The AF life can be juicy AF.

I imagined getting dry meant living a horrible, small, grey life. What the hell do you do to have fun without a drink in your hand? And aren’t alcoholics old guys drinking out of a paper bag under a bridge? That is NOT me.

I’m a professional. A mom. A pretty, well-educated woman. I am NOT an alcoholic.

I believed that going to a 12-step meeting was going to mean my social milieu was going to be homeless men, and that was not going to work for me.

I associated drinking with glamor. With exotic travel. With being outrageously funny and sexy.

The AF life was at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Then I walked into a room filled with well-dressed professional women who had careers, families, and carried gorgeous handbags. (You can tell what was important to me at that point.)

When they talked about how they used to open a second bottle of wine after their children had gone to bed, I thought, “If they drank like I did and getting sober brought them these kinds of lives, maybe I can live a juicy AF life too.”

My intention is to be that person for you.

To provide that community and sense of belonging for you.

To open you to the possibility that maybe getting AF doesn’t mean your life is over and there’s nothing to look forward to.

In business school, we learned the concept of a Cost Benefit Analysis. It is, not surprisingly, where you make a list of the benefits of something and then list what it costs you.

I started my juicy AF life using that tool. How did alcohol benefit me? And what did it cost me?

It benefitted me in these ways:

· As a single mom who was the sole support of my household (two very young kids, I was freaking exhausted. Always exhausted. I was scared out of my mind most of the time. My relationship with my ex-husband was chaotic, confrontational and dramatic. Alcohol made me numb to the ongoing chaos, anxiety and the awesome responsibility I had.

· I didn’t want anyone to know how afraid I was, so I pretended really hard to be impressive. I pretended really hard to be brilliant at my work, a mom who sewed her kids Halloween costumes (hah!) and a desirable single woman whose life was together. All that pretending was, again, exhausting. (And nobody was fooled. We can always tell when the image someone projects about themselves is at odds with who they really are.). Having a drink in my hand was a way I felt more at ease with the duality of my life and the disconnect between how I was trying to pass myself off and how shitty I felt about myself.

· I believed that in order to be loved, I needed to impress you. So, I’d “embellish” my accomplishments, the generosity of my current boyfriend, and the successes of my children. All of this was driven by my existential dread that I was profoundly inadequate, insufficient and somehow wrong. Too fat. Too young. Too unprepared. Numb was much better than that harsh internal narrative.

So basically, alcohol numbed me out.

What did it cost me?

· Embarrassing myself by falling down drunk on the dance floor at a bar when dancing with a client. (What? Who does that? I guess I used to.)

· Sleeping with completely inappropriate men.

· Jeopardizing my safety and my health.

· Not being all there when I was with my kids.

· Endangering my kids.

· Lots of money.

· Feeling like crap at least 50% of the time.

· I was embarrassed and humiliated every week.

· I had no serenity or peace of mind.

And it could have lost me my life, my kids, my livelihood, etc. My standards were definitely going downhill. And if I hadn’t gotten AF, I believe that I would have lost all of those things, too.

After I became AF, my life has transformed. Today I live the life of my dreams: I live in the mountains above Boulder, CO, the town where I’d wanted to live for 25 years. I adore my husband after 20 years of marriage. We laugh together every single day. My grown kids are a delight (well, most of the time).

I’ve travelled the world. Started multiple companies. Written a book. Taught at a prestigious university.

It’s pretty damn juicy, big life. Joyous, interesting and vital.

You can have a juicy AF life, too.

First, there are three lies I told myself that you might relate to.

1) I can get AF by myself.

2) I’ll only drink on weekends.

3) All I need is willpower.

Let’s debunk those lies one at a time.

“I can get AF by myself.”

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

There’s a thought-provoking TED talk by Johann Hari (been viewed 18.4 million times) that says that the opposite of addiction is connection.

Addiction is a lonely, isolated business.

· Being numb (drinking or hungover) when I was with my kids, friends, colleagues, family exacerbated my already-existing feeling of not belonging.

