Low hanging fruit

Willpower is a limited resource; don’t overwhelm it.

This is one thing I have learned in my 292 non-drinking days.  In other words, when you’re trying to give up alcohol, let yourself indulge in other ways.  As I talked about here, I gave up sugar and white flour for awhile last year.  I did feel good when I did that, but it got to be too much.  Too much self-denial.

But, I feel ready to make some other changes in my life.  So this week I have made a (late) New Year’s resolution.  It’s to do all the healthy things for my body that I enjoy.  I love taking walks, so I am going to do more of that.  Going to the gym helps me clear my head, so I am going to go when I can, but only for that reason.  Not to lose ten pounds.

I am going to drink more water.  Who doesn’t like a nice, cold glass of ice water?  I’m going to eat more sardines (for the Omega-3s!) because I’m one of those strange people that really likes sardines.  I’m going to eat all the fruits and vegetables that I like.

At the same time, I am going to continue to eat dessert when I want it, eat my apples with gobs of peanut butter (this is a major weakness), drink diet soda and lots of coffee, take the elevator instead of the stairs, and veg out on the couch playing Angry Birds when I want to.  And I won’t kick myself for it either.

Above all, I want to be kind to myself.  Kind to my body, kind to my brain and my emotions, kind to my overstretched willpower.  They’ve all served me well these last 292 days.

My mantra for this is the title of this post:  low hanging fruit.

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I can resist anything except temptation

Don’t worry, I didn’t drink.  I have just always enjoyed that quote from Oscar Wilde.  It’s funny how we all have different things that we’re drawn to — and that can become unhealthy.  For some people, it’s alcohol or drugs.  For others, it’s food.  Or sex.  Or gambling.  Or exercise.

For me, it’s not an “accomplishment” to avoid overexercising.  Just the idea of congratulating myself for that makes me crack up (“Good job, self, for vegging on the couch tonight!”).  But I know for folks with eating disorders, this is no joke.  And personally, I don’t see the appeal of gambling at all.  Everyone knows the odds favor the house!  How do you think they pay for those big casinos?

But denial is a wonderful thing.  Looking back, the warning signs were screamingly obvious:  drinking in the morning, hangovers most days, thinking of that bottle of wine or brandy in the cupboard as “my little friend” (yes, I really thought that).  Blacking out.  Just like “everyone knows” that the odds favor the house, everyone also knows if you do all these things you have a problem with alcohol!  But I refused to see it.  Because these things were only sometimes, not all the time, I could point to the “sometimes” when I was fine, and delude myself into thinking that was my “real” drinking behavior.

This past weekend I was at my daughter’s indoor soccer game.  At this facility, which is also for adult soccer leagues, they serve beer and wine at the snack bar.  One of the other moms was drinking a beer as we chatted.  She made a joking reference to it, something like “the best thing about indoor soccer …” and the rest of us laughed.  I thought I detected an undertone of defensiveness in her joke.  This is something I have become hyperaware of lately, the way people talk about alcohol, the invitation to share the joke about “yay, alcohol!” or “boy, I sure need a drink.”  Later this woman gave me a hug, and the beer smell washed over me.  I’m not saying this woman was drunk or had a problem — in fact I like her very much — but it made me glad I don’t have to worry anymore about hugging people and subjecting them to my alcohol smell.

Lest I get too cocky congratulating myself, I have to admit that the next day (Sunday) I feeling particularly rushed and stressed, and I had to run out to the grocery store for the second time that day when I forgot an ingredient for dinner.  At my local grocery store they sometimes host wine tastings on the weekends at happy hour.  So guess what I saw as soon as I walked in the door?  I can’t believe how instantly I felt it would be an extremely excellent idea to have a little wine.

I bought ice cream instead.

I counted the days today and I am on day 290 sober!