My struggle with alcohol

image That’s what Jacob said I should title this post :)

Let me preface this by a conversation Jacob and I had. We were trying to figure out why the Indians were so…childlike. Why so friendly, so interested, so trusting. Why we have been invited into more homes here than anywhere else (anyone want to challenge my theory that Calcuttans are the nicest people in the world? See proof in the photos below) and why there is a culture of openness. We wondered, suddenly, if it might be the fact that drinking alcohol is not popular here.

India is just a wholesome place in general. Pornography? Yeah right. Extramarital affairs? Never imagehear about them. Women who dress beautifully but not provocatively? Everywhere. Crime? Could be the safest city in the world. In the newspaper, I also read that is is well known that “alcohol and smoking decrease spirituality” yeah only in India would they write that so definitively about spirituality.  Well, or maybe in Provo, where Jacob and I met (stone-cold sober every year as rated by Princeton!).

This drinking culture popular in Westernized countries limits and isolates people who don’t drink. It is the single biggest reason why my friends and I grew apart in high school. They got into going to drinking parties every weekend. I wasn’t interested in attending. It got so every single activity my friends did was not complete without alcohol. This disappointed me. I remembered when we used to do fun and crazy things just for the heck of it, without any kind of drug necessary. This made my friends more reserved when not drinking. They only began to loosen up after being able to drink.

I hope I can write about this subject fairly and maybe help those of other faiths understand why LDS people don’t drink, because this fact is one of the starkest differences that separate us from many other Americans. I’m writing this post because I would love to be respected for not drinking. I want to be seen as an equal with people who drink, not as a party pooper. At the same time, I want to make it clear that I think Mormons or other teetotalers who look down on people who drink are wrong to do that. It’s just not right. I think there’s some looking down on people who drink that goes on in the Mormon culture, and I think that should stop.

I admit that I have never drunk alcohol in my life, so maybe I have a limited view on the subject, but I have enough friends who do or used to do that I have a little bit of an idea of it.

I remember when Jacob first told me that alcohol didn’t taste good. I was incredulous.

“But don’t people drink alcohol for the taste?? I thought everybody loved alcohol because it tasted so dang good?”

Jacob: “No, they drink it for the effect it has on their bodies. If you drank even a little bit of hard alcohol, you would probably throw up.”

Me: “Oh, I’m a lot less interested what it tastes like then.”

Before I continue, though, I want to be clear:

I don’t  believe drinking is a reflection on someone’s character. In fact, I believe it is possible to drink responsibly and still be healthy, and a good, upstanding, moral person.

It may seem silly that I have to clarify that. But as a young LDS child, I used to think that if you drank alcohol, you were a bad person. I even wrote a song about world peace when I was in fifth grade (yes, I was idealistic even back then) in which some of the lyrics included, “No more war, or unhappy tears, or drugs, or drinking beer…or having fear spread through your body. If only…” lol! I cringe a bit at those lyrics. Cheesy! Ask me to play it for you sometime.

image I do feel really bad about that judgment now. Too many wonderful people I  know drink. Jesus drank wine. Jesus could not sin. In fact, I know people around the world who drink alcohol who are better people than I am. We met them in Greece, Macedonia, and Turkey. We have met them here in India. It has taken me a while to learn this lesson, but learn it I have. Repeat: there are people who drink alcohol who are better people than I am.  Again, I apologize to the world at large for making that kind of a judgment about alcohol drinkers. Nevertheless, I choose not to drink…keep reading to learn more.

Mormons don’t drink alcohol, and Jesus did…WHY???

Wine historically

Okay first of all that goes into the historical period of the time. I believe it’s possible, after travelling enough and seeing underdeveloped countries, that the water wasn’t safe to drink at times and wine, or even fruit juice that over time would ferment, would have been safer to drink. While people throughout the Bible drank, there is no evidence that people were encouraged to drink it purposefully for the effects that come with drinking. The Bible makes it pretty clear that getting drunk is not a good idea. If Jesus had said no alcohol, people would have died of thirst. Times have changed from back then. They didn’t drive cars. They didn’t use illegal drugs. There are different problems today than there were then.

Continuing revelation

imageLDS people believe in something called the Word of Wisdom. In continued revelation. That God did not stop revealing things to his prophets. That the Bible is not the complete guide to Christianity.

