I’m On a Podcast!!!

Today’s blog is a shameless plug for my friend Ashtyn’s new podcast Cheers to Your Health. On her show, Ashtyn shares pieces of her own health, wellness, and fitness journey while interviewing people from all different backgrounds, interested in wellness and living a transformative life.

On her new episode, she interviews me! We talk about why I’m vegan, my food and fitness journey, my recommendations if you’re looking to go vegan, and what it’s like being married to an omnivore. I am so grateful for this opportunity and I hope you go subscribe to Cheers to Your Health, give my episode a listen, and let us know what you think. Enjoy!

Show notes.

Listen and subscribe at: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/cheers-to-your-health/id1531823256?i=1000497464025

Two Years No Beers

Today I’m answering one simple question: Why did I quit drinking alcohol?

My original plan was to answer all of your questions in regards to my choice to live a sober life, but once I began writing I realized this topic is a whole post within itself. I plan to answer all of your questions in the future, and explain, in depth, how quitting alcohol has proven to have more benefits than I originally could have imagined. The last two years that I’ve spent sober have revealed more to me about myself and life in general than I bargained for, and I’m so grateful. Being completely sober in the face of political unrest, job uncertainty, and isolation during a worldwide pandemic has challenged me to confront myself and grow, a lot. But those stories are for a different day.

Why did you quit drinking in the first place?

This question is the most frequently asked.

I think there is a common misconception in our society that you are either an “alcoholic” for life or someone who can responsibly consume alcohol for life with no real consequences, and little space for those of us in between. You are either someone with an incurable “disease” that will crave alcohol forever – someone who has hit rock bottom and makes a choice to turn their life around, or you’re just a “normal” person who drinks. I think that this is a completely false dichotomy that keeps many people harmed by alcohol but not “addicted” in a self destructive loop that society deems acceptable. Alcohol is the only drug that after you quit, you are then stigmatized as having a problem. I chose to quit alcohol for two major reasons: the health of myself, and the health of my marriage.

My husband and I have been together almost seven years, married for almost three. We spent the first year of our relationship drunk. That truly is not much of an exaggeration. I was suffering emotionally from years of trauma and the resulting post traumatic stress, aware that I was suppressing my feelings, and therefore, healing with alcohol, but not ready to stop. I can’t speak for Kanan so we’ll suffice it to say that he drank with me, and didn’t contest to the frequency, the excess, or the destructive behaviors that resulted. I don’t think that either of us hit a symbolic “rock bottom” from drinking. Most of the things I did were terrible, but normal in this country, and even encouraged in your twenties, so I didn’t feel the need to confront them until much later. Passing out on the floor of my bathroom and being hung over for three days – must’ve partied too hard! Had an emotional breakdown in the movie theater after a couple pitchers of margaritas? Tequila must make me emotional! The problem with this thinking is that when you miss work because you’ve been drinking (I did twice) or drive home drunk (I’m not sure how many times I did this, but I argue that if you’ve ever consumed alcohol as a driving adult, you’ve likely done it too) you can brush it off as a fluke and move on. Drinking is so normal that we endanger ourselves and others emotionally, mentally, and physically but as long as you’re not “addicted” you’re fine.

As the years passed we were drinking less as we advanced in our careers, had more responsibilities, started working out more and eating healthier. I was trying to work through my issues using mainly diet and exercise but had no idea that the alcohol I was still consuming on a regular basis was keeping me stuck by wrecking my already fragile mental health. At this point, I never went out drinking, rarely had more than two drinks at a time, and thought I was being “responsible” by typically only having one beer a day after work. Just enough to keep alcohol in my system at all times.

I’m going to interject for one moment to point out how absolutely asinine it is to use veganism, lifting, Pilates, yoga, kale, massages, facials, running, stretching, vitamins, juices and supplements to try to obsessively heal my body and my depression and anxiety, while frequently drinking ethanol – a depressant and a toxic substance known to cause a myriad of mental and physical health problems, like cancer, depression and anxiety.

