Featured

How to Make an Alcohol-Free Bar at Home

It all started about a year ago when I discovered I needed some serious serotonin support. I connected with a great psychiatrist and started a new medication for my condition. I had taken mental health meds in the past, and although this was a different brand, I figured it would be just like before; I could have a drink or two and be fine.

One evening, I was sipping a glass of wine and started to notice some new side effects. I was dizzy, disoriented, and my heart was pounding. It was getting worse by the minute. I had to lay down, and was pretty much useless the entire next day. Why did the alcohol really affect me so much? Then I put two and two together. I realized with this new medication, I can’t drink alcohol anymore. Now what?

To say I was devastated would be a massive exaggeration. Truthfully, I was pretty bummed and maybe a bit distraught. My biggest questions were about how to replace my unwinding ritual. I started to wonder “What do I drink at happy hour if I can’t drink alcohol? “and “Will people judge me if I can’t drink anymore?”

I can’t drink alcohol anymore. Now what?

what do I drink if I can't drink alcohol

Now keep in mind, I know plenty of people who can have their cake and eat it too. I did so for years. Several folks can drink responsibly even when taking mental health medication and manage just fine. Cheers to you!

But the majority of psychiatrists and pharmacists don’t recommend mixing Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) with alcohol. This combination can make you feel extra drowsy, hinder the effectiveness of your medication, or make your anxiety or depression worse the next day.

Could I have strong-armed my way into drinking again? Maybe. But I didn’t want to risk the side effects and decided that route wasn’t for me.

Instead, I took some time to examine my relationship with alcohol. And although I didn’t drink excessively, I had been using it as an unhealthy coping technique. Since both sides of my family had tendencies towards depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, I figured it was a sign to call it quits.

So with some hesitation, I decided to become sober curious. What is sober curious? Sober curious is when someone chooses to avoid alcohol in support of their own wellbeing. Basically, they don’t drink. A lot of people avoid drinking alcohol for personal, medical, and wellness reasons. And more people are going sober every day.

Sober curious is when someone chooses to avoid alcohol in support of their own wellbeing.

man drinks coffee instead of alcohol

The sober curious lifestyle is growing in popularity for a number of reasons. So if you’ve been thinking about going sober curious, now is a great time to do it. Many bars and restaurants have expanded their alcohol-free drink menu to accommodate sober drinkers. There are even sober bars that exclusively serve alcohol-free drinks!

While I was giddy at the prospect of enjoying a Virgin Moscow Mule with my friends, I still wasn’t sure how to replace my end-of-day ritual at home. How could I create my own sober bar? Where would I find alcohol-free drink supplies? The answers truly surprised me.

I did some research and quickly found there were a plethora of alcohol-free options out there. Distilleries, wineries, and breweries alike have taken to the sober curious movement and created delicious drink alternatives that everyone will love. In no time, I built out an alcohol-free bar at home and was enjoying a “drink” on the reg.

I named my alcohol-free bar The Temperance Bar, which is a play on The Temperance Movement. The Temperance Movement started in 1882, and shamed people for drinking alcohol. This quickly led to The Prohibition, and we all know how that turned out.

While I disagree with shaming people for drinking, I did like the idea of using temperance in a positive way. Hence, the invent of The Temperance Bar.

Distilleries, wineries, and breweries alike have taken to the sober curious movement and created delicious drink alternatives that everyone will love.

alcohol free cocktail recipes

I’m still on the hunt for the right bar cart, but I have the basics to enjoy a delicious and potent beverage without any alcohol in sight. And folks, I’m obsessed. There are so many options out there! From mocktails to beer to wine, the sober curious drinker can sip responsibly in any number of ways.

Want to make your own sober curious bar at home? Here are my recommendations on how to start an alcohol-free Temperance Bar:

Alcohol-Free Spirits

I use alcohol-free spirits all the time. They allow me to play around with various recipes and create drinks that taste almost exactly like the real thing. Here are some basic alcohol-free spirits you’ll want for your Temperance Bar:

Gin Alternative – I prefer to use Monday Gin because they use Juniper in their recipe.

