February 27, 2019

My Weight Loss: Wednesday Weigh In and Current Photo (Starting Over)


The internet is loaded with before and after photos of weight loss. My blog is full of them. It's natural--when we work so hard to lose weight, we love to have a visual result. And for those of us with distorted body images, it helps to see how far we've come.

Or, in my case, how far I've gone.

As you all know, this past year has been a huge struggle for me with my weight. Each time I think I figure out the answer, I wind up at square one again.

I spend a lot of time thinking about how I felt during certain periods of my life. Recently, I keep thinking about how great I felt in 2017. I was 100% committed to the pursuit of happiness, and I felt amazing. I only did what I wanted to do, I said things that were on my mind, I ate what made me happy... it was fantastic.

Then I had some personal stuff going on, and long story short, I stopped living for happiness but started striving for what USED to be my happiness. I was searching and searching and just couldn't find it, and then I felt like a failure, and then I just beat myself up over it all.

I've been feeling really depressed and anxious lately, and I really don't want this to turn into another year where I spend the year trying to get back to how I was before. I may or may not ever get to that point again.

I want to work on being happy NOW.

What this means, I'm not really sure yet. But I do know that I am not happy at my current weight, and I'd like a fresh start. Begin where I am today. Not like before, though--not with the hope of getting where I used to be, but where I can go from here.

I want to stop feeling ashamed of my weight gain and guilty for not running. I want to stop hating how I look in the mirror due to the fact that I've gained weight. I want to start being in photographs again instead of hiding from the camera. I want to stop avoiding seeing people I know when I'm in public because they will notice.

I want to stop avoiding posting weigh-ins on my blog simply because my weight is the highest it's been in about nine years. I want to stop worrying about what other people will think of my body and the changes it's been through.

So, I'm starting over. I'm not trying to get to where I was before. I'd still like to try to lose weight, but I'm going to set a different goal weight--one that is more attainable and flexible. After thinking about it, I'd like my new goal to be between 135 and 145. That's a big 10-pound swing, and I like that. I feel like I won't be upset for gaining a few pounds here and there.

Here is my first Wednesday Weigh-In in a very long time. I'm not going to feel ashamed or feel the need to explain anything. I'm not going to talk about how much I've gained or how my clothes don't fit. This is simply what my scale says when I step on it:


(I actually did this weigh-in on Monday).

I'm even going to post a "fresh start" selfie. A full body selfie.


(See how Estelle manages to place herself in every single picture?!)

My first instinct is to point out all my flaws, all the spots where you can see I've gained weight, etc. But I'm not going to do that. I'm going to show you what I look like right at this moment (literally, I took this photo about five minutes ago).

I practically live in yoga pants lately (these ones are Lululemon pants that I got at Salvation Army for $1.99!) because I haven't wanted to buy jeans. When I get some extra cash, I will go buy some jeans that fit me--no matter what size they are. The shirt I'm wearing in this photo is too big, but it's so comfy that I am happy wearing it. I don't feel like I'm trying to hide my body--I'm just wearing what makes me happy.

And the slippers are MukLuks that Jerry gave me as a gift yesterday, because he knows I've been feeling down lately. I love love love them! Becky gave me a pair a couple of years ago for Christmas, and I've worn them right out. It's nice that Jerry noticed I needed a new pair.

I realize I've written a lot about this kind of stuff lately (not clothing, but weight gain/loss/plans to lose/etc), so I'll keep it short. But I basically wanted to write this as a "coming out" post--I weigh 165.8 pounds and I'm not ashamed to post it. Hell, I don't even feel anxious about what people will say! I wanted to post a current full body photo, too, because I never do anymore.

You can expect to see weigh-ins every Wednesday, because I still want to lose weight and I'm not ashamed to post it anymore. My main plan right now is to do what I can that will make me happier. Because I am not in a very happy place right now (fucking bipolar disorder!), I would like to do what feels best for ME.

I'm hoping to write more on my blog (I know I'm always saying that) but I do have some posts in the works. A chalkboard clock tutorial, for one, and my kitchen and living room makeover reveals. More about how sobriety is affecting me (it's been 58 days). I've been posting a lot of recipes lately--I'm working on getting all of them moved over from my previous blog to here, so you can expect to see more of those.

I was going to apologize for that, but I realize I have no reason to apologize--it's my blog! Haha.

