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National Wine Day

All week long I’ve been watching as the U.S. marketing machine churns out messages, ads, and propaganda promoting “National Wine Day.”

 

On this day a year ago, National Wine Day could have easily passed as my own personal holiday. (Not that I needed a media-manufactured holiday as an incentive to imbibe.)

 

Red wine was my weakness, though I wouldn’t have referred to it that way then. Back then I was “passionate about wine," an oenophile — and a woman who would have, without a second thought, tipped my glass in honor of this occasion.

 

Tipped and tipped and tipped again, because that is how the descent into disordered drinking begins. Tip the glass, top it off. Tip it and top it, tip it and top it, until suddenly you find yourself at the bottom of a bottle.

 

Let’s get honest here folks: the only drinking that’s not disordered (according to the CDC, the AHA, and other arbiters of such things) is 1 drink/day for women, max. In honor of "National Wine Day," let's get crystal clear on what one glass of wine looks like: 4-5 fl. oz.  Friends — 4-5 oz. is sooo much less than you think. Allow me to illustrate:

 

Not long ago I emptied a 12 oz. can of La Croix into a stemless wine glass, and imagine my surprise when those 12 oz. barely filled the glass 1/3 of the way. Talk about a wake-up call. 12 ounces of sparkling water amounted to less than what I had previously considered a single pour of wine. Which means this: even on a night where I had "just one glass" I was consuming up to 4x what is considered "healthy." And let's be real: when I uncorked a bottle of red? Consuming just one glass was not the norm.

 

Here’s the (uncomfortable) truth:

 

Not everyone who chooses to quit drinking is an alcoholic. (I’m not.)⠀⠀

Not everyone who needs to quit drinking hits rock bottom. (I didn’t.)

But aren’t we all much more comfortable with a binary system that says there are two kinds of people: those who need to quit drinking (alcoholics) and the rest of us?

 

For a long time, I certainly was.

 

But as is true in so many areas of life, things are almost never that clear cut. We're drawn to binaries and black and white thinking because they require very little of us in terms of reflection and self awareness. We buy into these beliefs and adopt the accompanying rules, and in doing so we get to skip right over examining the vast gray areas...and ourselves.

 

I’m so grateful to have found spaces (many of them online) where people are willing to roll up their sleeves and dig down into the gray. Spaces where women decide that official diagnosis or not, we no longer want to dull the edges of our experience with alcohol. That we want to show up clear-eyed and cognizant, so that we can re-prioritize the relationships and goals that reside in our hearts over the beverages we hold in our hands. That we want our passion to be directed towards our people and our projects, elicited by our loved ones and our life goals, not ethanol.

 

So yeah, it's National Wine Day, and I'll be over here celebrating.

Celebrating 160 days of sober living. 

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Lauren DayComment
90 Days

Studies suggest that it takes 66 days of repetition to cement a new habit.

For me, those 66 days (which have since grown to 90+) weren't spent trying to establish a new habit. Rather, I was working to ditch a habit that had gradually and insidiously crept up on me over the course of the past decade. One that I had become mindlessly comfortable, and then increasingly uncomfortable, with. 

 

We live in a time and culture in which we're bombarded with messages that not only normalize, but glamorize, alcohol consumption. And more troubling still? The unabashed celebration of over-consumption: Rosé the day away. Drink all the wine. My ideal pour. Why have a water dispenser when you could have wine instead

 

What's more, this "alcohol-as-lifestyle" messaging that extols excessive consumption? It's being fed to us by companies and publications that otherwise tout themselves as purveyors of healthy living: Shape magazine. YogspirationSummit to Soul Sportswear. Eating Well. Women's Health magazine. Which leads me to ask- when did exercise get reduced to a means of offsetting alcohol indulgence? And how did running and beer or yoga and cocktails come to be considered natural pairings? The "wellness" industry's portrayal of consuming alcohol as part and parcel of balanced living is a troubling trend, to say the least.

