Tag Archives: weight loss

A Draught Experiment

Because my son lives with me and is on intensive supervised release for a 50-month prison sentence, I am not allowed to have alcohol in my house.  Or drugs.  Or weapons.  But I wouldn’t even know where to get my hands on either of those.

I have to admit I was worried that I couldn’t do it—not have alcohol in my home.  Over many years I had developed some habits.  Living alone, there was no one to question them.

It went like this: I would get home and have a beer or a glass of wine.  Then another one, and sometimes another one.  Especially if I was into some TV show, it was easy to just keep the wine bottle on the table next to me so I wouldn’t have to get up and walk to the fridge for a refill.

This was my habit almost every night, except for the occasional night I went out for happy hour, which just involved a different venue.

So I really wondered—what will I do—now that I can’t drink at home?  Was I really an alcoholic after all?  Would I sneak alcohol into the house?  Drink it in my car in the parking lot?  Would I stoop, literally, to drinking in the unheated, spider-web-filled basement?  Would I be going to happy hour seven nights a week?  Would I start stuffing my face with cookies or driving out to Mystic Lake Casino to gamble, as a substitute?  Would I go through withdrawal?  Would I have to check into Hazelden and if so, could I get a family discount since my dad, Vince, and however many cousins were alumni?

I had a notion that this could be an opportunity, but I didn’t know for what.

It’s been three months since Vince was released.  Not drinking in my home has not been a problem.  I joined a private club that’s a block from my house with the idea that I could amble over and have a few cups of cheer without having to drive home.  It’s a nice place but I learned that I don’t like going to the same place all the time, so I dropped my membership after a few months.

I haven’t gone wild with cravings.  I haven’t snuck alcohol into the house except once or twice, when I stopped at home to change in between the liquor store and going out to a dinner party.  I am not aware that I’m eating any more.  Once in a while I do wish that I could watch my favorite TV program and have a glass of wine, but it’s not a huge deal.  I have enjoyed going out for happy hour twice a week or so, with different friends to different places.  I have also found myself shopping more, but that could be because I just bought a new house and I need stuff.

But here’s the unexpected result: I’ve lost five pounds without even trying!  I can only assume it’s from all the alcohol calories I’ve passed up.  I’ve tracked my drinks and calculated that I’ve foregone over 8,000 calories since Vince moved in.  Thank you, Vince!  I’m probably not watching as much TV, either, because without my sedative of choice I don’t get lulled into a stupor in front of the boob tube.

When Vince mentioned last week that he had a lead on a house share situation, I had mixed feelings.  I was happy for him but worried about myself—would I quickly revert to my former habits?  Maybe I could keep up a self-imposed ban on alcohol in my house.  Right.  Uh huh.

The house deal fell through, and I was relieved.



I am writing this on Sunday to post on Monday, which is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. I will go to early services, then spend much of the day outside. I love the High Holidays because, for one thing, the weather is always beautiful—crisp and cool, with the leaves starting to change colors and the sky intensely blue. Even though I no longer believe in god, I feel it’s important to participate in community, so I go to services. Now there’s a new prayer book for my stream of Judaism, Reform Judaism, that acknowledges many people’s disbelief. I don’t know if the synagogue I’m going to has it yet, but I look forward to buying a copy. I think that’ll make me feel more “legitimate” walking in the door.

In the evening some friends will come over for dinner. Vince is looking forward to making a real hearty, holiday meal.

Vince has been home for five days. There was so little information available ahead of time that I didn’t clock on to the fact that he’s on house arrest. I don’t know the difference between probation and parole but I thought he’d be on one or the other and would be able to come and go as he pleased, as long as he was doing constructive things like job hunting or going to AA meetings.

But no, he is confined to the house 24/7 except for job hunting from 9-2 Monday through Friday and other things he has to clear with the agents. So for instance he proposed an AA meeting on Saturday night and that was approved but he hadn’t researched how far away the meeting would be or, more important, that there was a meeting at that time—which there isn’t. So he’s looking forward to fine-tuning his schedule.

Yesterday he had a two-hour window approved to go shopping. I thought he would enjoy the farmers market, with all the colors, choices, and people watching. Not to mention, it’s cheap. I dropped him off with some reusable shopping bags and went to park the car. These are the bags.