I will definitely post more about mental health--my struggle has been really bad lately. However, my brother-in-law, Shawn, called me a few days ago and we talked about our anxiety issues (he's really the only one in my life truly just "gets it"). It was really helpful to talk to him, and I hope to see him in person sometime soon. Maybe I'll road trip to Chicago when the weather is clear!

And there I go, on a tangent again ;)  Be well, Friends. And may we all find happiness and peace with ourselves together!


February 26, 2019

Dining Room Makeover: Before and After Photos (Finally!)

Photos from before and after making over my dining room!

I FINALLY have photos of the dining room makeover to show you! I'm going to give the whole rundown of what went into this before I post the before and afters.

If you haven't already read it, I suggest reading "The Story of Our Home" before you go through this post. We have a manufactured home (a.k.a. trailer, double wide, whatever you want to call it).

First, I REALLY wish that I had good "before" photos. I didn't think this project was going to turn out to be anything big, so I didn't think to take any pictures beforehand. Instead, I had to go through the photos on my computer and find pictures that showed the dining room before we did anything to it. So, the before photos kind of suck.

Also, I'm going to show the rooms we made over one at a time, because they aren't all done yet. We are almost done with the living room and kitchen, but I ran into a small issue with the molding and I want to fix that first. So, I will show these rooms in stages, starting with the dining room (which we basically used as an extension of the living room).

First, to go over everything that I did in the dining room:

Remove small wall attached to bar top
Obviously, we removed the cupboards that were being held up by the wall
Removed the textured/popcorn ceiling (here is a tutorial/post all about that)
Prepped, caulked, and painted the molding around the window
Replaced window blinds 
Replaced light fixture
Replaced flooring (Jerry did this--doesn't it look amazing?!)
Replaced heat vent registers
Installed and painted floorboard trim
Painted a huge chalkboard wall clock (I'm working on a DIY tutorial for this now--it's a lot more work than I thought it would be to explain!)
Built a couple of shelves for the cats to sit on in front of the window ;) 


Here are some photos of the progress and the big reveal!

Dining room "before"

Dining room "after"

Here are some progress photos from along the way...

Removing wall and cupboards

Removing wall and cupboards

Removing wall and cupboards

Removing wall and cupboards

Cupboards removed


Making my own laminate bar top

My DIY laminate countertop

After removing textured ceiling and painting

Taping and mudding the seams


Painting my table and chairs orange

Priming the chairs

My new orange table and chairs

After painting bar seating area

Priming the window trim

Before installing the vinyl planking

DIY chalkboard wall clock

DIY cat window perches


Dining room before photo

Dining room "before" photo

The final product--the "after" photo of the dining room!


To see all of the posts so far about the renovation, you can scroll through them here. This has been a huge project, and I can't wait to reveal the rest!!


February 23, 2019

Copycat Sbarro Baked Ziti (Recipe)

Copycat Sbarro Baked Ziti


Don't be fooled by the lack of ingredients in this--it's SO GOOD. I was trying to imitate the baked ziti at Sbarro. When I was a teenager, I loved Sbarro's baked ziti at the mall. So this is what I came up with. Trust me, I tried adding all kinds of Italian herbs and spices and different cheeses and all that... but I always come back to this recipe. My kids even clean their plates when I make this.

Here is a printer-friendly version!

Copycat Sbarro Baked Ziti

Ingredients:

16 oz uncooked ziti or mostaccoli
15 oz ricotta cheese
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 (15 oz) can plain tomato sauce +
1 (8 oz) can plain tomato sauce (you can skip this is you want it less saucy)

Directions:

Pre-Heat oven to 350. Cook the pasta according to package directions.

In a 13x9 baking dish, combine the ricotta, parmesan, and the 15 oz can of tomato sauce. When pasta is done cooking, stir it into the cheese mixture until uniform.

Pour the 8 oz can of tomato sauce on top, and spread across the dish.

Bake uncovered at 350 for 20-30 minutes, until hot throughout. Serve with garlic bread. Makes 6-8 servings.


February 20, 2019

What My Anxiety Feels Like and How It Affects Me (A Long, Personal Mental Health Post)

What Anxiety Feels Like

I've been writing so sporadically lately, and I can't really pinpoint a reason for it:

I overthink the things I may want to write about; the thought of writing a post makes me anxious; my weight isn't where I'd like it to be right now; and probably several other reasons. So, I'm going to spill my guts in this post while it is morning time, when I'm feeling my best during the day.

Lately, I have had near-crippling anxiety.

