Five years is 1,825 days. It’s 12 steps and two weekly meetups. It’s one husband, three therapists, and a better best friend. It’s a boost on a bad day. It’s a confession on a good one. It’s a letting go of all that was lost when drowned. It’s noticing flowers bloom, leaves change, skin prickle, water bend, sirens howl, clouds melt, squirrels race, backs curl, dumplings steam, cake melt, chest tighten, pink glow, humility work, and truth help—for the first time, over and over. It’s the distance it takes to be the same shape, stitching, color, and silhouette of spirit—turned right-side out. It’s the whole of all that is countless.
It’s my four year sober-versary! Four years ago, if I’d been wearing the same pants for a week, it was because I was hungover. Now it’s just quarantine life, baby!
But seriously, hell yeah. Four years feels remarkable because it doesn’t feel remarkable. Sobriety has become a given, a constant in a life that used to feel like constant chaos. This past year was profound for me internally. I experienced a revolution of self… a lifting, turning, and resettling.
Going sober after almost a decade of and a half of daily binge drinking is fucking hard. It is a physical, mental, and emotional obstacle course, and you have to do that work inside yourself—not alone, necessarily, but all that work is going down inside an already exhausted and, honestly, scared self. It’s all happening to and relying on you. You you you. There’s no escape hatch. No out. You’re faced with facing the world exactly as it is and exactly as you come to it, day in and day out. Nights too. You you you.
There is a special and instant knowing between people who have gone through some form of addiction recovery. Whether it’s alcohol, narcotics, food, gambling… I think the healed and the healing show up in the world differently. It’s often subtle, but if you’ve walked through that kind of fire yourself, you can recognize the ember in others. These people have an I’ve-seen-hell tell. I think it’s almost a survival tic? Like, I’ve become alert to the people who can help me in a way no one else can if I run into trouble of self again. And I will. Because that’s something the recovering know too—this is our thing and it will always be there. Caged, but still there.
I love who I used to be. I love the people I spent time with then. I love many of the memories I made. My worst fears of sobriety came true. I lost friends, some perceived social clout, the identity I had built. I don’t care. I would have lost them anyway if I had continued on the path I was on. But now I have a peace and quiet self power that would have been impossible without walking through that fire.
To the recovering: I love you. Keep going. It’s a muscle. And it’s worth it. You are worth it. You you you.
In the new episode of Zero Proof Book Club, Shelley and I talk about “Nothing Good Can Come From This” by Kristi Coulter. We discuss the drinking triggers that are everywhere in the summer and how you can signal you’re still cool after you stop drinking.
Carrot Ginger Turmeric + lemon sparkling water + fresh orange juice
Paired with our new episode, a carrot-ginger juice (we love Knudsen’s Carrot Ginger Turmeric) mixed with lemon sparkling water and some fresh squeezed orange juice.
About Nothing Good Can Come From This
What to expect: A frank, funny, and feminist essay collection (dare we say, beach read?) by a keen-eyed observer no longer numbed into complacency
From the book jacket:
“When Kristi stopped drinking, she started noticing things. Like when you give up a debilitating habit, it leaves a space, one that can’t easily be filled by mocktails or ice cream or sex or crafting. And when you cancel Rosé Season for yourself, you’re left with just Summer, and that’s when you notice that the women around you are tanked―that alcohol is the oil in the motors that keeps them purring when they could be making other kinds of noise.
In her sharp, incisive debut essay collection, Coulter reveals a portrait of a life in transition. By turns hilarious and heartrending, Nothing Good Can Come from This introduces a fierce new voice to fans of Sloane Crosley, David Sedaris, and Cheryl Strayed―perfect for anyone who has ever stood in the middle of a so-called perfect life and looked for an escape hatch.”
In the new episode of Zero Proof Book Club, Shelley and I weigh in on the hottest sobriety book of the moment: Sober Curious by Ruby Warrington. We talk about Warrington’s sometimes confusing terminology and also applaud her for starting to change the conversation surrounding sobriety.
This week we’re sipping on UNICORN SHOTS! In the book, Ruby writes, “I served these at a Club SODA NYC booze-free brunch, and you couldn’t get people off the dance floor.
Here’s how you whip them up (makes 18 shots): 4 cups almond milk, 1 ripe banana, 3 tablespoons raw cacao powder, 2 tablespoons kava powder, 2 tablespoons honey, handful ice, rainbow cupcake sprinkles. Blitz all the ingredients except the sprinkles in a high-speed blender and divide among shot glasses. Top with sprinkles and serve immediately.” Fun! Tastes like a yummy chocolate milkshake.
