Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sans Alcohol

Our entire married life, Tony and I have never drunk alcohol because of our religious choices. On many occasions, we have been the strange couple who didn't drink and nothing more. Only once, while we were the sole guests at a small inn, did it become a bizarre situation. 

In October 2001, we had flown to Paris and had planned a short side trip to the village of Le Chambon in the Loire Valley. After a lengthy train delay, our side trip was shorter than originally expected. From the train, we rented a car and drove to the village. At the end of a long, dark road, we were greeted by our spirited host. After a traditional but mediocre French meal, he invited us to his basement man cave, where he played music on an old stereo, and where he expected us to drink with him. When we told him we didn't drink, he had a hard time accepting our strange, very un-French ways. His insistence became scarier as the night progressed and his alcohol consumption increased. Once we were in our room, my imagination flared, and I feared for our safety. Tony wedged a chair against the door so we could sleep in relative peace.  C'est la vie!


Our non-drinker situations have also been humorous. One summer, Tony was part of a team at Jet Propulsion Labs in California. We were invited to a small dinner party, where once again, we were the only ones not drinking. As the night wore on, the men planned an elaborate deep sea fishing excursion. Tony was excited, but the next morning no one remembered but him. To his disappointment, the trip never happened.


We are used to being the non-drinking anomalies in certain social situations, and I've never expected it to change, so, I was surprised when a family member tells me a dear acquaintance has stopped drinking.


"Why?"


"After casual drinking, he was rushed to the hospital. His body couldn't take it anymore."


The next day, I learn a family member has also quit drinking.


Could there be a shift? Are people ready for a shift?  When friends or relatives join our family, on our territory, they are always surprised how much fun they have without the alcohol. And of course, there is more than the discovery that one can have fun without alcohol in prompting people to quit:  compelling research and evidence showing the negatives of alcohol consumption.


In 1938, Harvard University began a study of 268 undergraduate males. The purpose of the study was to follow these men throughout their lives in order to determine the factors of happiness. After 75 years, the most significant find of the study was, "Alcoholism is a disorder of great destructive power." 


The test results and conclusions were published in a book, Triumphs of Experience, by George Vaillant, a man who directed the study for three decades. An excerpt from the book synopsis reads: "Reporting on all aspects of male life, including relationships, politics and religion, coping strategies, and alcohol use (its abuse being by far the greatest disruptor of health and happiness for the study’s subjects),  ‘Triumphs of Experience’ shares a number of surprising findings." 


Lisa, our yoga teacher, also teaches yoga at the state prison. From her association with 25 women in  in her class, she learned that only five of the 25 would have been incarcerated if not for alcohol and drugs.




With all this in mind, when the waiter asks us for the second time if we'd like a cocktail before dinner, I answer differently. Usually, as the anomaly, I'd just say "No thanks." And once again I do say, "No thanks, but I also add, "We're already happy enough."