I've had generalized anxiety disorder for as long as I can remember. I was diagnosed when I was originally diagnosed with depression--somewhere around age 9 or 10. Anti-anxiety meds have never really worked for me. When I was diagnosed with and started on bipolar meds in 2017, the anxiety quieted quite a bit, but it was always lurking in the background.

It's so hard to describe what anxiety feels like (for me), but I will try. I know that generalized anxiety disorder is a very common mental illness, so I'm sure a lot of you already know what it feels like. And maybe it feels totally different for you than it does for me! But to someone who hasn't experienced it, it's one of the worst feelings imaginable.

I always feel like I have a large pit in my stomach that just can't be filled. It's like I'm waiting for something bad to happen, because I know it's coming, but logically, there is no reason to feel that way. The reason it's called "generalized" anxiety is because I don't feel anxious about any one particular thing (such as flying on an airplane). It's anxiety over nothing and everything at the same time.

99 Problems Anxiety Meme

Try to imagine something that you are most afraid of. And then imagine that you know you will have to deal with that thing--not today, but tomorrow. How nerve-wracking that feels all day long! My anxiety feels like that.

All. The. Time.

It's a combination of a pit in my stomach and a blanket of dread draped over my shoulders. As I write this, it feels like my stomach is twisted in knots and there is a hand squeezing my throat. I often wonder if other people feel this way, too, when anxiety takes hold.

What Anxiety Feels and Looks Like

I know most of my anxious thoughts are irrational, but my brain is not rational when my anxiety takes over. It's very difficult to explain, but it makes me feel like a bad person in general. Like I'm never doing enough. Like I feel guilty, but I don't have anything to feel guilty for. (Again, I know it's irrational--I'm not looking for validation that I'm not a bad person. Any of my friends or family will tell you that I'm a good person. But my brain is always trying to tell me otherwise.)

I can try SO hard to distract myself, to reason with myself, to try the mental exercises I learned in therapy, and nothing helps. (Well, alcohol was always a good distraction for a few hours; but I quit drinking 51 days ago, and now I don't have that as a temporary fix.)

I keep hoping that the reason for my recent increase (read: sky-rocket) in anxiety is due to the fact that I can no longer have a glass of wine to calm my nerves. If that is the case, I am also hopeful that it is only temporary, and the longer I go without alcohol, the better I will be able to learn to deal with anxiety in healthy ways.

The worst time for me is in the evenings. I cannot calm my mind, and that makes it impossible for me to focus on other tasks. I can't read a book, I can't write in a journal, I can't watch a TV show, I can't even listen to a podcast. The anxiety overrides all of that in my mind, and it usually makes me get so frustrated that I get really emotional.

I wish I was one to enjoy calling a friend to chat with about it, and I have a couple of friends that I know would be more than willing to listen, but even the thought of calling them gives me anxiety (how's that for irony?). Jerry is desperate to help, but there is honestly nothing that he can do. He is the perfect husband and I love him so much for trying. I just wish that there was some way for him to help, because he feels bad.

As I've written before, I thrive on a routine. When I have a routine for my day-to-day life, I feel my best. When something throws that off, it tends to trigger the anxiety. Upcoming travel is the worst of it. It could be a trip that I know I'll have a lot of fun on, usually going to visit a friend that I adore, but the thought of being away from home, out of my familiar space, causes me to dread travel. I've even canceled trips over it several times through the years.

The last time I can remember feeling really good and having minimal anxiety was in 2013. I was training hard for the Chicago Marathon, running six days a week while following Hansons Marathon Method. I know that exercise has been proven to help with anxiety--and I have found this to be true with myself--yet, I have been having a really hard time sticking with anything lately. I was doing well with getting back into a running routine, but it was so easy to skip a day here and there when something came up.

What's my plan from here?

Jerry and I were talking about fitness, and we brought up the Wii Fit U. Remember when I was doing the Wii Fit U challenge and wore the Wii Fit U Meter? Jerry and I had a lot of fun with that. I'm not sure what happened to our meters, but I recently bought some on Amazon and they're less than $9 now.

I got Jerry, the kids, and I each one, so that we can compete with each other in distance. When we sync to the Wii Fit U, it shows on a map how far we've gone based on our steps. Since we've been doing some of the Wii Fit U games together recently, it just adds another layer to that.

