Tag Archives: drinking

A Memoir and a List of Loopholes Used to Justify Drinking

wineinparis-300x225Because of my interest in habits, I read a lot of memoirs of addiction. I don’t tackle addiction in Better Than Before, but still, I find that I get a lot of insights from these accounts.

I recently finished an excellent new memoir, Sarah Hepola’s Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget.

I was particularly  interested to see how she used loopholes to justify her drinking.

When we try to form and keep habits, we often search for loopholes, for justifications that will excuse us from keeping this particular habit in this particular situation. However, if we catch ourselves in the act of loophole-seeking, we can perhaps reject them.

We’re so good at thinking of loopholes! I’ve identified ten categories, in fact, and Hepola uses several of them as she justifies her drinking to herself. Continue reading

Holiday Food Temptation? Try These 13 Tips

holidayknifeandfork-300x300I think a lot about habits, and lately I’ve been thinking a lot about habits related to holiday eating.

The holidays are supposed to be a festive time, but many people feel anxiety and regret around food and drink—the holiday season is so full of temptation.

I have to say, I enjoy the holidays much more, now that I’ve got a better grip on my habits, than I used to.

Here are some ways to apply the strategies of habit-change to this challenge: Continue reading

A Focus On The Positive Is Key To Success In Addiction Recovery

think positiveOne of the best experiences I had in writing my book “The Law of Sobriety” was the opportunity to think back on the clients I have worked with throughout the years. By looking at many different cases I was able to clearly see patterns emerging that signaled either success in addiction recovery or a return to the life of an addict.

The biggest issue that I noted and, in my own life have found to be true, is that the more that you focus in on what you want in a positive fashion the more likely you are to reach that goal. The clients that I worked with that used the positive influences, energy and elements in their life were the most successful in recovery and continue to be throughout their life.

Most people, when they think about their future, think about what they don’t want to happen. They don’t want to be addicted, don’t want to hurt friends and family and don’t want to experience that constant downward spiral. Focusing in on what they don’t want brings a negative energy and mindset to your recovery. In keeping with the Law of Attraction you know that the more you dwell on the negative the more this becomes a reality. On the other hand, focusing in on the positive goals and objectives you have allows you to tap into the powerful energy in the world around you.

Key ways to set positive goals for your immediate recovery and life include:

  • Take the time to really understand what you want in your life. What your friends and family want for you is important to consider, but you have to make the decision for yourself in order to be authentic and honest.
  • Think both short and long term when setting goals. Short term goals are like milestones that will help you achieve your long term goals as a sober, happy person.
  • Seek help and work with an addiction recovery therapist, coach or counselor that can assist you in taking full advantage of the power of the positive energy in your life.

Getting help in goal setting and focusing in on the positive goals in your life is a critical part of your recovery. This is a central part of charting your path forward and dealing with issues, challenges and the reality of this important lifestyle change.


Sherry Gaba LCSW, a psychotherapist and life, love and recovery coach, is featured on Celebrity Rehab on VH1. Sherry is the author of  The Law of Sobriety, which uses the Law of Attraction to help people recover from addiction; she is also a contributor to Conscious Entrepreneurs, and to several e-books: Empowerment Manual: Finding Purpose with Intention, Filling the Empty Heart: 5 Keys to Transforming Love Addiction. The e-books Relapse Prevention and Eliminate Limiting Beliefs can be downloaded free of charge at www.sherrygaba.com. Contact Sherry for webinars, teleseminars, coaching packages and speaking engagements.

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The Accident that Changed My Life

800px-Two_ambulances_at_nightBy Margaret Westley

Getting run over by a bus during Freshman year of college had not been part of my plan. I came to New York City to attend a small liberal arts school to study Sociology with hopes of becoming a social worker. Second semester had gotten off to a good start. I was re-acclimating myself to a class schedule and set a few goals. I wasn’t going to party as much as I had during first semester. I gave myself a curfew and aimed for perfect attendance. I felt the need to reinvent myself, and finally after years of being heavy, I was going to lose weight.