A few minutes later I got a text from him:

I don’t like it here. There are no instructions. And I’m the only one with purses.

These are the “purses,” aka shopping bags.  Do they look gay?


He was overwhelmed. I joined him and explained that everything was “two dallah.” We consulted our list for the holiday dinner and he seemed to relax into the experience. Then we went into the adjacent Asian market, which was even more crowded and full of the smells of live fish. He got a kick out of some of the items:


Last stop, Aldi, also crowded. I am normally a very slow and deliberate shopper but even I was sick of the shopping crowds, so we threw a bunch of stuff in the cart and got back to the house with time to spare.

It is definitely a big adjustment for me to live with someone. The condo is 825 square feet, not large by American standards.

This morning we both got up and out of the house at 7:30 am for exercise. He ran, I walked. I stopped in at the nearby YWCA to get membership info and picked up a scholarship form for Vince. I gave it to him when I got home and won’t ask him every day, “Did you fill out that form?” It’s none of my business.

On the other hand, when I walked into the bathroom and saw some clothing tags next to the wastebasket instead of inside it, that was my business.

“Vince, what would they have done at boot camp if you’d thrown trash on the floor next to the wastebasket?”

“Ah, someone would have picked up after me,” he joked. I think he was joking. Anyway, the tags were gone next time I looked. No drama.

So that’s all I have to do for a year—know when to say something and when to bite my tongue. So far there has been no yelling, eye rolling, sighing, or crying.

A great day for freedom


It’s good to be home. After 15 months of incarceration, I’m finally able to type my own words. The first few days have been fairly uneventful. I’ve mostly been relaxing, healing, and setting up my schedule for this week. I took the train down a good portion of University Avenue and back. There were a lot of people everywhere. it’s overwhelming. But I survived. I have a few more posts coming from my last few days in Willow River. Then it’s on to the next phase of my life. Thank you to all our followers, I hope it has been helpful and entertaining at the very least. Here’s the last few posts from prison.

8-2-15   On day two, our first full day of boot camp, we had our initial weigh-in. I had arrived in St. Cloud at an alarming 216 pounds. I did a little better when i got to Moose Lake at 201, with a body-fat percentage of 14.4%. Today we had our final weigh-in. When I saw the numbers appear, I was shocked. 173 pounds and 9.5% body-fat. I succeeded in both of my fitness goals! Then we ran our test-out mile. My entrance mile was 11:14. I shaved off four and a half minutes. One mile in 6:45. I was breathless after i ran but it still felt good.

I feel good about myself in so many ways. I am so ready to get out of here.

OK, that’s all for now. Typing is very frustrating for me. I need to work on that.







A Visit, at Last


I went to visit Vince on Sunday, for the first time in over eight months.

Given my last experience with visiting, my subsequent six-month ban, the fact that my last four letters to him were destroyed, and that he’ll soon be released, I thought I could skip this visit.   But he really wanted me to come.  I’m his only visitor, so he hasn’t seen anyone from the outside for a long time.

Friends made suggestions for what I should wear to prevent a repeat of the unfortunate “low-cut blouse” episode.  A nun’s habit, suit of armor, a sleeping bag, a burqa … the list went on and on and it was all very ha, ha, ha but I was really very anxious.  It’s indescribable unless you’ve experienced it firsthand—the feeling of being at the mercy of a stranger in uniform—the powerlessness, uncertainty, and fear.  And I’m not even in prison.

Problem was, I don’t own a T-shirt or a button-up shirt or a turtle neck.  I don’t like clothing that constricts around the neck.  I was inspired to put on one of my uncle’s dress shirts—the uncle who died in December whose shirts I took for Vince.  I could have fit two of me inside it.  The sleeves fell down six inches below my fingers and the shirt tails fell to my knees, but it I could button it up to my neck.  Maybe it would bring me good luck.

The hour-and-a-half-long drive to Willow River went smoothly and I arrived a few minutes before visiting hours.  The gate was closed so I pressed the intercom button.  A voice told me to leave the grounds and wait on the highway until visiting hours started.  I looked at my cell phone and said, “You mean, in four minutes?”  “Yes,” he answered.

