On the newest episode of Zero Proof Book Club podcast, Shelley and I discuss “I’m Black and I’m Sober” by Chaney Allen, the first autobiography written by a recovering African American woman. Jackie and Shelley talk about the low number of sobriety memoirs by people of color, how women who drink heavily are judged more harshly than men, and the unique challenges faced by black men and women during recovery.
What to expect: An important work, this is the first autobiography written by a recovering African American woman
From the book jacket:
“I’m Black and I’m Sober traces author Chaney Allen’s life from growing up poor and hungry in Alabama through her gradual addiction to alcohol as a young mother in Cincinnati, Ohio. This powerful story documents Allen’s journey into the soup kitchens of Selma, Alabama, to the tenements and late night joints in Cincinnati, and finally to sobriety in San Diego, California. Allen, a minister’s daughter, discusses her relationships with her mother, brothers, and children; the impact of discrimination; and the obstacles African Americans face as they become sober.”
— I’m Black and I’m Sober: The Timeless Story of A Woman’s Journey Back to Sanity
In the new episode of Zero Proof Book Club, Shelley and I talk about “The Boatbuilder” by Daniel Gumbiner. 🛶It’s a novel about, in part, recovery from opioids. We discuss developing an appreciation for nature and being off the grid in recovery, the many benefits of working with your hands, and our own varying experiences with drugs vs. alcohol. 🛶
We thought a shrub would be fun to drink with this week’s book pick, as “The Boatbuilder” stars California’s rugged trees and forests. To make this Cardamom Peach Shrub, chop up four ripe peaches and bring them to a simmer with one cup water, 3/4 cup sugar, five cardamom pods and a cinnamon stick. This part smells SO GOOD. Simmer over low for at least 15 minutes, then strain out the liquid and mix with one cup apple cider vinegar. Chill. When you’re ready to serve, pour over ice and top with sparkling water. 🍑🍑🍑
About “The Boatbuilder”
What to expect: A fictional, meditative journey of a young man struggling to overcome an opioid addiction
From the book jacket:
“At 28 years old, Eli ‘Berg’ Koenigsberg has never encountered a challenge he couldn’t push through, until a head injury leaves him with lingering headaches and a weakness for opiates. Berg moves to a remote Northern California town, seeking space and time to recover, but soon finds himself breaking into homes in search of pills.
Addled by addiction and chronic pain, Berg meets Alejandro, a reclusive, master boatbuilder, and begins to see a path forward. Alejandro offers Berg honest labor, but more than this, he offers him a new approach to his suffering, a template for survival amid intense pain. Nurtured by his friendship with Alejandro and aided, too, by the comradeship of many in Talinas, Berg begins to return to himself. Written in gleaming prose, this is a story about resilience, community, and what it takes to win back your soul.”
We tried following the six steps of the Judgment Detox process in an effort to become better, less judgmental people. Our results vary. 😝 We talk about why we judge other people who continue to binge drink, learning to forgive ourselves for being judgmental, judging our past selves, and more.
Since our new podcast dropped on Fourth of July week, we’re pairing this book with a watermelon spritzer, made with fresh watermelon juice, seltzer water, and fresh berries.
To make the watermelon juice, throw watermelon chunks into the blender and pulse until smooth. Pour watermelon purée through a fine mesh strainer over a bowl, using a rubber spatula to squeeze out all the juice. Fill a glass with ice, strawberries, and blueberries, then fill halfway with watermelon juice and top off with your choice of sparkling water. Squeeze in a little lime juice if you have it! 🍉🍓🍉🍓
About Judgment Detox
What to expect: A six-step guide to letting go of petty judgements (for self and others) and tapping (sometimes literally) into a self that can release painful feelings without having to turn to booze for relief
From the book jacket:
“From #1 New York Times bestselling author Gabrielle Bernstein comes a clear, proactive, step-by-step process to release the beliefs that hold you back from living a better life.