One evening while walking back to the dorm room with one of my roommates I stepped off of a curb and was run over by a bus.The driver was speeding while making a left hand turn. He wasn’t looking so he missed seeing me in the crosswalk. The bus hit my shoulder and threw me to the ground, pinning my left foot underneath one of it’s wheels. As a result of the accident, I broke my right ankle and badly damaged my left limb, which eventually had to be amputated six inches below the knee. Within one moment, my life changed forever. It would never be the same again.

Over the years, people have told me I am crazy when I say, “I kind of asked for the accident to happen.” I’m thrown a look of shock and asked how I could say such a thing. Because it’s true. Here’s why. Three days before I got hit I was talking to the roommate who would be with me at the scene of the accident and told her how I felt somewhat unfulfilled with life and I wanted something big to happened to me.

Three days later the accident happened.

People have told me to be careful what I wish for. However, I’ve never seen the accident in a negative light. I’ve never wished the accident had not happened. I feel it was a gift. Even though the recovery process was the hardest challenge I’ve ever faced, I would not change a single thing. One step saved my life, and I am simply grateful to be alive.

The accident was also a huge wake up call. I’d been pretty unfocused during the first semester of college as it hadn’t taken a lot of time for the lure of New York City night life to take a hold. Pretty soon, I was pre-gaming shots of liquor with friends in our rooms before heading out for a night on the town. I was 18. My parents were hours away. A curfew was the furthest thing from my mind. I wanted to live life on my own terms, and I was going to live it fully.

So, I did. I equated  living with drinking. My friends and I split pitchers of margaritas in the Village or we headed uptown to our favorite college bar whose bouncers rarely asked us for ID because they knew us and had been waiting for us to arrive.

Inside, I drank cocktails, glasses of wine, Jello shots followed by straight up tequila. My fair share of Long Island Iced teas took me close to the edge, but I didn’t stop drinking. I accepted offers for beers (even though I’d never liked the taste) from my friends, and our favorite bartender, Imax.

I don’t know if someone would have classified me as an alcoholic. I just wanted to have fun. Some nights I drank more than others. There were days I spent focused solely on recovering. My roommate expressed her concern, “you have to be careful, Margaret.” This was after I confessed I’d spent the previous night with a man who had invited my friend and me to his apartment in Spanish Harlem. I lost my virginity to a man whose name I did not know.

Christmas break, I returned home to Maryland and immediately got sick with what turned out to be a lung infection. Doctors orders kept me inside and under the covers providing me with ample time to think and have long conversations with my roommate who was visiting family in California. We talked about life and how I wanted to get back on track second semester. I vowed I wouldn’t go out as much and focus on getting good grades.

Grades I never got to see. It was my roommate who pulled the jacket I was wearing just enough for the bus to miss hitting my head. Moments later, in shock, I tried to stand, but my roommate encouraged me to stay down. I wanted to know what happened.

“Your right ankle looks broken.”

“But, what about my left leg?”

My roommate paused, “that looks broken too.” She only left my side to call 911 after which she quickly returned to my side to let me pull her hair because I told her it helped with the pain. When the ambulance’s sirens called in the distance we knew help was coming. Just a few moments later, my roommate was taken away and my body was surrounded by police officers and EMT workers one of whom knelt by my side, took my hand in hers and said, “stay with us sweetheart you have the entire city of New York behind you.”

Thankfully, Bellevue, one of the best hospitals to treat trauma was close by and it was there, on top of a cold, metal, examination table where the doctors told me my right ankle was broken, but the extent of damage on my left foot was unknown. X-rays were taken and confirmed my left foot had been severely damaged and the doctors would have to amputate at least half of it. Swallowing the word amputated, I decided to work with whatever had to happen.

“That’s OK,” I told the doctors, “I’ll just get a new foot.”