About Sober Curious
What to expect: A contemporary treatise for more mindful drinking and all the benefits to be reaped as a result
From the book jacket:
“It’s the nagging question more and more of us are finding harder to ignore, whether we have a ‘problem’ with alcohol or not. After all, we yoga. We green juice. We meditate. We self-care. And yet, come the end of a long work day, the start of a weekend, an awkward social situation, we drink. One glass of wine turns into two turns into a bottle. In the face of how we care for ourselves otherwise, it’s hard to avoid how alcohol really makes us feel… terrible.
How different would our lives be if we stopped drinking on autopilot? If we stopped drinking altogether? Really different, it turns out. Really better. Sober Curious is a bold guide to choosing to live hangover-free, from Ruby Warrington, one of the leading voices of the new sobriety movement.
Drawing on research, expert interviews, and personal narrative, Sober Curious is a radical take down of the myths that keep so many of us drinking. Inspiring, timely, and blame-free, Sober Curious is both conversation starter and handbook—essential reading that empowers readers to transform their relationship with alcohol, so we can lead our most fulfilling lives.”
In the latest episode of Zero Proof Book Club, Shelley and I discuss Brené Brown’s book “The Gifts of Imperfection.” We share our own struggles with perfectionism, I talk authenticity, and Shelley shares how her perfectionism manifests itself in the form of birthday cakes and many unfinished essays.
The inspiration for these Pina Colada-ish cocktails came from a trip Shelley took to Puerto Rico, where her Airbnb rentals came stocked with tiny cans of pineapple juice and cream of coconut. Stir equal parts pineapple juice with cream of coconut and pour over ice. Can you tell we’re ~so~ ready for this cold rain to stop?
About The Gifts of Imperfection
What to expect:Rather than your average self-help book, a motivational and inspiring guide to wholehearted living, as explored by today’s chief expert in the power of vulnerability
From the book jacket:
“When our embarrassments and fears lie, we often listen to them anyway. They thwart our gratitude, acceptance, and compassion—our goodness. They insist, ‘I am not worthy.’ But we are worthy—of self-discovery, personal growth, and boundless love. With Brené Brown’s game-changing New York Times bestseller The Gifts of Imperfection—which has sold more than two million copies in more than 30 different languages, and Forbes recently named one of the ‘Five Books That Will Actually Change Your Outlook On Life’—we find courage to overcome paralyzing fear and self-consciousness, strengthening our connection to the world.
With this groundbreaking work, Brené Brown, Ph.D., bolsters the self-esteem and personal development process through her characteristic heartfelt, honest storytelling. With original research and plenty of encouragement, she explores the psychology of releasing our definitions of an ‘imperfect’ life and embracing living authentically. Brown’s ‘ten guideposts’ are benchmarks for authenticity that can help anyone establish a practice for a life of honest beauty—a perfectly imperfect life.
Now, more than ever, we all need to cultivate feelings of self-worth, as well as acceptance and love for ourselves. In a world where insults, criticisms, and fears are spread too generously alongside messages of unrealistic beauty, attainment, and expectation, we look for ways to ‘dig deep’ and find truth and gratitude in our lives. A new way forward means we can’t hold on too tightly to our own self-defeating thoughts or the displaced pain in our world. Instead, we can embrace the imperfection.”
— The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
In the latest episode of Zero Proof Book Club, Shelley and I discuss Caroline Knapp’s memoir “Drinking: A Love Story.” We gush about Knapp and her writing and talk about our sometimes complicated relationships with our own families, friends, and more.
To pair with this week’s podcast episode, we’re drinking strawberry lemonade (we love Simply Lemonade with Strawberry) mixed with ginger ale. Super simple. Simply refreshing. Just in time for spring! 🍓❤️
About Drinking: A Love Story
What to expect: An extraordinarily candid memoir published in 1997 that changed the quit lit genre for good.
From the book jacket:
“Fifteen million Americans a year are plagued with alcoholism. Five million of them are women. Many of them, like Caroline Knapp, started in their early teens and began to use alcohol as ‘liquid armor,’ a way to protect themselves against the difficult realities of life. In this extraordinarily candid and revealing memoir, Knapp offers important insights not only about alcoholism, but about life itself and how we learn to cope with it.
It was love at first sight. The beads of moisture on a chilled bottle. The way the glasses clinked and the conversation flowed. Then it became obsession. The way she hid her bottles behind her lover’s refrigerator. The way she slipped from the dinner table to the bathroom, from work to the bar. And then, like so many love stories, it fell apart. Drinking is Caroline Kapp’s harrowing chronicle of her twenty-year love affair with alcohol.
