I Stopped Drinking

I gave up wine for 30 days.

Yep, even the first two weeks of summer break.

Today is the 31st day.

Most who know me or even know me from online know that one of my favorite ways to unwind is on the patio with Ryan, enjoying a cold glass of chardonnay and an assortment of cheese and crackers. This little treat is like my participation ribbon at the end of a day – not first, second, or third place – just simply, yes! You showed up and accomplished another day with 8 kids! Here’s your prize! Enjoy.

The decision to stop this pleasant tradition was partly evoked by a trip to the library where I saw Annie Grace’s book The Alcohol Experiment.  I thought, Could I do this? I had considered removing one food group a month to (hopefully) pinpoint the origin of my eczema flareups and figured May might be a good month to start – with alcohol – specifically wine and the occasional beer. This isn’t the first time I’ve completed a similar feat, but in the past the decision often ensues after the holidays or vacation when my body needs a detox from overindulging. I love a good challenge, and I tucked the concept away in the back of my mind.

After we moved, I was in a great place emotionally.  I was walking every day, doing yoga, engaging with Ryan as we enjoyed weekly date nights exploring restaurants, and having lots of family fun with the new opportunity’s city life offered. At the end of most days, a glass of crisp, buttery chardonnay or a cool wine spritzer became an anticipated treat and then… then I broke my foot and Luke started screaming non stop and some other really difficult situations occurred that I haven’t healed from and so I won’t write about them yet, and the glass of wine I enjoyed became glasses of wine and the social media scrolling (which I also restructured as I detailed in last week’s post) that was typically limited to school time hours was seeping into family time hours, and I felt like none of it was serving me very well anymore.

My anxiety was mounting.  I was not dealing with the uncomfortable feelings and instead wine and scrolling because a mindless way to make motherhood a little bit easier and allowed me to disengage. The typical glass followed by a walk, became glasses as I sat on my rear end unable to move and instead of catching up on the day, I replayed and relived the recent trauma by obsessing and sent myself further into a hole of misery with every sip I took.  Not a productive cycle. It was time for a reset.  I had to reprogram my habits surrounding what wine had become during the past few weeks, and as research shows, it usually takes approximately 30 days to form new habits. I immediately secured The Alcohol Experiment which became the perfect tool to accompany me on my alcohol free journey.

Thirty-one days in, I enjoy the new me that has emerged from the ashes. I’m stronger, more confident, and much less skittish because I’ve retrained my brain to deal with anxiety rather than ignore it.

The past month felt a bit like a pregnancy; a familiar analogy. The anticipation of an improved life as I gave birth to a new me. I figured out what my triggers were and how to feed my system with new thought patterns, tools and skills. I tried to center most decisions around being the healthiest version of myself so that I could bring life to others. I’m still pregnant in a sense because it’s an ongoing process of renewal as I unearth some deep-rooted junk and learn ways to muddle through.  Because that’s what it is, right? When shit lands in our lap, we muddle through, inch by inch with either healthy tools like working out, gardening, reading, or crocheting or unhealthy tools like gossip, beer, filling our bodies with preservatives, or shopping.  It can all get out of hand pretty quickly if we don’t clear our heads, reevaluate, pray for grace, and retrain our brains.

The only time I really craved a glass of wine was during my monthly cycle (sorry guys).  Something about the estrogen fluctuations, sugar cravings and hormones must have previously been satisfied with wine because in place of it, I made (and enjoyed) a cake with 6 cups of sugar along with strawberry shortcakes, blueberry crisp and homemade ice cream.  Other than those couple of days, it wasn’t a craving at all, and I accomplished a ton! Such as –

  1. I lost weight
  2. I painted my kitchen
  3. I found joy in former activities such as crocheting, reading, crafting, and writing in a journal.
  4. I updated my proposal
  5. I conducted meetings about starting a new Lucas Project chapter
  6. I read ten books!
  7. I found a therapist
  8. I crocheted a blanket for Annabelle’s birthday
  9. I set aside an hour every day for quiet time (reading, writing, prayer)
  10. My head is clear. I wake up and I’m ready to face situations that previously would have sent me into a spiral of despair as I’m now able to step outside of myself (or Betty – stay tuned, a post on her soon) and view situations objectively and rationally.

The cons included my hormones, the eczema flareups did NOT decrease, and I really didn’t like not having a choice.  I know that sounds strange because it was a self- induced experiment, but when I commit to something, I am in 100%, and in my mind there is NO choice.

Where do I go from here? Day by day, choice by choice. The idea of having a glass of wine has truly become a take it or leave it thought. I am now empowered with so much more mindfulness after reading the book and dealing with my feelings. Therapy has also helped. The anxiety is almost completely gone, and I feel courageous for completing the commitment. As with any decision moving forward, if I feel like it needs to be addressed again, I will stop and reevaluate. I incorporate this philosophy into numerous aspects of life including: food choices, social media, exercise (that usually needs to be added), wine, engagement with my children, and the list could go on and on.

This essay is simply my honest experience and is in no way a prescription or guide for someone addicted to alcohol.  If this describes your experience, please seek professional help. Maybe you see yourself in some of my words, and it’s time for a reset in your life. I can attest that it really does work! Maybe it’s not even wine or social media but something else.  We all have a thing or two we turn to in times of difficulty, and it’s learning to manage these decisions and not let them manage us.

