Sobering Time

Last year I did my third year of Sober September. Instead of 30 days it lasted for 300. I was feeling really good about myself by the end. It was moving into the new house and celebrating that knocked me off the wagon. But during that time, I felt really successful in everything we did- including buying this house.

So it’s time for Sober September Number 4. I did like the fact that last year I went past the one month mark and remained dry for nearly a year. Perhaps I shall push for that again this year. I was getting into some of my old habits this summer. I don’t need to “time” myself and crack a bottle on October 1st.

I also don’t need to have a “cheat day” just because of a couple of weddings I need to attend this month. I can still celebrate and remain uninebriated. Maybe I can offer to be the designated driver for people.

Cheers to working on my health! Yes I see the irony in that. But hey, I got this.

Looking At The Path- Not The Obstacles.

I don’t talk much about my battles with depression. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt awful- I really hope it’s a thing of the past. Let’s start in the past for those of you who didn’t know me very well. (Warning: Today’s blog is longer than normal)

I was a gangly, gawky, awkward teenager. Because I stood out, and like most other teens, I was bullied but kept it to myself. At age 15 I remember crying myself to sleep wondering why I was even alive. Replaying shitty interactions in my head to figure out what I could’ve done differently. I will say though, my mother was trying her best to figure out what was wrong since all I wanted to do was sleep and was constantly “sick”. She thought it was something physically wrong with me so I had a bunch of tests done on my blood and lungs. I went along with it because it meant not going to school for the day.

By grade twelve a lot had happened in my life. I fell into a group of friends who, by all accounts, helped me “self medicate.” Every Friday we skipped school for the day and drank. Not once did we get caught or questioned by teachers or parents. This little thrill ride was all I had to look forward to each week. And then that summer hit. Drinking wasn’t the only thing happening.

Getting up before noon was not a regular occurrence- hanging out doing dumb shit all night was. Of course I had friends and girlfriends and we had fun. I just didn’t care if I would make it through my early 20’s. I was driving down a lonely path as my family life was crumbling. Anything from my youth was long since a distant memory. My parents fought more, my dad was diagnosed with cancer, my sister was working through her own stuff; being broke and couch surfing was my new normal.

Suddenly I was an adult. Somehow I lost five years of my life. My doctor prescribed antidepressants to me. I took those for about six months and lost all feeling of feeling anything. That sucked worse. So I went off them on my own accord. Shortly after I met the woman who would become my wife.

She is an incredible woman and we have accomplished a lot together. Being with her- I only wanted to do; and be; the best in my life. We were suddenly buying a house and raising a family. I had something to strive for. A better existence for my kids than what I felt I had growing up. Head down + hard work= happiness? Sort of.

I still have days where all I want to do is sleep. I sometimes don’t want to face the world as I worry that it will crash down around me. How do I cope? This is what has worked for me:

I write daily in my blog. I do my best to focus on the positives in my life. This can be difficult and sometimes I feel like I am bragging, but those of you who know me or knew me have seen me struggle to get here.

I also try and share more positive images on my Instagram with the hashtag #livingmybestlife That is a mantra that sounds hokey, but really works for me. I recently watched a video that sums up the best way to do this. To paraphrase: A skier doesn’t look at the trees that they could crash into, but rather the path between them. Focus on the journey, not the obstacles- or you will only hit the obstacles.

I still have bad days. I know many of you out there also have them. We’re in this together. I’m just Making It Up As I Go like my blog states. Perhaps I’ll figure out the recipe to battle depression. But until then, it’s just a part of me and I really want it to be a part of my past and leave it there.

Super Soft Stag

Last night I attended a stag party for a friend of mine named Jay. It was pretty tame but a whole lot of fun.

We started off at a place called The Barley Merchant. Here we were able to sample a variety of beers since there were fifty different ones on tap. Many from local breweries. We also had some appetizers and joked around quite a bit.

After a couple of hours tasting beers, we headed out for one of Jay’s favorite pastimes- karaoke. I will admit, this group of friends love singing and are quite talented. I enjoy cheering them on, since I don’t tend to get behind the microphone myself.

In a couple of weeks time Jay and Leona will be getting married. I’m really happy for them and look forward to seeing them tie the knot. They are a good match for each other.

