One Year No Beer

One year ago I sat around a breakfast table with my sister, my sister in law, and seven of my closest girlfriends to toast to my bachelorette party weekend and it’s success. In the loud cafeteria at Camp No Counselors Seattle we said goodbye over mimosas and departed to locations all over the country – back to our normal lives. I had made up my mind to quit drinking at the dance party the night before. I had been quietly considering it for months, wondering if I had the will power to go through with it. Somewhere between dancing the night away to Whitney Houston and standing in line for midnight nachos while drinking soda water and lime, the decision became crystal clear and easy. Camp left much to be desired, but my memories are all perfect – bunk beds and ping pong, waterslides and the talent show. Three nights in a cabin together with accomplished dynamic women taking breaks from their busy lives and careers to eat burgers in the mess hall and do bad yoga. Most of them I’ve known a decade or more – we’d come a long way from scream-singing Tenacious D songs at college house parties over shots of watermelon rum – most of us have been through a lot since then. I don’t want to say that being together again was like “the old days,” because it wasn’t. To me, it was better.

I’ll just start by saying that fifteen years is a long time to be in a one-sided relationship with something that only takes from you. Something that encourages your self loathing, and cheers for depression to root deeply inside your heart. Something that intentionally wastes your time and energy, strains your relationships and willfully stands strong and stubborn between you and your dreams and goals. I had decided I’d simply had enough of this self-inflicted bullshit.

I’ve never been someone who accepts what is “normal” just because everyone else does it. Sometimes I walk my own stubborn path to my detriment, questioning everything along the way. Critically. But this time I had recognized that for some reason the lemming in me had a thing for booze. I had fallen into the socially-acceptable catchall for life: alcohol fixes everything. Not that I believed this to be true, but on some level almost all of us buy into that narrative, otherwise we wouldn’t regularly drink alcohol. I wouldn’t drink a glass of milk because to me it represents violence, but I’d drink a beer because someone somewhere is selling me an illusion of happiness.

During this last year as I’ve put time between myself and alcohol, I’ve realized something big. We’ve been sold the idea that more money and more things will make us happier. We’re realizing that isn’t true. Each time we reach a new standard or pillar of accomplishment, we move the marker for success onto the next. If we live this way, we never reach happiness. On the sidelines of this over simplistic, capitalist equation for happiness is alcohol, working as an easy band aid when the rest of what we’ve been promised falls short. And it will always inevitably fall short. I believe that being truly happy requires so much more effort than buying something new and washing your guilt and lack of satisfaction down with a beer at the end of a long day. But I haven’t always felt this way.

Over my bachelorette party weekend I had several epiphanies. The most influential in my decision to quit drinking had to do with the company I keep. I could count on one hand how many alcoholic drinks I had over the course of my five-day party. As I quietly contemplated my decision to quit altogether I realized that I was having just as much fun without alcohol as I have with it (if not more). And then it “clicked.” Instead of drinking to “suffer” through events I attend out of a false sense of obligation, or drinking to “tolerate” people I do not wish to be around, I should stop wasting my time and life and just stop. Stop going and stop doing out of obligation and/or guilt. Give myself the emotional permission to create more time in my life by just saying no. If I don’t want to go, or I don’t enjoy the people, I shouldn’t be there. If I feel like I “need” alcohol to “have fun” then I am clearly using it as a band aid for a bigger problem: I am wasting my life doing things that do not serve me or my real happiness and that makes me unhappy. The other epiphany I had was that when you’re around your real people, the ones that give your life joy and meaning, alcohol is not just unnecessary, it can be a detriment to really experiencing your time together. And our time here is short.

Time. That is a topic I’ve written often about, and after discovering Andy Ramage and the company he co-founded: One Year No Beer, all the benefits of not drinking that I had struggled to articulate became clear. I was rarely a binge-drinker. I considered myself to be a moderate drinker, usually enjoying a beer or two a night after work “to relax.” My husband was the first one to point out to me that I shouldn’t need alcohol to relax, and that perhaps I should spend more time contemplating why I’m so unrelaxed in the first place. I met his ideas with stubborn resistance. I’m not an alcoholic. I work hard. Why shouldn’t I be able to have a beer at the end of a long day? I still, even now do not think that I have or had an alcohol dependency. What I did have was what Ramage talks a lot about: A bad habit that drains my energy while simultaneously sabotaging my physical and mental health. A habit that I engage in without question because society encourages it and deems it “normal.” And a habit that will always keep me from reaching my true and full potential because it is a huge waste of my time. Alcoholism aside, that just sounds terrible.