Also, I've been thinking about signing up for a race to run. One of the first things I tell people who want to start running is to sign up for a race--it could be as long as six months away!--because it will be a reason to stick with it. If I feel like I'm working toward something, I can set mini goals to get there. I really don't want to get back into racing, but doing a 5K or 10K once in a while would at least keep me training.

I'm not ready to be super ambitious, but I am definitely thinking about setting a fitness goal that feels challenging enough to work for and see if I can do it! I will have to think a bit about what I want that to be, and I may not even declare it here or anywhere else. But it's something to think about.

Anyway, I'm getting off track. My point is just that I know exercise is the most natural way of anxiety relief that I have found to work for me. And if I can just really make myself commit to it, then maybe it will help with the increase in anxiety I've been feeling recently.

I previously wrote a post about The Top 5 Ways I Relieve My Anxiety, and those still ring true. I will also have to add to it, because right now, the biggest one that works for me is actually playing a game on Lumosity. By doing that, my mind doesn't have time to think about anything else. (I like fast-paced games that require 100% concentration).

Of course, I can't play games all day, but it's definitely helpful in the evenings when I want to relax.

(Speaking of having a hard time staying focused, it's now 1:43 PM, and I started this post at 8:00 AM. I really need to get some work done around the house before it's time to get the kids!)

To finish this post, I just want to say that I am sorry for anyone out there who suffers from anxiety. I know how much it sucks. And I hope it helps to know that you're not alone! (Just search for "funny anxiety memes" on Pinterest, and you will feel a million times better already.)


February 19, 2019

Turkey, Black Bean, and Corn Chili (Recipe)

This is SO GOOD-- very filling, and loaded with fiber. And a great bang for your buck when it comes to calories, too!

Turkey, Black Bean, & Corn Chili Recipe


Here is a printer-friendly version!


Turkey, Black Bean, and Corn Chili


2 tsp. olive oil
1 lb. lean ground turkey
1 large onion
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1-3/4 cups beef broth
1 cup salsa OR 1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can corn, drained

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over med-high heat, add the ground turkey, onion, chili powder, cumin, oregano, pepper, and garlic powder.

Cook until the meat is browned, and drain any fat. Add the rest of the ingredients, and bring to a boil. 

Reduce the heat to low, and cover. Cook over low heat 30 minutes. Serves 4-6.

Turkey, Black Bean, & Corn Chili


February 17, 2019

Trash to Treasure: How I've Been Utilizing Facebook Marketplace to Makeover Our Home

This winter has just been flying by. It's kind of crazy to me that we started working on our DIY home makeover back in August, and it is now mid-February. I honestly thought we'd be done by October or November! But one thing leads to another and another, and the list just keeps growing.

I am dying to take some "after" photos of the whole renovation, but the main thing we have left to do is the baseboards on the floor. (We also want to do a backsplash, but I'm not concerned with that right now). I've been dreading and procrastinating the baseboards because of all the miter cuts we'll have to make, but my brother has the tools we need to do the cuts and the trim nailer, so I'm hoping to get it done this week.

Most of the things we've bought for our home makeover have been preowned or repurposed in some way. I've used LOTS of paint to update things--the guys at Sherwin Williams are very familiar with my face by now--and I've utilized Facebook Marketplace to get furniture or decorative items that I just don't want to buy new.

Check out these bar stools I bought for $60 (for the pair)!


They are very nice quality and look brand new. They are black with gray cushions, which match perfectly in the dining room. I had been searching for a few months for the right stools, and I even went to a couple of stores looking for them. I just couldn't justify spending $150 per stool at the store, however! Especially for ones that I didn't love. These ones are perfect.

As I mentioned already, I bought my living room furniture from Facebook Marketplace. There was the crazy coincidence of finding my orange mid-century modern sofa and chair ($300 and $100 respectively, and completely worth it considering the quality of the pieces). 


And then the other sofa that I managed to get for $50, not even realizing until I brought it home that it's a Sherrill brand! Again, a top quality piece that is super comfy (I'm sitting on it now). (How does Estelle wind up in so many of my photos?! hahaha)


One of my favorite finds was a console/bench from Pottery Barn. First, I had NO idea just how expensive Pottery Barn is until I looked this up ($600). I had been looking for a bench for our shoes/hats/gloves by the front door. I paid $60 for it. 

Well, when I got this home, I just realized I couldn't possibly "waste" it by using it for that purpose! It was too nice. Instead, we included it in the living room, where it fits right under the window. We keep our "ugly" stuff in there--the cable modem and router, remote controls, etc. 

