What do you drink when you’re not “drinking”?

This is probably the question I get asked most often. Short answer: a sh*t ton of water. I carry a BPA-free water bottle with me wherever I go (probably something everyone should do, especially during these brutal LA summers) and my favorite thing about my water bottle (made by Contigo) is that it has measurements on the side of the bottle so I know exactly how much water I’m drinking every day. (Health note: To figure out how much water you should be drinking divide your body weight by two and that’s the minimum number of ounces you need per day, adding an extra 8oz. for every workout and every cup of coffee).

Now, there are times when water just won’t cut it for me in more social situations, so I’ve compiled a list of my favorite drinks for different scenarios!

1) House Parties: I love a good, friendly get-together, but when I started sobriety, I was never sure what to bring when the invite stated “BYOB”. I felt weird bringing a bottle of wine or a case of beer that I obviously wasn’t going to drink, luckily the tasty brainiacs over at La Croix came up with the perfect solution. I’m OBSESSED with this sparkling water. It comes in cases of 8 or 12 cans, so it’s easy to carry and the packaging always adds a nice festive touch. The best part is the variety of favors. Right now, my current favorite it “Cerise Limon” (cherry, lime), but they offer everything from plain seltzer to standard lemon or lime to grapefruit (another one of my favorites). The drink is zero calories and naturally flavored so you don’t have to worry about added sugars and fat, and each flavor has the perfect amount of sweetness. Though, it’s my favorite drink to bring as my date to any party, it’s pretty much my go-to for every situation.

2) Bars: I love being social and I still love going to bars, even though I don’t drink. Actually, I probably love going to bars more now because my tab at the end of the night doesn’t cost me an overdraft fee on my debit card in the morning. The tricky thing about going to bars as a sober person is that you burn out a lot faster. If I go out around 9pm, I’m usually starting to get a little sleepy before midnight. This is when I let myself have a sugar-free Red Bull. I know, this stuff isn’t the best for me, so to avoid having a heart attack, I only have one, and I nurse that one for pretty much the entire night. When it’s gone I switch back to club soda. This is also the only situation where I’ll drink soda. I’m a big fan of cherry coke, so ordering a diet soda with a pinch of grenadine gives me that indulgence I’m craving.

3) Dinner: My favorite way to socialize usually involves stuffing my face. Before sobirety, I LOVED the pre-dinner cocktails, especially in LA where it seems every bar/restaurant is constantly competing to have the tastiest, most unique drink on their menu. I’ve found that most places can make just about anything “virgin-style”, and they are still totally delish. I’ve started asking for craft-style lemonades wherever I go and the bartenders are usually up for the challenge. (Bonus: if you’re with a group of drinkers, most of the time the restaurant won’t even charge you for your virgin cocktail, I don’t know why this is, but I’ll take a free drink any day).

4) Dinner Parties: Another favorite. I love hosting dinner parties and cooking for my friends, but that inevitably means that everyone brings a bottle of wine to contribute to the festivities. The real kick in the groin for me is that I’m allergic to apples (which I take as further evidence that I was actually Snow White in my past life), so I can’t drink the cliche sparkling cider that is every parents’ go-to for the kid’s table at Thanksgiving. So, this is when I break out the fancy ginger-ale. I don’t really like the standard grocery store, soda version (too many flavored syrups and bad sugars), but I LOVE ginger beer (specifically, Bundaberg Ginger Beer) . The biggest difference between the two is that gingerbeer is fermented. Traditionally, ginger beer did contain small amounts of alcohol, but now-a-days, the majority of brands do not contain any. Because ginger beer is fermented, it has a much stronger, gingery flavor and it also contains some healthy bacteria, which aides in digestion, making it the perfect companion for another social gathering in which I stuff my face.

5) Brunch: Bottomless Mimosa Brunches are definitely a thing, at least in these parts, and saying no to a $10 all you can drink special in a fancy champagne glass, can be a challenge. I recently discovered the BEST alternative for this situation… Elderflower. My five-year-old best friend has been going on and on about this stuff for about as long as I’ve known her, so I finally decided to give it a try, and let me tell you, the kid was right. Most restaurants carry it to use in different cocktails, but I order it with either sparkling water or lemonade and it adds a wonderful, festive sweetness to my fancy brunch outing. You can also get elderflower lemonade at some grocery stores and liquor stores now, so I keep a bottle in my fridge for whatever special occasion may arise. (My favorite at the moment is Belvoir Fruit Farms Elderflower and Rose Lemonade).