The focus of One Year No Beer is on the moderate drinkers. Those of us that do not consider ourselves extreme enough cases to need serious intervention or assistance, but who would benefit greatly from being part of a community of other people who just don’t want to drink anymore. Who recognize the untapped potential in a life and mind that isn’t constantly clouded or depleted by alcohol. Those of us that recognize that being an American should consist of more than working and drinking in an attempt to find happiness. Because most of us grew up living this model and are now realizing it’s pitfalls and failures. And we want more from our lives than a cycle that supports a general feeling of malaise.

Once I made the decision to quit drinking, I began to truly recognize how deeply alcohol is ingrained in our daily lives. When was the last time you stopped drinking for long enough to enjoy the physical and mental benefits of a body free of alcohol? From the research I did, the general consensus is that it takes at least two weeks to begin to feel the physical and mental benefits. Much longer if you want to experience things like long-term career or fitness boosts. Most of us will never experience this since we begin drinking as teens and continue on some level, forever. This shocked me to think about. Would I really never let myself experience my full potential because I like beer? That felt absurd.

One thing that the OYNB movement emphasizes is that the benefits of not drinking snowball tremendously. And after a year, I can attest to that. Time seems to multiply because every late night, every hungover or tired day, and every event I did not want to attend simply vanishes and can be replaced by other more fulfilling activities. Sleep improves, energy levels improve, depression and anxiety decrease, workouts are more effective, and work is more productive. Instead of struggling through a full day at moderate productivity, I find that I can complete more meaningful work on my business and personal endeavors in less time. Making time for even more meaningful relationships, goals, and activities. My husband and I have a stronger relationship (he quit too), and I believe that our decision to omit alcohol from our marriage will help us to focus our energy on positive endeavors and leave aside all of the complications and traps alcohol brings into relationships.

But it’s difficult to get that snowball rolling. Between the social event excuses, the work event excuses, and the “wine-o-clock,” “mama needs a beer,” and “life is better day drinking” t-shirts, alcoholism has become so pervasive in our culture that to not drink makes you somewhat of a social leper. My interest specifically on the strong emphasis on moms and females self proclaiming their drinking habits as a “funny” way to cope with our lives fascinates me, but that topic is for another day. As a meme I once read so accurately put it: “Galentines Day is not a thing. You’re an alcoholic.” And as someone who would have scoffed at that comment in a past life, I see it clearly now. Alcoholism has taken on a much more female tone recently- “I’m on a juice cleanse, and by juice I mean wine.” Normalizing drinking, emphasizing it’s importance in our social lives, and excusing our “need” for alcohol is not only shocking, but indicative of a culture that is starved for meaning. So I am happy to leave it behind forever.

Popping that special bottle of champagne my best friend brought and toasting to us, the round table of strong women felt like a break up. An empowering and permanent celebration of acceptance, surrounded by my biggest supporters. I’m leaving alcohol behind and beginning my new life with a different perspective – life is short and I refuse to waste it.

3 Lessons From My Husband

Today is my husband’s birthday. I’m up at 5am to write while Kanan sleeps so we’ll have the day to spend together once he wakes up. I know that I haven’t given much history about our relationship, and rarely divulge details about his life specifically, focusing mainly on relevant information for our topic at hand. So today, in an attempt to shine light on the person that my husband is, I’m going to share three big lessons that my husband has taught me about life in our last (almost) six years together.

If there’s one thing about Kanan’s personality that has always perplexed and fascinated me, it’s his ability to consistently be one step ahead of the rest of us when it comes to matters of “zen.” I use that term loosely and metaphorically to mean calm, collected, and unchanged by his surroundings. When we first met I mistook his disinterest in most things as aloofness, dismissiveness, and an overall indifference or dispassion, but I know now that my husband cares more deeply than anyone I’ve met, he’s just remarkably good at choosing what few things he cares about.