The Vault

Yesterday we spent the afternoon and evening with a couple of friends. All of our kids were off doing their own thing, so my wife and I had a night to ourselves. First was hanging out at our place for a drink and appetizers.

Costco is great for finding quick and easy foods to share. I made some mini wontons and potato skins for us to share. Hanging out in the kitchen is always a great way to converse. Having a large kitchen island made it even better.

Afterwards we headed to a local establishment called “The Vault Restaurant”. It’s been around for ages and was built in an old bank. Kind of a steampunk/industrial feel inside. The food was great and the company was entertaining. It was ridiculously fun.

It’s been a while since my wife and I headed out for a night with friends. I’m glad we did as it turned into a fantastic evening. Date nights are becoming somewhat more frequent now that our kids are teenagers. It means my wife and I can get to know one another again. For that, I am grateful.

Hello

Our first full day in the new house has begun. The foray of chaos yesterday ended, yet the unpacking will remain for days, nay– weeks on end.

It was a bittersweet move. Emotions ran high yesterday. Everyone was happy to experience our new home and we took our first family photo in the backyard. I even broke my dry spell of almost 300 days and sipped on sparkling wine and then had a beer poolside.

Before that- I started the evening off for everyone by taking the first jump into our pool. The weather was perfect and the water was fine.

Once everyone was gone, we enjoyed seeing a sunset for the first time in years from our backyard. As much as I loved the tress in our last place, I have really been enjoying the million dollar view we have now.

As we greet our new neighbors we are also looking for some names for our home. The last place we titled, “Castle Havelka”. Our Internet still says Castle, but I’m thinking since we moved up we should call it “Kingdom Havelka”.

Let me know in the comments some suggestions for a new name should be. For now, it’s time to tackle more boxes.

It’s Five O’clock Somewhere

“It’s five o’clock somewhere.”

It’s a phrase many of us have heard, and even said, over the years.

It’ll be nice to have the pandemic behind us and celebrate once more. Sure, there’s still been enjoyment of alcohol over the past year or so. But hitting a pub, bar, or social house is something that even I long for.

Happy hour needs to happen again. We all need to let loose and enjoy one another’s company. We are so close to having this pandemic put behind us. Once it’s time to get jiggy with it, you’ll find me setting my clock to “Party Time.”

Yea. I’m tired and this post isn’t great. But that clock of mine is cheesy and I tried really hard to write a blog about it. Oh well.

Cheers everyone!

Sober St. Patrick’s Day

I’m celebrating another St. Patrick’s Day by being sober. I have been dry since the end of August which is a huge deal for me and my health. At almost seven month without alcohol, I have had a few weak moments that came close to knocking me backwards into my old routines.

Besides mentioning my sobriety in today’s post, St. Patrick’s Day is just another day. Only I’m going to wear green and have Green Tea or perhaps matcha. That’s the extent of my St. Patrick’s Day celebrating.

When I was a child, I remember green being my favorite colour. I also remember the word GREEN was one of the first words my kids ever spelled. That was because of a preschool song from when they were 3/4 years old. It was very cute. Anyone who had kids at Wind and Tide would remember the same thing.

What are you doing today? Did you remember to wear green?

I Forgot To Take Pictures- But It Happened

Today my wife and I had a lunch date at The Trading Post in Fort Langley. It was a double date with some coworkers of mine. We went to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the brewery. There was live music and good food. Pics or it didn’t happen.

I took one photo. It was as I waited outside the eatery before anyone met up with me. My wife was waiting in the car to keep warm prior to the opening. Our friends were only a couple minutes behind us. I was first in line. Just like my other years of attending their anniversaries.

We had a great time talking and eating. So much so that I didn’t take any photos. We just all lived in the moment. No sharing of life on social media. Lots of good laughs and intimate personal conversations. It was good to share in person.

So no photos. But it did happen. I’m glad it did- my wife and I needed a break from this week. A mental health break of sorts. It felt good.

Weight Loss?

I’ve never been one to push weight loss on anyone. The human race comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. I myself am a tall, lanky fella. up until almost six months ago I also drank heavily. Deep fried foods are still a favorite of mine, but I’m also trying to eat somewhat better.