Whiskey Alternative – I love Ritual’s Whiskey for its potency and smokey flavor.

Tequila Alternative – I also really enjoy Ritual’s Tequila (especially since they use jalapeños).

alcohol free whiskey alternative

There are plenty of alcohol-spirits out there; other brands I’ve tried include Seedlip, Kin, and Lyre. I consider these tinctures, mainly because they don’t taste quite as much as their distilled brothers and sisters. But they are delicious and unique in their own right. These tinctures tout very distinct flavors that can be used to build on traditional recipes or devise new cocktails combinations.

Alcohol-Free Beer

If you’re more of a beer drinker, there are various alcohol-free beer out there to enjoy. Although I have not personally tried these yet, they are certainly on my “to drink” list. But these recommendations come from my friends who are fellow sober-free folks, so you can trust they will be delicious.

Athletic Brewing Company – Their Free Wave IPA has won several awards.

Brookyln Brewery – Their Special Effects Hoppy Amber is amazing.

BrewDog – They have a crazy espresso beer called Wake Up Call.

alcohol free beer alternative

Alcohol-Free Wine

This was a big one for me. But truth be told, there’s nothing like the real thing. That being said, I still have an inkling for a glass of red wine from time to time. And there are a few options out there that will satisfy your craving. I have tried all of these, and are my favorites (so far).

Ariel Wine – Their Cabernet Sauvignon tastes almost exactly like red wine and is straight-up delightful.

Fre – I’ve used their Brut Champagne for special occasions. It’s a little bit sweet but still hits the spot.

Health-Aid Kombucha – Okay, I know this isn’t wine. But their Bubbly Rose is perfect for a summer day.

alcohol free wine alternative

To wrap it all up, sober curiosity is something to celebrate. And one way to celebrate is to find an alcohol alternative you love. It may take some time to find a drink that speaks to your taste buds. Some people prefer to avoid alcohol flavors altogether, while others like to use low-alcohol mixers, such as bitters or Triple Sec.

Whatever drink you choose, alcoholic or not, find one that makes you feel good about yourself. Ask sober friends and bartenders for ideas, experiment with mixology at home, and know that living a sober curious life can be incredibly rewarding.

I love being able to celebrate with friends without feeling foggy the next day. Knowing I’m lessening my chances of breast cancer is a big plus too. And since my husband doesn’t really like the taste of alcohol, I can enjoy going out with him in a new, more cognizant way.

Although this was an unexpected change in my life, I am happy there were so many options out there that allowed me to celebrate my choice to be sober.

Stay safe out there, and cheers!

Featured

How to find belonging in displacement

It’s been 4 months and I still feel homesick sometimes.

My husband and I left New York on March 17th. His workplace let him know they were temporarily closing as a precaution due to the pandemic, and I was working remotely. So we figured we could hunker down at my aunt’s rustic New England home for a few weeks.

We packed a month’s worth of clothing, just in case things didn’t resolve quickly, and made our way upstate. But as things developed, we realized we were in for a much longer stay than we had anticipated.

Being displaced in a pandemic can be difficult, no matter where you are

My husband made a trip down to New York to grab some more clothes and items from our apartment.

Then we started talking about breaking our lease.

Eventually we gave notice, boxed up all of our precious belongings, and left our wonderful Washington Heights home.

It’s been 4 months, and I still feel homesick sometimes.

To provide some perspective, my aunt has a truly wonderful home. She is beyond kind to let us stay with her for this long. I realize how lucky we are to live in a place that has outdoor access and plenty of space to roam. But as my husband happily settled in to our new abode, I found myself feeling less and less comfortable.