A year ago I would have made a sarcastic remark but I wasn’t going to take any chances.  I said, “Okay” and backed down the drive.  I killed the engine and reflexively reached for my cell phone, then realized I had not left the grounds so I started the car up again, drove out to the highway, and sat there on the side of the road with my emergency lights on as cars and trucks zoomed by me.

After four minutes I drove back in and the gate was open.  This facility is much smaller than St. Cloud or Moose Lake.  There were no bars, metal doors, metal detectors, or guards behind plexiglass.  My hand was shaking as I filled out the visitor-request form, but within 10 minutes I was waved into the visiting room and there he was.  When I hugged him I could feel how much weight he had lost.  “People would pay to come here!” I said, laughing.  “I know, mom, I’ve never been in such great shape in my life,” he said.

“And by the way, I just got a demerit because you arrived early.”

What a splash of cold water!  Vince got a demerit because I arrived four minutes early.  It would be one thing if I had known this was a no-no, but I had checked the visiting rules online the day before and they said nothing about it.  “Don’t worry about it, mom.  That’s just how how it is.  There’s no way of knowing what the rules are until you break one.  They’re looking for a reaction, and I won’t give it to them.  Just don’t show up early when you come to pick me up on my last day.”

“If I were staying in longer, you could do a video visit,” Vince told me.  “They’re promoting it heavily—one hour for only $99.95!”  We burst out laughing at the absurdity of it, but he explained that a hundred bucks was cheap for the many families who had to drive from Chicago and pay for hotel rooms.

Our two hours together flew by.  I drove home and felt completely drained.  Two hundred miles, two hours with my son, two weeks til he comes home.

Whole Lotta Saggin’ Goin’ On


My blue plastic chair, when in its proper place with me sitting properly in it, faces the bathroom.  Luckily for me, there is a shower curtain that usually is pulled over the eight foot entrance.  Usually.  Well, say 50% of the time.  So, anytime I look up from reading, writing, or reflecting, I have little choice but to see inside the bathroom.  And every time there’s a lot going on in there as you can imagine there would be with three urinals, three toilets, and eight showers.  I see a lot more skin than I ever want to see again.

I say that to say this: I’m glad that at no point in my life was I morbidly obese.  It’s no secret that our country is fat.  Well, there are a lot of fat criminals, too.  Unfortunately, at a place like this, people tend to lose a lot of fat, but not a lot of skin.  It’s … unsettling.  It makes me cringe.

And now a short list of things I want to eat my first day out: An avocado, sushi, a Dairy Queen Blizzard ® with both Reeses ® cups and Butterfinger ®, and although I don’t believe it’s technically edible, a large cup of quality coffee.

50 days to go.  Have I ever mentioned my fear of needles?  I must have.  Well, my name was called to go to health services and when I walked down the corridor and rounded into the room, I froze.  On the table in front of the bad man wearing blue latex gloves was a pile of syringes.  I couldn’t speak and I knew he could see my color draining away so he said, “It’s just Mantoux, to screen for tuberculosis.”  This was about the best news there could have been.  I can handle a needle going almost anywhere as long as it isn’t a vein.

Only twice in my life has a needle entered directly into my bloodstream.  Once in Hazelden in 2001, and once when I went to the hospital when I thought I was dying.  It turned out I had Salmonella, which they found out through my feces.  I was actually angry that my blood work came back clean.  It took four nurses to do the blood draw: one to remind me to keep breathing, two to talk to me while the fourth stole my blood.  I don’t think I heard much of what they were saying.

I’m also afraid of surgery.  I can’t listen to people talk about it.  I can’t watch it on TV, or look at pictures of it.  I don’t think I will ever have surgery, however necessary, because it combines my two least favorite things.

[ANNE: I too hate having blood drawn, and I have fainted a couple times, once hitting my jaw on the side of a table while I was going down.  Vince fainted once, just listening to someone talking about surgery.  I don’t know if it’s a physical or psychological thing (could Vince have learned or inherited this aversion from me?).  I’ve learned to ask for three things: 1) a “butterfly” needle, which is thinner than the standard one; 2) that I lie down while they do the draw; and 3) that they talk to me to distract me.  Health care folks are always happy to do these things; they don’t want me falling onto the floor any more than I do.]