For years I enjoyed taking in a craft beer or six on my days off. I wasn’t exercising or eating very healthy either. My body was not very happy with me. It started to give up and went with it. This tall skinny guy had begun to create himself quite the Beer Gut. I would shrug it off and just say, “It’s my Dad Bod.” But I also began having some heart palpitations more regularly and that finally scared me.

So I took on Sober September 3. Only instead of giving into drinking on October 1st, I stayed sober and have been since then. I didn’t lose the “Dad Bod” right away. In fact, over the Christmas period I was eating loads of rich foods and my gut was just hanging out, wondering where the beer was. Somehow in 2021, my body decided to adapt to this new predicament.

My wife got me back into using a Fitbit just after Christmas. So I began tracking my steps and watching my sleeping. She also picked up a Fitbit scale and every so often I stepped on it. Yes folks, I have lost weight. And it’s the good kind of loss. My gut has diminished finally.

There were no extreme diets. No crazy exercise regime. Just walking and being alcohol free. It has taken me almost six months to look and feel better. Both physically and mentally.

Tomorrow I am going for a lunch date to the Trading Post. What was once my favorite beer place is still my favorite restaurant. I can enjoy the atmosphere without the drinking. Besides, I am finally starting to look and feel healthy. I’m not about to shake that up.

Trading Post Temption

Yesterday my wife and I went on a quick date. We went to one of my favorite eateries in Langley- Trading Post. We always do our best to support the small businesses in our community. The only problem was I enjoyed drinking their beers- a lot.

My wife enjoyed a small glass of their cranberry sour, while I enjoyed a bottle of non-alcoholic craft root beer. I had been avoiding this location while I pushed myself into sobriety. I was worried that I would be unable to resist the urge for “just one beer.”

But I did. I’d like to say it was easy. It was in the fact that I was with my wife. Had I been with other friends or coworkers, I may not have had the strength to resist a beer. For the foreseeable future I think I’ll just keep myself out of temptation when out with friends.

Okay, maintaining our core bubble during Covid is helping. So there’s something good coming out of this.

November 25th, 2020

Normally on November 25th I go out and see my father’s final resting place, followed by a beer or two. Not today. Today I will not be drinking a beer for my father. Nor will I share any stories about him. Instead, I’d like to tell you that I hit a personal milestone that I’m genuinely proud of.

I’ve been sober for three months today. I may not have seemed like an alcoholic to most people. Looking at my posts on Instagram and the fact that I have a category called “Alcohol” in my blog- I thought I was just having normal fun- with booze.

I was a social drinker. Hanging out until last call, stopping for “a beer” with friends. Joking that “It only takes me one beer to get me drunk, I’m just not sure if it’s the fifth one or the sixth one.” It’s also one thing to have my friends looking to me as the person who is always ready for a drink.

I would often come home from work and drink a few beers. On my days off I’d drink at least twice as much each day and then finishing whatever alcohol I could find once the beers ran out. Its in my genetics to go way overboard when I do drink. However when my heart is racing after a few beers and my kids are calling me out and telling me I drink too much- I needed to reassess my life.

What started as Sober September this year has escalated into a three month win. A huge victory that I am proud of. The pilgrimage I set upon was only spoken of with those who were close to me. Talking about the burden of alcoholism isn’t easy.

If I could pat myself on the back, I am going to do it here publicly. The next month will probably be the most difficult for me to get through. I always took pride in setting up my “First Christmas Tree” of the season- the booze dispenser. My coffee would be spiked, and the eggnog as well. Not this year. This year is the new me attempting to emerge and conquer the world.

I needed to share this three month milestone. As embarrassing as it seems to be at times. Alcoholism is something I’ve lived with all my life. I have been drinking pretty regularly since I was 17. Making a fool of myself on many occasions and not knowing when or where the limit was. Alcoholism was destroying my health and my bank account. I also had a few negative memories that I left for my children. From stupidity to anger to embarrassment- I was easily losing “Father of the Year” chances more and more frequently.

Thank you for reading. I am trying to live the rest of my life the best way I can. If I falter, I hope to get back up and work towards being a better me.

Sober September Number 3

This is my third year going for “Sober September”. In fact I am already starting it early because last year I slipped and had a beer part way through the month. I won’t let that happen again this year.

