Sunday, July 19, 2015

Letting Go

This year I stumbled upon minimalism, because of The Minimalists, appropriately enough. I think it’s interesting that I discovered their book (Everything That Remains) during this experimental year-of-sobriety, as it has been a great ideology to accompany me on my journey.
At my favorite coffee shop, with the Minimalists!

As mentioned in previous blog posts, I have already learned a lot this year. But I’ve also learned some things that have really surprised me along the way that I may not have encountered if I hadn’t also made the decision to cut out booze. Let me explain…

My coffee maker (that I’ve had for the past 15-ish years now) finally broke. 
Let me clarify – the pot broke, and I can’t seem to find a pot that fits it properly to make the coffee actually brew.

Instead of buying a replacement I stopped and thought: do I really NEED a coffee maker? I’m not a coffee-addict, and it has never felt like a must-have appliance. So I let it go to see how I’d do without it. I learned two things:
  1. I figured out a way to make what I call a "MacGyver-pour-over" where I balance my re-useable coffee filter into a large glass measuring cup, and pour hot water over coffee grounds. I let it sit for about 5 minutes, and it works great!
  2. I can still get coffee at work, or if I really want something fancy, I’ll treat myself at a local coffee shop. 
My next door neighbor moved out.
Now, this doesn’t seem very life-changing of a situation. But this neighbor of mine also took away my internet connection. No, I wasn’t stealing his internet! I paid him $25 / month to share his high-speed connection, and it worked swimmingly.

Anyhoodle, this meant that my Netflix subscription was going to waste, so I canceled it. It was a sad moment when I realized I’d be missing new episodes of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Peaky Blinders, but I figured I’d get over it.

And – surprise, surprise – I totally did.

I know that I can get internet if I really need it, but I don’t work from home, and no new neighbor has moved in over the past month and a half so I haven’t been tempted to ask about sharing. Oh, and I don’t need TV.

It’s amazing how much time I’ve spent watching Netflix! Correction – not spent – WASTED. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think having Netflix / HBO Go / Hulu (or what have you) is inherently bad. But there’s something very wrong with the ease of letting it auto-play to the next episode, and the way that spending an hour watching your favorite show can easily turn into 6 hours of sitting on your couch and letting time (and your life) flicker away. 

The more I read about minimalism and about living more deliberately, I've learned that it's about removing distractions in order to gain more from life. I’ve also realized that our time is SO VALUABLE as it’s the one thing we can never get back. It can absolutely be valuable to spend an hour or two watching a show that makes you laugh, or inspires you, or taps into your emotional core. Movies, television, and books are wonderful for those things. But as with everything in life (including health, drinking, etc.), it’s important to find balance.

Sometimes it’s not until we let go that we realize we had an imbalance in the first place. 

Letting go of my coffee maker and having internet at home has helped me realize that I can not only make do without certain things, but that I can find other ways to live more mindfully and more deliberately.

Photo credit: jakeliefer, via Flickr
If I go to the coffee shop (instead of making coffee at home), I may bump into a friend. I may share a nice conversation with a stranger. I may bring my computer and get some writing done, that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Sure, I might spend a little money – but I like spending time at coffee shops, supporting local businesses, and being around the people in my community. I’m also not spending money on booze, so there’s that.

If I avoid television, I read more books. I find ways to spend more time with my friends, rather than sitting at home on my couch. I find inspiration to work on projects, create art, go for walks, write stories, go to shows, or learn something new about myself. I find it much easier to leave my couch and go out, rather than be tempted to just “stay in and chill” – an excuse I’ve made numerous times in the past when I’ve just wanted to let the fantasy worlds of my favorite shows sweep me away so that I don’t have to “deal” with real life.

Everyone is different, and it’s important to find your own balance. But these are all really good things for me. I am glad that I’ve discovered these things – all because I have allowed myself to be open to the idea of letting go. By letting go we can learn things about ourselves that we may not have before. We might even realize we can’t live without certain things – and that’s a lesson in itself.

The important thing is that this has been a lesson in mindfulness for me. I don't want to just blindly replace the coffee maker or install new internet because it’s just something to be done, because people “should” have those things.