There were two things that pushed me to quit. The first was the atomic-level arguments my husband and I would get into if we were drinking. Don’t get me wrong; we still have disagreements, heated discussions, and hurt feelings. We are not perfect and we certainly don’t always magically agree just because we stopped drinking alcohol. However, we no longer have any disagreements resulting from alcohol consumption itself – like someone being out too late or not communicating properly – or any illogical and booze-induced disagreements over random topics that went way too far simply because alcohol makes your brain incapable of logical reasoning. I had a thought one day: How many married couples could have avoided divorce if alcohol was simply not a factor in their relationships? Probably a lot. My parents included. So I made the decision to choose the longevity and health of my marriage over the promise of a nightly “wind down” that you inevitably always pay for in other ways. I am grateful that my husband agreed and we quit together.

The other piece of that story is about me. I drank nightly to help me relax. Not a lot. One beer, maybe two if it was an exceptionally hard day. But it was perpetual and constant. I didn’t ever think I was addicted to alcohol and I still don’t consider myself an “alcoholic.” I had left behind my college days of binge drinking and acting irresponsibly and so by American standards what I was doing was perfectly normal and acceptable. I now owned a business and the stress was unending. The commitments never stopped. One night after popping an edible and washing it down with a beer, my husband frustratingly tried to explain to me that I had a problem. I was resistant – existing in the binary framework of normal versus alcoholic. I wasn’t an alcoholic, so what’s the issue? Until he said something that changed my mind. He said that I was drinking to escape my life. If I needed to get high or drink every night because I was so depressed or stressed, maybe I should figure out why I’m those things in the first place, and fix that.

Holy shit.

And there it was. The person who’s opinion I respect most in this world is telling me that the way I’m living my life is fucked up, and therefore my mental health is fucked up and I’m using a substance (or substances) as a really ineffective band aid to absolve myself of responsibility to fix it. After three months of mulling those words over, I decided to quit. Slowly reducing the amount of alcohol I was drinking bit by bit, until I toasted to a happy life over a table at my bachelorette party, knowing that with the support of these amazing women, and my husband, I could do anything. That was two years ago.

I know a lot of you are probably wondering if I relapsed. If I miss booze. If quitting was hard. If I traded alcohol in for weed instead. I plan to answer all of those questions in future posts, but the short answer is no. Alcohol (and weed and pills) was a weight on my shoulders that’s gone forever and I never want to carry that weight again.

Because I spent so many years being afraid of what it might mean if I quit, I kept drinking how we’re “supposed” to drink in this country – safely and in moderation, only that’s a complete lie. There is no safe way to consume a poison and no way to moderate the destruction that follows. I was drinking just enough booze to keep myself in a constant state of denial. Never reaching my potential. Denial that my anxiety induced depression was a thousand times worse because of what alcohol does to your brain chemistry. Denial that I could eat all the kale in the world and that still wouldn’t change the fact that alcohol is linked to several different types of cancers. Denial that I needed constant therapy and a clear mind to help me remember the things alcohol helped me forget. Because you can’t heal from things you never confront, and I was storing so much trauma inside myself that it was literally killing me.

There aren’t any cravings. There is no regret. There has never been a moment when I’ve doubted myself or wished I could go back. Every once in a while when I think that alcohol sounds good (the same way a burger sounds good if I smell barbecue…even though I’m a vegan) I pour myself a delicious non-alcoholic beverage in a fancy glass, throw a lemon slice in and think about how grateful I am that I quit drinking alcohol.

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For more information on my personal journey with alcohol, see my 1 year post: https://www.google.com/amp/s/thereallifeveganwife.com/2019/08/17/one-year-no-beer/amp/

Give Yourself Permission to be Vegan – My 4 Year Veganniversary Post

When my vegan lifestyle comes up in conversation, more often than not, by husband and his dietary habits become the immediate object of curiosity. The center of the interaction. Everyone wants to know if he’s vegan. Since he isn’t, everyone wants to know how we cohabitate. How we grocery shop, cook our meals, agree to disagree. Everyone wants to know how two people can be happily married and hold two completely different ideological viewpoints when it comes to food. And for us specifically, when it comes to animals and morality.

