Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Cooking with Whine, Revisited

I blogged about this topic way back in 2011, and haven't thought much about the question of cooking with wine or other spirits since. I don't actually cook very much at all anymore, so it's been pretty much a non-issue.

But, then, the other day, I decided I wanted, to make my once famous Classic Chicken Divan, and it's once again become an Issue.

With a capital "I."

I asked for non-alcoholic white wine substitute suggestions from friends on social media.

I googled it.

I received and found the usual white grape, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, chicken broth, etc., suggestions.

While I appreciate the input, these were all substitute ingredients I've tried in the past, without success in achieving the desired results.

In Chicken Divan, the white sauce is THE make-or-break component, and if it tastes off, odd or bland, the whole dish is terribly disappointing.

I ended up buying some cooking sherry.  I know from experience that it's off-the-charts salty, but I can use unsalted butter and leave out the salt the recipe requires. Hopefully, it will turn out fine.

But, I didn't really intend this to be a recipe sharing post.

What I found interesting, and a bit disturbing, were some suggestions I received, even from friends who know I'm a recovering alcoholic, to just purchase an inexpensive white wine, because "the alcohol cooks out."

You know what? I googled that, too.

Turns out, that's a MYTH.

Granted, the alcohol percentage remaining, especially in a recipe serving 6, requiring a total of 3 Tablespoons, is miniscule.

Certainly not enough to trigger a physical response.

But, that's not really THE issue.

I know I've eaten things with alcohol added as an ingredient during cooking since I first got sober. Not with foreknowledge, but I've been able to taste a hint in some dishes served at potlucks or dinners. It's never been a problem for me, although I probably would have avoided those particular offerings if I had been told beforehand.

The issue for me is more psychological.

First, if I decide I can eat food prepared with beverage quality alcohol as an ingredient, it's easier to believe I can purchase it solely for the purpose of cooking.

I actually perused the wine aisle at Publix before heading back to the spices for the cooking sherry. One friend had suggested alcohol-free wine, so I was looking for that (they only had red, and it was expensive!).

Now, I learned early in my sobriety to avoid people, places, and things that are threats to my recovery.

Places like the wine aisle.

Wine was probably the hardest thing for me to face giving up when I finally decided to be serious about getting sober. Not that I didn't drink it to excess, or wake up with massive hangovers from it. I did. It was alcohol.

But, unlike other alcoholic beverages, I didn't drink it JUST to get buzzed or drunk. It was the one thing I actually savored and could sip, instead of gulping. It's what I drank in public when I didn't want to get sloppy drunk or pass out (like that always worked...).

And, as I discovered Monday in the wine aisle, it's the one thing which still gives me that mumps gland twinge.

And, that's not all.

Instantly, I could taste the apple, oak and vanilla notes of my favorite Chardonnay, the crisp citrus hints of a good Pinot Grigio. I left. Quickly.

On the way to the spice aisle, I actually caught myself thinking, "I could probably have wine now, and be okay."

It hit me then how easily I could slip, and how close I had just come to a fall.

Y'all, that slope is LETHALLY slippery!

How quickly did I go from looking for a wine substitute for cooking to thinking I could "enjoy and control" my drinking?

Mere hours.

This is the TRUE danger.

I don't know what the consensus is on this among recovering alcoholics. Is there a general recommendation, an unwritten rule, or is this one of those things we have to decide as individuals striving for growth, maturity, and wisdom in our recovery?

For me, personally, I now know that cooking with beverage-quality alcohol is OUT. I saw where my brain went at warp speed after a few seconds in the wine aisle.

That's a PLACE and a THING I have to avoid.

I'm okay with cooking wine, cooking sherry, and and wine vinegars. Even at my most desperate, I never drank any of those.

(Body splash, mouthwash... yes.  And that's why I don't keep those in the house.)

But, some alcoholics might not be okay with ANY of those ingredients, and that's okay for them.

But... Have you thought about this?

What about extracts and flavorings? An extract BY DEFINITION contains alcohol. I remember a girl in high school who drank Wintergreen extract to get drunk.

Does that mean you can't use vanilla or almond extract in baking?

Just how far do you take this?

I'm asking, because I truly don't know. I don't think there can be hard and fast rules, applicable to every alcoholic, regarding this issue, either.

This is where we each have to be rigorously honest with ourselves. Pay attention to what specifically triggers us physically, psychologically, emotionally, and then studiously, determinedly, consistently avoid those things.

