3 Things That Happened When I Stopped Drinking Alcohol

I feel that everyone has said this to some extent, but I used to be a pretty big drinker. I’m not sure if it was way to reduce social anxiety, a coping mechanism, or something to do to pass the time (or all three) — but whatever it was, it was getting to be too much in my life. And so, I stopped.

Of course it wasn’t as easy as that, but I was getting tired of feeling like crap. After a real heart-to-heart and realizing that I was poisoning my body, it was time to make a decision. If my body was so hell bent on rejecting the stuff, maybe it was time for me to consciously do so in return.

So I went for a little over 30 days without drinking. Here’s what happened:

1. I lost weight. I’ve been struggling to lose “the last 10” for years and have been on every restrictive diet and exercise plan out there – really. But nothing, I repeat, nothing broke the plateau more effortlessly than not drinking. I am now comfortably 5 to 8 pounds less than what I was, just by making that one change.

2. I lost some friends. Happy hour and bottomless mimosa brunches are not part of my social routine anymore. While I see some friends a lot less, I’m not upset by it, nor am I surprised. But I did have that moment where I thought, “Wow. Yeah, that actually happened.” See, you hear about it happening – and then it actually happens to you. I consider my friends to be my friends, and still love spending time together and sharing experiences when we can. But things are different, and it’s okay.

3. I saved money. So, rent is due today, and I’ve had the kind of week where I’ve been putting off looking at my checking account (you know the kind)… and I was actually positively surprised when I checked it this morning. Now, I’m not filthy rich by any means, but since drinking considerably less these days, my bank account has had considerably more in it, with relatively little effort.

Here’s a bonus point that goes without saying, yet ties into all of the above: I feel better overall. Right before I made the switch, I found that I was spending more Sundays in bed recovering from Saturday nights out. Monday mornings post-Sunday Funday were getting to be really taxing physically (water retention, brain function, dizziness), and emotionally (self-worth, “Why do I keep doing this to myself?”). Whenever it came time to tackle the work week, I was always unprepared. I felt like an imposter, constantly fighting the tides.

Sometimes it bothers me when people say, “Oh, I could never quit alcohol, I enjoy it too much.” I felt that way, too, except now I say, “I’ll have a club soda and juice”, or even sometimes, “….yeah, sure, I’ll have a beer.”

See, alcohol is not like air or water – we actually can live without it. When going out or hanging with friends, alcohol is no longer the default, or prerequisite. I can make the choice even when surrounded by it. I could absolutely live without alcohol – I did! – and I have a much better relationship with it as a result.

You know about a-ha moments, right? I had one recently when I was grocery shopping. The wine and spirits section is at the front of the grocery store I go to, very hard to miss. I used to buy a new bottle of vodka for the freezer when I ran out, sort of like when I ran out of toilet paper or soap. But more and more, with each visit, I found myself rarely heading to the section. It happened on its own, perhaps subconsciously. Perhaps it was time.

Sometimes I think that I’ll do it again – 30 days without drinking. But more so I think I’ll continue what I’m doing: that is, living a life that revolves around friends and family, not drink specials. I’m just looking to do and be, and all that jazz. I will have a Guinness at an Irish pub, or a glass of wine at a fancy dinner, because I know it won’t take me over anymore. It will, like my life, be about the richness of the people and the occasion, and not a routine that once took hold.

What Happens When You’re the Asshole

“I choose to believe that people are good.”

A friend of mine is known to say this from time to time, especially when it concerns news reports of the good Samaritan variety. It’s a sentiment that warms my heart, particularly because  inconsiderate behavior just seems so common in comparison.

When you think about it, all of us are capable of being disagreeable, careless, horrible people. I mean, Snickers has made a whole marketing campaign out of being hangry.

So let’s say that you are hangry, or that a particularly bad relationship or work situation has turned you into a pessimist, a cynic, a hermit. What if you’re tired, or stressed, or just can’t think straight for some reason, and suddenly, you’re the asshole?

This isn’t a fun realization, but it’s an important one, because it’s just so easy for any one of us to go from zero to asshole in 20 seconds.

There are five general reasons for this:

1. Lack of sufficient sleep, food, water, etc. The human body knows when it hasn’t had enough of something – it’s smart, and we can’t outsmart it, no matter what anyone’ll tell you. Sometimes this is self-imposed via a restricted diet, or the result of being overworked/too busy to stick to a general sleeping and eating “schedule”.

2. A long day. Somewhat tied into lack of sleep, being on the go without a moment to rest and be yourself can contribute to not-so-great feelings. Traveling, working overtime, covering shifts, caring for children or a family member are common exacerbating scenarios.

3. Weather. No matter how hard I fight it, I personally find that my mood is more affected by shorter days and colder weather than longer days and warmer weather. Some people are the opposite, while others don’t care either way. That said, it still does seem to be a factor worth mentioning.

