here’s what my worktable looks like this morning

update from me

so last night i had to get out of bed at 11 pm and go online and order more mints.

you see, i thought 19 packages of mints would be plenty. i had 20 to start, then gave one to a client in canada. so ok, starting with 19.

i send out the email to you about the new anti-wolfie mints at 8:45 pm my time and by 11 pm i was up and at my desk. emailing the fancy mint store’s customer service, “i know the site says you’re sold-out but can you get me more by saturday” and they said yes.

phew.

so here’s what my worktable looks like this morning.
look at all of your stuff 🙂

on the left, the big white envelopes are books for doctors
the skinny brown ones on top are orchid necklaces
and the lumpy packages on the right are tins of anti-wolfie mints
all going into the mail this morning…

treats don’t work for me

recently sent this out as a daily micro-email; i’m going to post it here on the blog and add in some of the many emails i’ve received in response. 

email from good:

“i’m totally in the ‘treats don’t work for me’ camp. I eat what I want, when I want, within of course healthy parameters that – if i break them (TWO pieces of cheesecake!) – it doesn’t feel like a treat, it induces shame.

I buy what i want, when I want. Sometimes i have tried to convince myself that an expensive piece of jewelry or pair of jeans I’ve been eyeing or something similar will be a reminder piece to stay sober. But I never can “wait 30 days” to put it on.

I don’t have time for a lot of physical treats. I am craving a good 5-mile hike in the woods right now and it’s been a couple weeks and it hasn’t happened. I have two young kids and my husband and I are to the brim with shared responsibilities.

I cringe when I hear people say “make the time” and “get your partner to help!” – my husband cannot magically get his meetings cancelled to get home early so I can take off. I cannot walk out on my kids who are sitting at the table waiting for dinner. I cannot forget to get the straws or pictures or clothes together for school for the next day or my kid will feel left out and it will be my fault, something I can’t live with. When I’m getting dinner together, husband is busy giving them a bath and has to call his cousin in the hospital.  Later I have to clean or shop for guests or a party we’re having. This is the kind of every day stuff that has to get done. Now. Make time my A%$.  I’m lucky to get a shower in every other day (don’t worry I work from home) and I prioritize exercise, even if it’s whatever I can do quickly and not my favorite kind) over things like bubble baths. If I get a chance to go out for a couple hours and hike, or happen by a cute coffee shop and have a chance to stop, or even get an hour to read at the end of a long day between 10 and 11pm, I will take it, whether I ‘deserve’ it, have X days sober, just got through a tough craving, or not. And honestly, if I feel good enough about however many days of sobriety to deserve a treat, just feeling deserving, that’s treat enough.”


from me: do you agree with Good about the treats thing? i’ve done a lot of writing about this and recorded audios, and talked about retraining your brain … but i wonder if you agree with Good that, no matter what i suggest, it’s all ‘airy-fairy’ wishful thinking …

and if you disagree with Good (or you used to think how she did and now you don’t), you can tell me about that too. I’ll share some ideas in a future email.

fancy food treats (thank you )

returned to the expensive catering take-out places, for more food research …

my ideas: it’s very expensive, which works for that one neighbourhood, but it is still on the very top end of acceptable in terms of expense (and might even be OVER that threshold), the food is homemade and fresh, it is very very good food, better than most of the restaurant food.

the downsides of this particular place (things i would improve): the food is the same day-to-day, week-to-week and in the same location in the chiller. no variety. it could be: this week mustard meatballs, next week it’s chinese meatballs. even the pastries are identical week to week. it’s dull for the cook and perhaps too much the same for clients. i would also have some food in the window. it makes people want to come in if they can see the food from the outside… even better if you can see someone PREPARING the food from the outside …

fancy sparkling water, 3 meatballs with veggies, beet and walnut salad, chicken and artichoke salad with tomatoes, two desserts: chocolate mousse with fruit and creme-anglais, and blackberries and cream on top of chocolate tart on shortbread crust

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Thanks to the Tiny Gift Button

novelty and sobriety.

Novelty. What’s that got to do with quitting drinking?

Our brains want excitement. Life is deemed boring or uninteresting, so we drink to have ‘fun’. It’s like jumping from an airplane without a parachute: fun (perhaps), but dangerous. It’s like gambling: the losing, the waiting to win, then winning but wanting more, not knowing why. The thirst not even quenched by winning. It’s like wanting that one mythical drink, and then drinking more, and more: you’re pouring two bottles of wine on your head and you don’t even know why.