Which can be hard.

I know.

I live in Florida, where wine is sold in every grocery, discount, dollar, drug, and convenience store.

It's a matter of the mind, or mind over matter, I guess.

I put on metaphorical blinders, and quickly walk away from wine displays and endcaps. At Walmart, I go grab my Lipton Diet Citrus Green Tea, and immediately exit the aisle, since it's also the wine and beer aisle.

Go figure.

It's habitual now. It's only when I took those blinders off and allowed myself to stroll down both the wine section and Memory Lane that I fell into stinking thinking.

I'm not going to let this incident weigh on my mind or get me into a bad state emotionally. I AM going to let it serve as a reminder that my recovery is precious and deserves my purposeful awareness, attention, protection, and respect.

The slope is slippery.

But, the journey is comprised of many paths, and avoiding the slippery places, the traps, and pitfalls means choosing our individual paths carefully, thoughtfully, wisely, responsibly.

But, above all, HONESTLY.

Monday, April 13, 2020

This, Too, Shall Pass

This post was written back in September of 2018. I didn't publish it then, as there was still a very slim chance the situation with my husband's former employer could be resolved. That didn't happen, and although my husband was quickly rehired by the employer he'd worked for prior to the one referenced here, we are still living in a state of prolonged uncertainty.

It's still hard. Most of the time, we are apart, as his job is in another state and we aren't sure of it's duration. Meanwhile, we have our house here, and making a decision to sell or not has proven to be difficult for a number of reasons.

But, we continue to trust.

I'm numb

My husband just dropped a bombshell. He's had a terrible week, and it's kind of the culmination of a bad, incredibly high-pressure, stressful 8 months.

His credibility and expertise in his field, and specifically, its application in his new job is being questioned, and he's being undermined and blamed for things that are beyond his control. Basically, he's being made the scapegoat by his boss, who has over promised on crucial deadlines and has severely underestimated how quickly they can have a viable product.

He's utterly miserable, and feels deceived and betrayed by his boss, who talked him into giving up our lives in Mississippi and moving here.

The 2 plus years have been among the most trying for us, as, up until January, we lived in a constant state of uncertainty, waiting for this project to come to fruition. When it finally did, it was as if a great weight had lifted, and we finally could move forward.

We started to take steps in that direction, buying a house, preparing for the big move.

Now, my husband isn't sure he can stay in this job, and I can't say I'm completely surprised. You can only get thrown under the bus so much before you're flattened.

I don't know how to feel, how to pray. I think I'm a little bit in shock.

I've trusted God when all seemed lost before, but my husband and I both believed so strongly that we were following His leading in coming here, and we didn't waver, even when nothing was panning out. We thought God had answered our prayers when things finally came together in January.

My husband says his faith is not shaken. But, if I'm completely honest, I have to admit that mine is. Not so much in God's leading, but in our ability to discern what it truly is, and whether we're just trying to make what we want into God's will.

If life is showing us that our ability to discern God's direction and will for us is sadly lacking, how do we even move forward at all, let alone with any confidence?

I get that we won't necessarily understand God's plan for us  as it is unfolding, and that His ways are higher than ours, but it is disheartening to wonder if we may have completely missed the mark.

All we can do is continue to pray, to trust, and to OBEY to the best of our understanding. It may be that all of this happened for a reason that will one day become clear to us,  even if only when we meet Him face to face.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Friday the 13th

Okay, so today is NOT the 13th of April. This Friday, though, is another milestone in my Recovery Journey. 13 years ago today, on April 10, 2007, I drank my last alcoholic drink.

Dismally, a cosmopolitan, a cliché in a martini glass. Doesn't matter. Vodka under the bridge.

What DOES matter is that after countless false starts, this was the one that "took."

Since then, my life has been so... vividly REAL. In some ways, it's been more uncertain, scary, and emotionally fraught than it ever was before I stopped drinking.

The difference is, now I have to FEEL my feelings, face them, sit in them, and walk through them.

It's been, in a word, a journey. I used to think that word was so overused in relation to recovery.

It's not.

If anyone wakes up one day and just decides to quit drinking, and then encounters nothing but rainbows and butterflies, why, bless their li'l sober heart!

I've yet to meet that person.

Getting sober is hard.

STAYING sober is even harder at times, especially in the beginning. But, once in a while, even now.

I don't know how people do it without professional help. If I hadn't been blessed to find an awesome residential treatment program, I doubt I would still be sober.