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Lesson #1: “Structure Your Life Differently.”

If I had a dollar for every time this phrase exited my husband’s mouth or came through to me via text message, I’d be rich, and I wouldn’t need to structure my life differently.

Over the years Kanan has seen me grow from a mid-twenties employee with undefined dreams to an early thirties small business owner with fairly clear goals for our future.

I’ve discovered that when I have an end goal in mind I will work relentlessly toward it regardless of the time and energy that it takes to get there, even if it means depleting every resource I have in the process. Sometimes this takes years to complete. Sometimes the “end goal” is so obscure and far off in the distance that it’s almost impossible for anyone else to see, let alone support. But I see it.

Kanan may not notice what I’m able to predict. He observes my chaotic life, chalk full of work and stress. I see myself lay one more brick down each day I wake up with intention. It may not look like much now, but someday I’ll build my castle, revel in it, then move on to something new. I thrive on accomplishment and projects. I find happiness in the process of building, not necessarily the “finished” result – consequently this means I’m never really done and I’m almost never satisfied.

He watches me struggle and sometimes doesn’t realize that I share his same vision. Laying a brick a day will get us there, I promise, but you need to trust me. A decade later, and the foundation is complete. Still a lot of castle to build, but it’s got something solid to stand on. Structuring your life differently takes time. Great things aren’t built overnight. Strategies take trial and error to perfect; systems take years to run smoothly. I’d work seven days a week, and teeter on the precipice of burnout – he’d say “structure your life differently.” I’d be at the end of my rope spending every “personal” moment on my phone working. What should I do? Structure my life differently. To him, its easy. A simple answer to any of those parts of my life I am not satisfied with.

His point: When I’m “done” I’m never done. So I may as well create a life I love to live in the process of building. Structure my life differently. 

It’s not that I didn’t understand this concept before – I feel like I have quite a clear understanding of what it takes to create a life you actually want, basically full of work I enjoy, people I enjoy, and activities that give me joy, purpose, and meaning. But for me it will take years to even define what that looks like, and I imagine it will be fluid and constantly in flux. But I feel like when he emphasizes that point to me, it’s his subtle and effective way to reiterate that I am the creator of my life and I do have the power to change it, and make it however I dream. It’s up to me, and he knows I can do it. After all, if I’m not happy with something in my life, all I need to do is do it differently.

Lesson #2: Leveling up is hard, but a great partnership will force you to level up constantly, and forever.

I resist what my husband tells me to do. My husband resists what I tell him to do. Together we end up stubbornly encouraging each other to become better people.

What I’ve discovered is that my husband and I chose each other for big reasons, and each one of us has greatly valuable qualities to bring to our table. So when we resist each other because of our strength and stubbornness, eventually one of us will rise to join the other. And when we really clash, it’s because one of us just hasn’t quite figured out how to get up to that next level yet. But with enough encouragement, we will.

This happens in small ways, like snoozing my alarm. I used to be that person. Snooze the alarm every single day for however long it takes to get out of bed in the morning. Kanan explicitly hated this behavior because it disrupts his sleep, and we had many arguments about it, until stubbornly and angrily I made it a point to get out of bed immediately, every single day as soon as my alarm went off. Annoyed and stubborn, I now am a more productive person who loves the morning and looks forward to quiet time alone with my coffee, my books, and my computer. Why would I want to waste that wonderful peaceful time snoozing?

This also happens in big ways, like eating more plant foods, a significant and long-term lifestyle change. Over the years Kanan has resisted my dietary choices being “pushed on him” and has explicitly made it clear to not tell him what to eat. It turns out, the squeaky vegan wheel gets the grease. When I see my husband packing his mostly (if not entirely) raw, plant based lunches for work everyday, coming home for his post-work kale, ginger, celery smoothie it does two things. It instantly makes me happy that we’re headed down this healthy, long path together, but also makes me realize that I can do better too. I don’t eat kale everyday; there’s always room to improve and grow.

When my husband and I seem to disagree, I now try to step back and look for the lesson inside the clashing of two stubborn individuals. We both want what’s best for us, so who needs the boost up to the next rung? The other one of us will be more that happy to provide it.