4Sisyphus-like financial issues. If you’re in between jobs, or feel you’re not getting compensated enough for the job you do have, or have an unanticipated expense that you’ll have to face for a while, finances can be a big issue on one’s mood and reactionary impulse. This is even more so the case if this has been going on for some time, and the prospect of resolution is neither immediate or known.

5. Family/friends. This is a loaded one, from overpresence to gradual or sudden absence, from wanting and needing your space to wanting and needing your community. “No man is an island”, and yet a good amount of people want to go to one. “I can’t miss you if you don’t leave”… it’s one of the greatest conundrums out there.

So how does this get fixed?

There’s no easy answer to that question, because everyone’s situation is different.

My advice in general would to take it as a good thing when you realize you’re an asshole, because — again — it happens to all of us. No one is exempt, and such awareness leads to doing and being better, and apologizing if necessary. An assholery course-correct, if you will.

Along that same vein, if someone in your life or otherwise is being an asshole without redemption, don’t write them off completely (at least not at first).

A passive aggressive comment, an eye roll, or punctuated silence in your direction could very well be the manifestion of a stressor — major or minor, doesn’t matter. You may never know the reason. You may never get an apology.

If it’s something you can move past in the moment, try to do so. 

And if not, try, try again, if only to a reasonable point of return.

Put yourself in their shoes, acknowledging that you have been — and will again be — an asshole to someone else.

It’s Okay to Not Be Liked

Imagine you’re the new person at work, at school, on a kickball team, in a writing circle, acting class, whatever. Trying to fit in is one of those things that always seems to happen, and being the new kid on the block isn’t always fun.

But then I had the realization that not everyone had to like me, and I didn’t have to like them either — and that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

In any sort of group, there is a main objective. At work, it’s work, and at school, it’s education. In a creative workshop or on a sports team, it’s creating something or developing a strategy to win the game — and most of the time, that’s what people are focusing on, not whether or not they otherwise get along.

Sure, it helps to get along with people — but getting along is a lot more different than being liked. You don’t have to be friends with everyone in order to be able to come together and with the aim of reaching a common goal.

The thing is, people have boundaries, no matter how well you know them. You may have certain boundaries as well. But within those general boundaries are the common objective (whatever it is) and that can be enough. In fact, that is all that should be expected.

I mention this because often I feel that I go out of my way to be personable when I’m not in the general mood to do so. I don’t know why it took me so long to realize that performing my role all that is expected of me, and that it is absolutely enough. While I genuinely like working with others, to collaborate, brainstorm, and communicate ideas — that doesn’t equate “being liked”. My worth and contribution isn’t based on anyone liking me. It’s based on what the function of my role and how well I perform it.

The energy I put into making sure people like me — the over-smiling, the over-laughing, the over-assurance — can be exhausting. It comes from somewhere natural at first, but causes internal strain and detracts from my true intentions. It is a habit I’m learning to break, my goal being to “work hard in silence, let success be the noise,” as the saying goes.

Long story short, as long as I work and behave with integrity, I am perfectly fine with not being liked.

If ever you feel the undue, self-born pressure to be liked, don’t. Not everyone’s going to like you — and that’s okay.

Carrie Bradshaw on Social Media

I want to apologize in advance because most every female blogger writes about Carrie Bradshaw, but you have to understand: this character has inspired some very strong feelings among writers. Like, strong economic, social, and political feelings. She’s ridiculous. She’s fictional. And that’s why, over 13 years after Sex & the City‘s season finale, a lot of people are still talking about her.

This begs the question — would Carrie Bradshaw actually have made it as a writer in today’s digital world?

I think so. Here’s why:

1. Sex sells and always will. I don’t know how many more songs about putting one’s panties to the side or if the vagina cleavage trend will continue, but this is the world we currently live in. Opening it up for discussion and debate to a wide audience, however, still takes skill and personality. Achieving Loveline, Savage Love, or Sex with Emily status might take more work if Carrie Bradshaw was just starting out — but sex- and relationship-talk definitely speaks to people, and it’s not going anywhere.

2. Carrie networked ALL the time. And I mean all the time. Scoping out a new art gallery, wine bar or restaurant is so much more than hanging out with your friends — it’s an opportunity. You never know who you could meet in line for the valet. If you really think about it, the only difference between a night out and networking is a business card.

3. She loved fashion because she truly, unashamedly loved it, not because it was trendy. Fashion was Carrie’s passion: more than writing, more than food (but never more than her friends). She veered towards vintage styles, visited second-hand shops, and rocked questionable styles — because fashion was her life. The designer clothes, shoes, and accessories she purchased were as much of an extension of her as any other part of her body. And sure, she may have cringed at any past fashion sense, but she never regretted it. That type of authenticity and energy doesn’t go without notice.

4. Carrie wrote authentically, introspectively and with curiosity. From one night stands to challenging sexuality (not her best moment), to dealing with fetishes and cheating (also not her best moment), Carrie wrote with a vulnerability that made her come off as a real person. She remained true to herself, even if that meant she was unlikable.

So where would Carrie Bradshaw find her greatest reach if she was on social media today?

