Wherein I examine my relationship with booze.

November and December are rife with festivities!  It's pretty much the best part of the colder months, let's face it, January and February are terrible if you live in Chicago.  March is mostly terrible, but has those teaser days, and my birthday resides midway through, so it gets a pass.  Also, I was married this past April! (Purposefully bringing joy to a month that I have always found worthless up to now also.  Just get WARM already!)  So now I have more family, more friends and thus more parties to attend.  

November, December and even back into October were non-stop for Dean and I with regards to traveling and social fun.  January seemed to be a good time to take a step back and scale off of the calories, both masticated and imbibed, and hit the reset button.  We embarked on the clean eating cleanse knowing it was no sugar (other than fruit, and not much of that) and no sugar means no alcohol.  

I'd done this before.  I'd given up alcohol and chocolate and chips and all badness for the week before big races, for the week before a fight and for a month before my first international fight.  I found out that those things motivate you in an entirely different way, but that's a story for another entry.  This was different, and fascinating.  

Dean (husband) and I prepared for the first week of the cleanse by clearing our fridge of all forbidden items and preparing all of the meals that we would need for the coming week.  We were opening a show, which meant we'd be going from work to the theatre pretty much every evening, no time to cook.  We decided to do it all at once and label things in grab and go containers.  This was amazingly fun, mostly because we 'got rid' of many of the forbidden things by eating and drinking them all.  Monday morning we were totally ready to cleanse.

The week went by easily.  I LOVED having food ready for me, loved cooking with Dean and though I was occasionally hungry or lacked energy (add carbs!) I was too busy to notice it too much.  Then the weekend came and suddenly I was forced to DEAL.

I remember walking into the back  door on Friday afternoon after this HARD week, knowing that Dean and I had Friday off (our performances in this festival are Thursday, Saturday, Sunday) and thinking, "Oh, boo, no glass of wine tonight. No big deal!"  We cooked healthy turkey burgers on Ezekiel bread with sauteed veggies!  We watched an 'easy' movie, (Office Space) hung out with each other and got to bed at a decent hour and it was great.  Saturday was different.

We decided to do our shopping for the following week on Saturday as Sunday at Mariano's had been HELL the week before.  Now, I don't know if you know this about Mariano's, but the grocery store has a bar.  Dean and I don't go there often, we have our own little store half a block away, but we needed special all-natural and sugar-free stuff for this cleanse (brown rice tortillas anyone?) and we were determined to do it as "by the book" as possible.  We decided to walk there as it had started to 'wintry mix' on us and biking was inadvisable.  It was still warmish, we wanted the exercise.  We got there hungry and cold.  Had to pass the bar.  Also had to pass the free samples.  Had to pass my favorite cheese corner.  The muffins.  Had to go to the gluten free aisle more than once.  

Yes, we had done this last week, but last week I knew we'd get to go home and drink the opened bottle of wine that was in the fridge (won't stay good for two weeks right?) and kill off some cake.  Not to mention cheese and crackers.  We got through it, but it was really draining for whatever reason.  We walked home and we were colder and more hungry.  We had the leftover turkey burgers and some water (bleh) and felt better.  We talked a bit.  We were both invited to parties that night, one of which was the opening party for our show.  Not only could we not drink, but we would most likely be unable to eat any of the food provided.  Dean once suggested we make a big batch of popcorn (popped in olive oil!) and bring it with us.  That would have been a hit.  

After we had digested our burgers and could speak in complete sentences again, I brought up an article I had read that said that Willpower was not an unlimited resource.  I forget where I read it, but it was something about people being put in a room having to make decisions between a cupcake and some nuts or something.  Some were forced to chose the nuts every time.  Some could do what they wanted.  They were then given a problem to work on.  The group that had to use willpower every time gave up on that problem significantly earlier than the other group.  We decided we couldn't stay for the parties.  

I had a hard time backstage.  I had done so well all week.  I gave away the remainder of Dean's birthday cake on Thursday, even brought forks for people, without much difficulty.  (I had to leave the room while they were eating, but you know.)  For some reason, I just WANTED that glass of wine and knew that this was just going to get worse when I got home.  It wasn't worse, oddly.  Once we finally got home, I was fine.  I think we had some popcorn and watched an anime then went to bed.

