Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Day 104, Alcohol

I've been thinking over how to present this post for a great many days. I'm still not sure what exactly I want to say so I'll just muddle through as usual.

One of the things you stop doing on the PCP is drinking. Alcoholic drinks have a lot of calories considering you aren't getting any nutrition out of the beverage. People in the business refer to these as "empty calories" and they are the first thing to go when you want to cut fat and get lean.

It was also one of the harder things for me to let go of. One of the nicest parts of my day was getting home, kicking back and having a cold beer. It's probably the most prototypical male thing I did, actually. Always just one beer. About 5 times a week give or take.

I noticed that I was looking forward to that beer more and more, especially during stressful times. I would start thinking about it first on the way home from the station, then it would be on the train home, then it would be in my last class before getting on the train, earlier and earlier.

This puzzled me because I never drank more than one beer, and was never really tempted to. My craving didn't seem to be just the drug content of the alcohol, although surely that was part of it. I think it had just gotten to be my routine. And I didn't realize how attached to it I was until I had to break it up with this project.

But I just stopped. I had one beer on day 15 and that was it. So I was satisfied that it wasn't a physiological thing, like my body had to have beer or anything. Why then was it such a big deal for me to give it up?

I try to winnow down my attachments every day but beer still sticks around. I pass the cold beverage aisle now without even going down it, because if I do I really crave a beer. But just one. I don't get it.

If you take the novice vows of Thich Nhat Hanh's order, which Gwen and I have, you promise not to consume stimulants of any kind, all the way from cocaine to beer to mind-polluting TV shows. We grilled a young nun about what was so bad about having a glass of wine with a good meal. The nun explained that every time we spend our money on beer or wine we support a system that ruins untold lives through alcoholism, drunk driving, liquor fueled violence and domestic abuse. If we are truly mindful of all the pain that our choice to drink comes with and can still enjoy that glass of wine, then we are quite free to have it.

This argument gets me pretty good, because it is the same one I use to explain vegetarianism to people. "If you can truly understand all the stuff that happened to that animal for it to arrive on your plate, then you are welcome to have it. But if you're just eating it carelessly there's something wrong with that."

The nun's explanation is an extension of the Buddhist concept of interdependence. Every action results in numerous consequences, most of which we have no way of guessing. But some we can see if we just look a little deeper. The negative effects of alcohol and supporting the alcohol industry being one of them. So I feel really guilty whenever I dwell on that side of my beer routine. But I also really like beer. So I go around and around about it.

I know most people think this is far too much analysis over something as small as a can of beer after work. But that is what the PCP is all about. Not just accepting things being "pretty alright" but being the absolute best you can be. Setting high goals and not accepting mediocre results. Most people will think it's overthinking the issue but that has stopped bothering me. Many of those people are the same ones who don't understand why anyone would do the PCP to begin with.

High-reaching goals that require all of my resources and creativity are the only kind that interest me recently. Maybe I can make getting beer out of my life forever on of those as well. I'm still undecided and sitting with the issue. This is usually the only way I can resolve anything, so I'll let "just sitting" do its magic


Anonymous said...

This was a good read...didn't seem muddled, actually.

A few points I'd like to add to your thorough post:

1) When you drink you often get stuffed up. You have a mild allergic reaction to alcohol. By you I mean YOU, Patrick...I don't think this happens in most folks. I think that you didn't really like feeling stuffed up after having even one beer, right? If it's something that makes you feel stuffed up it seems wise to avoid it anyway.

2) What you're talking about w/interdependence is probably the most compelling argument I've heard b/f or since we heard that nun (she was our age) speak on the subject. She didn't have an agenda to push. She just simply asked if we wanted to be part of the problem or part of the "change" as it were.

3) During my detox the hardest thing for me was caffeine. I think you had quite a struggle w/that, too (are you still drinking coffee or is that out?). As you point out, it's about becoming aware of behaviors and attachments. It reminds me a lot of Feldenkrais ( We could all stand to take a moment each day before we eat, as we brush our teeth, do laundry, notice where we are and why we're doing whatever it is we're doing. Even down to the subtle way we cock our hip or jiggle our leg get my drift.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's just because a cold beer is really refreshing. I haven't had a beer in about a year, but still, when I think about it, it sounds pretty damn good. I guess for me, a class of cold water is enough.

Patrick said...

Yeah light beers do make my nose get stuffy sometimes. That's a good point.

But remember when we had those guinesses in Dublin? Wasn't that nice?

Iann said...

What if you made your own beer? Or made some beer with some friends and share the batch? It would last a while, you get to share something, have a cold one, not necessarily support an unsupportive industry, and put your own loving energy and awareness in it. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Just read all the articles on Liquor. I'm proud as it seems many of you young people,are being somewhat careful of the stuff.
About 35 yrs ago, my late husband & I, entered in the workplace where all the Senior longtime staff drank regularly & expected us to join in. Well, 30 yrs later, we paid big time, with our health!
It is like a sneaky little maggot, who can get in and permanently reside, growing each & every day.
Until its strong enough to take over. Then there's no getting rid of the little beggar.
Trust me. I wouldn't lie about something this horrific.

Anonymous said...

Are we not to participate in any industry that has caused others pain and suffering?

If that's the case then are options are somewhat limited.

Patrick said...

Most recent anonymous (leave a name everyone, even if it's a fake one!) asks a good question. Even an organic tofu company pollutes and uses resources... are we to boycott them as well?

And how about paying taxes to a government that uses that money to fund wars that destroy more families than alcohol ever could.

It's all very tricky and there are no right answers, but at least by becoming aware of the connections between what we buy and the effects that ripple from those purchases we can move towards becoming wiser and more thoughtful consumers.

Patrick said...

I like the brew it at home idea, but I've heard those usually taste nasty.

Anyone have any experience with this?

Nate said...

A friend of mine makes wine (Dandelion, strawberry, banana, grape, blackberry, and pineapple) and also beer. I have to say I have yet to taste one of their concoctions that taste bad, and they just started 2 years ago. I think it's all about where you get your info, How much time you are willing to commit, and the resources you have. Are there any places around you Patrick where you can get home brewing equipment? and I will ask them for the online references they use and pass them along if you want.

Jason said...

Is it the alcohol industry that destroys lives or people's individual, irresponsible actions and choices?

I guess I can just continue with my glass of wine every evening because, with all due respect, I just don't buy it that it's the industry's fault... or the product's fault?

Ultimately, the destruction comes from people who abuse the product and so honestly I think all that stuff about supporting the alcohol industry is just justification to yourself to deprive yourself of something you really want.

Not that practicing resisting your desires is necessarily a bad thing, but is the reason truly as altruistic as you claim? or is it possible that your reasons are a bit selfish. And if that's the case, is it really much different than just having a beer once in a while?

Not trying to judge you... just my thoughts...

Patrick said...

Yes this is the way most people think, and the way I think most of the time. But the nun was challenging us to really back up what we say we believe with action, even when it's bothersome to us.

It's a very hardcore and uncompromising approach, and I respect it for that.

I once saw a cool quote from Ethan Nichtern which said something like "I thought I was a generous, but then you asked for something that I didn't want to give away."

That's how it felt when this nun called us out.