 

What's more? Over time we've inextricably linked motherhood and drinking, more often than not implying that the former can't be managed or tolerated without the latter. Exhibit A, via the Today Show: 

There are, as of the publishing of this essay, 19,656 Instagram posts labeled with the hashtag #mommyneedsadrink

And in this recent episode of "Momsplaining" (produced by The Ellen Show), Kristen Bell (whose husband, Dax Shepard, is in recovery) jokes with preschool children about their moms' antics with alcohol (starting at 3:24), even going so far as to tell them: "Sometimes it's nice to have a little glass of wine when you're an adult, and sometimes with animals like you, you need it."

What a sad message this sends to our kids, who are listening to these alcohol narratives more closely than we realize. Don't believe me? Check out writer Katie Bickell's recent viral post, Moms Tell Me to Drink.

 

Here's the deal, friends: problem drinking and alcohol dependence are on the rise among women.  And contrary to the shiny marketing messages that abound, there's nothing glamorous about it. In fact, the increases in alcohol use and abuse from 2002-2013 (with women leading the pack) are so staggering that it's considered a public health crisis.

 

And is it any surprise that we're struggling? For a woman who might be questioning her drinking habits (like I was), these are the messages she's seeing everywhere she turns: Alcohol is mommy's little helper.  Alcohol is our rewardWhen we have problems, we can turn to wine. (Rather than considering that the ease and speed with which we turn to wine might actually be one of our problems.) 

 

Instead of being challenged to get real about our drinking, we're encouraged to (over) indulge. We're inundated with cheeky messages that declare it perfectly normal to down a few glasses of wine (nay, a bottle) at day's end. (No matter the fact that the guidelines for moderate consumption indicate that women should drink no more than one 5 oz. pour a day.) And if we're to listen to outlets like Women's Health Australia who make light of drinking before noon, or wine peddlers who hash tag their posts #breakfastwine , "day drinking" is the new norm.

 

The good news is that there are voices of sanity to be found amidst the noise- you just have to lean in and listen a little (okay, a lot) harder. (And sometimes, as was the case for me, those voices show up serendipitously.)

 

Seven years ago I stumbled upon a blog, whose author I related to in a variety of ways. Same age. Same passion for the written word. Same deep love for our daughters. And, as I would come to find out about a year later, a similar weakness for wine

 

Today, all these years later? We both continue to explore what it looks like to choose the dry life.

 

It's easy to make the mistaken assumption that alcohol addiction is the only sort of "drinking problem" that merits our attention. It's convenient how we categorize alcoholics as "other," allowing the rest of us off the hook without having to take a serious look at our own relationship with booze. But the truth is there is an entire spectrum of problematic drinking patterns that are easy to gloss over- that fall in between moderate use and dependency. The lines can be blurry, and a little harder to make out. And the behaviors can be easy to minimize and justify. (Especially with all of the messed up messaging we're inundated with.) But in the face of a public health crisis, I'd say it's time we take a closer look. 

 

I am not an alcoholic, and some would say that disqualifies me from speaking on the topic of sobriety.

But here's the thing- there is no shortage of resources for alcoholics. No scarcity of voices telling tales of addiction and recovery. What there are fewer of are voices in the margins. Voices that occupy the in-between spaces. Women speaking up and admitting: "I may not be addicted, but I am increasingly uncomfortable with the role that alcohol is playing in my life. I may not have bottomed out, but I'm aware that wine has become a crutch- a numbing agent for my anxiety, exhaustion, and stress. It's dulling the edges of my life. Shortening my temper. Compromising my sleep. Crowding out more important things. While my life may not have "become unmanageable," I no longer want to use alcohol to manage my life, my emotions, and my pain."

 

90 days ago*, these were the words that I uttered.

And if I'm completely transparent? I had no idea how far they would (or wouldn't) carry me. Could I make it a week without wine? A month? More? Did I even want to? How far was I willing to go with this experiment? What exactly was this commitment that I was making to myself?

 

The truth is, I still don't have all of the answers. (In fact, I probably have more questions than I did when I began.) But do you know what else I have more of 3 months in?