Sunday I felt great!  We got up, make breakfast burritos, I left early to go downtown where I was subbing a class and got there in time to get a run in.  I taught the class, felt great, headed home.  We cleaned up, made our meal plan for the next day and headed out to the theatre.  It was a single digit day, only two people on the books.  It was snowing.  The show ended up being called and everyone went home.  This is when I really had issues. 

For some reason I got home that day and really wanted a glass of wine.  Or whiskey and coke.  I was feeling incredibly frustrated and I wasn't sure if I was frustrated because I couldn't have what I wanted or because I wanted it so bad.  Dean wasn't feeling the same thing.  I decided maybe we should clean the house.  It was cold, we both just kind of wanted to relax, but the house was a wreck and now we had this free time.  We decided on twenty minutes of activity, ten minute break, repeat.  We did that for a few hours, the house was spotless, it was time to cook.  We made dinner for the night and meals for the next day.  Since we didn't have rehearsals the following week, we had decided to do some cooking along the way.  

This entire time my Ego and my Id were having fascinating debates with each other.  I wanted a glass of wine, what's wrong with a glass of wine?  The guidelines of the cleanse just said 'avoid' alcohol.  (I actually said that last part out-loud to Dean who laughed and said something like, "We tried to get out of the way, but all this alcohol just ran into us!")  I told myself wine was pretty sugary and the goal was no sugar.  Whiskey!  I thought.  I could have a whiskey and diet coke!  Not much sugar in whiskey!  Oh, but she said artificial sweeteners were bad.  That nixes that diet coke.  Maybe just a whiskey on the rocks?  I don't want whiskey on the rocks, rather just not have any.

That's when the needle scratched off the record player.  I really only wanted one of two things: a glass of red wine (not white) or a whiskey and coke.  Both pretty sugary drinks.  Was I really just craving the sugar that I had not had for seven days at this point?  Then why not chocolate?  Pastries?  Why wasn't I dreaming of people thrusting muffins at me and having to turn them away?  (I actually had two, very vivid dreams of wine being everywhere and having to avoid it on my first week.)

We got dinner ready and sat down to eat it.  I expressed disappointment that we couldn't have a nice glass of wine with this dinner after we'd worked our asses off all week and then cleaned the house like crazy and been all responsible.  Dean just said something like, "We'll get there."  I asked him if he was experiencing any frustrations.  He said that he had wanted to try a new stir fry sauce that he had read about online and was bummed that he couldn't do it because there was sucrose in one of the ingredients.  That was it.  Then, after we finished the meal and settled down for the night, I was fine.  We watched some t.v., I knitted, then we went to bed, read for a bit and then went to sleep.  I was happy.

The next morning I was great!  Chipper and enthusiastic and had a great day.  Didn't care that I wouldn't have any wine for the next seven days.  So what was it?  Why was I so nuts on the weekends?  I decided it couldn't be just the sugar, although I had once said to myself, "This ('this' being tee-totaling) wouldn't be so bad if I could at least have a cookie or something."

I thought about it and realized that I had come to view having a drink as something tied in with relaxing.  With vacation.  Celebration.  Good times.  Friends.  And there had been a lot of those things this year.  I got married.  Dean and I took a mini-moon (real honeymoon coming in February) long weekend in September.  We had a lot of trips to Peoria (where Dean's family is) in October, a trip to Wisconsin with friends for Halloween.  I opened three shows (four counting this current one).  I went to my parents' on a random visit in November.  Thanksgiving with Dean's family, Christmas with mine.  This year had been a lot of events and then the times between the happy events.  Great year!  But a lot of hard work (during which there was sobriety, healthy eating, exercising and concentration) right up until the fun event (at which point there was a sigh of relief, a happiness at having made it to this spot, and usually a drink.)  Almost like the drink was part of the reward for getting there.

It was interesting.  We'll see what happens this weekend, but at the very least I feel like I understand the tight shoulders and frustration I experienced for a few hours on Saturday and Sunday and why they abated once I chilled out and had fun anyway.  Something I never thought I would learn from a 14 day clean eating challenge!