I’m a nester, through and through. And as delightful as this new home was, I couldn’t get over the fact that it wasn’t mine. I wasn’t watching tv on my couch, with my pillows. I wasn’t doing work at my desk. I felt like a stranger in the very place I needed comfort from, which was incredible difficult. I was sad, stressed, and angry that I couldn’t feel at home.

Finally, I decided I didn’t want to feel adrift anymore. We still aren’t sure where we want to live next, and don’t want to rush things. But I knew I couldn’t keep feeling this way for months on end. So I took steps to make my temporary space feel more like my own, while still respecting houseguest boundaries.

Here are a few things to try if you’ve been displaced by COVID and need more belonging in your temporary home:

  • Put up pictures of loved ones.

Even if you have to print them out, having visibility of your friends and family in your temporary dwelling will help reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness. It also mimics what you may have already set up in your previous home, which can ease the transition of living in a new space.

  • Showcase words of belonging.

The saying “out of sight, out of mind’ holds true in many ways. The same can be said of the opposite, in that placing visually positive cues in your living space can help you feel better in your everyday life. For example, I put up decorative word art throughout my work area and bedroom. I found phrases like “home sweet home” and “thankful”. These remind me that while my situation may not be perfect, I can still find a sense of home wherever I may be.

  • Dedicate a place for self care.

Since your favorite reading chair may be in storage, it’s important to create a new spot in your surroundings that’s devoted to rejuvenation. This could be your bed, the den, even the bathtub! Whatever calls out to you, devote a space to your self care activities. This will encourage your mind to feel a sense of security and allow for deeper relaxation.

Create a space for self care that is just for you
  • Create physical spaces for virtual friends.

Many of us associate our homes with seeing loved ones. Since you may be far away from friends or family it’s a good idea to intentionally set a physical space for them, even for virtual meetings. Clear a spot at the dinner table and place your computer or phone where they would be sitting. This helps your virtual get together imitate a normal gathering more closely. It may feel silly at first, but this practice can help your brain connect the dots between your established community and your temporary surroundings.

  • Build a daily ritual that is both consistent and flexible.

I was a bit of a stickler about my morning routine at the start of the pandemic. I would get up at the same time, do yoga, meditate, shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, and go to my desk for work. But this changed as my mood shifted. Some days I was depressed, and wasn’t motivated to even brush my teeth. Other days, I would get up late because I’d been tossing and turning the night before. Eventually, I threw my entire morning ritual out of the window. Why? Because I had set unrealistic expectations of myself.

I’ve since created a modified routine. It’s something I can do every day, no matter when I wake up. I meditate, eat breakfast, and either journal or do yoga. While aspects of my routine may vary, the basis stays the same. This structure gives my mind and heart something to rely on. So no matter what my circumstances are, I can feel a sense of control.

Take time to take care of your mental health

While I am not a medical professional, and realize everyone handles this kind of thing differently, I can say these adjustments helped me quite a bit. I feel comfortable saying, “Okay, I’ll see you at home!” to my husband. I notice less stress and anxiety throughout the week. And even though I have bouts of feeling homesick, it’s much less frequent and far less intense.

I know many people left New York for the same reasons I did, and now find themselves unexpectedly displaced for the long term. While this can be difficult and uncomfortable, there are ways to make the transition easier.

Be kind to yourself. Be honest about where you’re at emotionally. Be vulnerable, and let your housemates know what you’re going through. After all, we’re all in this together. And as hard as it may be, it is temporary.

I hope this helps you feel a little bit more at home, wherever you may be.

Be well,

Megan Carver

References:

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/podcasts/item/staying_close_connection_while_self_distancing

https://www.allinahealth.org/healthysetgo/thrive/things-to-do-during-coronavirus-isolation

https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20200609.53823

5 Ways to Stay Sane During A Quarantine

No matter where you live on the planet, you’ve probably been affected in some way by COVID-19. Maybe you’ve lost your job and you’re in the throws of applying for unemployment. Or maybe you’re new to working from home, and are adjusting to telecommute life. Or maybe you’re homeschooling your kids, and have a very different dynamic with your family.