Caroline had her first drink at 14. She drank through her years at an Ivy League college, and through an award-winning career as an editor and columnist. Publicly she was a dutiful daughter, a sophisticated professional. Privately she was drinking herself into oblivion. This startlingly honest memoir lays bare the secrecy, family myths, and destructive relationships that go hand in hand with drinking. And it is, above all, a love story for our times—full of passion and heartbreak, betrayal and desire—a triumph over the pain and deception that mark an alcoholic life.”
I think of the exact date of my sobriety as a feral-animal-turned-beloved-pet’s birthday. I don’t know it for sure. I had tried to quit so many times before April 15, 2016, and I was tired of “remembering dates” only to be alarmed and disappointed in myself when I found myself hungover yet again. In fact, I figured out about a year ago that my real soberversary date is perhaps a few days before today… BUT I’ve got it in my brain as April 15, so April 15 it shall be.
That means, I haven’t
been drunk since a little over three years ago. < !!!! pew pew pew all the
I have had one glass of alcohol since then. A glass of champagne at my bachelorette party. As soon as I sipped it, I felt gold in my veins. That’s what it felt like—gold. Relief. Escape. Precious.
More-more-more came calling with just one drink.
By the time of my
bachelorette party, I had at least a year and a half of sobriety under my belt,
but it didn’t matter. That voice I hadn’t heard in so long shot its shitty
little self into my ear and said, “OMG ORDER EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW. A WHOLE
BOTTLE OF CHAMPAGNE, AND AT LEAST TWO BLOODY MARYS. AND SHOTS FOR EVERYONE! OMG
WE’RE fUCk*$g DOING THIS!!!”
But, no, we were not
doing this. It took a lot of effort—too much effort, I thought, considering I
hadn’t drank in so long—to push that voice back in the cage where it belonged.
But I did. I drank sparkling grape juice the rest of the weekend. And my
amazing mother-in-law had some waiting for Justin and I in the hotel after our
I’m so happy for that glass of champagne, which the well-meaning waiter had brought me as a surprise when he heard what our group was celebrating. Getting and staying sober was really hard for me, and it was especially difficult my first year, but I had reaped enough rewards of sobriety to know that voice was no good. Being sober for a while had made me aware of that voice so I could shut it up early. Being sober for a while had helped me be in my body in a new way, a way that enabled me to recognize that fool’s-gold feeling for what it was as soon as it hit me.
I’m so grateful today. I’m grateful for the people who loved me unconditionally through some hard times. I’m grateful to the people who find the courage every day to face their addiction problems, who have the courage to try to be their better selves and who fight for it day after day after day. I’m so grateful to the people who recover out loud, too, like the writers and recovering alcoholics who helped me understand what I was going through and helped me feel less alone.
Most of all, today I’m so… like… earth-shatteringly grateful to that sad, disappointed, disgusted, rock-bottomed-out self who decided around three years ago that enough was enough—and that I was enough without booze. Thank you thank you thank you.
That glass of champagne and how instantaneously my old destructive-drinking self presented itself was the final sign I needed to accept that I had to be done drinking forever. There was no controlling it. No nice little bachelorette brunch with one martini for me. I couldn’t drink ever again if I wanted to be happy.
I launched a sober book club podcast with my dear friend Shelley. Obviously, there’s so much power in sharing our individual journeys, but it’s important we never feel pressure to share until we are ready. My first year of sobriety was spent being very, very quiet about it. I didn’t want to talk about my new sobriety for fear of scaring it away. I also wasn’t sure about ~anything~, least of all if sobriety would stick… Take your time. When you’re ready, the sober community has open arms, ears, and hearts.
I started going to therapy regularly. Regularly being the key word here. I was usually a three-visits-and-done kind of client, thinking “OK, problem solved!” Or (more often) “Why am I paying someone to just listen to me talk?” All things considered, I probably need regular therapy less than ever today. Ha! But that’s the point, I think. I’m healthy enough now to ask for help. Even minimal help. Going to therapy now is less about solving an urgent problem and more about reminding myself that it’s important to show up for my emotional self in some kind of physical capacity on a consistent basis. It helps me trust myself.
Year Three definitely brought some brought new challenges, too. This year, the shock of staying sober wore off. A layer of the onion had peeled away. The raw one. And now I was left looking at a whole new me. I had changed and had to get used to it.