It’s important to take that moment to stop and think: Is this still important to me? Could I see what it’s like to go without?

Saturday, June 20, 2015

May & June - Months 5 & 6 (mostly) down! Halfway point!

Summer officially arrives tomorrow, and I'm lovin' breaking out my sundresses and hair flowers! I can't believe we're halfway through 2015 already - it has gone by so fast.

I did have a moment of weakness this month, when I realized I was in month 6 of my year-without-booze. A conversation with Megan:

Me: "You know, I was thinking...I would like to drink again and go to a brewery or something. It's not like I have to prove this to anyone, it's just something I'm doing for me. I mean, I've come this far. I've proved I can do it."

Megan: "Yeah, but you've come this far, you know?"

Me: "Yeeeeahhhh... I guess."

Megan: "But I mean - you've COME THIS FAR. Yeah, you're doing it for yourself, but you'd be throwing in the towel. You've already made it 6 months. What's another 6?"

Me: "You make a valid point."

End scene!

And, as usual, Megan was totally right.
I've come SO FAR! Yes, I proved that I can live a perfectly happy life without booze. But I also made a promise to myself. No booze for 2015. The whole year. So I'm sticking to it!

The book club girls meet Ryan Nicodemus of The Minimalists!
One of the coolest moments from this past month was that me and the Book Club girls got to attend the Word Tasting Tour!

This included meeting Ryan Nicodemus (of The Minimalists) and Colin Wright (writer, traveler, entrepreneur) as well as Skye Steele (beautifully talented musician), and Josh Wagner (amazing poet & writer).

We read Everything That Remains by The Minimalists for Book Club, and we absolutely loved it. I personally took a lot of their ideas to heart, and truly believe that living minimally (not putting weight in THINGS but instead investing in relationships, time, and experiences) is an awesome way to think and live.

One of my favorite things said the entire evening was from Colin Wright. During the Q&A session (pictured below), someone asked for one piece of advice from the guys. His response was: "You have one life to do everything you want to do, ever." This is something I will carry with me forever - it's a beautiful way to think about life, and what you do with it!

I was thrilled to meet everyone, and I even got to talk to Ryan a little bit about my resolution to give up booze for 2015. I mentioned that one of the biggest things that I get from people when I tell them I've given up alcohol for the year is "Oh, I could never do that."
The guys of the Word Tasting Tour!


My realization after hearing that comment over and over again is: It's not that you CAN'T do it. It's that you WON'T do it. We can do whatever we want, we just have to make the decision. I don't like the idea of people limiting themselves by saying that they can't do something. We can do anything, accomplish anything, if we just make the choice to do so. 

Ryan agreed.

That's the big thing I learned the last couple of months.

I've also lost 4 pounds, 1 3/4 inches, and saved approximately $1,358.00 (from not spending money on alcohol), all in just 6 months. I also feel amazing, happy, and more fulfilled in my life. So there's that!

Monday, April 20, 2015

March & April - Months 3 & 4 (mostly) down! 8 months to go!

I have been slacking on posts, but I've been SO busy I'm totally okay with it.

With spring comes some of my favorite things: sitting on porches for happy hour, traveling, and weddings. These are also some of the hardest times to avoid drinking for me!

First: happy hour porch drinking. 


I love when the weather starts getting warmer, and sitting outside in the early evening (or sometimes early afternoon) and getting your buzz on is perfectly acceptable. I've realized since I started this challenge that I have a much easier time socializing when I am distracted from the act of drinking. When we're at a concert, out dancing, or doing some kind of outdoor activity I have no problems. But when we're sitting somewhere and there's nothing else to do besides sit and drink - it can be a little harder. Luckily my friends are usually pretty awesome at animated conversations.

Second: Traveling. 


This month I had my first experience with traveling without booze. I tend to use "I'm on vacation!" as an excuse to make a whole mess of bad decisions - from drinking before noon, to overeating, and spending more money than I need to. I went to NYC to visit my big sister, and it was actually much easier than I thought it would be.
Two happy sisters!