The Word of Wisdom counsels against alcohol, tea, coffee, and tobacco. It encourages eating meat sparingly, and to eat herbs, grains, and fruits. We are promised if we obey those things, we’ll live longer and have the Holy Spirit to guide us.

Some people may think, Why is the Church so controlling?

We don’t view it as controlling because we choose it. We could drink if we chose. But we’re grateful that the Church just says “no alcohol.” How do you measure moderate? For every person that is different. People could still get drunk and say, “That’s moderate for me.” For us, measuring moderate would be very difficult. In today’s world, it makes since from the Church’s perspective just to say “zero.” Some people have more of a weakness for alcohol than others. Easier to say, forget about it. But who knows? Maybe there is alcohol in heaven ;)

Okay…beyond the scriptural reasons, why is not drinking alcohol a good idea?

By the way, I believe most moderate drinkers agree with many of these problems that come from drinking TOO MUCH. It is possible to drink responsibly, and not have these problems. I think responsible drinkers also discourage irresponsible drinking that brings the following side effects:

Alcoholism

How many families have been broken up because of this? How many lives have been ruined? How much sorrow has been brought upon innocent children? How many abusive fathers and mothers have hurt their families when they would not have sober? How many work hours lost? How many reputations destroyed? This reason alone confirms to me why it makes sense not to touch alcohol. Alcoholics who have that genetic tendency would never know it if they never drank. Sadly, stats say one in three people will be hooked on alcohol at some point in their lives.

Drunk driving

If people didn’t drink, more innocent people would be alive today. Period.

Grape juice is better

image You hear a lot about the benefits wine brings you. Grape juice is as or more healthy than red wine. (Welch’s, you can reward me for the plug later.)

Damage to unborn babies

image Fetal alcohol syndrome. If it’s not good for kids, why is it good for adults? Women may not know they are pregnant until it is too late.

Date rape

Women are made especially vulnerable when consuming alcohol. Many women are raped and killed because they let their barriers down and can’t defend themselves from impaired judgment. Teens who drink are also more likely to have unprotected sex which leads to more babies born out of wedlock/abortion.

Combination with other drugs can be fatal

There isn’t enough education out there to teach young kids just starting to drink about the fatal combinations with other recreational drugs. Many college students have inadvertently ended their lives because of this.

image Alcohol poisoning

Always possible, especially when you don’t know your limits yet.

Kills brain cells

Alcohol will stunt your ability to think clearly. In studies, it shows your brain is literally made to shrink with the drinking of alcohol.

Linked to cancer

And liver disease, heart failure, and high blood pressure. And beer bellies ;)

Linked to crime

32% of teens under 18 who are in long-term juvenile detention centers were under the influence of alcohol at the time of their crime and/or arrest. Obviously this doesn’t apply to the majority of people who drink.

Makes some people mean when they drink

Of course, it makes some people extra nice too. In any event, it affects your personality. You are no longer completely in control.

Some people do some really stupid things they regret when drunk…or they don’t even remember. Some people even die after doing stupid things while drunk. A guy I knew from high school fell off a building after drinking too much in college and died. I wonder how much sexual disease has been spread because of alcohol? How many people have had sex and regretted it the next morning because of alcohol?

image Medication effectiveness

Alcohol can tamper with the usage of regular medications like birth control, making them ineffective.

Hangovers

Because I don’t drink, I don’t have to ever worry when I wake up in the morning that I’ll have a splitting headache.

Expensive

image Alcoholic drinks are about the most expensive thing on a restaurant menu. The average person spends $457/year on it. So the average couple, about $1000. On a grander scale, the five “hard” addictions of alcohol, drugs, gambling, eating disorders, and tobacco are responsible for 5 % of the national debt.

Makes some people unable to relax without having it

Some people CAN’T relax without alcohol because they’ve become dependent. It’s a drug.

I’m told it tastes bad and you throw up when you first try it and drink too much. Usually something that makes you throw up isn’t good for you.

imageUnhappy people self-medicate on it instead of looking to more healthy sources.

I think it ages you. Mormons and Hindus alike look very young compared to average Western society. True, I get annoyed every time someone comments that I look 16, but that’s better than aging before my time.

There are some things I regret about choosing not to drink.

There is an undeniable social link in our culture that is denied me because that’s just how it is in America. My high school friends have a social life that revolves around drinking. In Hindu and Muslim cultures, however, people don’t expect you to drink and it feels that much more hospitable to us. This doesn’t have to be as limiting in our culture though, as long as both sides respect the views of the other.