So, there you have it. What to drink when you’re not drinking!

(Editor’s Note: A BIG THANK YOU to the kind folks over at La Croix for sending me so many yummy cases to keep my fridge stocked for the summer!)

An Open Letter to the Director, Producers, and Writers I DIDN’T Audition for Today

We never met, and that’s your fault, and your loss.

I was pretty excited about your project. Sure, the pay wasn’t great, but the sides read well, and shooting an indie feature in Greece sounded like a dream. I worked a lot on those sides. I spent most of yesterday, learning the lines, then doing the book work, then rehearsing it on my feet in front of a mirror, then rehearsing with an actor friend. I made some really strong choices for this audition. I think you would have liked what I was about to bring to the table.

Unfortunately, you and I will never work together and you will never see what I prepared and here’s why: I firmly believe in that old saying “three strikes and you’re out”. Boy, oh boy, did you strike out today.

Strike One: After driving in traffic for an hour to your production office in Canoga Park, I was greeted by a very sweet assistant, who asked me to sign in on an iPad sitting on the counter. Your sign in sheet was more of a questionnaire and I quickly scrolled through and filled in each box, until I got towards the bottom of the very long page, the part that asked for my social media handles. I asked your assistant why you needed that information, and she responded “so they can see how many followers you have”. Her response made me sick to my stomach. Her response was everything I am against, it’s a major flaw in the industry. Her response made me feel like my talent didn’t matter, my 10+ years of training didn’t matter, my resume didn’t matter. “Why hold auditions in the first place?”, I thought,” Why not just cast straight from Instagram!”. When you blatantly judge an actor based on how many social media followers they have, you’re basically telling that actor “we don’t have enough money in our budget to promote this movie, so we’d like you to do it for us, for free”. Sorry, my degree is in theater, not advertising.

I wanted to leave. I wanted to take a stand. But, I had just sat in traffic for an hour, I drove all the way to Canoga Park, I spent most of yesterday preparing for this audition, I took a beta-blocker for Godsake! “I’m here. I might as well audition”. So, I took a seat in the waiting area.

Strike Two: After forty-five minutes of waiting, I started to get a little antsy. The girl who had been waiting before me hadn’t gone in yet, and there was no sign of anyone else in the building besides the actors waiting and the assistant checking us in. So, I walked over to the sweet assistant and respectfully inquired about the time frame. The assistant looked down at her phone and told me she had just gotten a text from the people holding the audition, and they were on their way back. Wait. BACK?! Back from what?! ….Lunch.

When you called me in for this audition, your email said to come anytime between 10am and 2:30pm, and there was nothing in there about a lunch break. I would have planned my day COMPLETELY differently had I known I would be forced to wait an HOUR while you took lunch in the middle of YOUR SESSION. You came up with these times, this is your movie, and your casting, you emailed me, and you didn’t think it necessary to inform the actors that you would be taking a lunch break between 1pm and 2pm? Clearly, you have very little respect for other people’s time.

Strike Three: As I sat again in the waiting area, now squirming with frustration, a gentleman walked in holding his sides. Your assistant couldn’t get out of her chair fast enough to greet him, she shook this gentleman’s hand and asked him to sign in. After he was done giving you his Instagram and Twitter handles (I bet he has a lot of followers), the assistant escorted him to a separate room, a waiting room just for him, apparently this person, though I had no idea who he was, was very special and could not be seen sitting with us “unknowns” in the unimportant section of your production office. I barely got done rolling my eyes at this scene when you finally walked through the doors, holding your soda cups from your hour-long lunch break.

Once again, your assistant came over to us. This time, she wanted to let us know that the very special gentleman was going to be seen first, even though he had just gotten there and we had been waiting for over an hour.

And THAT was my final straw. Three strikes and I. Am. Out. I informed the assistant that I was leaving.

I’ve never walked out of an audition before, today was a first, and it happened because I couldn’t sit there for one more second feeling like less of a person. You made me feel LESS than, and you should be ashamed of yourselves. I’ve never walked out of an audition because I’ve never experienced the level of classless, unprofessionalism, that I experienced today.

Moving forward with your creative endeavors, please consider actors as equals. We aren’t second class citizens. You aren’t doing us a favor by holding these auditions. I will not bow down to you or beg you for a job. I will not sway my morals to adhere to your conditions. I will not be made to feel less than.

A really talented actor, with only 4K Instagram followers.

Day 15. Day 11.