So let’s say you are sensitive, often over-stimulated, a bit ADD. Being sober seems dull. What will I do for fun? How will I unwind (how will I lose track of time and just turn off my brain?).

How do you get novelty when you’re sober? You actively, constructively, with intent. Manufacture it.

Novelty = read, learn, sample, create.

If we need novelty, then we count days. Record our sober momentum. Get high numbers of continuous days sober, don’t break the streak, have a new personal best every day.

If we need novelty, we train for a 5K run. A 10K. A half. A full. Trail runs, triathlons, relays, midnight ‘over the hill and back again with a flashlight’ runs.

If we need novelty, we actively create it. You’ve seen me do this. I’m always experimenting with different ways to build community (what can I learn if I do this? Does this work? Can I apply that technique to this situation?). You’ve seen me create novelty: host a live call on Mixlr, a group conference call with free conference software, send out paper newsletters (with lovely French stamps), write case studies, record one-minute audios, film videos, make longer (ranting) podcasts, conduct interviews, write blog posts, write for Medium, write a book.

I’ve also created a lot of novelty in the catering work that I do: naked wedding cakes, savoury pancakes, can you make a good vegetarian panne cotta, can you use the whey from home ricotta to make bread? (yes)

You say: Being sober is so boring. Without alcohol, my whole life seems dull.

And I say: it’s ok to crave novelty. in sobriety, you CREATE your own novelty. Here are some ideas, you can read them, dismiss them as not applicable, and then pick 5 and do them (ha!).

  • Survey: go to all restaurants in the Washington DC area that serve dulce de leche cake for dessert. Or find the best tacos. Or sample all of the food trucks outside your office. Or eat a different sandwich every Friday. Document with photos.
  • Go for a long run, and take a new picture of something every 10 minutes.
  • You’re a parking lot attendant? Why aren’t you learning Italian on headphones for 8 hours a day?
  • Read. There is no frigate like a book. Donna Leon, Susan Hill, Nicci French, Timothy Taylor, Ta-Nehisi Coates. Read all of Dickens in order, sampling one perfect phrase per day and posting to Instragram
  • Write. Get an app like Commit, and do 15 minutes a day, every day, of writing or editing. I’m on day 163 of continuous writing.
  • Keep an end-of-the-day gratitude diary. It causes you to scan your day while you’re living it, to see if THIS is the best moment of the day.
  • Track your weekend cycling logged against a map of the country, and ‘ride cross country’ marking your progress.

You want novelty? The world is an amusement park. Your life is as interesting as you make it.

  • Buy dishes at yard sales and resell on eBay. Or silver. Or baseball cards. Or Led Zeppelin memorabilia.
  • Use your photography skills to take quirky photos for Airbnb listings in your city (contact the ugly ones, offer to fix for free, create a before and after series on Facebook). do it for free. for fun.
  • Collect clothes from co-workers and cut them up to make quilts for the women’s shelter.
  • Grow ten different kinds of roses and document their progress.
  • Do a daily photo diary of your lunch for a month.
  • Learn how to make an alcohol-free version of tiramisu with regular grocery store ingredients.
  • Visit 10 small grocery stores until you find one who will save their dead bananas for you so you can make banana bread and donate it to the food bank.
  • Watch YouTube videos to learn to make doughnuts, paint leaves, promote your real estate business, or put on makeup.
  • Take piano lessons with the sole intent to be to learn how to play the Peanuts theme.
  • Watch 2 versions of West Side Story and 3 versions of Romeo and Juliet and compare. Create a version with sock puppets.
  • Sample 8 kinds of vanilla ice cream then try to make your own.
  • Take the train/bus/car to a new town. Eat in a new place. Walk a new way. Go to the new theatre. Novelty.

(Wake up every day with a hangover, mentally wrestle with your brain, dreading the day ahead; quit drinking every only to buy wine at dinner time and begin again.)

OR.

Wake up every day without a hangover, and see the world as an amusement park, where the biggest wrestle of the day is: What should I do first?

how tiring it must be to be married to us

what must it be like to be married to us, this unique combination of high functioning, high emotion, lots of noise in our heads.

my husband, though he drank as much as I did, does not have a wolfie voice. he is not wound up by things. he doesn’t struggle with “can I, will I, should I, is there more, is this the right amount.”

it must be so tiring for him to be married to me. I may complain about his sloth tendencies and the absolute LACK of obsessing (about anything). but really, he’s dealing with me.