Addictive in nature, I was equipped with an arsenal of negative and destructive coping mechanisms. Discovering what triggered those, and what the underlying causes were for using them was essential to real and lasting sobriety.

I've had to become conscious of how much anger I had, and how I weaponized my rage to control the people I love. Just learning how to think before speaking was a prolonged, painful endeavor.

And one I continue to struggle with whenever I'm stressed or hurt.

My husband works in another state, 700 miles away. When he comes home for a long weekend or a rare week, I want to be the soft place he lands, where he feels safest and most loved. To treat him and speak  to him only with kindness, respect, and love.

After 2 nearly weeks of uninterrupted togetherness due to the the COVID-19 restrictions, I snapped. I had been working my behind off for hours pruning, and then hauling a mammoth pile of yard debris to the curb for today's pickup. Exhausted, I sat down for a minute. Maybe two.

It was beginning to get dark and my sweet man came out front, surveyed the situation, and said, "Baby, let's hurry and finish this so we can be done before dark."

I lost it.

"Where were YOU when I was hauling this stuff to the street for the past 2 hours?!? I've been working myself into the ground, and I sit down for 5 seconds..."


I realized mid-sentence what I was doing, and way too late, the irrationality and hurtful nature of my venomous response.

You see, they lied to us in nursery school and kindergarten.

We were taught "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me."

But, words DO hurt. They are poisoned arrows shot straight into the heart. The damage is real and can be devastating, even irreparable.

And the damage can't be undone. You can't take words back.

You can, as I did, apologize immediately, profusely, sincerely, even tearfully. You can ask for forgiveness. You can wrap your arms tightly around your loved one and hug him and cover his face in kisses.

It might help. A little.

But, it will take time.

The trust you've built has taken a blow and crumbled a bit. Time and consistency is required for it to be rebuilt and restored.

A wise man once said, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step."

A journey is an undertaking requiring commitment and dedication. Strength and endurance are built along  the way.

There are missteps occasionally. We grow weary, sometimes to the point of wanting to just stop.

But for those of us traveling the Road to Recovery, stopping is not an option. We tread on.

Step by step.

Day by day.

And the destination is worth it all.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Annoying Car Horn Alarms: A Gratitude List

  1. I am, first of all, grateful to the person who FINALLY turned off that annoying car alarm horn and that it has only gone off twice in two minutes. So far.
  2. I am grateful our lease on the house here in Winter Haven runs out at the end of next month and we HAVE to complete our move by then.
  3. I am grateful for not having a drink for 11+years.
  4. I am grateful for the fact that at least ONE of my wreaths has sold.
  5. I am grateful for social media, which seems to be my primary (read: ONLY) way of connecting with people these days.
  6. I am grateful that Roy seems resigned to our owning five cats, since not one of the kittens has been adopted yet and they're getting gangly and lanky instead of cute. (And Bitsy may be pregnant again.)
  7. I am grateful for losing weight the past few months, which I attribute mainly to not eating dinner at 10 PM during the week when Roy is away.
  8. I am grateful for the coming opportunity to get our lives back to some sense of normalcy.
  9. I am grateful for the opportunity to discover I need the structure of an actual job that I go to, in order to feel something like purpose in and enthusiasm for life.
  10. I am grateful that I am so full of BS that I can make a 10 point gratitude list when I am feeling anything but grateful.
Sorry. I know this is a bummer post, but I'm in kind of a bummer place, and thought a gratitude list might help.

It did not.

Well, maybe a little bit. I can now see how pathetically self-absorbed I am, and work on getting myself out of this dismal funk! Time to get out of my own head and just do SOMETHING!

And for that minor revelation, I truly am grateful.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

A Tale of Two Cities (And the Chaos In Between)

We bought a house. 4 months ago. We are supposed to be moving. Should already be moved. Rented a Penske truck and took a huge load over the second weekend after we closed. Nothing since.

I'm still here in Winter Haven, while my husband stays in the new house 2 hours away in Vero Beach during the week, and commutes back here on the weekends.

This is no way to live.

We're now paying rent here, rent on 3 storage units (one hundreds of miles away in Oxford MS) and mortgage payments.

I don't have a job.

There are complications. Roy thought he'd get to a place in his new job where he could take a week off. That's not happening. And, he's taking on a consulting job in addition.

We have a Mama cat with 3 babies living on our back patio. Roy wants me to find homes for all of them.