If all goes well, I’m going to push for an Alcohol-Free Autumn. I’m not sure if my wife will try and join me this year. She doesn’t possess the same internal struggle as I when it comes to having a vice. In general I have more of those evil addiction traits than her.

Most of my year has had me in pictures with various beers at a variety of places. I appear to be touting the joy of drinking like an old magazine advertisement. As if drinking and fun go hand-in-hand. But seeing the last image of myself in front of my favorite watering hole, I realized I don’t look as healthy as once was. I have put on some unhealthy weight and a fake smile that I really do not like.

So wish me luck in my journey of Sober September 3. Each year gets harder than the last to let the drinking go. That is a sobering statement in and of itself.

Maxim-um Effort

Today I was going to do some organizing near our shower area. Boxes of stuff had toppled over and junk was just getting thrown in the vicinity. After taking a few things out and getting my son to store them in the barn, I decided to re-box some magazines.

I have seven years of Maxim Magazines dating back to issue number 1 in 1997. When I worked at the movie theater from 1999-2004 I regularly read the magazine. I would also leave my copy in the booth for the projectionist to peruse while waiting for films to end.

I’m passing on the magazines to my son now. I told him to read at least one article from each magazine. Some of the info is very dated (like buying the perfect big screen tv!). As well, all of the women featured are almost 20 years older now.

The first issue, he flipped back and forth stopping on stories about cars, movies from 1997, and how to cook a steak. He read out the steak one and we discussed “Grilling the Perfect Steak”. Sounded like he wants to learn to BBQ after that story. He continued on reading about the perfect toolbox starter as well.

Maxim Magazine will offer up some tips to manhood that my son may not want to ask me. I think it’s a good chance for him to see what life was like 20 years ago. Where ads for alcohol and cigarettes made people look like life is full of parties if you get drunk and smoke. He already knows that life isn’t really like that.

Did you grow up reading magazines before the Internet came around?

Upcycled Growler Caddy

My wife and I have enjoyed traveling around British Columbia and collecting beer growlers along the way. I like the majority of the artwork that accompanies the Craft Breweries- along with the beers. We have gathered quite the collection of growlers over the years.

Today I finally made a growler carrier. I wanted to get one ages ago, but most only carry two growlers at a time. I wanted a larger one that can carry three of these 1.89ml (64oz) bottles. That makes it easier to transport them around.

There was a couple of old cupboard doors in our storage made of tongue and groove cedar wood. Easy to cut and put back together in a new shape. I also had an old closet dowel rod for the handle.

It took me a couple of hours to pull apart the doors and put everything back together. Here’s a secret- I only cut the two sides a bit shorter as the rest fit nicely together. The two doors had boards holding them together that I cut in half and made spacers for the growlers. A bit of sanding, some wood glue and a nail gun finished off my project. Because the dowel was so long, I decided to trim it down on one end to hold 4 small beer glasses. I figure that if I don’t like that part, I can always cut it off.

Now I’m ready to take this out for BBQs and camping! Plus it’ll be easier to get the growlers filled each time, as they won’t roll around my car anymore.

I love making stuff and repurposing items that would normally be disposed of. My holder may not be perfect, but it does the job it needs to do- carry my beers.

Loving Canada

Today is Canada Day! I am proud to be Canadian. So much so that I work for Canadian National Railway. Just kidding, I work for the railroad because I love trains. Man, I cannot say that with a straight face. I work for CN because I enjoy making money to live.

Moving on…

Growing up, I remember my father always drinking Molson Canadian Beer. When I turned legal drinking age, Molson was my go-to beer for many years. Mostly because I’d buy a $20 t-shirt and get a free case of beer. (At least that’s what I told myself, but clearly it was the opposite).

There was a commercial years ago put out by Molson that I enjoyed. I Am Canadian aka Joe Rant. It felt like the commercial was made for me specifically. I rewatch it every year. I also share it every year. I am a proud Canadian and love this country with all of its amazing landscapes and diverse culture.

My name is Joe.

AND I AM CANADIAN.

Happy Canada Day!

One More To Go

I have one more shift to go at work before a week of vacation kicks in. I’m so excited I can hardly contain myself. The crazy part is that I don’t have much planned for my time off. Our Disneyland trip is on hold due to COVID-19. We were looking forward to spending The Fourth of July in the USA for the first time ever. I assume it’d be a big deal. Especially in Disneyland!