A Simple Plan


This morning we had another weigh in.  This time on the fancy scale in the Health Services.  My math was a little off I think when I last mentioned my weight because I had used the scale in the weight room.  Anyhow I weighed in at 181 pounds with 11% body fat.  That’s eight pounds less than last time.

I wasn’t sure what to make of that, but then the Physical Trainer said it was very good.  I’ve lost 20 pounds since I got to boot camp and 35 pounds over the last year.

My goal which I set for myself is only six pounds away, and I have two months to reach it.  I will succeed.

62 days and a wake up.  Some days, it seems too far, some not.  I’m exhausted.  Must keep going.

We had our brown hat reviews today.  I did as well as I expected I would.  I will be getting my new hat as soon as the two graduating squads leave this coming Tuesday.

This is the final phase in the incarceration part of the program.  We’ve made it through 18 weeks.  Eight weeks to go of the highest level of expectations.

Not all of us earned out hats, but they will over the next two weeks.  As a squad, we did pretty well.  And, as a 17 man squad, we have already lost over 300 pounds!

Summer is here.  I don’t remember every day being so humid as a child.  Maybe it just didn’t affect me as much.  Who knows.  I’m sitting at my “desk” (my desk is my lap with a folder on which I write.) and the A.C. is on full blast but my clothes are still sticking to me.  Yuck.  Always wearing our full khaki uniform has its disadvantages.

The book I started last week, A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, is amazing.  It explains everything clearly that I never understood in biology, chemistry, astronomy, mineralogy, etc.  Ok I never took some of those classes.  Anyhow, I’m learning a lot about how much it took for me to be in existence, and how lucky we are to be here now.  And, in relation to everything around us, how little time we have to enjoy.  I don’t ever want to waste any more time being locked up.  Such a waste.  All I have to do is never get high or drunk again and I should be alright.  So, that’s my plan.

Fit, Fat, Ffffttt


This morning at 0645 hours I finally achieved my goal of completing a run. I ran 4½ miles without stopping. It hurt a lot, especially with some cramping near the bottom of my ribcage, and general soreness in my knees and thighs, but I was too happy to care. I did it.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it every time, but I do know now that it’s possible. On a side note, I started taking a probiotic supplement today. I think it’s supposed to help me with my poops. But for now it just makes me fart a lot. More on that later.

Two days later, 0633 hours. My down day, my second least favorite day. Yesterday was tough. For the first time since my arrival we did not go out on work crew assignments. We did, however, practice marching. The worst was from 1415 to 1610 [2:15-4:10pm] when we did half step march (120 steps per minute) up and down the side of the track. Half step is difficult because it’s faster and we have to pick our boots up about 6 inches from the ground every time to keep us all in line. It looks nice, but doing it for two hours hurt.

That wasn’t the worst of it. We had to wear our full khaki uniform and work gloves and a hat. Ugh. So hot. My gloves were soaked by the end. We did a total of five hours of marching yesterday. I’m still alive.

I completed the run again. 4½ miles. I even felt great afterwards. This is especially good because our brown hat review is in a few days. It’s the second of four big reviews. We will have a meeting with our case manager, counselor, squad officer and physical trainer. We will go over everything positive and negative from the past month. If all goes well, we get upgraded from red hats to brown hats. That means our seniority goes up, and we have more responsibility. More on that later.

We had our monthly weigh-in this morning. I went from 194 pounds and 13.4% body fat to 189 pounds and 11.2% body fat. That’s pretty good for a month. It means I’m turning fat into muscle, I think.

[ANNE: Eleven percent body fat!? That’s so unfair! I signed on with a personal trainer for the first time in my life about a month ago, and she measured me at 34% body fat. Ugh. I’ve always loved weight training, and she has added all sorts of cardio, which I hate because I hate sweating. But I am doing it. And after three weeks Ta Da! Still 34% body fat, no weight loss, not an inch lost. Again, ugh. She told me not to be discouraged, to keep it up. I mentioned that Vince is at 11% and her jaw dropped: “That’s really, really good for a 36-year-old man,” she said. Skeptical analyzer that I am, I wonder if the devices at the Y and in prison are different? Maybe I could find some way to have them test my body fat when I finally get to visit Vince? No, that’s crazy thinking. Now I understand why there’s such an obsession with naming thing “boot camp,” if it gets those kinds of results.]