Here’s To A Good Night’s Sleep…

This is the first of what will be an ongoing series of essays for this blog.  I first wrote the essay below, Part I, over a year and a half ago.  After sharing it with several friends, I was advised by them not to publish it to the web — that I would someday regret doing so.

I heeded my friends’ sincere advice despite my desire to post this in 2010 — as a means starting the process of getting alcohol out of my life.  Sitting on this for a year and a half  did not do me any good.  This is right for me.  This day, this time, this platform. 

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Shocking. No Seriously, Shocking.

When I sat down to write this week’s essay on body image, I knew immediately that I really wanted to write about my drinking – it was time and I was finally ready. Now for those whose jaws just dropped, that’s no joke. For over a decade alcohol has been central in my life, and has been used primarily as a cure for my chronic insomnia since my divorce in 2000. For most of my adult life prior, I almost never drank, and when I did drink it was usually less than one – alcohol I had always reasoned, was not consistent with a life of fitness.

The Beginning

If it’s trite to suggest that my drinking began innocently, so be it. Divorce is hard even under the best of circumstances, and the circumstances of my divorce were not the best. Shortly after moving out of my suburban California home and into a Ford Windstar mini-van, and in the aftermath of leaving my wife and daughter behind, I found sleeping to be nearly impossible. Guilt, confusion, destruction, fear, and self-loathing; these were just a few reasons I stayed awake at night with my thoughts spinning in an elliptical orbit around the gravity of my selfish actions.

However, as an active person, sleep was necessary to for me to function well and recover from the rigorous exercise regimen which was such a large part of my life. Over a period of weeks I had tried all the common cures for insomnia; warm milk, herbal remedies, meditation, and over the counter sleep aids – with no success. I once took 6 Benadryl and still stayed up all night. Nothing worked to help ease my non-sleeping woes. Well, almost nothing.

One evening I turned to rum and Diet Coke – seemed innocent, and I had remembered that alcohol had always made me drowsy quickly – one more reason why I rarely drank. It worked like a charm too, and for the next few evenings I sent myself into a peaceful rest with a few rum and Diet Cokes as I nested in the back of my mini-van contemplating my future. This was to be a short-term fix and as soon as I found a permanent place to live, I would stop the drinking.

Evolution Of The Quantities Part I; Mr. Brownstone Evolves

Within a few months I was out of the mini-van and living in a little one-room shack on 14 acres here in Fallbrook. It was perfectly cozy. The shack had no heat, no air-conditioning, was surrounded by avocado and macadamia trees, wonderful evening breezes, and coyotes honoring the night with their songs as I drifted off to sleep. It also helped that I was sleeping in the warm tranquility of a waterbed. Sleep no longer required rum, and for six months I slept better than at any point in my life and though I was grateful for the rest, I was more grateful to be rid of alcohol.

After six months in this serene environment, I found a less expensive place to live. At a time when money mattered more, my new home would also be large enough to host my fitness studio. It was hard to leave that calming scene and landscape behind, but I chose to make the move, and would remain in the new place for the next ten years. Away from my peaceful isolation among the trees and coyotes, and without the waterbed, my insomnia would promptly return.

Since I knew what to do and was not susceptible to hangovers, I began my rum-fueled bedtime drinks once again. This worked well for several years.  Within a few years though, I found myself pouring them a little taller. Within a couple more, I began to notice they were less effective, so I poured them taller still. This worked well for many years until I began waking up in the middle of the night unable to go back to sleep – unless of course I poured a little more which I soon began to do with little effect on my physicality or personality.

This was the process that would take me through 12+ years; that each evening I would take a 44-ounce Big Gulp cup to bed, eventually to contain about 50% rum or tequila, 50% diet soda, and I would fall asleep. If I woke in the middle of the night, I would finish the drink and go right back to sleep until morning. I didn’t sweat the extra calories, I just built them into my day with less food, more cardio, or both.

Through all of this, I maintained the best physical condition of my life – so far as everything but my liver was concerned. I woke early, worked out intensely, and went about my day teaching and practicing fitness. During this period I participated in bodybuilding, competitive running, ocean-going paddle board racing, and even did a few competitive stair climbs up to the tops of skyscrapers. Never though, did I drink during the day, or anywhere else but in bed. This was about sleep to me, not a love of alcohol. I hated that I did it, but the process worked and sleep mattered.

To be continued…

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Comments are closed this week.

