and sleep it off.
Then I blacked out.
Or rather, I passed out.
Flat on my face.
The impact of the fall brought me to, but I didn’t care. I just crawled back onto the couch and sunk into oblivion.
The next morning, I awoke to a pounding Black-Poe-Crow-Head, but also a new pain. My eye socket was tender to the touch. When I checked the bathroom mirror later, there it was: I’d knocked myself a solid shiner.
I don’t recommend going to work with a black eye.
Should I explain what happened? I wasn’t sure if I should address the purple-and-yellow indictment proactively, or just pretend it wasn’t there, Ostrich-style. But Louis was adamant. “Please tell them what happened. I don’t want your boss thinking I knock you around.”
Another rule I often broke was my “Only One Bottle of Wine Per Night,” or rather, “Only Four Glasses of Wine a Night.” There was no rule about how big the glass could be, or whether I could have a couple of lunchtime glasses to tide-me-over. By then, I was buying wine in bulk, mostly Black Boxes—that’s four 750ml bottles per box—on a bi-monthly basis at the state-run Liquor Store—tax-free New Hampshire, where the state sanctions vices for your own good!
This practice of buying boxes rather than bottles created plausible deniability about how much I was drinking. Not only was it an economical way to support my habit, but getting rid of boxes was much easier than having to deal with wine bottles on Trash Day. Boxes don’t clank! Clanking would be a clarion call, a clue to my conscious mind, reminding me of the truth, and this was VERBOTEN, because, see, at least I was TRYING!
As long as I kept making rules, and kept “trying to stick to them,” then I was taking steps in the right direction, right? And this was good enough, right? Trying is better than not trying, isn’t it?
Turns out, No.
That old saying about insanity being you doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results is… true.
Not only is the constant cognitive dissonance–the never-ending battle between unaligned thoughts and actions borderline cray-cray–it is also… exhausting. Mind-numbingly exhausting. Like, eventually, even your own brain starts going, Come on, man, I’m tired of this shit…
It’s fucking EXHAUSTING to keep “trying” to do the right things, instead of just. doing. them… It is fucking exhausting to keep negotiating with yourself–the broken promises, the ruminating, the negotiations, the cajoling, the re-negotiations, the “this time I’ll stick to my rules and it will be OK” fairytales we tell ourselves–at some stage, you realize this repetitive cycle of behavior is not serving you or your goals or the future you want…
You realize trying isn’t good enough. You realize you have to stop TRYING and start motherfucking DOING.
When you close the gap between your intentions and your actions, when what you are thinking and what you are doing become aligned, you start to trust yourself, and when you regain trust in yourself, your world will blossom. When you are ready to do the work to slay your demons, which in my humble opinion starts with writing shit down, it all clicks into place. Until then…
Denial’s a Bitch
My drinking was getting out of control. Besides the stupid fights with Louis that I couldn’t even remember the next day, or nonsensical posts and shameful texts, I started noticing that when I was about to run out of wine before the next scheduled Liquor Store Run, I would get incredibly antsy. (The first clue should have been that I was running out, but OK, denial is a bitch.)
Antsy in a way that someone who is drinking in a socially-acceptable way does not.
Antsy, like an addict. Which, after almost thirty years of near-daily drinking, I certainly was.
Where’s my next vino-fix coming from? Should I do a quick run? Plan a night out? Wait until tomorrow? Why wait? I live five minutes away from a Rite Aid. This became my lifeline for “betweeners,” and when I started getting embarrassed about stopping at the Rite Aid so often that the cashier recognized me, I started cycling between that store and other corner stores in my neighborhood. Um, hello, red flag!
Another “wait-a-second” moment came when I was traveling for work. For years, I have been attending an annual conference, Freedom Fest, in Vegas. This usually means heavy drinking and partying at bars, and $200 bar tabs, just for me. (I always broke my “No Hard Liquor” rule in Vegas, ordering gin and tonics back-to-back. After all, it’s Vegas, baby!)
One year, on a strict budget, I knew I couldn’t afford to be spending $200 a pop at the bar, so I started ordering room service instead, drinking in my room. While this was slightly cheaper at $60 per bottle, two bottles a day added up quickly, especially on a five day trip.
The following year, I figured out I could stock up on alcohol at the airport liquor store, thereby “saving” even more money. But in order to get the full “bang for my Vegas buck,” I bought a bottle of scotch and tequila too, because there’s only so much wine you can carry.