Let’s back up. When I was dating I had three (yes, only three) requirements for my future boyfriend. At that time I did not think that I wanted to be married, ever, so they looked something like this: He needs to have a job, a car, and his own place to live. Like I said, they were simple requirements, but shockingly hard to find. I had decided that I didn’t want to muddle things up with extraneous requirements like what kind of job, or car or dwelling. Or make it even more impossible with specifications pertaining to diet and lifestyle… like vegetarianism. At that time, I still had a few years to go before making the switch from veg to full on vegan. I don’t want to say that my standards were low – in my opinion, they were just realistic. I was only in my mid-twenties, wasn’t looking for a husband, and had so many amazing people in my life from diverse backgrounds, so I didn’t want to limit my possibilities based on assumptions like: If I date a vegetarian we will be more compatible. Because honestly, that might make eating easier, but that’s about it.

Then I met Kanan. For those of you that don’t know the story, he moved into the apartment next door to me and we noticed each other from afar before I finally took the plunge and slipped a note under his door asking him to go grab a beer with me. He called me back TWO WEEKS later… so much later in fact that I had assumed he had a girlfriend, or wasn’t into me, so I went about my life and honestly kinda forgot about it. Over the months (and then years) we lived next door to each other, I had made several observations about Kanan’s habits: He wasn’t home a lot; when he was home he never had any visitors and almost never left, and sometimes his car would remain parked in the spot next to mine for long stretches without moving. So basically, I had concluded exactly what any logical person would: If he had a job and wasn’t just sitting in his apartment playing video games all day, it must be some nefarious illegal activity that kept him away for weeks at a time, or he was a firefighter. One day I took a little gander into the back seat of his car and noticed a pile of ropes. After that, I added potential serial killer to the list, but was happy to learn that serial killers almost never murder their neighbors.

Being from Kern County (near Bakersfield), where everything is dry, and hot, and dusty it never occurred to me that some people actually could make a living fishing. Fishing was something my dad made us hike upriver at 3am on the weekends to do. Something I was more than happy to leave behind after I declared vegetarianism as my new world view somewhere around junior year of high school. So when we finally went on a date and Kanan explained that the ropes were for crabbing and not for some sort of mass strangulation scheme, I was relieved. But I was also a little sad and confused. I liked him instantly, and after only a few dates I was ready to marry the guy. Seriously. I was used to most people eating animals, but had never even considered dating someone who made their entire living by killing them. I was from Kern County but clearly I had never dated a meat or dairy farmer…

So this brings us back to the topic at hand. How did I reconcile dating and then MARRYING a man who had basically the complete opposite viewpoints and values when it came to the treatment of animals? Although he has since then changed careers and no longer kills animals for a living, we still hold different views. He enjoys recreational fishing, and on occasion eats animal products. I decided to go full-blown vegan. But now we enjoy a mostly compatible lifestyle based on generally healthy whole food eating habits and a shared philosophy of sobriety from drugs and alcohol. While I completely omit all animal products and refined sugar, Kanan allows himself the occasional splurge but has grown to have very strong viewpoints on health and whole foods. He balances me out when I’m going crazy for vegan fast food because hey, I went vegan for animal rights, not for health! And I feel like I can sometimes act as his moral mirror, and the conduit for new enlightening vegan nutritional information.

A lot has evolved and changed in our relationship because of two factors, which I believe are the key to making any relationship between a vegan and a non-vegan work. I can give you all the “tips and tricks” you want for day to day living, but until you get these two concepts dialed in, none of them will actually work for you.