At the end of the day, we’re all discovering our new “normal-for-now”. And it can be easy to get caught up in the stress of this transition period. So I thought I’d compile what I’ve learned about working from home, mental health best practices, and stress management into five takeaways to boost your attitude and help you make this the best (and hopefully last) quarantine ever.

1. Radical Acceptance

What is Radical Acceptance?

This one was new on me. I recently learned this from my therapist, and it’s been a game changer. Radical acceptance is when you accept an uncomfortable aspect of life that you may not like. This doesn’t mean you have to condone or approve of the situation.

Sheri Van Dijk, (MSW, RSW) said “It simply means that you are acknowledging reality.”

How do you practice radical acceptance? Every day, take the time to recognize that this aspect of your life is something you have to co-exist with for right now. That can be done through journaling, therapy, or even practicing mantras.

My favorite mantra of radical acceptance is “This is where I am for today.” I love this because it can apply to your physical or mental circumstance.

Radical acceptance can actually reduce stress, and allow you to better handle what you’re dealing with at the moment. So know that for today, this is how things are. But they won’t always be this way.

Note: Radical acceptance doesn’t necessarily apply to circumstances where you are in an unhealthy living situation (ie domestic violence, lack of basic needs, etc. If you are facing something severe, please seek help from your local charity or support organization.)

2. Practice Mental Hygiene Everyday

What is Mental Hygiene?

Mental hygiene is the ongoing practice of keeping your mind and emotions in a healthy place. The World Health Organization states that “health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

There are LOTS of ways to practice mental hygiene! And not just by doing meditation, although I highly recommend it… it’s done wonders for my anxiety. You can video call a friend, journal, or if things are getting intense you can even text or call a crisis hotline (for the US text HOME to 741741).

I recommend varying your method of care based on how you’re feeling each day. Some days I feel great after journaling, other days I know I have to get in a good workout, and sometimes I just need to watch cartoons with my weighted blanket.

So take a moment every day to ask yourself, What am I doing for my mental hygiene today? And set aside time to keep yourself balanced throughout the week.

3. Be Creative (When Your Cup is Full)

What if I’m not ready to be creative yet?

That’s totally okay. We’ve all heard that saying, you can’t pour from an empty cup. That applies to you even if you’re in quarantine! See above (take care of your mental hygiene) and when you’re feeling like you’re in a good place, you can get creative.

Despite the closing of movie theaters, Broadway shows, art galleries and more, we are seeing so many individuals and businesses take action to keep art alive during this time. I myself have had more outlets for creativity in the last two weeks than I have in the last six months!

Think about the silver lining of being at home: nearly everything is connected virtually, so you don’t have to travel anywhere to stretch your skills. Learn a new language, write a short story, take an online class, have a reading of your favorite movie with friends, whatever!

I’m learning guitar, building my copy editing and copywriting business, and practicing singing. NONE of which I had time for before shelter in place came along.

Make this precious time an ally, and find ways to get constructive with your hours.

4. Get Active – No, Seriously.

This is a tricky one. Because let’s face it, if you’re already an active person you probably don’t have the same access to equipment that you used to have. And if you’re not an active person, there’s even less incentive to start working out now!

But endorphins are key to building a good mood, a healthy heart, and proper digestion. It will also help you sleep more soundly, and feel a sense of accomplishment!

My personal routine is yoga and meditation in the morning and weight training at night. Even though my workouts look different than they did before, I’m still feeling all the same benefits. I love getting my zen on before starting the day, and I love seeing my slow but steady progression in weight training.

No matter how stuck I feel, exercise always helps me shake the blues. So get moving, in whatever resonates with you.

5. Remember You’re Not Alone

Why am I feeling so sad/angry/anxious?

Despite the fact that the entire world is touched by this pandemic in some way, physical distancing can make us feel isolated and lonely. Especially if you live by yourself, or if you don’t have a good relationship with the people you stay with.

