Updated: Apr 27, 2020
I wanted to change my relationship with alcohol so made a deal with myself not to drink alcohol in 2020. If I’d known just how long 2020 would feel, and how freaking hard it would be - I wouldn’t have. Thank goodness I didn’t know because it's getting me through this crisis, even if it makes it harder to get through the day.
Week in and week out, I’m saying to my clients and supporters - “Just focus on the stuff that matters.” “Prioritize.” “Don’t stop doing the things that are working.” “Do the things that make you feel good and strong.” I'm thinking about my commitment to not drinking this year every time I say that.
It’s been really hard, folks. And if tried to keep up with absolutely everything or if I was super tough on myself, I wouldn’t be able to do it. We all have one north star thing - our MOST important habit in our health and sanity. And if you’re not clear on what that thing is - it’s time to get clear. And THAT’s the thing you focus on until we’re through this whole mess.
In January, I made a whole BIG deal about being plant-based for meals at home. I swear to god I’ve eaten cheese at the last 10 meals and if my mother-in-law has some “chopped meat” from Wegmans for us…Let’s grill that shit up! Burgers all around. Is eating fewer animal products important to me? Yes. Is it critical to my health and happiness in the next few months? No. It’s not a north star.
I do my best, but my big goal is to be as healthy and sane as possible right now. Can I do that and eat Anne Marie’s Wegmans orders? Absolutely. Because I've decided eating meat every now and then outweighs the anxiety of another trip to the 6-feet-apart-mask-laden-rubber-glove-mandated-line-outside grocery story (She also gives me half of her vegetables from Misfits, she’s an actual angel. My own mother has sent me all the Clorox wipes and Thieves in the entire Mississippi River Valley. I am very lucky, well fed, and clean thanks to these 2 saints).
I don’t afford myself the same flexibility with drinking alcohol because it is a north star. I stopped drinking alcohol because it made me less healthy: the many direct negative health effects, eating “bad” food (while drinking or recovering…”I just need a bagel” amirite?), not exercising from lack of energy (less quality sleep or hungover). I stopped drinking because it makes my already bad anxiety worse (I mean not in the moment, in the moment alcohol is the actual best). And I stopped drinking because I wanted to be more productive!
Enter global pandemic where 1) health is paramount and potential to feel physically gross from being confined inside is exponential 2) over 12,000 people in my city have perished and an economic nuclear bomb has detonated and 3) as an independent contractor who makes money hanging out in person with people and coaching them, my income dissolved in that nuclear reaction. Health, happiness, and hustle just became CRITICAL in my life. (Some days it feels more like survival, avoiding total despair, and making literally any dollars, but you get the idea.) Get clear on what’s critical in your life right now and put your energy there. Just do your best on the other stuff.
There’s a lot going around the internets about letting go of accountability because of a global collective state of grieving, stress and depression that's unlike anything before. And I think there's some truth to it (although the world has literally been at war before. Twice.). And much of it is in response to some asshat posting a meme about how you’re lazy if you don’t come out of this FREAKING GLOBAL PANDEMIC with a side hustle. Bless his heart.
But I believe there’s a real danger in saying we’re all grieving so deeply that you can do whatever you want…whatever makes you feel better in the moment…whatever gets you through the day. In my life, a glass of wine would get me through the day easier (MY GOD WOULD IT!), but it wouldn’t be a good solution to get me through this crisis.*
And therein is where the tension lies, what gets you through the day versus what gets you through this crisis. The thing that gets you through the crisis is your north star.
Even with all the clarity and dedication we can muster, we lose our way sometimes. If you decide something is your north star, that thing is where you put your energy, it’s your nonnegotiable. But if you don’t get there for whatever reason, the most important thing is how you react.
If your north star is exercising 4 days a week and you don’t, you’re not going to die, get your head on straight and get it tomorrow. If your north star is an hour of uninterrupted play time with your kids every day and you miss it, you are an amazing parent for trying, get it tomorrow (maybe you can do 90 mins if you’re able!). If your north star is limiting TV time and you watch all of “Too Hot to Handle” in one sitting, welp, that shit happened. What’s tomorrow look like?
Get rid of shame associated with “failure.” There’s no failure, there’s just 1) the neutral reality of what happened 2) your dedication to your north star and 3) the love for yourself and others that keeps you committed to it. If something crazy happens and I have a beer tonight it doesn’t undo the last 4 months and it CERTAINLY doesn’t have to derail the next 8.
And then there's the non-north star, but still important stuff (for me, plant-based meals, exercise, meditating, going to bed early, reading). As I mentioned in another blog, it goes somewhere that you can track (mine is a google doc) so that you don’t forget about those things and so you have a better chance of doing them. But those are all bonus points at this stage in the game. Nice to haves. Extra wins to celebrate.
I’m sending love to you all as you’re guided by your north star. May it get you through the crisis even if it makes it harder to get through the day. You, my friend, are a freaking treasure that deserves the best and gentlest care. Good luck out there.
*I hope you're not not thinking "Well, that's booze, Sam. That's different." If you have the notion that if you’ve ever questioned your relationship with alcohol or not been happy with how much you drink you have a disease and are never allowed to drink again, I’d ask you to let that go. There’s an idea in the US that we have 2 kinds of people, “alcoholics” and “normal drinkers” and it’s utter bullshit. There’s lotsa shades of grey, my loves. There’s also the idea that if you don’t drink for 1000 days and have a drink…you’ve undone those 1000 days and have somehow failed. Also bullshit. Be proud of those 1000 days and get back to it with no shame. I bring up this footnote because I fear that if you’re in an outdated black and white mindset about “alcoholism” (a term that’s not even used anymore), you might be thinking "If Sam doesn't drink she must have a problem so she absolutely can’t drink" making this whole blog a moo point. Friends, you can have a bad relationship with alcohol, just like you can have a bad relationship with shopping or sex, you gonna tell someone they can't ever do those things again?