Peace. Rest. Presence. Perspective. Joy. Connection. Attention. Intention.**

And I've also gained the confidence to share this piece of my story. To speak out from this in-between space. To be the voice that I was searching for. To suggest that if you've been wondering whether your relationship with wine needs to change? Chances are, you already have your answer. 

 

And to tell you that what you suspect is true: 

 

You are not alone.

There is a sisterhood here awaiting your arrival...

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*95, as of the publishing of this post.

**Full disclosure? There's also more discomfort. But these days I'm learning to sit with it, deal with it, and work with it...rather than dull it with a drink. 

Lauren Day Comments
You Owe Yourself

Yesterday while reading a New York Times article about self-compassion for stressed-out teens, a quote from Dr. Kristin Neff from the University of Texas at Austin jumped off the page, forcing me to get real with myself:   

 

“There’s almost no one whom we treat as badly as ourselves.”  

 

What’s up with that, my friends? How is it that those of us who take such good and attentive care of others can be so neglectful of ourselves? 

 

Are you prone to the same patterns that I am? Pouring the very best of your energy and love into the people around you, while your own tank perpetually teeters on empty? Paying lip-service to self care, while consistently sidelining your own dreams, desires, and and to-do lists in order to help others achieve theirs? Forgoing necessary sleep, exercise, meditation (or whatever your most essential self-love practices are) in deference to everyone else’s needs? 

 

As much work as I’ve done over the past 3 years to examine and alter these inclinations, man is it easy to fall back into familiar habits.  

 

Here’s the thing: I’m a healer and a helper by nature. An Enneagram Type 2. There’s no getting around the fact that I derive joy from nurturing my loved ones, and find purpose in loving other people well. As a result, you’ll never hear me advocate for withholding tender (even sacrificial) care from the ones we love.  

 

But what I’m learning is that I have to put myself back on the list of people that I love.  

 

That the exquisite care and generous energy that I extend to others? I need to make a habit of offering those to myself, as well- as a regular practice, not an afterthought.   

 

This is what that looked like for me this week, in practical terms:

  • Enrolling in a class that will require a significant investment of my time and energy, and will place me squarely on the path to pursuing a long-held (and long-deferred) dream that I’m done putting off until “the time is right.”
  • Saying no to anything and everything that interfered with getting a solid 7 hours of sleep.
  • Splurging on a 90 minute deep tissue massage. (Because when you ignore the whisper of your inner wisdom long enough? Your body will cry out in protest.)  

 

What about you?

 

Tell me in the comments- what have YOU done this week to lavish yourself with love? And if you're racking your brain and can’t come up with anything, how about a little accountability? Leave a comment below with a promise to yourself- one thing you’ll do (or not do!*) before the weekend is up, to honor yourself and offer yourself the same wholehearted love that you’re known for dispensing so liberally to others.  

 

*Saying "no" is self-care too! 

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Lauren DayComment
Say the Words

Here is what I want you to know:

 

YOU SHOULD ALWAYS SAY THE WORDS. OUT LOUD. TO ALL OF THE PEOPLE. ALL OF THE TIME.

We need to hear those words more often than we admit. And it's just as rewarding to be the one who speaks the words that someone else needed to hear. So, I implore you- say the words. To your friends and your children, to your spouse and your coworkers, to your parents and your mentors, to your siblings and to the barista at the coffee shop.

 

YOUR WORDS CAN CHANGE THE TRAJECTORY OF SOMEONE'S DAY, OR EVEN THEIR LIFE. (OR THEY WON'T, IF THEY REMAIN UNSPOKEN, AS THEY SO OFTEN DO.)

Let me offer you two personal examples of the power of words at work in the world:

 

A year ago tonight I was out with two girlfriends, when I ran into a third who I hadn't seen in awhile. This run-in was with a brilliant and radiant woman I'd met through work, and with whom I'd exchanged meaningful words before- vulnerable and transformative words that brought us both to tears, and then back to ourselves.

 

That night, when I ran into her again, she surprised me with these words:

 

"LAUREN, YOU SPARKLE FROM THE INSIDE OUT!"

