If There is Something You Need to Change… Do It! (Part 1)

This second piece of advice comes from someone I have looked up to since the day I met her.  While sat here, I was trying to think of a way to describe her in order to do her justice. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can, but I will give it a go.

Passionate does not even scratch the surface when it comes to Ro. When I think of her, I know she puts 100% into everything that she does–rugby, her relationship and once upon a time maybe even drinking. You will get to read that story below as she has been gracious enough to allow me to share her personal story. Which!.. is another example of her giving it her all–to help a friend. Ro is brave and kind and strong. She is someone I am fortunate enough to call my friend; she is inspirational, straight-forward and comic relief. Thank you, Ro, for being so much a part of my journey and for making sure I really push myself for “30 While 30.”

This post is going to be split into three parts. First, you are going to read Ro’s story, the message I took from it and my own experience with being sober for 103 days. The second part of this post will be after I complete my own 30 Day Challenge… because letting your body detox is a brilliant idea. The third part of the post may be months from now, but I won’t forget. The final part will be exploring what change I needed to make for myself to make 30 the best year yet! If you can’t tell I am stalling on this one because I really want to make this one meaningful and put more than a week into this advice.

Here’s Ro’s story.

Eight hundred and nineteen days ago, I started something I thought I would never do in a million years.  I gave up drinking alcohol.  It has been the single most difficult thing I have ever done in my 36 years of living life on this planet.  Drinking was my go to, my buddy.  Drinking was always there when I needed it.  It never let me down.  I always felt better when I was drinking.

It didn’t take me long to realize that alcohol was taking over my life in a negative way.  My tendency to make bad decisions was usually fueled by my uncanny ability to drink massive amounts of alcohol.  Often, I would wake up the next morning and not remember much from the night before, later to be informed that I had done something offensive or hurtful or both. I used to think that was funny.  Not no mo.

Like everyone else that appreciates a nice, alcoholic beverage every once in awhile, I had more than my share of good times while intoxicated.  The best, actually.  After awhile though, drinking wasn’t fun anymore.  It only fueled the sadness, frustration and anger that I been keeping to myself for the last twenty years.  I never dealt with any my shit because I always drank!  Drinking alcohol numbed me so I didn’t have to feel any of that emotion, ever.  Twenty years of binge drinking can take a toll on a person.  I eventually realized that I had become someone that I despised.  I was miserable person and I was taking it out on everyone around me.  I didn’t like who was staring back at me when I looked in the mirror.  I HAD to make a change.

 If you drink too much, you know who you are.  You don’t need me or anyone else to tell you otherwise.  If shit in your life isn’t where you want it to be… if you aren’t feeling like yourself and you constantly have a negative perspective on everything… If you are feeling depressed, like you have this dark cloud hanging over you, then try something different.  Make a fucking change.  Do better for yourself.  Make a conscious effort to not drink alcohol for an extended period of time.  Not just one or two days.  Not just one or two weeks.  Try the 30-day challenge and see how you feel.  I felt better physically and emotionally.  My perspective on life became more positive.  I was actually taking care of myself and it made me feel better so I just kept on going after day 30.  Hey, why the hell not?!  I have learned more about myself and have grown more as a person in these last two years than I have in my entire life.  Why the fuck would I go back to drinking, when all this good shit is happening to me!

When I tell people that I haven’t had a drink in over two years, the most common response I get is,  “Wow, I would never be able to do that.”   Let me tell you something.  People are more resilient than they think.  YOU are more resilient than you think.  YOU are stronger than you seem.  If you are trying not to drink, then don’t drink.  It’s that simple.  I was shocked to discover how much I drank strictly out of habit or sheer boredom.  I let alcohol control and consume my life for 20 years and it almost destroyed me.  Don’t let alcohol control you.  Take charge of your life and do better for YOU. 

PS:  Thought I would leave you with one of my favorite quotes.  This was sent to me from a dear friend on Day 10 of my 30-Day Challenge.

“I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence, but it comes from within.  It is there all of the time.”

 -Anna Freud

Just reading this is powerful. I think at one time or another, most of us have drank too much and made some pretty poor decisions. Some people can drink and others cannot, I am still trying to figure out which category I fall in. Sometimes it can be great and other times not so much. The message I get from this is simply to change what you don’t like about yourself–or what you NEED to change. This, of course, is much easier said than done. I think, though, that anything that is worth anything will push you to the edge. Change can be scary and hard, but it is a hell of a lot better than being stuck.

I boxed for charity this year and decided that I would give up the booze. For 103 days (through Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and countless birthdays/parties) I did not drink. For 103 days, I also did not hang out with my friends as much as I would have because navigating in a world sober after you have been drinking in it for years is really freaking hard. None of my friends pressured me to drink, but going to a bar to watch the game and just sipping on water did not feel right and it is hard to do things that make you uncomfortable. However, I noticed some pretty amazing changes. No, I did not lose weight–very disappointed in that aspect.  I did sleep better though and woke up with so much energy. I didn’t have a headache, I didn’t have to wonder if I sent a stupid text or did something I might later regret. I did not spend money on alcohol or the drunk food or cab rides! My body also felt healthier in a way that I can’t quite describe. Now all of this may have been a combination of the new workout regimen and the no booze rule, but either way the results were pretty awesome. I was also damn proud of myself. 3.5 months was challenging and rewarding–this was just a minor glimpse of what Ro does day in and day out. Because of that (and so many other things) I have nothing but respect for her.