I was still not fully processing how heavy my drinking had gotten, but I did start to notice that when I left my habitual comfort zone (at home, with my innocuous boxes-of-non-clanking–vino), it was clear I was consuming a shit-ton of booze.
On the last trip to Vegas before I quit, it also occurred to me that I was in VEGAS, with colleagues and friends, and, instead of hanging out, I was drinking alone in my hotel room. Roh-roh.
One final “tell” was delivered on social media. I was being bombarded by “Wine O’Clock” memes and jokes about drunk women. At first, this surprised me, and I felt a bit insulted, after all, this wasn’t how I perceived myself, being an actual card-carrying drunk wasn’t “on brand.” I mean, I knew I was a lush, but no one else was supposed to notice.
The clincher? A teetotaler friend suggested that he wanted to cosplay me at an upcoming costume party, and another friend replied: “That’ll be fun! I’ve never seen you drunk before!” That hurt. A lot. Sometimes, we won’t acknowledge what we are doing to ourselves, but if we listen to the people around us, sometimes we hear.
If denial is the opposite of acceptance, then you need to stop denying the reality of how much you are drinking, and/or how much alcohol is negatively impacting your life, relationships, health, wealth, and accept the truth.
In order to change, you must acknowledge where you are, decide to change, and then come up with a game plan to do so, which is actually easier than you think.
You need a reckoning. With yourself. No one else needs to be involved right now, this is just you and your conscience. You need an undeniable, sit-down reckoning with yourself. No lies, no negotiating, just cold hard truths. Pen and paper and some no-bullshit self-reflection and honesty.
If you are ready to change, if you want to stop drinking, here’s what you need to do… here’s the secret: You are going to make a promise to yourself to quit, you are going to write down that promise, and you are going to keep that promise.
No, don’t argue with me. Just accept this one idea: You are going to make one itty-bitty little promise to yourself, and you are going to keep that one promise that you made to yourself and no one else, that you wrote down in your own handwriting, in your own words, and then you’re just going to keep that one promise! It’s really that simple!
Oh, one more thing, accept that it is!
Radical Acceptance, Baby!
A while back, I was watching a TV show in which an important character dies. In that moment, it struck me, we, as humans, deal with death through radical acceptance because we HAVE to… Death, for those who remain, is undeniable in the sense that you cannot pretend it didn’t happen, you can’t pretend the person is still alive; they are not, and that is the reality, that is the absolute, unadorned TRUTH.
Death is a finality like no other, and when someone close to you dies, you have to tell people, make arrangements, call family, organize things. The very nature of death means you don’t get the luxury to “process” or “take time” or “find space” or “make excuses” or “negotiate” or “break the rules” or “pretend,” like you might in other situations.
You just have to accept it: Death is death, real and present. Your only choice is to accept the person is gone, because they are, and even though this acceptance is painful, it’s also healthy, in a “just get it over and done with, PULL OFF THE BANDAID” way.
If you want to quit drinking, you have to PULL OFF THE BANDAID. When you accept alcohol is dead to you and that you will never drink again, you can begin to embrace the gift of liberation you have given yourself.
Without alcohol, you have freed your mind, you have freed your body, you have freed your spirit to go achieve great things.
Alcohol-Free Living is Freedom
When your thoughts and actions are aligned, you will begin to thrive. When you keep your word to yourself, you develop personal integrity and build trust with yourself. This deep simpatico, this synergy between your thoughts and actions leads to freedom.
Freedom from addiction.
Freedom from guilt.
Freedom from fear.
Freedom from depression.
Freedom from anxiety.
When you align your thoughts and actions, you align your life.
Your Word is Your Honor
As the New Year approaches, you may be thinking about your resolutions and your relationship with booze. Maybe you want to “cut back,” or have a “sober month sometime.” I say: Don’t waste another moment denying the impact that alcohol, a poisonous neurotoxin that damages your brain and negatively affects your sleep which is an important source of health, is having on your life.
Your quality of life–your clarity of mind, your essence, your spirit–your mind, body, and soul–depends on the promises you make and keep–your word is your honor–and that starts with the promises you make and keep to yourself.
On Boxing Day 2017, I made a promise to myself to quit alcohol. I didn’t tell anyone at the time because it wasn’t anyone else’s business. I also didn’t tell anyone initially because I didn’t yet trust myself, I didn’t yet believe that it was, indeed, as easy as keeping that one promise to myself.
It’s been 5 years, 60 months, 261 weeks, and 1826 days since my last drink. I had to look that up, because I don’t count the days since I quit, I simply remember that on Boxing Day 2017, I made one itty-bitty little promise to myself that I kept, and this choice changed my life for the better, forever.