I’ll give you an example.

This is a true story.

My husband is perfectly content to make me a ‘special drink’ at suppertime. if I tell him specifically what I want. and how to make it. why ‘how to make it’? because I keep changing what I want.

(1) Hot chocolate from Marks & Spencer. very yummy. expensive (3,25€ for 10 packages). they have no diet or ‘lite’ option. I only bought one box of the 10 packages.

(2) Then at Christmas, I got Mr. B. a treat for his stocking (which I promptly drank): a box of instant cappuccino powdered things. I drank all of his, and started buying it regularly for myself, the little single servings, 10 to a box. Worked my way up to one or two a day. They were quite weakly flavoured, though, so had to be made in the medium coffee mugs so that there wasn’t too much water added. We have 3 sizes of mugs: large, medium, and small. My husband would make my special coffee for me in the medium cup.

(3) After a few weeks, I moved to a canister of the same powder, instead of the premeasured packages, because it was cheaper (there’s a theme here). Now that I had free reign of the powder, I switched to making a stronger, bigger dose in the large mug. Now it had to be made with 4 teaspoons of the powder with a bit of cream. in the larger mug. there. that’s pretty good. my husband would make it for me.

(4) Another few weeks. it’s too expensive. I’m going through these canisters way too often. I go to the store to buy some diet instant hot chocolate that can be made with hot water.

AND there isn’t any.

France, apparently, is a land of hot cocoa (made with milk, which I don’t drink). it’s all cocoa. no hot chocolate. And not only is there no instant hot chocolate in france, there is no ‘diet’ anything hot and chocolate-y/coffee-y. I can picture the blue canister in my Canadian memory. it was president’s choice brand. I had it all the time. But here? There’s cocoa and sugar in a can you can add hot milk to, but no instant hot chocolate.

I consider leaving the country in desperation.

(5) Instead I buy the cheapest ‘intended for milk’ cocoa mix there is (nesquik! oh my god!) and a bottle of instant decaf coffee.

now my special coffee goes like this: medium cup, 3 spoons of chocolate powder, 1 teaspoon of instant coffee, cream, hot water. my husband would make it for me.

(6) Then I read something about trying to reduce the sugar in my coffee to 1 teaspoon, so I calculate the number of grams in a teaspoon of sugar (5g) then I try to figure out how small my coffee/chocolate combo should be. I switch from the medium to the small coffee cups (of the three sizes), to make a smaller 5g of sugar portion, and I mix one spoon of decaf with only one spoon of nesquik (lame) and some cream and hot water. My husband makes my coffee for me, after I clarify the specific recipe which changes daily.

(7) Last friday I had a catered event, and there was some real coffee left over, I put it in a jar. now I’m adding it a few tablespoons at a time to my little special coffee, for a tiny bit of caffeine but also to use it up. My husband makes my coffee for me, BUT every day, now, he has to ask me ‘how I want it’.

(I want to moderate my drinking, I can’t figure out how to do it, I try things that don’t work because the thing I’m looking for isn’t in the alcohol.)

I have an idea of what I want and I keep changing, because I can’t match the idea. for the hot chocolate coffee combo? I’m looking for some feeling that isn’t there. It reminds me of home. when I used to have it before my sunday long runs. I can still remember the sound the spoon made in the square blue cup (that the movers broke). mix a bit of powder in the bottom with cream, then add hot water.

why do I want that experience now?

soothing.

what am I getting instead? gritty nesquik in a small less-than-5g-cup with an endlessly patient husband (but how patient is he, really, how long can he tolerate the intolerable).

(8) yesterday morning I got up and did research on homemade instant hot chocolate. it is really just cocoa, sugar and powdered milk. I have all that. I make some, it’s fine. but it has 30 g of sugar in one cup.

(9) yesterday afternoon I walked to the Marks & Spencer to check out the hot chocolate they have (again). surely this would be easier. but it has 26 g of sugar per serving and it’s 3,25€ for 10. I leave without buying any.

so.

if the thing that I’m looking for isn’t IN the hot coffee drink, then it’s time for me to move on. stop trying to make it into something it isn’t. go back to tea. I was drinking only tea before. I liked it there. my husband can make tea: add one bag to the teapot, fill with water. serve with any mug. it’s just plain easier.

(if the feeling you’re looking for isn’t in the alcohol, they stop fucking with the quantities, timing, types and tricks. just move on. the thing you’re looking for isn’t in there. the feeling better? it’s not in a bottle.)