#1: Give yourself the emotional permission to embrace what you know to be right for you. If you’re considering going vegetarian or vegan, chances are you’ve already done the hard work of unlearning societal programming regarding food consumption. Your husband (or partner) has already done that for themselves as well by accepting that the way they choose to eat is normal, and everything outside of that worldview is “other” or delinquent from the way people are essentially “supposed to eat.”

This is a simple concept once you wrap your head around it. There is always something that dominant society has deemed “normal.” Someone (or in this case, several powerful “someones,” like large, corporate agribusiness, big pharma, and our for-profit medical system) has a stake in maintaining the status quo, therefore a lot of effort and energy is put into poking holes in other ways of thinking, trying to prove them “wrong,” “unhealthy,” or “worse for our planet.” But here’s the thing – our planet is dying, we’re dying, and animals are dying using the old framework, so maybe let’s just test out this new way and see what happens? Everything is normal, until it’s not.

I’m here to tell you that if you know that for you, veganism or vegetarianism… or just eating one plant-based meal a week is better, then give yourself the permission to shift your consciousness, moving your new held ideas or ideals from the margin (or what is unusual, weird, or not normal) to the center, which is usual, normal, and good. Making yourself the center in this way will ironically produce a series of completely unselfish and empathetic consequences, like caring more for the health of humans, animals, and the earth.

Instead of feeling guilt and assuming that you and your new moral and/or dietary choices are the burden, flip that on it’s head and ask yourself why your partner’s choices aren’t the burden?

To challenge these deeply ingrained ideas of normativity even further, ask yourself why anti-speciesest beliefs are thought to be inferior to those socially constructed speciesist beliefs that we are the inherently superior beings atop the animal and nature hierarchy.

#2: After you’ve got #1 down, then just lead by example. But be tactful.

Once you start viewing the world through this more critical lens, a lot changes internally, and it can be difficult to not judge and criticize other people, or proclaim your new lifestyle as better. Trust me, I still do it often because I choose to be vocal, and believe in making social change. Everything is seen as a deviation from the norm, until it’s not.

People who aren’t vegan or vegetarian navigate their lives as “normal” simply by living in a country that accommodates them, facilitates their behaviors, and rewards their dietary choices with limitless options, advertising that aligns with dominant culture and a convenient separation between our individual choices and policy. Because of these reasons, vegans are criticized for speaking up. We’re casting a bright light on something that needs to be seen, something that doesn’t look good under that light.

If being in a relationship with a non-vegan for almost seven years has taught me anything, it’s that that voice that I choose to use in a political sense only drives Kanan away if directed at him in a more personal sense. For a lot of people, unlearning what they think they know about nutrition and veganism is painful because food is so closely woven into every fabric of our society and life. It also calls on people to look inwardly at their choices, forcing moral introspection. This can be extremely difficult for most people to do- it challenges us to level up and be accountable for our choices, which also requires an acceptance that our choices matter. Veganism calls people to look at how we treat the planet, other beings, and ourselves. That is simply overwhelming. Every vegetarian or vegan, including myself, went through that period of difficult growth. Every vegan or vegetarian you’ve ever met had to go through intense changes in realizing their accountability, unless they happen to be one of the very few vegans who’s parents raised them that way since birth. We understand what you may be going through.

I will tell you with 100% certainty that the longer I am vegan, the simpler the concept becomes for me. I try to do as little harm as possible, and all that can possibly do is ripple kindness out into the world. That’s all it’s about. All food, human rights, animal rights, and global arguments aside.

So just lead by example. Share positive things about being vegan, cook good plant-based food and share it, shop from vegan vendors who also value the planet and other humans, incorporate more whole foods, watch veg documentaries, read books about animals. And learn, because I’m finding that the more I learn, the more I realize that we’re all so interconnected that each choice you make really has a positive impact elsewhere. Only good can come from a lifestyle based on love and kindness. And others (including your husband/partner) will see this over time.

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Photo: Hennygraphy https://www.hennygraphy.com

Vegan Tattoo: Seven Stars Tattoo, Eureka CA