The other weekend I had the pleasure of meeting up with some London based pals in Liverpool. We did cultural things accompanied with alcoholic beverages. Bloody Marys with brunch, beers in the Cavern Club and in a pop-up Beer Garden, a refreshing bottle of Sav with some fine dining, then classy cocktails (porn star martinis…) and dancing. It was rather good fun but, as always, the next morning I contemplated my life choices, my apparent inability to avoid mixing my drinks, and spent the next 2 days downing water by the pint seeking to refresh and restore my depleted self.
When I returned from my travels, from my training as a yoga teacher, I brought some new habits and life choices with me. I had my nose pierced. I chant Om. I meditate and do yoga every day (in one form or another). I am now a vegetarian. It just feels normal to me and I often forget it is unusual to some. I ended up with cheese salad for lunch and dinner at a family reunion the other month as I failed to give fair warning of my new culinary conditioning. The host was slightly mortified – my apologies again Auntie Jan!
My friends and family have, in general, tolerated my changing views, my change of lifestyle and my nose piercing without batting an eyelid. Though there is one comment that is often made in jest when discussing my life and lifestyle choices – “meat is one thing, but if you’d given up booze…”
I haven’t given up boozing. And it is something that on the dark mornings after the night before I ponder. I have always suffered immensely with hangovers ever since I started drinking at the age of 14 when my friend and I would sneak into clubs and drink over-sugared, fizzy, nastily delicious alcopops. And whilst my tastes in alcoholic beverages have matured somewhat (see Pornstar Martinis above) I still willingly, knowingly, enthusiastically induce alcohol.
As a single gal in London, I would be out for dinner (and wine) a lot. A bottle of red shared with a friend over a good steak, a bottle of white after netball, dessert wine instead of dessert, and vodka lime and sodas on a night out because they were less calorific. I enjoy the taste of alcohol just as much as I enjoyed eating meat. There is a beverage for every occasion and it’s an approved social activity.
I have felt uncomfortable in the past in the company of non-drinkers. I have judged them for being a bit of a bore, of not just living a little. I suppose I still hold those views or ignore them as I have not given up the booze despite my body telling me every time that it is in discomfort and out of balance. You wouldn’t repeatedly hit yourself around the head after realising it hurt the first time (unless you are into that sort of thing) so why then do I repeatedly persist in abusing myself with alcohol? Well, that’s because it’s fun. At the time. And it’s what we do for fun in the West. Without true awareness of what it is we are doing to ourselves, to our bodies. We consume. We loosen our inhibitions. We demand immediate satisfaction. And we obtain it. Or so we believe. I used to really need a glass of wine, or seven, at the end of the working week. I had earned it.
As I often say to my friends and students, yoga is not about judgement. When I fail to meditate, or indulge in too much vino then there’s no reason to feel bad about it. Just to become aware of why I did or didn’t make the healthier choice, become aware of how it feels in my body and stay present, stay positive (easier to do without the post-drinking anxiety, overthinking blues)… I have actually and drastically cut down drinking alcohol in my quieter suburban Southport life which is partly down to my choice but also because I now work in the evenings when I would have gone out in London!
These days I will often say no to a glass of wine because I want to be able to get up in the morning and do my own yoga practice for me before I go out and teach others. So I suppose that is the start, the continued integration of my yoga lifestyle into my Western life. I have started to listen and make healthier choices some of the time. I’m not torturing myself by banning booze (like those poor dry Jan sufferers – January is miserable enough!), or depriving myself in some way to lose weight, feel worthy or smug. I gave up meat because something shifted and I felt like I didn’t want to eat it anymore. I had known the environmental reasons, the digestive health reasons and the animal cruelty issues for years but the knowledge of this hadn’t led to a different day to day choice. But by feeling more connected to my own body as a result of yoga, and after ripping into my right arm and leg in a scooter accident in Java, I choose not to eat meat, to prefer not to force my body to work harder than it needs to in order to digest meat. That may or may not happen with booze. But I hope that if it comes to it my friends and family will support me, take a moment to consider if, and why they find that challenging and perhaps raise a glass (of water) to toast my choice.