Lesson #3: Protect Your Time.

This last lesson I’ll share with you wraps back around to the initial idea of my husband as the “zen master.” Kanan is not a meditation expert. He doesn’t do yoga. He’s certainly not Buddhist. He has fairly liberal beliefs but is in no way carefree or someone I’d call a free spirit. He has not reached enlightenment. Nor is he wearing a poncho and selling beads in the park. My point: he’s neither a true zen master, or a wannabe zen master. He’s just himself.

He is an adamant nonconformist in his own way. He’s so punk rock about his time that it fascinates me and encourages me on my digital minimalism journey. Simply put, Kanan understands with no degree of uncertainty that his time is his own, and he is allowed to selfishly protect it. He can exist amongst the chaos and remain himself, a calm center.

Social media? Not worth the time or energy. Texting? Only if absolutely necessary, or to appease his text-happy wife. Facetime is a solid no. Calling is a sometimes and only for the most important in his life. He refuses to make plans if he even has an inkling he may not want to participate in something or may want to just relax and do what he wants. He doesn’t feel the need to answer to anyone about how he spends his personal time, and most of the time that philosophy does apply to me. And while this can frustrate me sometimes as his behavior can appear to be noncommittal or selfish (which it is), he generally encourages me to live the same way. Selfishly with my time, even when it pertains to matters involving him.

This has taught me that being selfish with my time is okay, and that respecting each other’s time is important. It’s taught me not to dole it out indiscriminately, and to really decide if something or someone is worth letting into my life and space. My husband is basically a minimalist at heart, and someone so confident in himself that he can live his life from his own center, allowing in only the things that mean most to him. That is a skill most of us have to actively cultivate with things like exercise, meditation, learning – strategies. I joke that Kanan has had it figured out since I met him. I thought he was antisocial and afraid to commit. It turns out he just wanted to make sure I was someone he wanted to give his most precious resource to before he decided to marry me. What a way to live.

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Wedding Photos:

https://www.hennygraphy.com

My Top 10 “Holy Grail” Cruelty-Free Makeup Products

Glo Skin Beauty Moisturizing Tint SPF 30 $44

1) Glo Skin Beauty Moisturizing Tint SPF 30. This product is my go-to every single day whether I’m wearing full coverage makeup or not. It adds a sheer hint of color and moisture on days I’m not wearing any foundation, and provides an oil-free base that will help face makeup apply flawlessly and last when I am going for a more full-coverage look. Wearing SPF is a must, and this formula feels and smells amazing. If I were stranded on a desert island, THIS is the one product I’d take with me.

Use: Personal & Pro Kit

Shade I use: Light

Available: At Two Beauties, and at https://www.gloskinbeauty.com/moisturizing-tint-spf-30

Glo Skin Beauty Under Eye Concealer $32

2) Glo Skin Beauty Under Eye Concealer. This concealer offers a dual pot- one peach shade to color correct and one more neutral shade to blend and brighten. I apply this under my foundation using the Glo Dual Camouflage brush for full-coverage color correcting and concealing all over the face (not just under eyes). It can also be applied lightly for more sheer coverage on days I do not wear foundation. This product is easily blend-able, does not badly crease when blended and set, and can be used as an eyelid primer in a pinch.

Use: Personal & Pro Kit

Shade I use: Beige

Available: At Two Beauties, and at https://www.gloskinbeauty.com/under-eye-concealer#pdp-description

Glo Skin Beauty Satin Cream Foundation $50

3) Glo Skin Beauty Satin Cream Foundation: 1.4oz. I have been wearing this foundation for over a decade. This formula is full-coverage, has a satin semi-matte finish, and color corrects amazingly. I use a damp beauty blender to achieve an air brushed look, or the Glo Flat Top Kabuki brush if I need more coverage. All Glo foundations are talc-free, non-comedogenic, and contain green tea, and vitamins A, C, and E. The shade range is moderate, but from my experience fairly inclusive.