Amber did have a couple of drinks while I was there, but there was never the suggestion of "let's just stop in here for a drink for no reason at all" or anything like that. If we stopped, it was to take in the scenery, grab a bite to eat, or purchase some delicious Brooklyn-made taffy. My lovely sister was more than accommodating with alcoholic-drink-substitutes, like fizzy water with fruit juice (which was delicious).

I only thought about the fact that I wasn't drinking ONCE - when we were out at a bar that not only didn't carry non-alcoholic beer, but didn't even have mixers (they only served beer & wine). I felt left out at the moment, but quickly got over it when I realized I could purchase cranberry juice at the corner store and bring it in. It's amazing how quickly I can get distracted from the fact that I'm not drinking. 

Third: Weddings. 


So happy for these two!!
This month also marked my first wedding I've ever attended without booze. This was extra difficult because all the booze was FREE. UGH! Water water everywhere... you know?

The bartenders were more than happy to mix me up some mocktails (one guy said "just ask for the Beth, and I'll make you another!") which helped, but I found that the best way to stop thinking about the fact that I was surrounded by endless amounts of free alcohol was... you guessed it. DANCING.

We danced like crazy, I didn't get tired nearly as quickly as I would have with booze, and I didn't have a hangover the next day. Win win win. I think I'm getting the hang of this!

Some things I learned in March / April: 


  • Dancing is the best distraction EVER from drinking booze. Not only is it easier (sloshing a drink all over everyone is never fun), but my stamina has significantly increased. Since quitting the sauce, I've had some marathon dance sessions - 4 hours each! - both times in heels. And I probably could have kept going! 
  • I've definitely lost weight. I can't completely credit the lower calorie / sugar intake, as I have been working with my trainer and exercising more regularly in general. I also got rid of my scale, as I'm sick of it running my life - so I'm not sure how much weight I've actually lost. But my clothes are fitting better, and I have more energy. That's all that really matters to me!
  • I feel like I've been granted the gift of time. Really, it's just that I can stay out later (because alcohol isn't making me sleepy), while at the same time not have any recovery time in the morning. I may sleep in a little after a late night, but I'm not nursing a hangover. I can just get on with my day, and my life. RAD. 
  • It's getting easier. With developing any habit, the passing of time just helps this whole thing become less of a thought process, and more automatic. 
For money saved (I did add in a little extra for my vacation, as I always spend more on alcohol then), I estimated about $928.00. In other words, I've saved almost $1k in 4 months, JUST BY CUTTING OUT ALCOHOL.* That's pretty amazing. 

*I'd like to take a moment to point out (again), that I'm not estimating crazy amounts of money here, guys. I'm talking $5 here, $20 there, a few days a week. If you start tracking it, I bet you'd be surprised how much you spend too! 

This month, I give to wine. Oh, wine - how I miss washing a meal down with your sweet grapey nectar. But damn, I don't miss your hangover. Youch. 

As always, thanks to everyone for the love and support, and every time you've said "we can find you something fun to drink" when we're at a bar. You guys rock. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Month 2 down - 10 more to go!

February was a much easier month to get through than January, just because not drinking is becoming a habit. I don't have to actually think about it nearly as much, I just don't drink. It's a more natural feeling - as though I've been doing it for a really long time. It's funny how quickly habits can form like that!

For the money I saved in February, it was about $201. So including the $233 I saved in January, I have not spent $434 on booze in 2015. That makes me so friggin' happy.

I kind of love that I found this poster. It says "NO!" in Russian.
Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gaucho74/

Some things I learned in February: 

  • I realized that not drinking is helping me make better choices with dating - at least with resisting texting someone when I probably shouldn't. No more drunk texting!  Woohoo!
  • Sometimes a non-alcoholic beer is all I need to feel like I'm having a "treat". And all I need is one - since I'm not drinking to feel the buzz, I satisfy the craving with the taste, then stop. 
  • I want to get healthier in other ways. I joined a gym, and recruited a personal trainer. I want to get strong in my muscles, as well as my overall health. 
  • Sometimes it's hard dealing with stress or disappointment without alcohol. I can't ignore my feelings by getting drunk - I have to confront them and deal with them, whether I like it or not. That's the hardest part I've dealt with so far, to be honest. 
That last part was a doozy in February. It definitely helps having another outlet for those feelings (such as exercising, running, doing fun things with friends), but in some situations (like running), I'm still alone with my thoughts. I didn't realize how little I was actually working through stuff before. I would just dull my feelings, maybe think about them a little bit (when hungover), and eventually move on. I didn't really dive into how I was feeling, or why I was feeling that way. I mean, I kind of did, but not at this depth. It's scary and exciting all at the same time. 