I wish that future for you, too: To choose to keep your word to yourself… to come clean, to become clean.
Wednesday night in Vegas, the Libertarian Party held an event in the Arts District for #FreeRoss , which his mother and staunchest advocate, Lyn Ulbricht, attended. If YOU haven’t signed the petition to free Ross Ulbricht, please do so NOW.
At ReBAR, I got to hang out with Scott Horton of the Libertarian Institute, Michael Heise of LP Mises Caucus, Flote, and met some wonderful new people, including Yaakov Markel’s girlfriend who took me on a side quest to a super funky little art gallery, Recycled Propaganda, that was already closed (it was after 9p) but magically opened up for us, and I got to snap some pics (see above).
I also experienced my first ever drive-thru dispensary, strongly resisted the urge to get a $10 tattoo, and accidentally ordered an egg white omelet (wtaf? this is most certainly a Crime Against Culinary, as in, genuinely, whyyyyy?). I had to laugh when my $15+ box of coffee this morning came with a warning to keep the box upright when removing the lid to pour. Umm, you would clearly burn otherwise, doh!
Safetyism is going to kill us all if we don’t stop. It’s supposed to be “survival of the fittest” not “incentivize moronic weakness.”
Speaking of safetyism: Whenever I travel, I’m struck by how much noise pollution exists out there, beyond the borders of the Free State. What if we demanded that the noise trucks make when backing up be banned nationwide? Isn’t it worth at least a study to determine how much less crazy people would be if they weren’t constantly bombarded by unnecessary noise pollution? What if reducing just these extra beeps and sirens from our daily lives remarkably improved, say by 2-5%, mental health? Wouldn’t that be a boon to mankind? Small incremental steps to make everyone a little less cray-cray?
This is just one example of the fascinating conversations you can expect at “Freedom Fest 2022: Turning the Tide,” where the schedule is, frankly, overwhelming. There are simply too many events I want to attend, and I’m torn between the curated documentary films, fascinating smaller breakout sessions, and the impressive Main Stage draws.
I do manage to catch: Mark Skousen interviewing Rand Paul and showing clips of the Senator from Kentucky taking on Fauci’s lies–heroic!; Justin Amash telling us, “DC is worse than you can imagine”; Fox’s Kennedy in her white “Taxation is Theft” dress; and Reason’s Nick Gillespie interviewing a personal hero of mine, comedian John Cleese.
Del Bigtree moderates a panel with Dr. Malone, Dr. Richard Ursa, and Dr. Pierre Kory about “The Long Haul: Ongoing Effects From the Medical Response to Covid,” where these brave gents tell it like it is, including that the mRNA vaccines are leaky, and NOT, statistically-speaking, “safe and effective.”
At the start of this talk, the audience of hundreds is asked who has been vaccinated, and I am genuinely surprised to see more than 3/4 of the room raise their hands. I appreciate the question, because it influences how one should talk to people about forced vaccinations. We need to be mindful that for some, this is an irreversible medical decision that may have led, or may lead, to serious negative health outcomes, which is a stressful position to find oneself in.
Sadly, as I often say: Bad government decisions are good for the liberty business. Every time the government oversteps its bounds, new people enter the greater liberty community. These new folks may have been mentally and/or physically harmed by the government, like our veterans, and the victims of the military-industrial complex, the Pizza-to-Pills-Pipeline, and those hurt by the destructive crony capitalism we now suffer under.
We must show compassion while teaching the most important lesson: Trust government at your literal peril.
This is a lesson independent media outlets are also now learning. Watching the First Amendment panel discussion about press freedom moderated by James O’Keefe, I feel somewhat frustrated because this panel of legal experts is missing one thing… moi!
My widely-cited 2014 First Amendment case, Gericke vs. Begin et al, should be better known in libertarian circles. This landmark First Circuit case affirmed the right to record police officers in public–on the job; on the record!–and was foundational in the resulting nationwide calls for police accountability and police reform.
Why? Because for the first time in human history, thanks to the low cost and ubiquitousness of technology in the hands of “We, The People,” we can finally prove that cops lie. (They hate this.)
During Bigtree’s panel, I was again struck by this feeling of now being part of the vanguard of a growing movement, when Del said, “One night, we went to bed as physicians and woke up as ‘domestic terrorists’.” James O’Keefe said something similar about becoming an “enemy of the state” overnight. I know the feeling. Back in 2013, Free Staters like me were called “domestic terrorists” in a Concord Police Department federal grant application for a militarized BEARCAT.
