At the beginning of 2020 I announced a blend of kombucha and prosecco, that I named the “Kombuchecco,” as my drink for the New Year. People who know me well know that I quit drinking, smoking and went vegan all at the same time in 2014. After four years without alcohol and a daughter in high school who was beginning to encounter alcohol at parties, I thought it was time for a comeback. How could I guide my daughter when I couldn’t even remember the taste or the tipsy?
When I stopped smoking people congratulated me. When I stopped drinking they were upset. “Why aren’t you drinking? Just have one!” I couldn’t understand it and used to quip, “It’s not a vitamin.” Why were other people so concerned if I decided not to consume alcohol? I remember my own mother many years ago asking me to have a sip of champagne at New Year’s even when I didn’t want any. “You can have a little sip.” Well, yes, I can, but if I don’t want to why should I? When I stopped drinking soda nobody cared. Why was alcohol any different?
Alcohol is ubiquitous in the U.S., much like meat. In the current COVID-19 national emergency people have flocked to grocery stores for meat, alcohol and toilet paper. I stopped eating animals because of my compassion toward them. I remember when I first stopped I had a little affirmation that I sang to myself, “being vegan makes me happy!” I had to remind myself that I chose a life without consuming animals or their secretions because I felt better about myself intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically. I was no longer a hypocrite – saving a bug, petting my dog and eating a chicken.
I stopped drinking because of my compassion for myself. I was tired of the way it was making me feel, although I didn’t really even understand all of its effects. After four years alcohol-free and two years of imbibing after such a long break, I’ve come to realize I’m happier when I don’t drink, the same way I’m happier when I don’t eat sentient beings. Life is the ultimate dope – it will remain my drug of choice.
I was in a Facebook group last week where someone asked about cutting back on wine, because they felt it was keeping them from losing weight. A member of the group recommended The Naked Mind by Annie Grace. I downloaded on Audible and have been listening during the long walks I’ve been taking lately. The book is really eye-opening in the same way my eyes were opened when I watched Food, Inc. back in 2008. Of course I know there’s a marketing machine peddling alcohol, and I know it’s not healthy. However, I’ve never been presented with so much information on the topic before. Whether you drink or not, I found the book fascinating in many ways, and many of the concepts can be applied to other addictive substances – whether nicotine, cannabis or sugar.
As we grapple with coronavirus and capitalism, it really has me wondering how a substance could go from illegal during prohibition (1920-1933) to becoming so profitable and so necessary that it’s considered “essential” in only 87 years. Along with food and medicine, alcohol is an essential product in our country. How is that possible?
When I was younger I never heard of anyone who didn’t drink alcohol (unless they were pregnant or alcoholic.) I never heard of anyone who didn’t drink the milk from cows (unless they were lactose intolerant.) I never heard of anyone who didn’t eat a hamburger or a hot dog (unless they were un-American.) Basically, something had to be wrong with them. In a capitalist culture, if you can profit from it you win. It doesn’t matter what human or animal lives are lost or destroyed in the process. We see this over and over again with the destruction of our environment and our bodies by corporations who care only for the bottom line.
It seems the most insidious way to “win” is to make the poisons so deeply embedded in our culture, we don’t know who we are without them. What’s more American than beer and hot dogs at a football game? What’s more elegant than wine and cheese? What’s more masculine than grilling a steak outdoors?
This same topic is part of our current national debate in light of coronavirus. When should states re-open? How much is a life worth?
I hosted a virtual brunch on Sunday and I asked each person to say something weird about themselves as an icebreaker. One young lady said she didn’t smoke or drink. Isn’t it a shame that that’s considered weird in our culture? I hope that fifty years from now, someone might say, “I’ve never done yoga” or “I’ve never had a green smoothie” as their weird thing, and we can all gasp in disbelief.
I encourage you to notice what brings you genuine joy versus what our culture dictates.
For me it’s
Being outside and connecting with the natural world,
Spending time with family, friends and my sweet puppy,
Learning and trying new things,
Expressing myself creatively,
Speaking up for others,
Helping others heal, grow and connect.
We often hear talk about our love language. What’s your happy language?
I wish you all Freedom, Alignment and Effortless Abundance!
P.S. The photo is just me in my happy place with my canine assistant, Cooper. I formally begin Buddhist Teacher Training today. One of our agreements is to avoid intoxicants. (It’s funny how the word “toxic” is right in there and our nation still considers it essential.) If you’re interested in the topic, Addict Nation by Jane Velez-Mitchell is an excellent read. She looks, not only, at the national addiction to meat and alcohol, but also wars, pharmaceuticals and violence. Very provocative.