I don’t like looking holier-than-thou or strange, which it probably sometimes comes across just because I choose not to drink.

image I think pairing wine with meals I make could have been a hobby of mine in another life. Just one of those cultured-sounding things to do.

I think the effects of alcohol would surely be fun once in a while.

Studies show that drinking moderately can have some health benefits like lower cardiovascular disease; however they can also be found in other alternatives without any risk.

Nevertheless, I still choose not to drink because the benefits are so much more powerful.

Benefits of not drinking

Having nothing to impede you in your success. Jacob and I believe a major factor in our business success, and those of other prominent Mormons, is the fact that no evenings are blown on hazy drunkenness. All are spent working, producing, creating, conversing. Our time is valuable. I think I also got better grades because I didn’t drink. I learned more. I contribute to society more. I can be more passionate about more important causes without distraction.

image Confidence in your health. If you don’t drink, you don’t have to worry if you are drinking too much. No fetal alcohol syndrome baby. You can drink healthier drinks in their stead. In Utah, everybody goes to Jamba Juice for their drink time. Any health benefits found from drinking alcohol can be gained in other ways. Conversely, the bad things from alcohol can’t be counterbalanced. (Jamba Juice, you can thank me later for the plug.)

image More kid-friendly family time.

image Have fun creatively. While I think most people’s college free time memories are filled with drunken passion and partying, BYU is a mecca of arts, music, outdoors sports, dating, restaurants, foreign cultures, business upstarts, and more. In fact, it is rated in the top 10 best cities to live in the US by Forbes. It ranks best quality of life in the US in this study.

Safety. No drunken driving, no getting taken advantage of. Over 38% of all drowning deaths are alcohol-related. I love to swim. No worries there. I like to think people can worry about us a little less when we are traveling because we always have our wits about us. Not to mention, we’re a lot less likely to get ripped off.

Stay thin. Alcohol—some more than others– has a lot of empty calories. Then again, so do chips and salsa, MY favorite indulgence. Aw, shucks.

Save money. In another post I wrote about the huge amount of money that is spent by Westernized countries on alcohol yearly. What a difference that could make if instead of billions spent on alcohol worldwide, 10% could be used building the infrastructure of impoverished nations. That is essentially what LDS people do. We spend 10 % of our income on tithing which is used in all kinds of charitable causes.

No economic dependency. If you are dependent on alcohol and you lose your job, you are up a creek. You can’t fund your habit. You might even turn to crime if you have that strong of a need for it.

Freedom of choice. Fact is, I could still always choose to drink, IF I wanted to. But there are a lot of people out there who can’t stop drinking even though they desperately want to. Most people who drink, obviously, could choose to stop at any time also, they just don’t want to!

image Good memory. I can remember every single thing that’s ever happened to me. Except when I got my wisdom teeth out…

Trust. I trust myself. I know how to relax without a drug. I know how to have a good time without a drug. I know how to comfort myself when I’m unhappy without a drug.  While I also have many friends who don’t rely on alcohol or drugs, I also have many who require alcohol to have a fun evening.

And the clincher…drum roll folks…

Live longer.

LDS people live 5-11 years longer than the average American. WHOA! THAT’S HUGE!!!! Don’t hear too much about that, do ya? Read here and here for more. You hear soooo much about how great the health benefits are for drinking alcohol. You hear all the time things that will help you live 6 months longer, 2 years longer. What about the health benefits of being Mormon? You don’t hear that in the news. But the bottom line is this. If you’re Mormon, statistically, you are going to live longer. If you are a white male and Mormon, you will live 10 years longer than other white males. That is statistical craziness!!

I love. my. life. 10 extra years of traveling the world with my honey sounds mighty fine to me. I think the Word of Wisdom is worth it ;)

Anyways my point in this post is to hopefully explain why it logically makes sense that LDS people choose not to drink. I hope that we can be respected and maybe even admired for that stance, even as we respect others’ right to drink responsibly (in ways that don’t infringe on the rights of others). Whether you are a teetotaler or whether you drink alcohol frequently, let’s not condemn others for their life choices. The end.

Now on to the pictures….

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Kalli Hiller

Article by Kalli Hiller

Kalli Hiller is a voluntary vagabond who, with her husband Jacob, has traveled full time for the last eight years.

Kalli has written 366 awesome articles for us.

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