Back in 2013.
I emphasize this point, because while I am thrilled we keep attracting more freedom fighters in to the greater liberty movement, we must also acknowledge that people like me, inspired by people like Ron Paul, have been warning people like you for decades.
In fact, hanging out at his booth, Ben Swann and I were lamenting this, reminiscing about an event we did together in Concord in 2013 called “Liberty is Rising, “which I write about in my book, The Ecstatic Pessimist: Stories of Hope (Mostly).
My prescient track record–moving to New Hampshire in 2008; fighting police militarization, unlawful surveillance and medical tyranny; adopting Bitcoin and crypto early; promoting free speech; running for office; suing the state–means YOU should seriously consider moving to the Free State. If the past few years taught us anything it is this: Where you live and who you are surrounded by matters A LOT. Choose your neighbors carefully!
As the rest of the world becomes less free, Free Staters are continuing to expand personal and economic liberties in New Hampshire. For example, in addition to being rated #1 in Overall Freedom by Cato and having no state income tax, our Interest and Dividends tax will taper to zero by 2026.
This trip to Vegas was the most I have ever been “ma’am-ed” in my life. Waiting at LAS Starbucks for my flight back to the Free State, I have to remind myself: Growing old, as the saying goes, is better than the alternative, and, at 50, I’m just entering my prime, so stand-the-f-back and get ready for what’s next! (Which is me in the state house!)
I kept a pretty low profile this year at Freedom Fest, only participating on one panel discussion about “Startup Nations,” moderated by Max Borders. I find the glitz and glam of Vegas exhausting when not fueled by booze (which I quit in 2017), and preferred low-key, intimate meals and meetings, spending quality time with friends.
One quick but meaningful connection was with Nick Gillespie, Reason’s Editor-at-Large. We’ve known each other for years, and have both quit alcohol, putting us in a small but growing “pick your poisons/good habit” club. Many of us have discovered alcohol is a neurotoxin and depressant, and, as society liberalizes alternative substances, and as we gain better scientific understanding of “our poisons,” more and more people are eschewing alcohol.
Vegas is about vices and escapism, so when you are striving for balance, Sin City can be a challenge. Instead of alcohol or gambling or party favors, I did indulge in ALL THE CARBS for one meal, a classic favorite of mine, fish and chips followed by bread pudding. Nom!
And guilt-free too! I usually follow a keto diet, but as I was chowing down on my fries, I reveled in all the progress I have made with my physical and mental health. Old Carla might have felt guilty but done it anyway or pretended it wasn’t “bad” <—- applies to all bad habits or behaviors not just “having pudding” naughtiness. New Carla was able to just eat the damn food and write an entire blog post about it later. (Heh.)
My point is this: good habits are hard-earned and worth keeping. Habits, ultimately, are your life, because developing habits is how you are spending your time. The Good Life exists only when practiced in the ever-constant now, but now and then, indulge in a pinch of sugar, and, for a moment, savor its lingering sweetness, too.
I turn 50 today! This seems like… a lot, but honestly, I feel like I’m just getting started! I told Louis the other day that I believe I will live until 150, and that I am DEFINITELY going to space. Maybe nothing beyond the equivalent of getting high enough (hah!) to float in Zero Gravity like a once-in-a-lifetime rollercoaster ride, but I’m going to make it happen. Now y’all know why I want Elon Musk to be my bestie.
A couple of years ago, I set the goal of learning to surf by 50. Then Covid happened, the world turned stupid, and we all suffered. I did go to an indoor surf class once, and I stuck the ride, much to the surprise of the college kid who was helping me. Then I stuck it again. And again. Then I fell… hard–ah, so THAT’S what the helmet and knee pads are for! I did recently get a RevBalance board, and do use that in my home gym, so I’m chalking this one up to “tried, failed to meet the deadline, but I’m still working towards the goal.” Maybe when I’m 60? Until then, Hang Ten, yo!
I had delusions of grandeur about throwing a Fancy Pants Soiree at The Currier Museum. Then Covid happened, people got stupid, and I refuse to support any place enforcing a vax pass, so… yeah. Then, for a hot sec, I considered renting a house in Mexico or Malta, and inviting all my friends from across the world meet me, but then Covid was still a thing, governments were still being stupid, and… yeah.