I still plan on being not-so-sober during my time off. I do have a few days of camping planned with most of my family and a friend with his kids. Last summer he joined us and, well, drinking was pretty much non-stop. But the weather was great and so were the kids. So why not go for round two?

It’ll be hard to make it through that last day of work without a big smile on my face. Somehow, I’m sure I’ll survive until that first beer hits my lips. Then it’ll be a blur.

Kayaking the Salmon River, Fort Langley

Today my wife and I went out kayaking again. We drove towards our children’s school, and sauntered down the Salmon River in Fort Langley.

We parked along Glover Road and walked down a path and put the kayaks into the water. My wife and I slowly followed along the water for around and hour and a half. It was a nice leisurely paddle. But we also knew that we’d have to paddle back.

It was another calm, zen like experience. Since we were in Fort Langley, we decided that we would stop at The Trading Post for a snack and a beer. It was a great experience, we even made friends with an older couple who were out on a motorcycle cruise.

If the weather holds up into tomorrow, we hope to kayak once more locally. I’ll be sure to share that experience here on my blog.

Joe-Toberfest

Today I really wanted to make full sized soft pretzels. I decided to make them a part of our dinner. Besides mustard, what could I make with dinner? I remembered back to Oktoberfest 2018 at Trading Post. I didn’t make a cheese dip, I went with something else.

I took some Italian Sausage and squeezed the meat out of the casings. I fried the meat in a cast iron pan before adding two cans of tomato soup. I then added some sour cream and Dijon mustard. I served the soup as a side for the pretzels. We also had some sweet potato fries as our vegetable. Although deep frying them probably negates any health benefit.

I chose to have a Czech Pilsner with dinner. Having finally figured out how to play Spotify throughout the house the other day, I put on some Polka music. Because, why not? The family devoured dinner and we had a great time enjoying the music. I’m not sure we will ever get to Oktoberfest in Germany. But who knows. Maybe one day.

Cheers!

More At Home Time

Today was another day spent at home. I will say though, I’m really enjoying the fact that our house is feeling like a home once more. The family has pulled together and been a great help over the past few weeks.

We’ve done tons of cleaning inside already. The weather was beautiful today, so it was spent gardening. The kids helped tremendously today. I’m really satisfied with the results.

As we were working, my favorite brewery delivered some beers to our home. Within an hour of my order, they were at my door with a much desired beer for the weekend. Big thanks to Trading Post for the backyard beers!

For a break afterwards, the kids had some free time to do what they wanted. What they wanted to do was surprising to me. Our son played trumpet outside on the tree deck. Our oldest daughter did some painting on her canvases and our youngest read a book. Afterwards the four of us worked together and baked an apple pie. So amazing!

What a great life to live. Even in solitude.

Cancel Those Beer Plans

I’m not one for going out on St. Patrick’s Day as it is, which is fine. It’s a fun type of celebration for many though. From plastic leprechaun hats to green beers- people love to have a raucous of a time today.

With today being St. Patrick’s Day, it would normally be filled with people going out and having a good time. But due to the recent pandemic, it is recommended that people stay away from large gatherings. Sadly this may mean no green beers in the pub. The world needs a touch of good luck, but we seem to have a No Leaf Clover kind of day. Hopefully things get better before they get worse.

If you are still going to celebrate with some beer- do it safely from the comfort of your own home. Maybe Skype or FaceTime some friends instead. Practice that new buzz term- Social Distancing. As I’ve gotten older, I enjoy Social Distancing already. So, here’s my virtual clinking of a glass to you-

Cheers!

Roaring Good Time

Last night was a Fundraiser for our oldest’s Dry Grad coming up in June. It was a dance with a 1920’s Prohibition Theme. The parents who attended went all out making the dance a memorable and fun event.

The ladies dressed in 1920’s era outfits. The men wore suits with suspenders and bow ties. My wife and I included.

My wife and I enjoyed the night out. We had a ton of fun taking pictures and being ridiculously 1920’s. It looked like the school was going to earn quite a bit of money for the the Grade 12 Dry Grad.

It’s great to have fun and let loose. Themed costume parties are also amazing when everyone participates. Last night was no exception.