To pack more than I have already means living without essential items. I've already had to buy a new casserole dish and Tupperware bowls because the perfectly good ones I own are somewhere in boxes.

I can't do this by myself and I am overwhelmed and paralyzed. I start trying to sort through my craft/junk room every week and end up distracting myself and making wreaths.

Then, to make things that much worse, I realize I'm going to need something for my new craft room, or those wreath supplies just went on sale, and I need to restock, and I buy even more stuff. To pack up and move.

What is wrong with me? Y'all know, this is not a good place for a normal person to be, much less an alcoholic. I just want it to go away. I want it to be over already. I want a normal, sane life. I want to be productive and motivated.

Feeling like this makes me want to numb out, and that's where it gets really scary. If I had pills, I'd probably be popping them. So, good thing I don't.

And it's a good thing that God still shows up. Every day.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Miles Away from The Happiest Place on Earth

I am an on a three hour flight back home to Winter Haven, Florida, having come up to Michigan Thursday for my oldest nephew’s wedding. The wedding was lovely, the bride was beautiful, and the food and DJ were okay. The weather was beyond cold.

I should be happy.

What I am is tired, hungry, in need of the potty, and pissed off.


I’m flying into Orlando. As in home of Disney World. As in every kid’s dream destination: The Happiest Place on Earth.

I’m flying Frontier Air today.

First and last time. Period. #WorstAirlineEver

To start out on the right, or rather, the WRONG foot, their website and app are USELESS.

You cannot check-in online. I tried numerous times. Coming and going.
On my phone. On my tablet. On Roy’s laptop. Mobile Site. Desktop Site. App.

Nothing. Bumpkis. Nada.

Okay. Whatever. So I get to the airport, return the rental car, and wait in line. Cost $45 to carry on OR check my bag, so I check. Go through security, which was significantly more stringent in Grand Rapids than in Orlando. Go figure.

Notice ALL the kids and think, “Great… This is not going to be The Flight From Hell AT ALL.”


Sure enough, not even halfway into the flight, it’s… Actually not as bad as I feared.

Except for the one kid.

Who continues to scream and sob not-stop.

And I mean, I get it. I do. He’s tired, bored, and cranky. He needs a nap. He needs some durn Benadaryl. He needs to just STOP. Besides, this is not an infant. He’s at least three and he should know better.

For the first time in a VERY long time, the thought goes through my head that a dirty martini would make this entire situation more bearable. Just a fleeting thought, but it's there, nonetheless, and I have to acknowledge it and quash it. Because, I don't do that anymore. Period. End of story. Finito.

So. I can’t sleep. I have to pee and the Fasten Seatbelts Sign is on. Again. My eyes hurt and my vision is blurry due to lack of sleep (never can sleep the night before traveling), so I can’t read. I have a movie I can watch, but I don’t think I can enjoy it because of needing to pee.

Did I mention I REALLY need to pee?

So, I’m going to focus a moment on what I have to be grateful for right now.

I am grateful for:

  1. My oldest nephew finding lasting love.
  2. My wonderful family, including my 80 year old parents
  3. My husband who will be waiting for me at the airport in Orlando
  4. Mothers who give their children Benadryl before flying (bless you)
  5. Adult diapers, one of which I wish I were wearing right now
  6. Almost eleven years of sobriety
  7. Frontier (at least to my knowledge), has not yet been the subject of an #AirDisasters episode
  8. That I type so slow, we now only have 45 minutes left to go before landing

Did you know, takeoff and landing are the most dangerous portions of a flight?

Monday, February 19, 2018


Originally Posted on My Blog, Sixty Something Style, 12/23/2017

Well, it finally happened.

After a year of trying my best and failing miserably, I lost my job just before the holidays.

As in terminated

This is a job I had for more than six years, but only a year in the most recent location. I was able to transfer when we moved to west Florida last year, and it's been brutal ever since.

So, it was expected, but still devasting, hurtful and humiliating.

Worse, it means the loss of not only income, but health insurance.

I'm sixty, and will be sixty-one soon. I don't want to be brooding and negative, but what the H-E-double-hockey-sticks kind of job am I realistically going to be able to get?

I did say a while back that this is an exciting age because I can start a new career.


So much easier to write than to actually do.

I have zero confidence, zero motivation, and zero idea of what even interests me that I can do and get paid for at this point.

The rubber has met the road, folks, and my tires are flat.