Fortunately, I live an intentional life in a large community of awesome people, so when I threw a Big Party to celebrate a past community success two weeks ago, my friends surprised me with a heartfelt rendition of Happy Birthday, my own cupcake, and a giant Porcupine cake. Thank you!
I had only one other goal for today, and that was to fit in this Little Black Dress… I’m healthier at 50 than I have been since my 20s. I am definitely healthier than I was when I turned 40, and that is an accomplishment that I am super proud of! After making a commitment to prioritize myself, I decided to deal with my shit, and become more of the person *I*–not society, other people, or anyone else living rent-free in my head–want to be.
While I’m still figuring out who that is, while I am still learning, evolving, growing, failing and getting back up–something I will always do because I believe this is the recipe for happiness in life–I know she looks smashing in that dress!
To Future Me, to the next 50, to 2072 when I will be 100, I say, keep at it, find all the big and little things to love, and then LOVE the world with all you got, grrrl!
Read about the steps I took to change my life.
Read about how I learned to love myself.
PS: The best gift I was given this year was Obi, our new puppy who will keep me on my toes for the next decade and more!
This memory is 9 years old. To my old self: You were wrong!
Living alcohol-free is the best decision I’ve ever made (and I’ve made some GREAT ones over the years, incl. moving to NH as part of the FSP).
Removing the daily voluntary ingestion of a neurotoxin, improved my life in the following ways:
1. Easier to make good choices & routinely stick to them.
2. Sleep! Your brain needs to detox at night, so getting good, deep sleep is vital to optimal brain function/mood and lifestyle balance.
3. Better, less drama-filled relationships, and the ability to clearly see who enhances your life and how, and then nurturing that.
If YOU’RE interested in quitting alcohol, feel free to reach out or drop a comment below. I’m working on a book about this topic, and want to understand what you want to know!
I have been traveling and dealing with family issues, so have not written my annual summation of 2021, but we were all there, and we all know it sucked balls. ‘Nuff said.
Followers know I like to pick a “word of the year” to guide my mindfulness and meditations, a sentiment or notion to circle back to on those days when I’ve lost my “oomph” or need a little brain-trick to stay on the path of health and wellness I have chosen for myself. Past words have included “change,” “vibrance,” and last year, “sthira and sukha” (effort and ease).
This year got off to a rough start, with a difficult Christmas holiday spent with my parents. We all got the Vid, and on top of that, Pa was hospitalized due to a sodium imbalance caused by alcoholism; and my mother’s dementia, in addition to the damage she suffered after her stroke decades ago, is now undeniable.
Their medical challenges are at least partially because of habitual daily drinking, and the negative effects I started to notice a few years ago on their minds and moods, was one of the reasons I quit drinking in 2017.
I haven’t really picked a “word of the year” yet, other than having NETWORKING very forward on my mind, but I’m going to write a book about my decision to quit using alcohol, one that will hopefully persuade you to do so too.
I feel grateful that I have grown enough as a writer over the past few years that, instead of having to work on motivating myself to write, I have created sustainable habits–daily journaling, meditation, regular blogging and fresh content–to support the following achievable commitments:
- Three months to write an outline and submit book proposal;
- Network with my fellow author friends and publishing contacts to do a formal book deal;
- Finish the book by the end of year.
I have been practicing behavioral modification for the last couple of years. One of the reframing techniques I use is identifying when I am suffering from cognitive dissonance, which is just a fancy way of saying, “moments when my behavior and my thoughts are not aligned.”
Because I’ve had other careers, including working as in-house counsel at Fortune 500s through the dotcom era, I have always treated my writing as a “hobby” instead of a job. This is the year this changes.
In my quest for clean living, I’m actively seeking natural ways to get more dopamine hits, and the feeling I got when my first book, The Ecstatic Pessimist: Stories of Hope (Mostly) was published, rates right up there on my internal satisfaction scale. It’s a feeling worth chasing! Every time I see my book, I get a little thrill. As I was journaling this morning, I realized I can replicate that feeling more often if I churn out more books. Go me!
Years ago, before I got cancelled for my views on gun control, I worked with locally-known New Hampshire journalist and historian, John Clayton. He said something in a workshop that’s always stuck with me. He sold his first story for a nominal amount when he was still in high school. Fine. But the important part was he told himself he would never publish anything for which he was not remunerated. As I shift more seriously into writing career path, I am going to apply this to my own life going forward.
Of course, I will still blog and write for the sake of communicating important ideas, but I will also seek to monetize my efforts… Which is just my way of saying: writing is no longer a hobby, it is a calling for which I want and deserve to get paid.