This six-step practice offers many promises. Petty resentments will disappear, compassion will replace attack, the energy of resistance will transform into freedom, and you’ll feel more peace and happiness than you’ve ever known. I can testify to these results because I’ve lived them. I’ve never felt more freedom and joy than I have when writing and practicing these steps.
My commitment to healing my own relationship to judgment has changed my life in profound ways. My awareness of my judgment has helped me become a more mindful and conscious person. My willingness to heal these perceptions has set me free. I have been able to let go of resentments and jealousies, I can face pain with curiosity and love, and I forgive others and myself much more easily. Best of all, I have a healthy relationship to judgment so that I can witness when it shows up and I can use these steps to quickly return to love.
The Judgment Detox is an interactive six-step process that calls on spiritual principles from the text A Course in Miracles, Kundalini yoga, the Emotional Freedom Technique (aka Tapping), meditation, prayer and metaphysical teachings. I’ve demystified these principles to make them easy to commit to and apply in your daily life. Each lesson builds upon the next to support true healing. When you commit to following the process and become willing to let go, judgment, pain, and suffering will begin to dissolve.
And the miracles will keep coming. Once you begin to feel better you start to release your resistance to love. The more you practice these steps, the more love enters into your consciousness and into your energetic vibration. When you’re in harmony with love, you receive more of what you want. Your energy attracts its likeness. So when you shift your energy from defensive judgment to free-flowing love your life gets awesome. You’ll attract exactly what you need, your relationships will heal, your health will improve and you’ll feel safer and more secure. One loving thought at a time creates a miracle. Follow these steps to clear all blocks, spread more love and live a miraculous life.”
— Judgment Detox: Release the Beliefs that Hold You Back
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
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.
In the latest episode of Zero Proof Book Club, Shelley and I discuss Mary Karr’s third memoir, “Lit,” detailing her heavy drinking days and eventual recovery and conversion to Catholicism. We talk about the art of writing memoir, the unique shame of drinking as a mother, spirituality, and lots more.
This book represents a positive turning point for my eventual sobriety, feeling a familiarity with Karr’s alcoholic anger and a longing for her hard-won sober peace. But Shelley, who read it a couple years after she quit drinking, had a different experience with the book.
Karr is a professional writer and a dedicated AA-er (in “Lit” she calls it “the therapy group for people trying to quit”), so you know she’s all about her coffee. Our newest podcast episode, in which we discuss Karr’s gorgeous, painful memoir about her alcoholism and recovery, pairs well with this iced coffee drink. For this upgrade on black coffee in a styrofoam cup, we poured cold brew coffee over ice and stirred in a little maple syrup and oat milk (pick your favorite creamer or non-dairy milk).
About “Lit: A Memoir”
What to expect: A groundbreaking entry in the quit lit canon, served with a side of southern sass and literary acuity
From the book jacket: “‘The Liars’ Club’ brought to vivid, indelible life Mary Karr’s hardscrabble Texas childhood. “Cherry,” her account of her adolescence, ‘continued to set the literary standard for making the personal universal’ (Entertainment Weekly).
Now, ‘Li’t follows the self-professed blackbelt sinner’s descent into the inferno of alcoholism and madness—and to her astonishing resurrection. Karr’s longing for a solid family seems secure when her marriage to a handsome, Shakespeare-quoting blueblood poet produces a son they adore. But she can’t outrun her apocalyptic past. She drinks herself into the same numbness that nearly devoured her charismatic but troubled mother, reaching the brink of suicide. A hair-raising stint in ‘The Mental Marriott,’ with an oddball tribe of gurus and saviors, awakens her to the possibility of joy and leads her to an unlikely faith. Not since Saint Augustine cried, ‘Give me chastity, Lord-but not yet!’ has a conversion story rung with such dark hilarity.
‘Lit’ is about getting drunk and getting sober, becoming a mother by letting go of a mother, learning to write by learning to live. Written with Karr’s relentless honesty, unflinching self-scrutiny, and irreverent, lacerating humor, it is a truly electrifying story of how to grow up—as only Mary Karr can tell it.”
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.”
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. 😉