I’m certain I’ll enjoy a glass of wine from time to time; a birthday celebration, vacation, or a night spent with girlfriends, but I’ll be mindful – God willing, and it’s all by his grace, isn’t it?  Grace to take it moment by moment – decision by decision – in his power and leading.

Next up, no gluten for June.  Hopefully I see some improvements with the eczema.

 

Just Keep Livin!

Unleash Sheets: The Soul Care Tool Born Out of Adversity

I’m so honored to have Jolene Underwood as a guest author on the blog today.  Jolene is the creative force behind a healing tool called the Unleash Sheets that Ryan and I have found extremely beneficial over the difficult summer months. These sheets helped to unpack what exactly we were feeling, why we were feeling it and how to begin to heal from the trauma and pain.  These sheets can be as simple or as complicated as you want to be.  We’ve even found them useful when addressing conflict with some of our children as they assist them in getting to the heart of the matter – their feelings – and how to process them in the light of God’s word. 

Ryan and I also did a Blended Live session on Saturday where we offered a giveaway to one lucky listener for an Unleash package valued at $35.00.  Make sure you check out that video to enter because we’ll be drawing a winner next Tuesday (9/18).  

Alrighty, here’s Jolene. 

I couldn’t write anymore.

Words wouldn’t form. Thoughts wouldn’t connect. Everything I said and did came out jumbled with confused purpose when stress took over my brain again. It had been two years since coming home from the place that sparked intense trauma. Two years of fighting for healing while our marriage struggled.

In 2012, we moved to a ranch owned by a foster agency where we would care for many hurting children. We had up to twelve in our home and endured more stress than I thought was possible in a lifetime. When our time was done, and we returned in 2013, reading and writing became part of my healing process. These steps were hard to take but they kept my brain moving. It gave me something to enjoy.

Eventually, my husband and I were in our second separation and we would spend Christmas apart. In my sister’s home, I couldn’t write anything worthwhile. Creativity welled up inside of me without a way to express it. I surmised it would be easier to create a planner. Because running a business while healing from PTSD is an obvious choice. Or not.

As I thought about the kind of planner I would want, I kept writing down questions for soul exploration. These were essential components of what I wanted to create. Eventually, those questions became something else entirely.

A tool for dealing with life’s challenges and connecting with God was created out of heartache, pain, and an inability to handle overwhelming thoughts and feelings.

When it began, I had no idea what was being shaped or how God would use this new thing. Not just for me, but for hundreds of others as well. I didn’t realize that some of the concepts in this tool align with teachings from numerous other psychologists, Christian counselors, and pastors.

God always knows the things we don’t, and He invites us to partake with Him in the journey.

That’s what Unleash: Heart & Soul Care Sheets have been from the inception and it’s how they are used by participants. They are a guided way of partaking with God in our unique journeys. By sitting down to work out the events of our lives, getting honest about our thoughts, and identifying our feelings, we bring awareness to what the Lord wants to touch.

He wants to be involved in helping us renew our minds.

‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. ‘ ~ Romans 12:2 ESV

He never left us to do this on our own strength.
‘And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. ‘ ~ John 14:16-18 ESV

He wants to help us live with redemptive purpose where thoughts, emotions, and choices are concerned.

God’s way is a way of transforming and it doesn’t all happen at the point of salvation. It’s a process that occurs over time and it requires surrender and active steps with Him regularly.

I believe Unleash Sheets are an effective tool for facilitating spiritual growth, emotional health, and soul-level transformation. Not because the tool is all that great in and of itself, but because of how God works through an intentional process when we make ourselves available to Him then respond to what He has to say.

We all need help when it comes to hearing from God and then choosing what to put into practice.

I sure do.

God has used this tool over the last few years to help me hear His voice, receive His healing touch, and to take tough steps when faced with intense opposition and spiritual battles.

It has been used by teens as well as adults and men as well as women. It’s fostered awareness for hidden feelings which opened the door to receiving greater peace, joy, and freedom. It’s also helped many know God’s presence in powerful ways.

The work happens between you and God. The tool provides a way to experience it.

There are many ways this can happen, but I’m grateful for the ways it happens through regular time with God and intentionally pursuing His heart and revelation for me.

Today, I still use the tool regularly. It’s been helpful for enhancing work done with my counselor and for continuing my healing journey too.

I am also working on future courses and content that will take expand the work done through this tool. These will help users identify unhealthy beliefs, face unexpressed emotions, deal with unhealed hurts, and repent from unconfessed sins. Other topics may include: codependency, anxiety, feelings and emotions, and more.
In addition, my YouTube channel includes a growing playlist to help users benefit from this versatile tool. It also includes curated playlists from various experts that touch on the topics above and other content related to emotional health and spiritual growth.

Got questions? Let me know!

To order your own set of Unleash Sheets, check out the favorites tab on my home page or click on this link.

https://go.ahtrack.com/?pid=f033ab37c30201f73f142449d037028d&aid=11738

 

(Disclaimer, this is an affiliate link and I will be paid a commission if you choose to purchase through this link)

 

Jolene Underwood is an emotional health warrior and soul care mentor. She draws upon her personal journey towards emotional health, her psychology background, and passion for counseling to help others cultivate a life well-lived no matter the circumstance. She also leads a community called Rise Up Writers where she helps to equip and encourage Christian communicators.

Connect with her online via YouTube/Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest at @theJoleneU or via the Cultivated Life Newsletter.