This isn't the greatest quality picture, but it's nice--trust me!


Speaking of Pottery Barn, I also bought an amazing PB orange wool rug for $50. The original receipt was included and it was $329.


I bought a very nice floor lamp to replace our cheap-looking Walmart one that we've had probably 10 years. This one is very heavy and solid. I love it! I don't have a photo of this handy.

I've also been selling items on Facebook Marketplace, and I really wish I'd thought to do it a long time ago. I love that I get to call the shots--"here is the price, and you can pick it up at this location at this time". I always meet in a public spot, but the people I've "met", even for the short interactions, have been wonderful. It's even helping me to become less shy, which is a shocker. 

Yesterday, I listed Eli's Pokemon cards for $50 (not having any clue what they were worth) and immediately I got several messages with people who want them. I was shocked! So he is pretty excited to get that money. The cards had been sitting in his closet for a few years.

I've made several hundred dollars from selling a coffee table, ottoman, a couple of clocks and paintings, a Keurig, an Instant Pot, a cat tree, and probably some more things I'm forgetting. It's nice to get the money from selling stuff and then use it for things we need or want for the home makeover.

I had been looking for a chandelier and some lighting fixtures for months, and I was checking Lowe's for clearance ones. I just couldn't find any. Even on Facebook Marketplace. FINALLY, I was at Lowe's last week and saw that they were clearancing out several floor models that had already been marked down (one chandelier was regularly $189, then on clearance for $90-ish--then the floor model was marked down to $38! I bought it and three other fixtures that matched--all three for less than $80.

Unfortunately, when we hung the chandelier, I really didn't like it. It just wasn't my style. So, I returned those and bought some simple fixtures that I absolutely love. I had $90 worth of store credit at Menards, so they didn't cost anything out of pocket. It's funny, my kids kept exclaiming how much they love them.


Speaking of my kids, I was organizing my closet the other day and I came across this list that Noah wrote a long time ago. I searched my blog to see if I had written about it, and I did! Here is the post where I explained it. But if you don't want to click over--Noah was on an HGTV kick when he was eight years old, and he was always telling us the things that were "dated" in our house. So, he wrote a list of what we needed to do:


Hahaha! I doubt that the slightly eclectic look I'm choosing now is what he had in mind, but six years later, he got every single wish on his list! ;) 


February 11, 2019

Crispy Potato Halves (Recipe)

Crispy Potato Halves (recipe)


My husband and I are OBSESSED with these potatoes! They take a long time to bake, but the prep time is minimal and when you have the time, they are more than worth it. The perfect side dish!

Here is a printer-friendly version!

Crispy Potato Halves

For each serving:

1 (5 oz) potato
1 tsp. olive oil
dash salt
dash pepper
dash garlic powder
dash onion powder
dash chili powder

Preheat oven to 350.  Slice potato in half length-wise.  Stab the flat side of the potato a few times with a knife. Spread 1/2 tsp oil on the flat side of each half, and sprinkle with the spices. Turn the halves face down onto a baking sheet.  Bake at 350 for about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Serve with ketchup or sour cream and chives.


February 09, 2019

Sobriety Musings: My History With Alcohol and What I've Learned in 39 Days Sober

My history with alcohol and what I've learned in the last 39 days without.

Holy smokes, have I been a lazy blogger! I didn't realize until just now that it's been over a week since my last post. I had no idea what to really write about, so I thought I'd give an update on my "Dry 2019" personal challenge (no alcohol for the entire year).

It feels kind of odd to call this "sobriety", because when I hear that word, I immediate think of an alcoholic who is in recovery. However, when I looked up the meaning of sobriety, it read: "The act of being sober". Haha! So, I looked up sober, and it's simply: "Not affected by alcohol; not drunk".

So, by definition, I am in sobriety. Sober.

When I started this personal challenge, I didn't think of myself as an alcoholic; when I picture an alcoholic, Frank Gallagher is the first thing that pops into my mind, haha. Of course, he is on the extreme end of the alcoholic spectrum. Since I was nothing at all like that, the term alcoholic didn't seem to apply to me.

Is there a spectrum? I've come to believe there is. Stone cold sober is at one end, and Frank Gallagher is at the other (Frank is a character on the show Shameless, if you've not seen it). For the first week of sobriety, I wondered exactly where I fell on that spectrum.