Stay tuned for Part 2…

* * *

Margaret Westley is a writer, fundraiser, certified integrative nutritionist, and yoga teacher. Each of these professions were inspired by a near death accident she had when she was eighteen years old and got run over by a bus, which resulted in a broken right ankle and losing her left leg below the knee. Though the recovery was tough, Margaret has always seen the accident has a huge gift! Over the years, she’s been a face-to-face fundraiser, worked in a café, been an office assistant, a healthcare attendant, meditation/yoga teacher, and is currently building a fundraising business and writing a memoir. Everyday, something or someone reminds her about how amazing life is and, for that, she is eternally grateful.

Wordplay Wednesday: Inspired

erica rock climbing
But open-minded
Moving through
Purposeful action
With restraint
Tuning in

I wrote this one in June of 2010, shortly after making the decision to stop drinking.

Does Announcing a Resolution Make You More or Less Likely To Keep It?

NewYearsResolutions-300x199My recent post, “Beware of “decoy habits,” spurred a lot of conversation, and it’s clear to me that the subject is much more complex, and interesting, than I initially realized.

Readers made many thought-provoking comments. One pointed to research that suggests that talking about a goal can lead to the false feeling of already having achieved that goal. I’ve seen that research–and I’ve also seen research suggesting that talking about a goal can help you stick to it, by making you feel more committed, and also more accountable to the people you’ve told. So it seems to go both ways.

From my own experience–a statistically insignificant yet often helpful data point–this is a point on which people differ. Some do better if they don’t talk it up too much; some do better if they tell others what they want to do.

Exhibit A is my former roommate, who told people that she did yoga, and telling them seemed to convince her that she did, in fact, do yoga. Perhaps discussing it undermined her determination actually to do it.

Exhibit B is my friend who is trying to drink less, who says it’s very helpful to her to announce, “I’m cutting back on my drinking, so I’m only having one glass of wine tonight.” For her, telling people adds an important layer of external accountability.

I’m curious… In your personal experience: Does announcing a resolution make you more likely to keep it, or less likely, or neither?

I don’t think it matters much to me whether I announce it or not–I suspect that’s a result of my “Upholder” nature.  How about you?

* * *

I had a great time doing this interview with Eric Barker, for his site Barking Up the Wrong Tree. We covered a lot of happiness territory. Also, it’s almost time for the May recommendations for my book club! Every month, I suggest one book about happiness, one work of children’s literature, and one eccentric pick. Sign up to make sure you don’t miss them. Because few things give more happiness than a good book.

Raging with Prince Harry

Photo: Photoshop Politics by Dylan Jeavons

This is #24 of 108 Ways to Livin the Moment. Let’s take back our lives one beautiful, funny, and delicious moment at a time.

#24 of 108: Before Raging in Vegas, Try the Pinata

At some point this weekend, Prince Harry is headed for a conversation with his father about his recent exploits in Sin City.

I know what you must be thinking and I agree: how Harry is going to justify his choice of hotels, The MGM, over some of the gleaming jewels on The Strip…is beyond me.

But the press, especially in Britain, has been mostly glowing about Harry’s courageous blaze through the desert.

The Daily Mail told readers: “Why everyone — royals included — should visit silly Sin City at least once.”

Another newspaper offered a guide to “Las Vegas: where to party like Prince Harry.”

VegasInc said: “Your pool-party shenanigans fell squarely into the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s marketing strategy to attract attention to the place that regularly celebrates your kind of fun.”

Clearly, Harry wanted some attention.

God knows there’s a person in you who can relate, who wants say to F You to some authority figure or family member in your life.

And y’know, sometimes we all need to let loose.

Or we become subverted freaks and our bodies turn into a slow burning conflagration of rage…and that’s when sickness happens.

Clearly, a naked bender in Vegas is never a healthy, wholesome idea.

So if you are needing to let loose, here are 3 tips on releasing unhealthy emotions in a more dignified style:

1. The Pinata

Photo: blogs.browardpalmbeach.com

When is the last time you took a whack at a pinata? It’s cathartic to let er rip and then indulge in a lollipop rainstorm. Plus, pinantas with gluten-free candy are now available in bulk at Costco.