· And the worse my drinking got, the harder I had to pretend that everything really was okay. Pretending also creates a barrier to connection.

· When I first separated from my ex-husband, a friend gave me a bottle of wine saying, “I don’t like thinking of you over here alone drinking.” My response was “I’m alone and I drink. Ergo I drink alone.” While in my mind, drinking was associated with glamorous parties and trips, in my reality it was drinking alone after the kids were in bed.

If the opposite of addiction is connection, we need each other to save our own lives. In my first year of sobriety, my friends Mary, Jim and Mike were my constant companions. We went to the movies together, sober. We went out for ice cream, sober. We went to parties together, sober.

It was a news flash to me that I could have fun without drinking.

Once, Mary looked at me and said, “I feel so awkward. What the hell are we doing here?”

Having a friend to laugh about the awkwardness with defanged its power.

Also, my friends would tell me when I was deluding myself. When I was freaking out over nothing. When I was living in the scary future — at least in my mind.

My perceptions and my thinking were not helpful.

Seeing my tribulations through another sober person’s eyes shifted my perspective, my attitude and my behavior.

Get a sober circle. We are all jewels in a net of sobriety. You can hold and be held in this web of love, complete acceptance and vulnerability.

2. “I’ll only drink on weekends.”

Making a commitment 100% is far easier than making a commitment to 93%.

It’s counterintuitive, isn’t it?

And yet research shows it’s true.

Once we’ve made a 100% commitment, the issue is off the table. No matter what. We don’t have to assess every situation to decide how we’ll behave. We made the decision once. We set it and forget it.

There’s a mechanism at play here called Decision Fatigue. What this means is that our decision-making ability erodes after making lots of decisions. And research suggests we make 35,000 decisions a day. WOW!

And after about 30,000 of them, our decision-making muscle is tired. Our decisions get muddied. Confused. Worse as the day goes on.

I’d wake up thinking, “I’m not going to drink today.” Only to have changed my mind by about 5pm. As a single, working mom, I think I burned through my 35000 daily decisions by noon. Deciding whether or not to drink? Well, simply drinking was easier.

Now, I don’t drink. 100% of the time. No matter what: time of day, holiday, wedding.

My status is sober. I am AF.

It’s my identity. I declared it and now I behave in accordance with that 100% commitment.

Are you ready to make a 100% commitment for 30 days?

3.) “All I need is willpower.”

Willpower. Won’t. Work.

Our environment and our habits are more powerful forces than our willpower alone.

Your willpower is insufficient to the task of staying sober when there’s whiskey out on your kitchen counter or going into your favorite bar at your regular time and sitting in your regular place.

Habits have specific parts:

1) Trigger (5pm, a ballgame, your drinking buddy)

2) Behavior

3) Reward

At the beginning of my AF life, I simply avoided street parties, my drinking buddy and going to ball games.

I had to set up my environment and my social circle to support my sobriety, not challenge it (see the section on decision fatigue above).

Creating an AF environment meant doing an audit of my environment. How was my living space setting me up to drink? I asked a friend for help with getting rid of the booze, the wine opener and the glasses. I had to use my willpower to follow through and power through the thought of, “But what if I host a party where people drink?”

That stuff is replaceable. Let’s get through the first few AF weeks before we worry about entertaining people.

Then I audited my social circle. When I was hanging out with certain people, it was inevitable that I would drink. I had to avoid hanging out with those people until my AF life was solid. This, again, is where sober connections help. I had to replace my drinking buddies with my sober buddies.

Last, I had to pre-decide what new action I was going to take when I encountered one of my drinking triggers. Instead of opening a bottle of wine at 5pm, I would work out. Instead of heading to a bar on Friday night, I’d eat ice cream with a sober buddy. Instead of drinking on Thursday nights when the exhaustion was overwhelming, I’d go to bed.

Separating from alcohol is hard.

After being AF for 22 years, I can see that my alcohol-fueled life was a small, grey, trap and that my AF life is juicy AF.

Come join me. Follow me here. Join me on FB with my group called Aspen Glen.

For a list of 101 ways to get AF click here.

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