Please check back in two weeks for Part II of this series. Oh, and there is this from The Avett Brothers, enjoy…

Week Daze…

Nothing fitness related this week.  Working on several new fitness related essays for later this month, and for May.  In the meantime there is this from my personal journal, written last weekend. 

  Daze Of The Week

There are seven days in a week.  Though each day can be similar to the day before, the next day is sure to include some unique moment, fresh thought, or previously unknown experience.  Some of those moments and experiences will be good and some not so good.  Though each day of the week might represent something different to anyone of us, it’s fair to say many of us view each named day of the week pretty much the same.

For many, Monday is the daunting start of the workweek.  People often resent Monday for thrusting its blood thirsty hand through our chest, stealing the still-beating heart out of our weekend memories, and throwing it to the base of the pyramid.   Things at work might be accomplished on Monday, but often seem get done at a lesser pace for that resentment.

Tuesday it seems, is an unnecessary extension of Monday.  The primary difference between Monday and Tuesday is the rhythm of the day.  The weekend is all but forgotten and by Tuesday morning and the idea of bondage to the job has become easier to accept.  Tuesday is less sullen.  Things are likely accomplished at an increased pace over Monday, and the day might pass more easily.

Wednesday is hump day for many; the day that brings us past the tipping point toward the coveted weekend.  Wednesday is like Friday-light.  Wednesday morning we begin seeing the light of our impending weekend come into view.  That energy may prompt an increase in productivity during the first half of Wednesday.  Wednesday afternoon though, identifies a substantial roadblock between that blithe moment and the weekend – we’ll refer to that roadblock as Thursday.  On this recognition, productivity on Wednesday afternoon may be at a low for the week.

Thursday is just another unnecessary extension of Monday.  No, more like a sister moon to Monday.  How this chunk of Monday got thrown so far ahead into the week, scientists still don’t understand.  Thursday may be the longest day of the week.  However, Thursday is likely the most productive day of the week.  What else are you going to do all alone on that moon, except work…?

Friday needs no introduction.  Friday is at the top of the A-list of weekday celebrities.  Face it, Friday is the only day on any list of weekday celebrities.  Despite its probably low productivity, the mood is generally good on Fridays since nobody will have to see or deal with anyone else in the workplace again until Monday.  Friday is a celebration unto itself.

The perception of Saturday and Sunday differs much more for most.  There is less emotional gravity on the weekends holding us down.  Some degree of fun or relaxation is likely to be had – unless of course one has small children.  Then Saturday and Sundays become the other sister moons of Monday, and they are run by slave driver bosses much smaller than us.

Many flee on Saturday and Sunday, in different directions in pursuit of differing agendas.  Others just stay home and veg.  If nothing else, I’ll suggest that the weekend is a necessary pit stop to stay in the Monday through Friday rat race.   Regardless of how one spends Saturday or Sunday, weekends are a perfect distraction until Friday happens again.

Thus is the cycle of the workweek for the masses.  I understand that not everyone works a traditional workweek.  There is shift work, rotating schedules, technological intrusions on our soccer games, family outings, and meals.  But the days of the week are like puzzle pieces, and can be fit to replace one another for what is likely to be a similar conclusion regardless of one’s true work schedule.

When I was 19 years old Muppet Master, Jim Henson, told me that work is what we’re here for.  Through my many long and sometimes trying workdays, I have tried hard to remember and take regular inventory of that lesson.

The Colors Of The day

Since I was quite young, each named day has represented more to me than the place my life sits in the given workweek.  I’m not sure where this came from, but for most of my life when I envision the name of a day, Monday, Tuesday, etc., each of our seven days is represented to me by a color.  When I read, speak, or hear another speak the name of a day, I always envision a particular color in my head synonymous with that day, and I do so immediately.

  • Monday is red
  • Tuesday is brown
  • Wednesday is yellow
  • Thursday is blue
  • Friday is green
  • Saturday shares yellow with      Wednesday
  • Sunday is black

I can offer no explanation for the assignment of these colors in my head, but they have been there since grade school.  When I think of Wednesday I don’t think of hump day, I first think of yellow.  And so it goes for all the days of the week.  Each day is represented with an inherent color in my mind.  What these colors represent or why I may never know, they’re just ingrained in my psyche.

For those commenting this week, I am sincerely curious, does anyone else associate the days of the week with colors, or numbers, or anything else such as a car, super model, or breed of dog…?  I will be interested in your response.  Be well.  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from Sun Volt.  Enjoy…