2. The Clearing

One very famous yoga teacher told me every night before she goes to sleep, she and her husband clear any thoughts of the angry, racy, lustful, resentful variety.

Try it. Make time for a daily clearing, because the weekly clearing can be ugly, the monthly clearing can be dangerous, and the annual clearing…see pic.

3. A Disney Song

Sometimes when I get really mad or frustrated, I listen to the Aladdin theme song “I Can Show You the World.


Greek tragedian Euripides said, “The fiercest anger of all, the most incurable, is that which rages in the place of dearest love.”

Point being, emotions are beyond understanding. Don’t even try to apply ration to what you are feeling or you will go insane.

Just take small daily actions so you can avoid the big yearly ones.



If you can relate to feeling frustrated, like you are not moving forward, like you have gone rogue… GET A HOLD OF YOURSELF. Everyone has their particular grind, but only some choose to enjoy the journey. While the giant leap forward may or may not come today or tomorrow, every single day is an opportunity to CELEBRATE LIFE! I invite you to become what I call a Momenteer, and take back your life one beautiful, funny, delicious moment at a time. To find out how you can become a Momenteer, email yeahdave@mac.comand write Momenteer! in the subject.

RETREAT WITH ME…(December 6-9)

If this idea of a night sky speckled with stars sounds like just what you need…I’m leading a retreat to Sedona, Arizona. There is no starrier sky than one overlooking Grand Canyon country.  Taking place December 6-9 at Mii Amo (rated #1 Destination Spa in the World by Travel & Leisure Magazine, this is a dreamy winter getaway to soothe the mind, luxuriate the senses, and ignite the spirit! Visit here

Marriage Can Drive Women To Drink

According to new findings from the American Sociological Association a long-term marriage curbs men’s drinking, but women actually drink more. Could this mean that marriage benefits men more than women?

What the research says: Two studies from Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania show that there has been a shift in happiness since the 1970s, when women claimed to be happier than men. One of the studies explains that since the 1960s, men have cut back on unpleasant activities and relax more. On the other hand, women are taking on more tasks than they did four decades ago. They have replaced housework with working outside the home, yet are still responsible for the house work. This means that a woman’s “to do” list has increased with less time to do everything. As a result, a woman feels stressed, under-accomplished and fatigued! How can anyone be happy with all that on her plate?

According to Dr. D. A. Bangasser’s research as published in Molecular Psychiatry female rats are affected by lower levels of stress than their male rat counterparts and do not adapt to higher stress levels like male rats, a process called internalization. The study concludes that higher stress disorders in women could have a similar biological response. In short, women feel stress more intensely than men and get into a negative loop. The obvious question, even though it is rhetorical: Why can’t women relax more?

Essentially, women believe that they have the power to fix things for others. And when they don’t succeed, they might turn to alcohol to relax. In some communities mothers get together and sip wine while their young children play, “We need to unwind.”

I wondered why so many women are infatuated with Fifty Shades of Grey. Perhaps, we are so used to abusing ourselves with endless tasks and playing the role of the rescuer, that we look for it in our novels finding an external abuser to beat us up in a love relationship!

It’s time to put back the fun in dysfunctional. “If everything seems under control,” said auto racer Mario Andretti, “you’re probably not moving fast enough.”

5 healthy ways to disconnect from stress and reap the benefits of your relationship

  • If your dreaming about a Hollywood soul mate, realize that any good intimate relationship generates a soul mate.
  • Did you know that the American Medical Association points out that just holding your spouse’s hand is calming and speeds up wound healing? You don’t even need to talk.
  •  Stop being the household generator. Everyone does not need to be plugged into you. * Observe doctors, pilots and other high risk professionals. They know that fatigue can lead to dangerous errors, so they work together like a team to help each other out. Consequently, they have improved coping skills and optimistic resiliency than those who face their fatigue alone. Ask for help and delegate!
  •  Find a hobby that you are passionate about where you lose track of time and space. Creativity in one area transfers to another. Breathe new life into your relationship instead of numbing it. “I do for me = I do for us.”