When you get sober (from whatever you’re addicted to… doesn’t have to be booze) and want to enjoy being sober, you’re required to give up some additional things. You’re not ready for it. You think, “Well, I quit the number-one-problem thing. Problem solved!”
Alas, recovery is a lifelong journey. There are 12 stupid freaking steps for a reason. You don’t just admit you have a problem and, bam, all is well. It takes work. And constant self-vigilance and discipline — two seemingly scary words that are, I’ve found, the root of all peace.
This year I was able to recognize ways in which the behavioral patterns tied to my alcohol abuse were still showing up in my life. The patterns were just channeled through other outlets, less destructive outlets certainly, but unhealthy ones nonetheless.
They were hard to pinpoint initially. I’m being vague for a reason… it’s still sorta hard for me to explain. The best example I can give is work. Workaholism is real and I got it, y’all. I can sometimes use work and overcommitting myself for the same reasons I used alcohol. As a means of escape, to outrun perfectionism and fear and guilt and shame and imposter syndrome and and and…
Plans for Year Four
I don’t think my intense work ethic is bad. Not at all. It’s one of the best things about me. I am loyal AF to something I say I will do and earn everything I have. That means a lot to me and always will.
I just want to work on working better. Saying no to good opportunities and only taking great ones, for example. Making space for more personal goals and being clear on what those are. Really working on being a better partner and friend and a person who lives every day aligned to her values. Etc.
I have three ideas for how to achieve this all in Year Four. Recovering workaholics still need a plan:
Hustle with intention. I want to focus on the writing I’ve been planning for a while now but have been pushing to the back burner out of fear. Fear of it not being good enough, and also fear of not taking any paying job that’s offered me (even if I have five others lined up… oy). I want to focus on saying no to things, and I don’t just mean work that is unrelated to my creative writing. I mean saying no to, for example, taking a class that’s wrong for me or taking the time to read a book about craft just because I’m afraid to actually do the work.
Take the emotion out of most decision making. Blah. How many decisions do we make or how many worries do we focus on simply because we are afraid or trying to distract ourselves from some deeper truth? I want to be strategic and responsive, instead of reactive and unreasonable about my time and energy and interests. I want to look at choices as only that: Choices with pros and cons (not right or wrong, black or white, life-changing or life-threatening). Choices that I consider and make a logical decision about based on truth, not feeling. Contingency relationships with an if/ then approach.
Rest. Unapologetically. If I need time, I’m going to not only ask myself for it, but give it. I’m the one who puts myself in these overwhelming situations, for reasons that run the same deep paths that my excessive drinking did. I’ve learned a lot about boundaries the last three years, and I think this year will be about learning to put boundaries on my restlessness, which presents itself as ambition but is actually insecurity and a short-term escapism disguised as a “good idea.” Acting lovingly toward myself and my people is the better idea. Always.
On the new episode of Zero Proof Book Club, Shelley and I discuss Ann Leary’s book “The Good House.” We’ve been reading so much quit lit and self-help, we decided to read a novel. “The Good House” by Leary, an NPR host and recovering alcoholic herself, fit the bill. Kirkus Reviews calls this book “a genuinely funny novel about alcoholism,” and we’d have to agree.
Hildy, the main character, is super funny, even if her spiraling addiction is not. We talk about the agony of hearing about what you did while drinking, the effectiveness of interventions, and, of course, witches.
About “The Good House”
What to expect: A funny, poignant novel about a struggling, high-functioning alcoholic
Pairs well with: A Virgin Mary. Tomato water with jalapeño & basil + horseradish + Worcestershire
In the book, Hildy drinks a Virgin Mary at a Thanksgiving gathering while the rest of the family downs the real thing. Our ultra-refreshing interpretation of the Virgin Mary captures the spirit of a Bloody without the booze. It incorporates tomato water, a super-concentrated liquid that captures the delicious essence of tomato. Here’s what you do:
Roughly chop three beefsteak tomatoes, one jalapeño and a handful of fresh basil.
Throw it all into a food processor and pulse until smooth. Pour into a mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth over a bowl.
Let it sit in the fridge for at least 12 hours, and you’ll be rewarded with a cup or so of jalapeño-basil tomato water.
Pour it over ice, stir in a dash of Worcestershire, grate a little fresh horseradish over top if you can find it, and garnish with cherry tomato and basil.
From the book jacket:
“Hildy Good is a townie. A lifelong resident of a small community on the rocky coast of Boston’s North Shore, she knows pretty much everything about everyone. And she’s good at lots of things, too. A successful real-estate broker, mother, and grandmother, her days are full. But her nights have become lonely ever since her daughters, convinced their mother was drinking too much, sent her off to rehab. Now she’s in recovery—more or less.