If any of you are looking for a rewarding challenge–try going without booze for a month. Who knows–maybe you will do it longer. Stay tuned for my 30 days sober…during rugby season!… *gasp* and also for my much needed change that remains TBD.

This is thirty.

1. Make Time for Yourself

The first advise I received for this post came from a longtime friend. What she had to say made a lot of sense.  She told me to make uninterrupted time for myself. She explained that sometimes we get so caught up in doing things for everyone else that we forget we need to come first now and again in order to stay sane. This advice may seem quite obvious and since I am a mental health counselor, it is something I often tell my patients. Self care is extremely important and frequently overlooked. Living in New York City, it is easy to get caught up with the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life. There is work and working out. There are happy hours and brunch and commuting to be done. By the time I get home and I am ready to fall into bed only to wake up and do it all over again.

There are a lot of ways to make time for yourself. I try to read before I go to bed and I also have a “Thought A Day” journal that I don’t keep up with as I should. Despite doing these little things, I often go to bed stressed and fitful sleep is the result. So I thought I would try to slow things down and give guided meditation a try. For those that know me, they will understand the challenge behind this. I like to move and I have seemingly endless amounts of energy; my thoughts and my body are always on the go.

For five days I attempted guided meditation. I really enjoyed getting in tune with my breathing, but I was not able to stay still for more than 10 minutes. It didn’t help that my cat would come up and sit in my lap or put her wet nose on my leg and brush up against my hands for a petting. Despite these distractions, I found that I slept better and the first night that I used guided meditation, I did not wake up once. Even just five minutes of deep breathing allowed a sense of calm to come over my body and I reaped the benefits. Is this something that I will continue to do daily? Probably not. However, it is a tool I will use for particularly stressful days or days when I can’t get my brain to stop moving a mile a minute.

The advice that I should take time for myself is something that I will put more effort in to remembering. Alone is OK. It is not something to be scared of and it is not something to be ashamed of. In fact, moving forward, it is something I will try to do at least onece a week. Maybe one week I will book myself a facial or a massage. Another week, I will take myself out on a date to the movies or dinner. As a society, we do not put enough emphasis on spending quality time with oneself. This advice was a gentle reminder to take care of myself. I always tell people that you will not be able to take care of anyone else if you cannot first take care of yourself. Now, it is time to practice what I preach.

I will leave you with an excerpt from “How to be Alone” by Tanya Davis.

Start simple,
things you may have previously avoided based on your avoid-being-alone principles.
The lunch counter, where you will be surrounded by chow-downers,
employees that only have an hour
and their spouses work across town
and so they, like you, will be alone.
Resist the urge to hang out with your cell phone.

When you are comfortable with eat-lunch-and-run, take yourself out for dinner,
a restaurant with linen and silverware.
You’re no less intriguing a person when you’re eating solo dessert
and cleaning the whipped cream from the dish with your finger;
in fact, some people at full tables will wish they were where you were

Go to the movies
where it is dark and soothing
alone in your seat amidst a fleeting community.

And, then, take yourself out dancing,
to a club where no one knows you
stand on the outside of the floor
until the lights convince you more and more
and the music shows you.
Dance like no one’s watching
(’cause they are probably not)
and, if they are, assume it is with best and human intentions,
the way bodies move genuinely to beats is, after all, gorgeous and affecting.

This is thirty.

The Beginning

I turned 30 on June 26th. I got the idea for this blog after reading the article “Bucket List: 30 Things To Do Before You Turn 30” by  Nicole Booz. Well… that ship has already sailed. Surprisingly, there was little to read regarding the 30 things you should do while you’re 30. Thus my idea was born.

I decided to ask 30 friends, family, co-workers and even complete strangers who are all 30+ to contribute. I asked them to think of something that I should do, accomplish, learn, try, etc. while I am 30. These ideas could come from what they learned while they were 30, what they wish they had learned/done when they were 30 or what they wish for me while I’m 30. No idea is too abstract, no task too difficult. I am here to learn, to grow, to change. I am here to jump in while I have the time and the time in now. Geronimo!

Each week I am going to take one lesson, piece of advice or task that has been given to me and share it with you. Some of these may be ongoing and some I may be able to accomplish in a day. Either way, I am going to write about my experiences and the journey I am taking. I hope that I get to try new things. I hope that I get to learn about myself . I hope that I can become closer to and get to better know those that have graciously agreed to be part of this experience. You are all so much a part of me and with this idea, I honor you and your struggles and triumphs. I will write my own story with your guidance and support.

This is thirty.