10. It has no place on my present/future path in life
My 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
Though 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
My 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
I 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
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!
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