I occasionally miss having a drink, especially if some whiskey is being handed around, or if someone orders a good Manhattan. But it quickly passes, and I forget all about it after a little while. 

So that's where I am right now! As always, thanks for all the love and support! 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

A Bar is No Place for Feelings

Last night I went to a Pre-Valentine's-Day-Singles-Mixer.

Yes, it was just as bad as you'd think it would be. 

We expected as much, honestly. We went in with the understanding we were there to just have fun, eat food, have some drinks, and socialize. But somehow I got to a breaking point, and I didn't see it coming.

Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jonathancohen/
Of course, it was pretty much all women. They were all gorgeous, and all around my age. Two guys showed up - one that was so desperate you could feel it in the way he leaned in (even when a back was facing him), and the other was our friend Matt (who was in cute-single-girl heaven).

We still had fun getting caught up, although it was a juggling act trying to avoid the desperate guy's conversation (he was hovering and ready to attack at any turn). He was a perfectly nice person, I just didn't feel the desire to force small-talk with him. Also, the first thing he said to me and my friends when we introduced ourselves was: "I'm terrible at names, I won't remember any of this."

Now, I know names are difficult to remember, but nothing rubs me the wrong way more than that phrase. I know it's usually just a joke people make when they are in an uncomfortable situation (such as meeting new people). But I don't think people think about what they're saying anymore. I mean, you're kind of saying: "I know I just met you, but I'm not even going to try and remember your name, because I don't give a shit about making any effort." I'd rather someone try to remember my name and guess it wrong rather than say something like that.

But I digress.

We had a fun time for a little while, but as the evening wore on I soberly realized how sad the whole thing was. I couldn't use a stiff drink to dull the fact that there were 30 young, single, beautiful women sitting around with the hope that "Mr Right" would walk in at any moment. I looked at all these women, and I looked at the I-won't-remember-your-name guy, and I just couldn't take it anymore. I had to leave. I had to get out of there NOW. 

Thankfully, a friend in my group saw my desperation to hightail it out of there and followed suit. We talked on the way back to the car about how awful that whole thing was, and laughed about the way I kind of freaked.

I knew not drinking in social situations would be difficult from time to time. But I actually thought to myself before the start of the night, "Hey, I'm doing great! I don't even feel like I NEED a drink anymore!" in a naive way. It wasn't so much that I needed a drink in that situation, but that I needed to figure out a different way to deal with it rather than ignoring it by drinking - and I haven't really nailed that down quite yet (illustrated perfectly by the fact that I practically knocked over the chair I was pulling my coat from while trying to make a frantic exit).

My point is: I have come a long way in a month, but I've still got a ways to go. I am realizing that although I didn't think of myself as a crazy drinker, or someone I'd think of as an addict - there are ways I depended on alcohol that I didn't think of before. It's something I used in celebration, but also in dulling my feelings. Having the stark realization that you're feeling strong emotions in a place where you wouldn't normally feel anything (ie. a bar), can be pretty scary.  

So I move on to my Saturday night without a false sense of confidence, but the feeling that it might be tough. That I'll need to trust that I'm strong enough to handle those scary emotion-thingies without booze. That I can still have fun, but instead of ignoring those feelings I can acknowledge them and move on.

Ugggghhh... being a grown-up is HARD.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Month One Realizations | Kicking the Crutch

Over the weekend I realized that I have started substituting things for alcohol that may not be the healthiest of choices.

Going into this whole no-booze-for-a-year plan, I already had the mentality that I didn’t want to substitute one bad habit for another. I was not going to switch from ordering alcohol at a bar or restaurant to ordering a soda. I also didn't want to start snacking more (in place of drinking), and I didn't want to substitute another form of entertainment (such as pot) to create a similar effect.