Yesterday, (4th of July), I caved. So shouldn’t I change the title of this post to “Day 1”? No. I’m not going to do that. And here’s why:

I went out with two of my girlfriends yesterday. We made plans to go to Venice and I offered to be the DD since Ubers were going to be overpriced and I wasn’t going to drink anyway, at least that’s what I thought when I made these plans.

I woke up yesterday and started getting ready for the festivities. As I was applying the perfect shade of red lipstick to match my red, white, and blue bikini top, I thought, “I’m going to have a beer today”. I made a conscious choice to lightly partake in the party atmosphere I was about to place myself in. I decided it would be a little bit of an experiment.

Last year, I day-dreamed a lot about what it would be like to come back from a year of sobriety. I envisioned myself being social and charming while holding a drink, ONE drink. The whole reason I went a year sober was to be a more responsible drinker in 2016, and as you all know, 2016 hasn’t really gone according to plan. I’ve been thinking a lot about why that is and I think it goes back to my beliefs in being present and accountable in the moment.

I’m finding it more and more difficult to plan ahead. It’s a challenge; to say you’ll do one thing only to find that you can’t or won’t follow through with it later on because well, plans changed. I’ve always been a planner, almost to a fault, and when plans fall through, I panic. I think one of the reasons last year was such a success was because I had a plan in place and to save myself from an anxiety attack, I refused to stray from the plan.

This year, I didn’t have a plan. I had no overarching theme for the year. I had no challenge. I was going wherever the wind blew. The tricky thing about that is, you don’t get to decide which direction the wind blows, and this year, the wind blew me backwards (I’m sure there’s a “that’s what she said” joke in there somewhere).

Yesterday I turned the blowers off (that’s what she said) and I decided to steer myself for a change. I had three beers over the course of eight hours and downed more water than I do in an hour long spin class. I was pacing myself, and it felt good. For the first time this year, I felt like I was finally applying all that I had learned last year. I didn’t feel the need to take shots or do a keg stand (and both those opportunites presented themselves at these parties I went to). I laughed and danced and sang along to “Hotline Bling” with my girlfriends. I ate my weight in fried chicken and crawfish. I met a boy. I had fun! And I didn’t need to get drunk to do it! Sure, I was drinking, but I wasn’t drunk-ing. I was present and aware of what I was putting in my body and I was able to limit myself, without feeling limited (except for that fried chicken, the struggle was real with that one).

As great as all of this sounds, there was one not-so-great thing about yesterday.

I smoked. And I’m really bummed about it.

I knew deciding to have a beer also meant fighting a very, very strong urge to smoke, but I told myself I could do it, and I was looking forward to writing this post to let you guys know that I managed to stay smoke-free even with a beer in my hand. I was so disappointed in myself that after I put the cigarette out, I went to my car for thirty minutes and cried on the phone to my sister. I felt like a failure. I failed you guys, who have been so supportive and encouraging through all my ups and downs, I failed my mom, I failed myself. I broke a promise to everyone and that feels absolutely awful.

But, leave it up to my sister to always find the silver lining. As I was verbally punching myself in the face over and over again, Megan grabbed my hands and told me to stop. She pointed out how terrible I felt about my bad choice. As my head was spinning from the nicotine high and the anxiety over how I was going to write about this, Megan brought me back to the present moment. “Next time you have the urge to smoke, remember how bad this feels”, she told me. In other words, next time that quiet, almost subconscious voice in your head says “man I wish I had a cigarette, maybe I could just have one”, consciously choose to remember these bad feelings so that next time, you make a better choice.

My sister has always been the smartypants of the family.

The whole point of making mistakes is to learn from them. We only fail if we stop learning because if we aren’t learning, we aren’t moving forward, we aren’t evolving, we aren’t bettering ourselves. It’s like that famous Einstein quote, that every girl tweets at least once in her life when she can’t get over her ex, says, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again again and expecting different results”.

I’m not going to continue to smoke because I had one yesterday. I know what happens if I do that because I’ve been through this before and if I put myself through it again, that’s INSANE.

I’m a work in progress, we all are, the keyword in that phrase being PROGESS.

And that’s why I’m not going to go back to a “Day 1” mentaility. I’m on Day 15/Day 11 of progress. Through my one-year sobriety challenge and my now mostly-sober, definitely smoke-free lifestyle choice, all I’ve ever wanted was to be better, to be the best possible version of myself, and that means I’ve signed-up for a lifetime of present, conscious, wonderful progress.