Alone and feeling unjustly persecuted, Hildy finds a friend in Rebecca McAllister, one of her town’s wealthy newcomers. Rebecca is grateful for the friendship and Hildy feels like a person in the world again, as she and Rebecca escape their worries with some harmless gossip and a bottle of wine by the fire—just one of their secrets.
But Rebecca is herself the subject of town gossip. When Frank Getchell, an old friend who shares a complicated history with Hildy, tries to warn her to stay away from Rebecca, Hildy attempts to protect her friend from a potential scandal. Soon, however, Hildy is busy trying to protect her own reputation. When a cluster of secrets becomes dangerously entwined, the reckless behavior of one person threatens to expose the other, and this darkly comic novel takes a chilling turn.”
2018 has been my favorite one yet! And one of its biggest moments was my gallery exhibition in September.
I finally started making the embroideries for “Gone, Country” (after, like, a year of talking about it as if I had already started…ha!…) the same month I quit drinking in 2016. I didn’t/ couldn’t allow myself to realize it at the time, but that embroidery work became a physical representation of what I was trying to make happen in my life.
It required humility and fearlessness to just make something, the same way it required humility and fearlessness to make such a huge change. I punched designs into paper one needle-hole at a time, the same way I didn’t drink one day at a time. I made those small incremental holes in the darkness of an image, the same way I slowly began bringing light to parts of myself I had long been avoiding.
Taking time to make an embroidery gave me something to do with my hands while I simultaneously took on the terrifying business of learning to talk to myself in a new way; it took the pressure off. It also proved to myself that I wasn’t just someone who talked about her dreams. I had the courage to try. And, in the meantime, I made some cool shit.
Creativity was means/space/outlet for healing. I recently spoke about this process to the awesome women of The Unruffled Podcast. It’s such an honor to be included in their interviews, and I am thankful for their efforts to create a community for women to talk about these experiences of making art while making a more compassionate way of life. (If you’re interested in creativity and overcoming the nonsense we put in between ourselves and our greatest potential, I highly recommend adding Unruffled Podcast to your pod roll!)
Here’s my episode! I love that it’s the last one for the year. I hope to embrace 2019. To keep getting better, braver, kinder, stiller.
Sending you all so much love into the new year. Thank you for being part of my story. I hope you have THE FUCKING GREATEST 2019 EVERRRR!
P.S. / FYI: I am co-launching Zero Proof Book Club in February with my good friend Shelley Mann. We read and discuss books about sobriety, self-growth, or surviving—and then thriving—in spaces that profit when we numb ourselves, from ourselves. You can go LIKE the page now and stay tuned for more in the future. xoxo
Like most wonderful surprises, I found The Gage by chance. Well, by Google keyword, which counts for chance in the 21st century.
A friend was visiting Chicago to run a race and she wanted to meet up for brunch while in town. I quickly Googled “restaurant + downtown Chicago.” Ha! And a star was born.
The Gage is a lovely contemporary white tablecloth restaurant that’s my go-to for elegant but accessible fine dining. It’s right across from Millennium Park, and all the various attractions located within, and walking distance from the Art Institute, which is my other sure bet for giving visitors a fun taste of the town without boring myself to death.
My favorite thing about The Gage, other than the location and the food, is that I can make reservations on Open Table. The place is cavernous, so I never have trouble saving a seat, but they’re super busy during peak hours and it’s worth it to make a reservation just in case.
Since moving to Chicago I’ve become a reservation queen! I don’t always need them, but it brings me peace of mind that I won’t have to wait for a long time or waste my time commuting to a place that can’t serve me.
But for all my visits to The Gage (I went there for my bachelorette party and they gave me free dessert! WITH a candle! Not all heroes wear capes—some wear aprons!) and all my complaining that not enough restaurants and bars offer cool alcohol-free drinks on their adults menus, I didn’t try their specialty sodas until recently.
Among The Gage’s zero proof options: Organic Seasonal Cordial, House-Made Ginger Beer, Abita Root Beer, and Lavender Cola.
The Lavender Cola is a clear (surprise!) favorite. Not too sweet, with the lavender smoothing its way in more as an aftertaste to the citrusy carbonated treat. They serve it in a bar glass with a garnish, which helps me feel like I’m still getting all the fun of an alcoholic brunch but without the hangover, wasted day, and status updates to delete later. 😉