Toasting a non-alcoholic glass of goodness with friends!
Over the weekend I realized that I had been making some of those substitution choices - and in doing so, I realized I don’t want to have to need ANYTHING as a crutch. I don’t want to be a person that needs some kind of stimulating or dulling substance (such as caffeine, alcohol, pot, etc.) to get through my day, and my life. I want to be the type of person that can DEAL WITH IT. If things get shitty, I’ll go for a run. If I want to celebrate, I’ll make a delicious meal to share with my friends. If I need to sulk, I’ll cry it out and move on. I’ll figure it out – I’m a big girl.

I guess I just thought I WOULD need something. I wasn't sure if I was strong enough to just cut out booze and deal with life – all the good and the bad – completely clean. But I feel like understanding this is what will give me the opportunity to really do this right. To see what it’s like to live my adult life without any kind of unhealthy substances to “help” me along.

I have myself, and my friends and family for support. That’s all the strength I need!

1 month down, 11 to go!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Money NOT SPENT on Booze for January

Holy crap! I can't believe how much I saved this month just by not buying booze. This has been very eye-opening for me. It's also amazing how quickly it adds up ($5 here, $10 there) - even when I didn't think I "spent" very much.

A quick note on how I'm calculating my money-not-spent... 
I am adding items to my spreadsheet that meet the following requirements:
  • If I'm in a situation where I would normally order a drink (at a bar, or with a meal). I pretty much know when I'd want to order one. 
  • If people are having more than one drink, I'll include an extra one for myself as well. 
  • My estimated cost sometimes includes tip, and sometimes doesn't - just to allow for a little wiggle room. 
  • I like good booze, so I am not usually calculating for $2 beers - but $5-6 drinks (because that's what I normally have). For happy hours I'll try to guesstimate a little lower, for fancy-scmancy restaurants, I'll guesstimate a little higher. 
  • I'm only calculating liquor store trips for when I REALLY want to get a bottle of wine or something. Or if I'm going to an event where I would normally bring my own booze.
And one final note: This is not an exact science. It's just to give myself an idea of what I COULD HAVE spent on alcohol.

For the month of January I did NOT spend $233.00 on booze. 

Whoa.

Some things I learned about myself in January: 

  • Sleep is WAY better without alcohol. I sleep much more soundly, and sometimes for much longer. 
    This is how I pass the time when I'm watching Netflix
    (instead of drinking)
  • As alcohol has a tendency to do, it lowers my inhibitions. Having a clear head made me realize that I can make better decisions in my life!
  • I already feel like I'm developing better relationships with my friends. It's harder to connect with people when they're tipsy and I'm not - so I'm connecting more with people I may not have before, because they also either don't drink or don't drink very much. 
  • I still think it's hilarious watching my friends drink though. :) 
  • I love love LOVE not having to worry about how I am getting home at the end of the night. Knowing that I can always drive myself home is very comforting. 
One thing I'm still working on is dealing with that guilty feeling when I'm taking up a spot at the bar, and the bartender asks me what I'd like to drink, and my response is "soda water with lemon, please." 

I've realized that making a light-hearted acknowledgment helps ("don't worry, I'll still tip ya!"), or keeping them reassured that I understand they're there to make money by at least kicking them a few bucks for keeping my soda water full. I've been in the business before - I get it! 

In conclusion: so far, so good! 
Thanks to everyone for the constant love and support on this journey! 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Weekend (Sober) Thoughts

I never need booze to help me with karaoke.
Friday night was… interesting. 

It was the first night that I went out partying without booze this year, and man, it was very apparent how sober I was. A bunch of us went to karaoke night, which was SUPER fun. But everyone else around me was either tipsy or flat out drunk.

When I was on the dance floor I realized I wasn’t letting loose as much as I normally do. I was suddenly a little self-conscious, which was weird for me. I didn’t have anything to take the edge off, just sureness of myself, and suddenly I was unsure. It was a strange feeling, but it made me think: why do I need alcohol to be my ridiculously silly self? 

Later that night I was talking to a boy I've kinda been crushin’ on. He had been drinking, I had not. We had an awkward conversation about our mutual attraction (well, awkward for me without the booze), and he told me that with everything said he was not looking for a relationship with anybody right now.