But ultimately, everyone has had to significantly adjust their lives and routines to stop this pandemic from spreading (which, by the way, please comply with all CDC instructions and stay home unless absolutely necessary.)

So we can take comfort in the fact that we are not alone – we’re all experiencing this in different ways. And the best way to get through it is together.

Take the extra steps to connect with family and friends with video calls. Check on your neighbors to make sure they’re okay. Acknowledge if you need additional support with your mental wellbeing.

So let’s put all these suggestions into practice with a few mantras, shall we?

Repeat after me:

I accept that life is different right now.

I can and will take steps to stay healthy both mentally and physically.

I can and will use this time to my advantage.

I am not alone and I will reach out for help when I need it.

Here’s to a quality quarantine,

Megan

Note: I am not a medical professional. These are personal recommendations based on my experience.

References:
https://psychcentral.com/blog/what-it-really-means-to-practice-radical-acceptance/

https://www.britannica.com/science/mental-hygiene

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/26/coronavirus-may-be-deadlier-than-1918-flu-heres-how-it-stacks-up-to-other-pandemics.html

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/how-deadly-is-the-coronavirus-compared-to-past-outbreaks#So,-when-will-things-calm-down-with-COVID-19?-

How to do a great self tape audition

nervous woman prepares for a self tape audition
Yours truly, living that self tape life.

Everything you need to know to submit a great taped audition

THIS ARTICLE MAY INCLUDE AFFILIATE LINKS. MEGANCARVER.BLOG IS A PARTICIPANT OF AMAZON SERVICES LLC ASSOCIATES PROGRAM.

Maybe you dread it… Or maybe you cheer out loud! Either way, there’s usually a lot of feelings about a “self tape audition”.

What is a self taped audition?

A self taped audition is when a casting director asks actors to record their audition at home and send it in for consideration, instead of coming into their office. Self tapes are requested for film, television, stage plays and musicals.

I’ve been a professional actor for over 20 years, and finally feel confident in my self tape skills. But I was terrified for my first submission. I was certain I would somehow mess up without realizing it, because there wasn’t a casting director in the room to tell me if I needed to make an adjustment!

I’d wonder, “Who’s going to read lines with me? Do I need an accompanist for a musical theater audition? Do I need to buy a camera?”

Now more than ever, casting directors are relying on modern technology to help with the casting process. So what can you do to make sure you submit the best self tape audition possible?

Here’s a compilation of recommendations for a stellar self tape audition. Some advice is my own, and some are from casting directors and directors. So let’s dig in!

Self tape set up

An example of what NOT to do for your set up!

There are a lot of things to consider when you have to make your own home into an audition studio. If you take the time to look at your set up from the perspective of a casting director, you’ll know what you need to make a great impression!

  • Have a well lit background, without distracting visuals: You should be the main focus of your audition! Take a moment to find a well lit space with a neutral background. Patterns or furniture can pull focus, so it’s best to stand or sit in front of a wall or backdrop with minimal distractions. Check my recommendations below for ideas on lighting, backdrops, and more.
  • Have the right equipment for your audition: No, you don’t need to go out and buy a fancy camera to do a good self tape. Most smartphones will work just fine! That being said, it’s a good idea to attach a microphone to your phone (I recommend this one) so you can be clearly heard. I also recommend investing in a camera stand so you there’s no chance of submitting a shaky video.

Recruit a friend or fellow actor to help

Bribe your friends to play piano for you with gifts or money (aka pay people for their time and efforts)

You don’t have to do it alone. Best practice – ask a fellow actor, friend, or family member to come help you out. Then return the favor!

