The Gift of… Pie

Before I quit drinking, I never – and I mean NEVER – ate desserts. Cookie? No thanks, I’m good. Cake? Looks great, but I’m full. Brownie? Naw. Just doesn’t appeal.

Because sweets don’t really complement martinis. And I needed to save my calories for drinks, people!

But in the past eight months, I’ve indulged in so many home made treats: like chocolate chip cookies made with 4 big handfuls of corn flakes thrown in. You should try this – they’re incredible. And use butter! Not margarine – I hate that shit. Oh, and macaroons – topped with dark chocolate and covered with buttered, salted, toasted almonds. And peanut butter pie. And my new old favorite, my mother’s apple pie. I’ve eaten more pie in the last eight months than I’ve probably eaten in the past fifteen years.  There’s really nothing that I deny myself any more.

And I’m down almost ten pounds.  Without trying.  How awesome is that??!

Here’s the apple pie recipe.  If you try it, please let me know what you think!

Jane’s Apple Pie

3 Golden Delicious Apples, peeled, halved, and cored

1 Ready to bake pie crust, arranged in pie plate (I buy the ones you unroll and shape yourself)


1 stick butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1/3 cup flour, rounded

1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.  Place pie crust (in pie plate) on cookie sheet.  Arrange apple halves in crust.  Cream butter and sugar.  Add egg and vanilla and mix well.  Add flour and stir to combine. Mound topping in center of pie.  Bake for 1/2 hour.  Remove from oven and shield crust with foil.  Bake for another hour, or until topping is nicely browned. Serve cold or at room temperature.

I slice it while it’s still warm but like to serve it cold.  The topping forms something like a cross between a chewy cookie and caramel.  It’s so good!


The Clarity of Hindsight

The other night I went out to dinner with some family members I haven’t seen since before I quit drinking.  One is a sister who has struggled mightily with alcohol for several years.  The booze is winning, I’m afraid.  She isolates and lives a pretty sad life. I kind of doubt she’ll ever stop.  The other is an aunt, who got to the restaurant a little early, as I did.  She invited me to join her in a glass of wine.  I said, “Actually – I quit drinking.”  She was pretty surprised and responded, “That’s great!  I’m not going to ask why, but – good for you!”  I realized later that when people make a point of saying they’re NOT going to ask why, they’re REALLY asking why.  Without skipping a beat, I told her, “I’ll tell you why. I didn’t like where it was going.  If booze is an elevator, for me it was only going down.  I think I was heading for real trouble.  It didn’t add anything positive to my life so I got rid of it.”

I don’t know if she expected that level of honesty from me but she seemed really impressed.  Her only brother (my dad) was hospitalized for depression and alcohol abuse when I was a kid. My mother’s father was an alcoholic, as was at least one of her sisters.  Besides the sister I mentioned, I have two other siblings I suspect might have a problem with alcohol. Alcohol abuse most definitely runs in my family.

I think the bravest, strongest thing I ever did was to seize on that one moment of desperation and utter despair of the morning of August 18th last summer.  That one moment in time when I flashed both back and forward, seeing where I started with a couple of beers on the weekend when I was in my 20’s, to constant obsessive thoughts about drinking.  Then looking ahead to a future full of more blackouts, hangovers, shame, and what I believed to be the probability of an early, unpleasant death.

That absolutely scared the shit out of me.

And then telling my husband before I could talk myself out of it, like I’d done a million times before.  You probably know what I mean – all the times you make more rules about and around your drinking, only to break them almost immediately.

Anyway.  The point of all this is that, after a little more than 8 months of sobriety, I’m getting more honest – with myself and others – about what was really going on in my mind when I decided to quit the demon rum.  And I’m coming to the conclusion that, if there’s a continuum of alcoholism – a progression of sorts – I was well on my way.

And unlike what you might see in the rear view mirror, as I look back I see things more sharply and clearly than ever.

Quitting drinking is the best, most important thing I’ve ever done.

Yet Another Message from the Universe…

About a month ago, I had the opportunity to join a private Facebook group comprised of people endeavoring to stay sober. It’s a great, supportive, funny, smart group of people who offer each other advice and support. The symbol of the group is a penguin. I wondered why but found out it’s because penguins huddle together for warmth and strength, and protect the weak and vulnerable members of the group.

Bearing that in mind, I have little story for you today.

So we just got back from a little vacation to Washington, D.C. This is my third sober trip and I was well-prepared with books loaded on my phone, my meditation app (Simply Being), and my earphones. My biggest concern while being away from home is not being able to either get to sleep or stay asleep. The meditation app has been a huge, huge help.

When we go to a big city, we love to go on a walking Food Tour on the first or second day, because it helps us get “the lay of the land,” and gives us some ideas of places we might want to return to for meals.

We were in a group of about 15 super-nice people, and as we stroll the streets together, we’re chatting and getting to know each other a little. We get settled in one of the restaurants, waiting for our delicious hand-made spinach tortelloni stuffed with butternut squash and cheese in sage butter (delicious!)…

The tour guide says that the pasta is going to take a little while, so feel free to order cocktails. Some of the people do and I’m sitting with my glass of ice water, watching them toast each other with champagne cocktails and Manhattans. And not feeling triggery, just a wee bit sorry for myself.

Anyway. I shake it off as soon as the food arrives, resisting the urge to lick the plate – it was that good! And we all pack up to head to another restaurant for a sample of some Moroccan food.

So we’re walking up the street and I’m right behind the tour guide. It’s a chilly, blustery day and she’s bare-legged, wearing a denim skirt with little anklets and flats. I’m thinking, “Jeez! She must be FREEZING!” When something catches my eye – there’s a design on her socks. Upon closer scrutiny, I realize that they’re PENGUINS. I shit you not.

Just another message, courtesy of the Universe, that I’m right where I need to be.

What a Difference a Year Makes

Leaving a little later this morning; my third sober vacation since I quit drinking. I have books loaded on my phone, my meditation app to help me sleep, and my headphones. I’m good to go.

Had a momentary flashback of our trip last April…. We went to a Sandals resort for our 35th anniversary. They airline overbooked our original flight and we ended up getting upgraded to first class for the two flights to the resort.

The whole experience was exciting and luxurious. The steward fussed over us the whole time, refilling my wine glass over and over. And over. By the time we got to the resort, I had probably consumed the better part of a bottle of wine. You can’t say no, right? I mean – it’s free!

So we get to our room and it’s early afternoon and I need a nap. My husband decides to walk around the resort, get the lay of the land – while I sleep for a little while.

Well, while I’m sleeping off multiple glasses of Chardonnay, he’s texting to check in with me. My phone’s on silent, so it doesn’t wake me up. He’s texting and texting. I’m sleeping and sleeping. He’s getting more and more annoyed with me.

So our first day at this gorgeous, exotic resort starts on a sour note because I’ve had too much to drink.

Seriously? Wasting the first three hours in paradise asleep and then bickering with my husband???

Never. Again.


This is what I wanted to tell you about today: some sober revelations I’ve been having. And they’re all about compassion – COMPASSION, for chrissakes! Not something I was very generously gifted with. I’m afraid I tend toward snark, not snuggle.

The only other time in my life I remember being extraordinarily compassionate and patient was during a time when my girls were circling the drain due to heroin addiction: one was in rehab in Pennsylvania and the other was in a holding center (jail) here in NY. My husband and I were in counseling at the time, too…. But anyway, I worked in a classroom with first graders and that year each one was a more adorable whack job than the next. One little girl was terrified of the automatic flush toilets and the teacher I worked with would ask me to walk her down to the bathroom and pantomime using the toilet so she could figure out how much time she had to get the hell out of the stall before the toilet flushed and she freaked out. I literally took an hour out of every school day, walking her to the bathroom and helping her work out her issues…. A little boy in our class was so tightly wound he’d freak out during recess and fret over his ‘unfinished work.’ Just beg to be allowed to work instead of have free time. I spent so much time comforting him and giving him pep talks and telling him everything would be ok – my endless patience knew no bounds. But I knew, even then, that I was giving these kids what I couldn’t give my own – a mother’s love and tangible help with their problems.

So, fast forward 7+ years.  I’m almost 8 months sober, doing a little meditation and eliminating stress from my life as much as I can. So happy and relieved to be sober and free from the obsessive thoughts about booze and endless heinous mental chatter.

Which brings me to the compassion part of the program: this involves my mother.  We have a pretty complicated relationship.  Right now things are ok because she’s 84 and pretty harmless.  Just don’t get her started on any politically-charged issue.  The only thing she and I agree on is what time it is.  And to complicate things, she attaches morality and “the next life” to everything she’s passionate about.  So there’s that.  We get along fine as long as we don’t venture into any areas of mutual disagreement.  As far as she knows, everything’s peachy.  What she doesn’t know is that I spent the better part of a year in therapy screaming into a pillow to expunge the rage I felt toward her, for things she’d done (and hadn’t done) when I was a kid.

I should tell you that she and my dad were married for well over 50 years.  They lived together in the house I grew up in until he developed Alzheimer’s and had to go into a nursing home, where he passed away in 2009.

But last weekend, I woke up and felt the warm solidness of my husband by my side.  I snuggled down and drifted back off for maybe 15 minutes. When I woke up again, I knew instinctively that his side of the bed was empty.  And for whatever reason the thought occurred to me: what must it have been like, for my mother to know on the last day he was home with her, that she would never sleep in a bed with my dad again?  The thought just broke my heart for her.

And another instance: I work with elementary school students (one-on-one and in small groups), helping them with their reading and math skills.  One kid in particular is realllllly hard to like.  His social skills aren’t great and he complains incessantly about various and sundry, real or imagined ailments.  I did not look forward to stopping by his classroom to pick him up every day.  But this little nugget of compassion has just swelled and almost completely blotted out my initial dislike for him.  He comes from a crappy home.  He has no mother in his life.  There’s always drama between his dad and step-mom.  Awful existence for this poor little guy.  And I’ve turned the corner from tolerating him to really, really liking him.

I wonder if, once I stopped medicating my annoyances away, it enabled me to see them from a different perspective.  It just took some time and distance.

I’m certainly no Mother Teresa – don’t get me wrong – but it’s kind of neat to see this new mindset evolving.