I realized if I had been drunk, none of what he said would have mattered. I would have taken the part about our attraction and run with it - ignoring the part about not wanting anything more. I maybe would have tried to smooch him. I would have not thought it through, just gone with the moment. I may have been okay with my decision later (or I may have had some regrets), but at the same time wondered if I was being true to myself.
Being a friend's back-up dancer is always a good idea.

With a clear head, I realized - I don’t want that. I thought to myself: I don’t just want a fling, I want something more (whatever that may be). I want to meet someone and get to know them, and if something comes out of it awesome, if not, move on. I want to see if something great could actually happen, not just a one-night make out session. I realized that this was a really good guy, and that doing something in the moment now could mess up any potential of something maybe happening down the road. Shit, nothing could happen in the future for all I know, but I didn’t want to just be some girl that was a temporary distraction. I’m better than that. I’m not a distraction, I’m friggin’ rad. I realized that I not only respected him, but I respected myself too much to just jump into the unknown. Don’t get me wrong - I’m all about living in the moment. But through a haze of alcohol? That’s not always the best way to do it.

Yeah, I don’t think I would have thought of all that if I’d been drunk. 

Saturday morning I woke up feeling good about my decision, and about myself. It felt good being the person that safely drove my friends home. It also felt good waking up on a weekend morning without any regrets, and with a clear head.

I can’t believe it’s only been 11 days, and I’ve already felt like I’ve learned so much!

PS. Money not spent so far (after the weekend): $62 total. That’s kind of awesome. 

PPS. If you get a “mocktail” at a bar or restaurant, be sure you know the price of the damn thing before the server brings it to you. Somehow our server on Saturday night failed to tell me that my deliciously mixed glass of non-alcoholic juice and fizzy water was 6-friggin-dollars. Ugh. Lesson learned!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Not Boozing When Bummed

Yesterday I had a date planned that canceled.
I actually had another date lined up the same night (just in case one canceled), then they canceled too.
Just the week before I'd had a date cancel as well.

FRUSTRATING.

It's gotten WAY too easy for people to cancel last-minute on things. I have always had a love/hate relationship with technology, and I hate that the ease of communication has resulted in people flaking out more regularly, and having very little accountability. But I digress.

Last night was the first difficult one for me without the booze. I know it's only been 7 days (one stinkin' week!), but I was bummed out, and I wanted a glass of wine.

But I didn't have one. I met up with some friends for not-a-drink at Terminal Bar (I had soda water with lemon), then went home, watched some Peaky Blinders, knitted a bit, made a soda water with elderberry juice concentrate, and went to bed. And it was just fine!
Looking at this guy is a nice distraction from anything, really.

When I thought a little more about it I realized: there is a healthier way to deal with this stuff. Not everyone will flake, and it just seemed worse because it happened all at once. I was bummed, but there are still good people out there (shit, look at my friends for cryin' out loud), and I can totally deal.

I woke up this morning feeling better (although a little tired), and more positive. Tonight I'm planning to go for a run after work, for the first time in a while.

Goodbye to bummed, and hello to a healthier and happier me! 

PS. Due to a lack of drinking last night, I have already saved a total of $36 for the month of January. That's a nice dinner, or a pair of shoes right there! Woot! 

Monday, January 5, 2015

4 days down - lots more to go!

Last weekend was my first weekend in a verrrrrryyyyy long time without any booze.

It actually went pretty darn well! The hardest part was sitting at home when nothing was going on, and not drinking out of boredom. So what did I end up doing instead? Drinking tea and SNACKING.

Yah, I'm gonna need to find a healthier substitute. Tea and biscuits (although delicious), will not help with making it a healthy 2015.

I went out a couple of times over the weekend, and calculated that I've saved about $26.00 on booze so far. So that's a bonus!

I have a feeling my next big challenge will be hitting the social scene and dating, but I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.

As of right now, the New Year's No-Booze Challenge is going great. I feel good, I've slept like a rock the past few days, and I LOVE waking up without any fog in my brain.

Hope you all had a wonderful New Year!