While YouTube seems to be the go-to platform, I personally think Instagram would garner the biggest interest, at least at first. All she would need would be the camera on a smartphone and literally the designer clothes on her back. Carrie barely used email, so why not go the way of least investment? #shoppingismycardio

The next step would probably be a blog, and perhaps contributing her views of love and sex to e-zines such as xoJane, Ravishly, The Gloss and others, so as to boost interest and traffic flow back to her online portfolio. Of course this would mean she would need to dip her toes into the SEO pool, which, for someone who was afraid of using email or a cell phone, would not be an easy task. It’s not enough to write what you’re passionate about (although it really helps) — and that’s where learning SEO would really help. And then there’s always the slightly formidable but necessary process of personal branding, (and so on and so forth)….

Strategy, research, and planning, with trial and error being part of the fun. Just like print media when you think about it, only at a quicker publishing speed. I can’t help but wonder if Carrie would make it after all?

Happy Father’s Day to My Pop

My dad’s awesome.

I think I feel that way because I’ve become him — and by that, I mean I’m an adult, by his example.

Pop is funny, and has a good heart. He’s also a little discombobulated, but that doesn’t stop him from being able to laugh at himself. He has a great smile, perfect teeth, curly hair, golden skin. And he loves my mom as much as he did when they got married 39 years ago.

But he also doesn’t take anyone’s crap, either. He gives everyone leeway for the most part, but he questions most everything, intelligently. He knows the importance of thinking and re-thinking your position so as to not be stagnant at a call to action.

Pop is so smart and full of life, but he gets tired sometimes. I never realized the level of exhaustion that comes merely from living, and he worked through it while raising five kids. Also, I think he doesn’t want to let anyone down, at the expense of his comfort.

He is also an individual, and more than my dad. He loves jazz, beer, talk radio, baby back ribs. He converses with light in his eyes and joy in his voice. He gets frustrated, and angry. Sometimes he doesn’t want to be bothered. But he’s always there.

I don’t have children, but at 32, I’m the age that Mom and Pop had three children and me on the way… I just can’t wrap my head around it. Mom worked days, and Pop worked nights, so more often than not it was just me and him, joined at the hip while my siblings were at school. We’d run errands together, have picnics in our backyard, ham and cheese sandwiches with yellow mustard on bread rolls. It was fun, for me. I think he had fun, too, even though being an adult can be far from it.

I distinctly remember going to classes with him at Cal State Northridge, where he was studying be a teacher. Sometimes we’d stop by the vending machine beforehand — Fig Newtons for him, a Snickers bar for me. I didn’t like fig, and remember him once getting strawberry to see if I’d eat that instead. I applaud him for trying, though, because Snickers always won.

Even while writing this, I didn’t really think about what it takes, not only to go back to school as an adult, but to bring your child with you. And I’ve seen it, as a graduate myself — fellow students bringing their children to class at all hours of the day (or night). Pop did that all the time. I even remember his graduation day, which at the time didn’t seem extraordinary because — well, that’s what he was supposed to do, right?

Little did I know then that not everyone’s father does that. Not everyone’s father is around, by choice or otherwise.

Over the years I’ve found that there seems to be an unspoken bond that keeps things together — the universe, our bodies, our sanity, family, whatever. The relative understanding of that — what it takes, what you’ll do — just clicked somehow. And it’s because of that, that it’s home, every single time. That’s my Pop.

It’s pretty awesome.

 

Strength Training for the Zombie Apocalypse Ep. 1

Hi — my name is Lindsey, but you can call me Linds.

Despite living in Los Angeles, a model body is not high on my list of priorities. I eat well, work out, and take general good care of myself, but wouldn’t refer to myself as model thin. Just a normal, slender-ish individual.

More importantly, I’ve come to the realization that (like everyone on this planet) my body naturally fluctuates in response to stress or hormonal influence, and that this is actually (1) okay and (2) normal. Besides, aesthetic isn’t really going to matter at all during the zombie apocalypse. 

Hear me out:

  1. When the zombies come, you’ll need to be able to run away, and quickly.
  2. You’ll also need to pull your body up and over things, carry items and maybe comrades, and lug foodstuffs, gas canisters, etc., wherever possible.
  3. You’ll also need to have the endurance to be on the move so as to not be a sitting target.

If you haven’t guessed it yet, these points cover sprints, strength, and endurance. After years of trying to figure things out, breaking it down like this has helped me take a more practical approach to fitness.

Here’s an sample workout (and my actual workout today) — first, strength — 3 sets of the following circuit (with a weight that makes the last rep difficult):

12 tricep pushups on toes
12 bicep curl to press
12 upright rows
12 bent over row to tricep kickback

I followed this with 30 minutes of high intensity interval cardio. After showering, I walked to the grocery store for some items I’d forgotten to pick up earlier in the week.

Strength, sprints, and endurance — it’s not that it’s any easier, but it’s what’s necessary for survival. 

If you happen to find yourself overwhelmed like I have, why not try the zombie apocalypse approach and see what it does for you?