Protect Yourself From These New Year’s Hazards

New Year’s is a potential minefield which could explode your well-being both physically and emotionally. The best way to deal with imminent danger is to be alive and alert. Here are some alarming things that can happen to people on New Year’s ironically while they are creating their resolutions to live better and in greater health and happiness.

The Physical

Many consider drunk driving as the biggest hazard on New Year’s. Research studies show that even more perilous is being a drunken pedestrian according to Loyola University. The journal Injury Prevention reported that New Year’s Day is more deadly for pedestrians than any other day of the year and this includes being a pedestrian in your own home. A tipsy walk down a dark hallway to the bathroom can send you to the emergency room.  Keep drinking in balance. I drink
to your good health!

Watch out for self-sabotaging brain messages:

  • “I’m alone and everyone else is paired,”  “I don’t have a fun party to celebrate.”
  • “I haven’t accomplished any of my goals this past year.”
  • “I feel like everyone is plugged into me taking advantage of me.”
  •  “I am a slave to my addictions. My behavior is at odds with my ideals.”
  • “I have overspent this holiday season and will never get out of debt. I’m working for the debt collectors.”
  • “My abusive ex wasn’t so bad. We had some good times. Maybe I should get back together.”

Instead use these 5 New Year’s practices to redirect your life to optimistic resilience:

  • Find something beautiful in your environment, look at it with focused attention and then close your eyes to see it in your mind with “soft eyes.” Let your own interpretation of the image sit with you for a few moments. What does this soft image remind you of?
  • Recall a memory when you were happy and hopeful. Use your 5 senses to fully experience it in your imagination. Relax into it and envision it circulating from head to toe like a radiant light.
  • With your new energy and focus begin facing a task that you have postponed, but needs attending. Imagine it is next New Year’s Eve and you are looking back at this time period.  Project yourself into your future self and feel satisfied with accomplishment.
  • Participate in the change you wish to be by beginning with a simple action like sending a friend a good wish, going out to people-watch in a café or book store, cleaning out a drawer, taking a power walk, or adorning your plate with a nutritious rainbow array of foods.
  • Let go of what weighs you down: A dumb idea, a grudge, taking things so personally, the idea of who you used to be, the good old days, or things that no longer work.

Happy New Year!

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / stuartpilbrow

With Liberty & EANABs for All

When I was an undergrad at Stanford University back in the early 90s, the school had a liberal alcohol policy. RAs would buy booze for their frosh. The frats threw huge parties every weekend where they served Everclear punch out of trashcans. We never had to sneak around with our beer and vodka bottles.

But there was one rule we all knew that we had to respect in order not to get busted by our elders: If there was booze at a party, there had to be EANABs.

EANABs meant “Equally Attractive Non-Alcoholic Beverages” in Stanford-speak. In other words, at your parties you had to offer not just water, but sparkling water, cranberry and orange juice, even non-alcoholic beer. The intention of this policy was to make non-drinkers feel equally supported and welcome at all on-campus events.

After I graduated, I continued this tradition of providing EANABs at parties that I hosted. I felt I’d learned a valuable lesson from Stanford about inclusion. And indeed, years later when I became friends with several recovering alcoholics, and many of my friends got pregnant, I heard directly from them how much it meant to feel that they weren’t being slighted or marginalized on the social scene.

So I was devastated this past Saturday when I found out, while working a reunion event on campus with several current students, that the EANAB policy no longer stands at Stanford. In fact, the undergrads didn’t even know what EANABs were!

It may seem trivial, but I genuinely feel that the moral I learned from the EANAB rule was valuable and lasting: Always consider the outlier. Respect people’s choices. Make everyone feel welcome.

Here’s the silver lining: Maybe, with your help, we can not only bring EANABs back to Stanford campus, but even spread the concept to the rest of the world. I’ll raise my Shirley Temple and toast to that!

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