Sometimes we can't see ourselves objectively at all. We forget our sparkle or we think it has faded, when in fact it's burning bright. If a bystander can see my inner sparkle in a matter of minutes? Then clearly it's bright enough to light my way forward. My friend reminded me of that.

 

BECAUSE SHE SAID THE WORDS. OUT LOUD.

Fast forward to this week, which found me doing a big, important thing before I felt ready. In the midst of looming insecurities, doubts, and fears, I decided to share my sparkle by (finally) launching this blog. I wrote something vulnerable and hit "publish." Then, I shared it to social media in hopes that my story would find its way to someone facing a similar struggle. That my words would find resonance with them, and perhaps provide a bit of clarity or peace.

 

The next day I received a heartfelt message from one of the strongest, most resilient women I know. This friend is currently facing some of the most formidable medical, legal, and parenting challenges imaginable. Amazingly, in the midst of it all, she took the time to reach out and let me know that the words I'd shared were meaningful to her. That she kept coming back to my blog post over and over again, reading and re-reading the words as a reminder. She called the timing of my post perfect, and let me know that she'd revisited it right before walking into an anxiety-inducing meeting. My friend let me know that she found help and hope in the midst of a meltdown.

 

BECAUSE I SAID THE WORDS. OUT LOUD.

You don't have to have a blog or a platform to speak your truth. You don't have to have a friend in crisis in order to offer encouragement. You don't even have to know who or how your story will help. All you need to do is find the courage to:

 

SAY. THE. WORDS.

 

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Lauren DayComment
It's Happening Around Me, Not To Me

Yesterday I relayed a story to my therapist about an upsetting & recurring pattern that is once again playing itself out in a close relationship of mine. At some point in the story he stopped me in my tracks to remind me of this truth:

 

"What she says and does doesn't affect your day-to-day life, Lauren. Her words and actions only affect you if you allow them to." 

Boom. Yes. #Truthbomb dropped.

It's taken me years (and a shit ton of therapy) to begin to grasp and apply this concept consistently. It's pretty much the polar opposite of everything that was modeled and taught to me for the first 30+ years of my life, and undoing the damage of decades of bad messaging? That takes time. (And, as the above exchange would suggest, it also takes occasional reminders.)

 

I left my therapy session feeling pretty damned good- enlightened, but also empowered to take decisive, healthy action in the situation I'd brought to the couch. 

 

And then? The universe decided to present me with an immediate opportunity to put my renewed resolve into practice. Over the next few hours I allowed myself to get swept up in a cyclone of reactivity. I accepted the invitation to a conversation where I not only felt the need to speak my truth, I "needed" my truth to be validated. I not only needed to be balanced and boundaried in my responses, I "needed" to somehow ensure that he acted with balance and boundaries too. I "needed" to defend myself. I "needed" to prove my point and in doing so, disprove his. I "needed" him to see the light and agree with me.  And all the while, as the conversation continued and the tone and tenor got worse, not better (big surprise there, right?), my therapist's words kept ringing in my ear:

 

"[His] words and actions only affect you if you allow them to."

Eventually I stepped out of the eye of the storm, and got clear with myself. The only person I am responsible for is me. I can't control what he says or believes or does, but I can control whether I let his words and actions hold power over me. I can release "needs" that are dependent upon another person, recognizing the truth that: 

 

I am the only one who can give myself what I need.

And so, this time I stopped myself in my tracks. I said goodnight and bowed out of an unproductive conversation. I asked myself what I needed most in that moment, and then I gave it to myself: Peace. A book and my bed. Deep and restful sleep.

 

Fast forward to this morning.

 

As I got ready for work, I again asked myself what it was that I needed most. This time the answer was meditation- to begin my day calm, centered, and at ease. So, I pulled up one of Rebekah Borucki's 4 minute meditations and gave myself the gift of mindfulness. And in doing so, I received another gift. A timely and serendipitous reminder of where other people end, and I begin. And because we all need reminders sometimes, I wanted to share that gift (that came in the form of a mantra) with you:

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Lauren Day Comments