Four Years of Beers

Last year I went to Trading Post in Langley to celebrate Three Years of Beers. The year before I enjoyed Two Years of Beers. I was also there for the Grand Opening when they first started up. I have been a loyal customer and beer connoisseur of what the Trading Post has to offer. I have visited their three locations and will continue to do so.

The other day I received a message from a person whom I met up with last year at the anniversary. He was hoping to meet up again this year. Our friendship was formed over a mutual friend… and beers. I also met with a couple former coworkers from various past employments of mine.

As the afternoon went on, we had some good talks and loads of laughs. It was great to meet with everyone who makes life a bit more enjoyable. It’s all about networking, right? Or just enjoying life.

Now, I have a nice collection of specialty glasses each celebrating the various anniversaries from Trading Post. I also have a great collection of friendships that I have accumulated over the years. Taking the time to enjoy people’s company over a beer or two makes me happy.

Anniversaries are a great way to keep in contact with others. An anniversary of a brewery is even better.

Irn-Bru

My favorite drink In The World is Irn-Bru. It’s a Scottish soft drink with a unique flavor. What is the flavor of Irn-Bru? I like to describe it as an orange cream soda.

I first had some in Scotland back in 1995 when I was 19. I couldn’t get enough of the stuff. My favorite part about traveling in Scotland was buying Vodka and Irn-Bru at almost every pub. I brought some bottles home to share with friends. The soda didn’t last long as everyone enjoyed it. It took me a few years to find it here in Canada.

When I did find it for sale- boy was I excited! I bought it every chance I got because of the scarcity of it. Oh, and the cost was a bit ridiculous for a soda, so I limited my purchases. Paying $10 for 2 liters is a bit much or $4 for a small bottle. The problem now is that I introduced my kids to the drink, and they love it too!

Today I found a neat looking bottle of vodka that I had to own. And what better way to enjoy the vodka with than some Irn-Bru? Tonight I’m enjoying a vodka and Irn-Bru. It brought back some great memories. Perhaps one day I’ll share with my kids some vodka and Irn-Bru. Until then, this is my treat.

Bailey’s Blues

I’m going to start this off by saying, I’m not an alcoholic. Now for some background into that statement.

Yes, I do enjoy having beer, wine and other spirits. I have shared plenty of stories of my journeys to a variety of breweries and distilleries. I also go long periods without a drop. I don’t tend to buy a lot of hard liquor or flavored liqueurs. Most often is around Christmas time to share with family and friends.

I pick up a bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream every year. For the past few years it has been coming with a free mug that we have been gifting to our daughter- and she loves them. In fact, she gets upset if anyone else uses one. So her brother and sister know to stay clear of those mugs, as do my wife and I. I look at it as buying a $20 mug and getting a free bottle of Bailey’s.

This year, for whatever reason, my best friend has been gifting me a bottle of Bailey’s every time he comes out. And every time he comes over- the bottle keep getting bigger. We received one in July, one in October and another in December. Plus the one we pick up in order to get the mug- that adds up to a ton of Irish Cream. Basically the large one he brought us last week and the one I picked up are still full.

If I keep adding it to my morning coffee, I’m going to become immune to the effects and start increasing the doses until there’s no more coffee in my mug. How do I ask my friend to stop bringing me such a tasty beverage without sounding ungrateful?

Or rather, how do I convince him that next time he should bring Kahlua?

Rich and Egg-citing Foods

The winter season is all about food. Yesterday I mentioned Leftovers and previously I wrote about Christmas Baking. But there are other rich foods that I love and only enjoy this time of year.

Egg Nog.

The thick, sweet, dairy product that makes me feel bloated with joy. As an adult I have moved on from adding dark rum to this beverage. Now I mix it with Fireball or Gingerbread Rum. It makes my insides feel like I’m getting tipsy on what Christmas should taste like.

Deviled Eggs

Oh my. I could eat a plate of these little creamed yoke treats. But my brain knows that my body would be unhappy afterwards. So one, maybe two, are enjoyed. A simple delicacy that was often found at picnics or potlucks of the 70’s and 80’s. Now they dawn our table at Christmas. Our son made these ones and they turned out delicious- as always.

What rich foods to you over indulge with over Christmas?