And honestly, I still don't know. I was never physically dependent on alcohol (and I'm grateful for that!). However, I've been thinking... for me to want to have thought of this challenge, alcohol had to have played a pretty important (negative) roll in my life. Otherwise, I wouldn't be doing it!

Today, I am 39 days sober and counting. Being sober for this long has given me some "Aha!" moments about my use of alcohol. I'll try and sum up some of it here. First, some background:

I had always been what most people refer to as a "social drinker"--having a few drinks at parties, basically. My first drink was when I was 17--apple pucker schnapps (ohhhh, how gross when I think of it now!)--and I didn't drink again until college. I lived in a dorm, and like most freshmen, we had parties fairly frequently.

I got married a couple of years later, in 2003, and then pregnant a couple of months after that, which meant no drinking for a long time. Nine months after having Noah, I was pregnant with Eli. So, I had gone pretty much two years without drinking at all.

Once I was done having kids and parties were few and far between, I didn't drink much. In 2009, my friend Renee and I started a wine club for our girlfriends, where we would meet once a month to sample several different types of wine. I was NOT a fan of wine at the time, but I liked the idea of trying different kinds to see if there was one I liked.

Eventually, I really started to like it--the "acquired taste" that drinkers tell non-drinkers will happen if they continue to try it. Once I started to enjoy it, I began to include it in my diet regimen. I would save my Weight Watchers points for a 5-6 oz glass and a piece of chocolate nearly every day. It was never a problem.

Then, in 2014, my anxiety got REALLY bad. I was getting several not-so-nice comments on my blog, and just the thought of writing a blog post made me feel sick. I wrote a whole post about it: Freeing Myself of the Anxiety from Social Media. That post explains it in detail.

Anyway, I got in the habit of pouring a glass of wine when I sat down to write a blog post. It wasn't unusual to finish the bottle of wine by the time I was done writing (believe it or not, writing a blog post, even a very simple one, takes me several hours--I have been working on this one for three days now, hahaha). The wine quieted the anxiety that was sure to skyrocket when I clicked "Publish" on my post.

Since then, I've gone back and forth from drinking a lot to not drinking much at all. For most of 2017, I hardly drank anything--I was very happy after my bipolar diagnosis and starting the proper bipolar medication, and I had no desire to drink at all. (I do want to mention here that bipolar and addiction go hand-in-hand; it's rare to find someone with bipolar who doesn't have an addiction of some sort--alcohol, food, drugs, shopping, gambling, sex, etc.)

Toward the end of the year, however, I had a lot of emotional stuff going on (mainly from worrying about Jerry and some other family stuff) and I used alcohol to relieve the stress. I found that when I drank, I could numb the uncomfortable feelings for a while. I didn't think of it as a problem, because I wasn't dependent on it, I wasn't day drinking, and I wasn't getting "drunk". It just made me feel happier for a few hours.

Sometime in 2018, I started drinking more out of habit than anything else. When working on the house for days on end, I'd have a few beers while sanding, painting, sawing, etc. Or I'd pour a glass of wine when I sat down at the end of a long day.

And even though I wasn't getting drunk, I would wake up in the mornings feeling crappy. I'm clearly not 21 years old anymore, and the older I get, the side effects of drinking get worse (I've listed the details in this post). I decided that I should probably quit before it became a "real" problem.

Even though I wasn't physically addicted, I found it so hard to quit! I hadn't realized it, but somewhere along the way, it became a significant part of my life.

So, in November of 2018, I started thinking about going for a full year without drinking in order to see if I felt better. I was hoping for less mood shifts, better sleep, less anxiety, no depression, and several other things. I could have chosen 30 days, or 90 days, or some other number, but I didn't think that was enough time to truly see what sort of role alcohol played in my life.

In order to make sure that I would stick with it, I announced here on my blog as well as on my personal Facebook page. I thought announcing it to my friends on Facebook would be the easiest way to explain why I wouldn't be drinking if we go out or have a get together or whatever. And I have to say, if I hadn't been so public, I certainly would have quit within the first week!

The first few days weren't bad, simply because I was excited about doing something new. However, the next few weeks were very tough! Here is what I learned:

Negatives:

  The main reason I would drink (other than in social situations) was to relieve stress and/or anxiety. In sobriety, I am still having a very hard time finding other ways to relieve stress and relax. Maybe one day, I can be one of those people who exercises, takes a hot bath, or drinks tea for stress relief, but I'm not there yet.