  • Get a reader: Having been on the other side of the casting table, I can say with 100% certainty I’d rather see someone audition with a reader than without one. That being said, it can be hard to find a reader for a last minute self tape submission. So if you’re in a bind, I’d recommend asking a friend to do a video call with you for your audition, so you’re reacting in real time to the lines. I would caution against reacting to a recording the other characters lines, or just reading your lines by yourself, as this rarely produces a good audition.
  • Get an accompanist for musical submissions: This is a tricky one, especially if you don’t know someone who can play piano. But it’s important to have accompaniment for musical theater auditions! If you have the resources, ask a friend or hire a professional to play for you. If this isn’t an option, you can look up karaoke tracks for your song (be sure the speaker volume doesn’t overpower your singing.) I’ve also found several accompanists on Fiverr who recorded cuts of audition songs at pretty affordable rates! Last resort is acapella.

Do the audition

Let’s get started! But, don’t wear that shirt…

You’ve got the set up, you’ve got a pal ready to read, and now it’s time to make the magic happen.

  • You don’t have to be completely off book: Yes, it’s ideal for you to know your lines. But you may not have enough time to get completely off book. That’s okay! Most casting directors don’t mind if you use your script now and again as a reference during your audition. If you can get to mostly off book, just keep your script nearby, up and out of frame of the camera, for when you need to pick up a line. That way you can glance at it without looking down and disconnecting from the scene. I recommend this technique if you want to learn how to get off book quickly. (It’s been a game changer for me!)
  • Be authentically you: The one thing you bring to the table that literally no one else can is your amazing self. You don’t have to be crazy, or goofy, or wear a silly costume to be noticed for your audition! Take time to learn about the character and their wants or needs of the scene, then connect the dots to what resonates with you as a person. This allows you to react honestly in the moment, which is exactly what casting directors want to see.
  • Do what they ask for: To slate, or not to slate? Do an accent? Go fully nude!? The information for what the casting director needs will be in the email or notice you received. If you have questions, ask! It’s okay to want clarity for the scene. Also read submission information carefully. This includes slate (reading your name and agency info), character specifics, prop usage, etc… more on this later.

Submit your awesome self tape

Don’t despair, you got this – just follow the directions!

Whew! Hard part is done. Now, how do you send your audition to the casting director?

  • Check submission information carefully: Casting directors are usually working on more than one project at a time. So they will create a specific system to keep track of incoming auditions. These are important! Double check for notes about email subject lines (name, character, project, etc), taping instructions (slate, frame, etc), and where to submit your material (a casting portal, email, public or private links, etc). These can be easy to overlook, so take the time to do it right.
  • Edit with care: There are lots of ways to edit your self tape audition. I use my smartphone (this is the app I use) or sometimes I’ll use my computer to make edits (I use this program). Before you start to edit, be sure to check if the casting director has any specific notes about how the material should be cut together. If you’re filming multiple scenes, default to making separate takes and then edit them together into one video.
  • Be sensitive with audition material: You may be auditioning for something that’s currently on the air or in development, and new material has to be kept under wraps. Pay attention for any requests for NDA signatures (a non-disclosure agreement) or privacy requirements for your video. Some casting directors will ask that you make your video private or password protected, which can be done on both Vimeo and YouTube. You wouldn’t want to disqualify yourself for spilling the beans too early!
  • Submit as soon as freaking possible (within reason): Your audition isn’t due for another 5 days – great! Now you have 4 days to prepare, right? Nope. Give yourself enough time to feel solid about the material, and then get to taping. Some casting directors will cast as submissions come in. This means they need to cast the project as quickly a possible! If they find a good fit in the first several submissions and you haven’t sent in yours yet, you may miss out. Take the time you need to feel good about your work, but don’t procrastinate.

At the start, self tape auditions can feel daunting and overwhelming. I’ve learned to love the process, and have a lot of fun with them! The best thing you can do for yourself is be prepared, create a good at home set up, find a few friends who can help you out along the way, and pay attention to directions from casting.

With a little preparation, you can bring your best self to the audition – no matter if it’s in a casting office, or in the corner of your kitchen.

Break legs,

Megan Carver

Resources

PS – Here are some resources I recommend for solid self tape game: