10 Reasons I Abstain from Alcohol, Without Exception

10.  It has no place on my present/future path in life

long_pathMy chosen path in life is a long one.  In fact, it is infinite, though my time here will be limited to a handful of years, at most.  Already, to get out all of the music that has emerged in my head to date, would take me longer than the rest of my life.  This is admittedly by choice – I could give up everything else, hole myself up like the late Gabriel García Márquez, and get it out in a couple years or so.  But I want to cook, to write, to teach, to make a family.  These things are also on my path.  To honor them, I must filter out that which hinders their attainment.  Alcohol is the first and easiest such hindrance.  In a future post, perhaps we can tackle more difficult ones – like wheat or sugar.1


9.  I have been drunk before – many, many, many times

been_drunk_beforeThough those who know me would hesitate to call me a “crazy, animal partier”, even in my mid-20s alcoholic prime, I am pretty sure I have traversed the entire worthwhile cross-section of alcohol-driven experience, and a large swath of the not-so-worthwhile part of it.  Pissing on my best friend’s parent’s decorative sea shells in a drunken slumber – check.  Pissing on my college roommate’s shoes in a drunken slumber – check.  So drunk I can’t get it up – check.  So drunk I can get it up, but really regret doing so in the morning – most of my early/mid-20s.  Blacked out and declaring that I am the best beer pong player in the world to breakfast-goers – check.  Blacked out and waking up in a windowless cage in an unknown part of Hong Kong, shirtless, money gone, being released by a small Chinese boy, taking a cab back to my hotel in a panic, an hour after my flight left at 2 in the afternoon – yes.

OK, I have had normal, good times as well – great laughs with friends, hugs, flowers, and rainbows.  The point is, I have had them, and in my blue belt life I aim to do different things.  As one of my literary mentors, Don Juan, says, “The thing which should give you the chills is not having anything to look forward to but a lifetime of doing that which you have always done.”  Fortunately, I have a great deal to look forward to even leaving alcohol in the dust of my past.


8.  I want a different kind of bachelor party2:


I am grateful that living in Japan has largely absolved me from bachelor party duties.  To be fair, the two I attended were fun times, filed under “normal good times” in #9.  I may even be fortunate enough, due to my skepticism of weddings, to avoid having one of my own.  But if I ever go down that road, mine is going to be different than your standard weekend of fist pounds and sloppy man hugs.  This is where the “Without Exception” thing really comes into play.  Because a bachelor party is, like, the ultimate exception.  That is, unless you have none.


7.  I don’t like you when you’re drunk


Seriously, your breath stinks, you talk too much, what you say is garbage, and you act like a child, except children don’t slur their words (see #3).  The only way I could tolerate you is if I were drunk also.  I could almost make an exception!




6.  On average, it tastes like $#&%


I admit, there is something about that first sip of ice cold beer (especially August Beer) on a hot summer day.  But that goes away after about half a glass, at which point you are left with something you would spit out if it didn’t lower your inhibitions for spewing nonsense (see #7).  And OK, there are few better pairings than a marbled steak and a peppery California Cab Sav.  But that Cab is going to run you $40 a bottle for anything good, and for my money, I’d rather spend on quality food (see #4).

All other alcohols, are either cheating with non-alcoholic ingredients (Godiva Chocolate Liqueur, Boone’s), or simply taste like &$% – that’s you vodka, whiskey, gin, bourbon, bitters, vermouth, absinthe, cachaça, tequila, rakı, rum, brandy, sake, most beer and wine.  Would anyone drink you if you didn’t lend to all the sweet effects listed in #7, really?


5.  I’m a foul weather friend

"City View" by Colleen MariaMy schedule is actually more open than I let on – I’m only partially employed after all!  But my schedule is all but closed to casual friendly encounters.  This is so that it can be open for teaching, creating in some form, or being there for someone who really needs me.  The way I see it there are three types of friends – those who are there in the good times and the bad (best friends), those who are there when things are good (fair weather friends), and those who are there when things are bad (foul weather friends).  I aim to be the third type to most of the people I know.  Advising, sharing in pain, mediating – these are all things that come naturally to me.  So to my friends – know that even if we don’t speak for a long period of time, or if I seem to dodge opportunities to hang out – this is why, and it is a good thing that you haven’t had the level of hardship to require my presence.


4.  I’d rather buy natto


I live in one of the most expensive cities in the world, without a full-time job or significant source of income.  So I am pretty much burning through savings whilst trying to figure out what to do next.  On my current budget, I have a few hundred bucks of discretionary spending per month – that needs to cover food, supplies, and any unforeseen costs of living such as replacing shattered non-reactive cooking bowls, etc.  I have been able to stay within that (barely) so far by riding my bike everywhere, making all of my food, and eliminating spending on “frivolous” things like concerts and drinking.  By far my biggest variable cost is food, and when it comes to that, I go for quality – grass-fed, organic, lots of veg.  Hiro’s natto is probably the most expensive and best tasting in the world, and only by foregoing that glass of peppery Cab can I afford it.  For the respective health and energy benefits, it’s an easy tradeoff.


3.  Children don’t drink

a_childI have always admired children – their boundless energy, effortless creativity, and utter lack of rational fear.  Though it is not a new idea (Jesus was preaching it after all), adults would do well to emulate children more.  In fact, I try to do so as much as possible.  When people hear of my teetotaling, they often label me “an old man”.  Actually, my intention is to be more like a 10-year old boy – to approach every day with a sense of wonder, to learn new skills, to PLAY.  How many 10-year olds have you seen who need alcohol to have fun?  A big reason I see for the prevalence of alcohol in our society is that it allows grown-ups to play like children.  But looked at from an outside perspective, it is a clunky, awkward type of play.  My suggestion is to drop the alcohol and simply learn to let go.  Anyone who has seen me on the dance floor knows it is possible.


2.  I can

i_canThis is an often overlooked, yet crucial reason.  Not everyone has the ability or desire to abstain from drinking.  I have both, so why not go for it?


1.  Power

"blue belt" by Celia Humphries www.celiahumphries.com

Simply put, there is power in establishing a goal and tackling it.  The amount of power gained corresponds to the level of challenge involved.  In the case of drinking, for me the challenge has been small – certainly far less than overarching task of “getting the music out” – but the resulting increase in confidence, and energy levels, is still palpable.  Here again making no exceptions is the key.  It may seem rigid, but consider it like a marriage, to an idea/action in this case.  Which marriage is stronger – the one that is faithful to the end, or the one that has suffered just one infidelity?


I hope this puts to rest the question of why I intentionally abstain from alcohol, and will continue to do so until the end of my days.  To address a common followup question, I also abstain from other recreational drugs – they all come at a cost, and one that my available time does not allow me to bear.  I now turn the discussion over to you – what do you think, is quitting the booze possible, or even desirable for you?  What things or activities are standing in your path to a better life?  Let us know in the comment section.


1 I gave up TV a long time ago, so most of what continues to slow me down are addictive food items.

2 This picture came up on a Google search for “I want a different kind of bachelor party” – looks like a good start!

6 thoughts on “10 Reasons I Abstain from Alcohol, Without Exception

  1. Tammie

    I too gave up drinking alcohol when I began my spiritual awakening. I had to let go of putting anything toxic into my body. Alcohol is toxic, a liquid drug. I no longer consume alcohol, drugs or flesh. Your body truly is your temple, when you clean house, everything changes!

    1. bluebeltlife Post author

      Very true, all of the things you listed serve to muddle the mind. Certain plant spirits that are labeled drugs by the government can help to open the mind, but one should commune with those only as needed, and always in the right setting.

  2. astutereader

    Why isn’t drinking in moderation the preferred (and potentially more challenging) option? As a pure test of will, you could argue that drinking in moderation while never going overboard is harder than abstaining – virtually everyone that I know who claims to drink in moderation will have a handful of nights that go well beyond moderation.

    The line about “normal, good times…great laughs with friends” also seems like a strange obstacle to get past. I would say that those times carry greater value as you go through life. Having a glass of wine with friends while your thoughts rest squarely on the positives of life is a different (richer?) experience in your 50s than your 20s, for the simple reason that everyone has been through the grinder – maybe more than once – by that point.

    Finally, curious where you stand on the Jiro movie and the principles in play:

    My takeaway is that there is value in striving for perfection (however unattainable), and striving in that context is synonymous with repetition and iteration. It’s almost the opposite of “chills…[over] a lifetime of doing that which you have always done.”

    1. bluebeltlife

      Ah, astutereader, thank you for being the first (and hopefully not the last) to challenge my notions. It is clear that in actions 99% of the western world disagree with my approach, and I was beginning to think I wasn’t contentious enough.

      You are right about the notion of moderation being more challenging, but not about it being preferred. The reason is that it is more challenging, to the point that it becomes impossible to avoid the nights that go beyond moderation. I actually tried moderation initially, but decided on full abstinence after one such occasion. As for that being the “weaker” approach, that’s fine with me. I have more than enough other challenges to occupy me.

      Your comment about “normal, good times” is personal, just as my post is personal. For you, that may be the case. For me, what carries the most value in life is following the path outlined in these pages: making music, teaching, hopefully improving the world or the lives of others in some small way. That glass of wine sounds nice and all, but I am willing to trade it in if I can do even one of those things better or more fully.

      I address your comment about Jiro in the About section. Jiro is an archetypical black belt. His path is to choose one skill in life. As he says, he will never reach the end of his journey – he will never actually be doing “that which he has always done” because he will continually be pushing forward. You can say this about a skill, but not so much about a recreational activity like drinking.

      And though Jiro may choose one skill while I choose many, I think he would wholeheartedly agree with my thoughts on eliminating anything that stands in the way of self-improvement.

      1. astutereader

        Thanks for the response. Hard to disagree with your point about the inevitable “nights that go beyond moderation.” One follow-up question as you mentioned having a family longer term – any thoughts on how you would advise your kids with respect to handling alcohol?

        Part of the answer ties to how you think about the scrape-off-the-floor nights you’ve had in the past – would you say that (all joking aside), it’s inevitable that most people will have those nights, so as a parent you are just trying to prevent the “big mistakes” (DUI, alcohol poisoning) and chalk up the less damaging nights as lessons learned? And I’m not trolling with this question, but if the “blacked out and waking up in a windowless cage…taking a cab back to my hotel in a panic” is part of your past, how do you tell your kid that’s not part of his/her path going forward?

        Do you provide the drinking-in-moderation advice typical of most families, even as you abstain? It’s almost impossible to recommend abstaining without saying why you abstain…which (likely) leads to explaining why your experience with excess, blackouts, etc. convinced you that wasn’t the right path for you personally. To which your kid might say – I want to go through the craziness, then make that decision on my own.

        *Small point – definitely agree that drinking isn’t a “pursuit,” I touched on the Jiro example as a separate point to the alcohol discussion. I like the distinction between blue belt vs. black belt lifestyle – I think as long as people gravitate to one or the other, either is a path worth following.

        1. bluebeltlife

          Ha, child-rearing? Sure, why not. In theory, my personal style would be to first lead by example, second provide pertinent information, and third assist when asked. Hopefully my children will see the way I live and want to emulate it. More likely they will do so and want to be the exact opposite, but hey it is their call! I am happy to share with them parts of my dark past if they ask, but I would not do so to dissuade them from drinking. Most likely I will encourage them to try drinking, just as I encourage them to experience other aspects of life – travel, live on their own, play music, sports, etc. My strong advice, though, will be to stop doing it if they don’t like it. I have no regrets about the HK experience – I am happy I survived and have a good story to tell. But I do have regrets about drinking long after I realized it wasn’t for me.

          As for preventing “big mistakes”, my approach would be indirect. I would be hands on when it comes to sharing my personal history, educating, and providing an outlet to their interests, and hands off when it comes to giving any type of direct orders. Kids are going to make mistakes, and they need to. Picking specific ones to defend against is like predicting black swans. Better to set up a positive framework and be there to catch/rebuke/instruct them when they fall.