  I found myself substituting food for alcohol. I may not be consuming calories from alcohol, but I definitely made up for that with food. (I'm doing better with that now, for the past week or so--eating a planned snack and sticking to small portions).

  I find myself feeling like something is missing. I'm sure this will go away with time, but because drinking while in particular circumstances had become such an ingrained habit, it's going to take a while to feel fulfilled while sober. It's no longer an option for quick stress relief. And God help me when I get on a plane to travel in a couple of months! 

  When friends post photos of them drinking, I feel like I'm missing out. Like I said before, though, I think I'm just romanticizing the idea of it rather than the act itself.

Positives:

  My quality of sleep has improved drastically. I don't wake up during the night anymore, and I can't explain how huge this is for me. I used to wake up multiple times a night, tossing and turning. Now, I sleep for about six hours and even though that isn't the "ideal" eight hours we are told to aim for, my body is well rested because of the quality of sleep.

  I have a lot more energy in the mornings. Instead of waking up to my alarm and then dreading getting out of bed to start the day, I usually wake up between 5:00 and 6:00 (my alarm is set for 6:00 on school days) and I have no problem getting out of bed right away.

  I've been more active in the evenings. I find myself feeling antsy after dinner and the anxiety starts to build, so I have been working on any sort of project I can think of to keep my mind and body occupied. I have been organizing several areas of my house, and I really like how "neat" everything is when I am done.

I even made a pretty fun wall clock (it's a chalkboard!) and I'm working on a cat "hotel"--Hotel Catifornia (Jerry's name for it, haha). It's not as big of a deal as it sounds--it's literally just an old book shelf that I painted and cut windows in. Basically a slightly-glorified triple story cat bed. I will post pictures when I'm done with it.

Here is the wall clock I made, though. It's about six feet in diameter!

huge chalkboard wall clock


  Sex. (Mom, if you're reading, skip this part). Wine was always my go-to for feeling sexy and getting in the mood. I've never had much of a libido, and I was so sure that quitting drinking would make it non-existent and sex would be boring. However, I found the opposite to be true. For some real TMI, I will just state that orgasms are much better and last longer. 🙈

  I've mentioned before that I used to get super bloated sometimes for reasons unknown (and that is why I experimented with intermittent fasting). Since I stopped drinking, I haven't gotten that uncomfortable bloated feeling even once! This is the most significant change for me. Alcohol didn't always make me feel bloated, which is why I never put two and two together. But now that I haven't had any issues with severe bloating, I don't really think it's a coincidence.

  Finally, and this may just be a coincidence also, but my appetite has decreased (as of a couple of weeks ago). I eat breakfast (toast with cinnamon raisin peanut butter) and then I don't eat again until dinner at four or five o'clock. I don't have any cravings--how weird is that?! Even when I'm physically hungry, it's hard to choose something to eat because I just don't have a big appetite.

Unfortunately, I haven't made progress with my weight, but I think that's because I was substituting food for the alcohol for the first few weeks. Now that I'm no longer doing that, I hope to start seeing some of the 35 pounds I gained last year come off.

  I'm really happy about the example I'm setting for the kids. I'm not anti-drinking (in moderation), but I want them to see that it's okay NOT to drink, too.



So, it's been 39 days and this is how it's going so far. Per the suggestion from about a dozen readers, I got the book This Naked Mind. I'm about 3/4 of the way through it, and I really like it!

After a couple of chapters, I even got out a highlighter--something I never do--and highlighted things that stuck out to me. Maybe I will write a review when I'm done with it. I do find it to be very repetitive, however, so I'm having a hard time finishing the last little bit of it. Even after this year is over, I don't think I'll ever see alcohol the same way again, thanks to the book.

I realize that the musings of 39 days of sobriety isn't exactly super insightful, but as part of this experiment, I wanted to document any changes I notice in sobriety along the way. I certainly don't feel like one of those people who is clearly "high on life" and is practically bursting at the seams with a sober, happy existence, sans alcohol--maybe that will come in time, who knows?--but I have definitely noticed some very positive changes. Hopefully there is more to come! :)

(Several people have asked if I will drink again when this experiment is over. It's way too early for me to say! Right now, I'm just committed to a year.)

I'm going to try to post a few times this week. I really don't want to get in the habit of only posting once a week or so. I'm very nervous about posting this, because it's such a personal thing to share, but I'm sure there are people who probably have a lot of the same things going on. It's always nice not to feel alone!

Have a great weekend, Friends!


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