Wednesday, July 5, 2017

My Month Without Alcohol.

Frequently, I like to give something up. I gave up meat for the year (although... I think that will last a lifetime now that I've lived so comfortably as a vegetarian.) I'll make myself give up on Showtime and Netflix for the week or I'll try to give up sweets for some period of time (usually 24 hours!) That's a tough one...

But this month, I gave up alcohol. A friend of mine had stopped drinking, and after I woke up the day after a large party we had thrown... I was inspired to do the same. My head hurt, my house was a mess, and so much food and drink had gone to waste! I spent the majority of my morning cleaning the same house that I had just cleaned the day before and making multiple trips out to the curb to toss the garbage and recycling. So much work! And for what? ...A lousy hangover! 

I would like to think that I wasn't a big drinker in the first place. Of course I enjoyed a glass of wine with my Netflix or a margarita with Mexican food (oddly enough, I haven't had much Mexican food since I had to give up the margaritas!) But I had a tendency to enjoy those things in excess. Two of us could easily justify finishing off an already "almost-empty" bottle of red and I will admit a "much-too-large-for-two" pitcher of margaritas has been ordered on more than one occasion. Nonetheless, I didn't have too much trouble giving it up. 

Social situations were uncomfortable at first. I met a group of friends for dinner and, I'll admit, it was hard to listen to all of them order a margarita when I had to tell our waitress "water is fine." That raised a few eyebrows at the table, ha ha! It got easier though. I started treating myself to something a little more exciting than ice water- a Topo Chico with lime, a cute little mocktail, and you bet I ordered a virgin piña colada when I went to the beach a few weekends ago! 

A few things happened to me after I stopped drinking. 
- I stopped having headaches. I had gotten so used to having headaches that I thought nothing of the 600 mg of ibuprofen I was taking almost daily. The headaches weren't always related to drinking, but usually I got them after one too many glasses of wine the night before. Now, they're gone. 

-I started sleeping better. Sleep became deeper and more restful which meant more repair and replenishment for my body. I fall asleep quickly and have somehow made a habit of gently waking 10 minutes before my alarm goes off. Even on the weekends I naturally wake up just before 6:30, ready to get started. 

-I eat less crap. I eat out less. I overeat less. Without that foggy mindlessness that was created by a good buzz and quickly worsened by another round, I started eating slower, more mindfully, and less socially. Social eating and drinking are what many relationships revolve around. How often do you see a friend or spend "quality" time with a loved one when there isn't a round of drinks or an appetizer between you? Which brings me to my next point.

-I spent more quality time with my favorite people in the month of June than I had all year. Together we played card games, explored new yoga studios, took a trip to the beach, played like we were kids again when we went to the water park, and hiked for hours without a cell phone in tow... seriously, so fun. And not one time was I drunk. 

Now that the month is over, I have had a drink or two. But it definitely doesn't go down as easy as it did before my cessation. It's less appealing than it was before, that's for sure. Waking up without a headache and saving at least $50 a month? Now that's appealing! Plus, it doesn't hurt than I'm still majorly stuck on that Topo Chico business....

Try it- give up alcohol for 30 days and tell me you don't feel amazing, I dare you! 

Sweet peas. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Practice: Ahimsa

It seems quite fitting that I would begin (yet another) resurrection of my blog with an intention that I began my year with. Ahimsa. This concept of nonviolence to all living things was exactly what inspired me to cause less harm and to cultivate more kindness. So I decided that I would mindfully apply this practice to my daily life. And it made a huge difference...

My first step in this new direction was actually my New Year's resolution- to eat a vegetarian diet for an entire year. And how do you think that I prepared for this new "challenge"? Well, I crammed as much BBQ down my throat as I possibly could between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve! Not exactly the point, right? But I haven't gotten to the part where I actually learn something yet, so bear with me.
I decided to start my year off with a hard reset- which to me, of course, was veganism. The toughest of my vegetarian tiers! No meat, no eggs, no dairy. NO CHEESE!!! I didn't even touch honey. And hell yeah, it was tough. My heart is still breaking over that piece of homemade tres leches cake that I had to turn down... 

Not only was the diet tough, but so was my audience! I had people try to trick me into eating something that contained animal products, I had co-workers attempt to shame me for what I had packed for lunch, and I had hot bacon breath blown into my face! ..And so I learned my first real lesson of this new journey-the crab effect. 

If you were to place a bunch of little crabs into a large bowl and one of those little, determined, crabs tried to crawl out of the top- the other crabs would pull her back down instead of pushing her up. That is the crab effect. Kind of sad, right?

That is exactly what these naysayers were trying to do- drag me down instead of cheering me on and offering support. So in continuing my journey to cause less harm, I started to surround myself with encouraging individuals and tuned out the insolence. I found friendships with like-minded yogis and compassion cultivators who had open minds and open hearts (and amazing vegan bean dip recipes.) And my life is better for it.

Next, I realized that most of the excess negativity in my life could be traced back to my job and I knew I had to make a change. Morale had always been low there but with staffing changes and a big move to a new hospital- co-workers were at their all-time worst, and so was I.  I hated my job. And it was starting to show. So instead of experiencing that unnecessary pain of clocking in for a job that I loathed, I found one that I didn't. In fact, I found one that I love. And now I drive to work every day with a smile on my face. 

It was easier to remove the external negativity and harm in my life than it was to decrease the internal harm that I think we all can put ourselves through. I gave up meat pretty easily, I strengthened good friendships, and ended the toxic ones without too much effort. But I was still awfully hard on myself. When I looked in the mirror I usually had something cruel to say to myself, something to critique, or an imperfection to dwell on. So that's what I'm still working on. Every single day. I challenge myself to look for the things I love about myself and I try to appreciate the things that I used to believe made me "imperfect." The world is a much more beautiful place when you realize that you are part of that beauty.

So, sweet reader, I hope that you consider the harmful things you might participate in. Workplace gossip? Eating until you're so full that it hurts? Bad mouthing your "not-so-ready" bikini body? Passive-aggression towards a loved one? We all cause harm, whether we're willing to accept it or not. But I encourage you to acknowledge it, change it, and grow from it. You'll be so glad that you did.