Use: Personal & Pro Kit *Great for Photography

Shade I use: Natural Fair

Available: At Two Beauties, and at https://www.gloskinbeauty.com/satin-cream-foundation#pdp-description

Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder $39

4) Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder: 1oz. On days that I would like a full-coverage look I use this powder to set my foundation. It lasts all day and night, creating a more matte, but crease-free finish that photographs well. I apply it using a beauty blender, and then buff it out with the Glo Skin Beauty Pro Kabuki Brush for an airbrushed look.

Use: Personal & Pro Kit *Great for Photography

Shade I use: Translucent

Available: https://www.lauramercier.com/translucent-loose-setting-powder-prod12321001.html?cgid=cat310002&dwvar_prod12321001_color=Translucent

Glo Skin Beauty Brow Powder Duo $28

5) Glo Skin Beauty Brow Powder Duo. This brow powder is the most pigmented and long-lasting I’ve found. Etching brows out with this formula is effortless with the Glo Dual Brow Brush. I typically will fill my brows in with the lighter shade toward the center, and the darker shade toward the tail, then set with either the Glo Brow Gel in clear or the Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Gel in auburn.

Use: Personal & Pro Kit

Shade I use: Brown

Available: At Two Beauties, and at https://www.gloskinbeauty.com/brow-powder-duo#pdp-description

Too Faced Natural Eyes Palette $38
Too Faced Natural Face Palette $44

6) Too Faced Natural Collection. I know this is cheating, but this entire collection is now “holy grail” for me, so I picked out my two favorites to include here. These palettes come in beautiful hard-shell packaging with high quality mirrors. They are compact and easy to travel with- these are the two (and only) palettes I brought with me to do my wedding makeup and all my honeymoon looks. I love that you can create so many eye looks with a simple set of neutrals, some satin and some matte. And the face palette is my absolute favorite since it contains two highlights, a beautiful bronze/contour shade, and three blushes. The rest of the collection is also beautiful, and the pigment and blend-ability is highest-quality.

Use: Personal

Available: At https://www.toofaced.com/shop/face/face-palettes/natural-face-palette/70239.html?cgid=face-palettes#q=Natural%2B&start=1

https://www.toofaced.com/shop/eyes/eye-shadow-palettes/natural-eyes-palette/41040.html?cgid=eye-shadow-palettes#q=Natural%2B&start=1

Urban Decay Razor Sharp Water-Resistant Long-wear Liquid Eyeliner $22

7) Urban Decay Razor Sharp Water-Resistant Longwear Liquid Eyeliner. This liquid eyeliner is the only one I’ve found with a traditional, precision brush tip that is deep black, dries down matte, and does not budge. It comes in a variety of colors, but I only use it in black for days when I do cat-eye liner. Unfortunately, it is currently on sale and the black is hard to find so I’m hoping they’re reformulating or repackaging and not discontinuing!

Use: Personal

Available: At https://www.urbandecay.com/razor-sharp-water-resistant-longwear-liquid-eyeliner-by-urban-decay/ud776.html

Jeffree Star Velour Liquid Lipstick $18

8) Jeffree Star Velour Liquid Lipstick. This formulation is highly pigmented, and for me, lasts almost all day with no need to reapply. I love that there is a huge shade range with a large portion of nudes which are my go-to shades.

Use: Personal

Shades I love: Can’t Relate, Mannequin, Christmas Cookie

Available: At https://jeffreestarcosmetics.com/collections/velour-liquid-lipstick

Glo Skin Beauty Precision Lip Pencil $18

9) Glo Skin Beauty Precision Lip Pencil. These are just your standard lip pencils, but the formula is incredibly creamy and long-wearing. The shade range is minimal, but there is a tone for every look you’re creating.

Use: Personal & Pro Kit

Shades I love: Soulmate, Natural, Moxie

Available: At Two Beauties and https://www.gloskinbeauty.com/precision-lip-pencil

Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water $32

10) Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water: 3.9oz. This is my personal favorite setting spray. I prefer a full-coverage, but very dewey look and this spray gives me that finish I’m looking for and pairs wonderfully with my Glo foundations.

Use: Personal

Available: At https://m.smashbox.com/product/6038/34189/face/primers/photo-finish-primer-water/set-refresh-spray

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*I do not recommend purchasing these products from third-party websites. Please purchase directly from the brand website, or from a licensed, authorized retailer.

My Business: http://www.twobeauties.org