Around two months ago I decided to become a vegan. This, after several years as a vegetarian before, would seem like a logical and natural step, but in fact, was never something I had considered doing before (or thought I was capable of).
Turns out… I was not right. At least, I did not feel ‘right’. After watching several documentaries and Youtube videos (such as Food Choices, What the Health, Dairy is Scary) and reading more into the dairy and egg industry in particular, I started to slowly view the cheese on my pizza, the yogurt on my fruit, and my scrambled egg on my plate, in a very different, and unpalatable light.
A switch had been flipped and I could not un-see things. I needed to make a change to reduce the animal products I was consuming, and become..a vegan [dum dum dummmmmm].
Now, you might be wondering, what the hell does this have to do with me giving up alcohol? I mean, that’s what my blog is about right?
Well, yes, and no.
At the point that I was making this change to veganism I came across this fantastic article in Hip Sobriety (one of my favourite blogs) on how the decision to go vegan is actually quite similar to the one to give up alcohol. The article talks to the fact that yes there are hard times when becoming vegan, such as when there is no vegan foods available or when you get served a pile of lettuce at a restaurant as a meal, but essentially these are small sacrifices we make in the greater scheme of things, and are very similar to the sacrifices we make when we decide to live an alcohol-free life.
Having given up booze around 20 months ago, after reading this article, something in me clicked. I had already done something I never thought I was capable of. All the times where I thought it would be hard – social settings, work settings and dealing with other people’s reactions of my decision, I had gotten through. I had given up alcohol, and not only have I managed, but I have thrived. If I can do this, then surely I could be a vegan.
It has now been two months since making this decision, and the parallels between quitting drinking and becoming a vegan have been fascinating. So I thought I’d touch on a few of them here!
A Lightbulb Moment
Both my decision to stop drinking, and become vegan felt like a lightbulb moment – in which a switch had been flipped, and things became very clear to me, very fast. Binge drinking was causing a lot of harm in my life, it was going against my personal values and goals, affecting my health and my relationships. I never really thought I could stop, nor did I feel this was an option (I mean…like…only alcoholics don’t drink right?).
However, one day, I woke up from another god-awful hangover, and I was DONE. The decision to stop drinking happened suddenly. This Naked Mind author Annie Grace terms this ‘spontaneous recovery’. When an individual makes the decision to stop drinking one day, never to return to it, and often without any need for rehabilitation.
The same can be said for the moment that I decided to become vegan. I had never genuinely considered this an option before, until, well, I did. The decision process must have happened in a few seconds. Something clicked and the decision was made to reduce my unnecessary harm on animals. I tend to be quite an impulsive person (a big contributor in my binge drinking), but I have also seen how my impulsivity has been a powerful and positive tool in my life – in making gut decisions which I feel are right for me, and acting on them. Sure, these issues were brewing under the surface for a while, I have no doubt, but it has been amazing to watch how these have come into the light, in moments that I have expected them least!
The Resistance from Others
OK let’s admit it folks. People suck.
When you do something that separates you from the crowd – or perhaps challenges other’s opinions, ethics or behaviours, you are going to come up against resistance.
Look…don’t get me wrong, I was totally one of those people. I remember the wine memes I used to share in jest, joking away the negativity and destruction that alcohol brought into my life as well as others. The bacon references I used to chuckle at (‘I mean…bacon…right?’), which were used as a retort to every vegan mention or argument despite the death it brought to so many living creatures.
Now, having opted out of the drinking and the carnivorous ‘tribe’, I have experienced push back from others in many situations. It’s weird how people feel impelled to interrogate my decisions, or get into moral and ethical debates immediately, and criticize my non-alcoholic beer, or veggie burger at a braai (BBQ).
It has been interesting to note, that even after a very short experience of veganism, that the push back I have felt to this feels has been more intense than it was when I gave up alcohol. I am nervous to post my views on social media, or pipe up in debates in the issue of animal rights, as the reaction from others is incredible harsh. I genuinely feel that this is because many people are not ready to confront this truth, or that their ‘switch’ is just not ready to be flipped. This is OK. I was there not so long ago, and now I am choosing to live my truth by example, as opposed to preaching it to others (although this is difficult, especially when being interrogated so often).
However, it isn’t all doom and gloom! For every interrogation that comes my way I find that there are many people who have reacted positively to both my decision to stop drinking, and become a vegan. This has often been met with curiosity and enthusiasm in others for making this change for themselves.
The Health Benefits
We cannot ignore the increasing body of research that has been published on the links between both meat and alcohol and various health risks and diseases associated. Drinking has been shown links to mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon and rectum and breast cancer – even in moderate amounts. On the flip side, giving up alcohol often comes with some really great health benefits including clearer skin, weight loss, improved sleep, stabilized moods, reduced blood pressure, prevention and reversal of pre-mature ageing, a healthier liver and generally more energy overall.
As far as the consumption of meat goes, this has been linked to various forms of cardiac issues, diabetes, as well as cancers. Countries such as Belgium are waking up to this, and have released a new inverted food triangle with meat and butter at the bottom, with foods such as sugar and alcohol which should be consumed ‘as little as possible’. Some of the health benefits of moving to a vegan diet include weight loss, improved cardiovascular health, stronger nails and hair, improvements in PMS symptoms, higher energy levels, not to mention adding another 5 or 6 years to your lifespan. There are many other sites and centers of research which are emerging, pointing to the health benefits with moving to a plant-based diet – some of which you can find here, and here.
Now, whilst my decision to stop drinking and become vegan were not driven primarily for health reasons, looking into the health matters involved in both has been some pretty damn good re-reinforcement for my decisions.
Stepping into Conscious Living
When I decided to stop drinking, I decided that I was tired of wasting my life away being boozed or hungover. I was tired of ignoring how it was negatively affecting my life, my health, my relationships, the way I allowed myself to be treated, and the way I treated others. I had drank for 14 years, I had drank at most social situation (which is frighteningly ‘normal’ in our society), I had drunk my low confidence away, I drank my feelings away – unable to deal with or process them. I got to such low levels of consciousness, I started to black-out after two or three glasses of wine towards the end. I think it was the only way I could deal with the sense of misalignment I felt in my life. So when I decided to stop drinking, I had made the decision to remain conscious. To be wide awake. To see things as they are, to feel things, to experience who I really was underneath it all, the good and the ugly.
Becoming a vegan has been a natural progression of my journey into conscious living, and living an authentic life. I have decided to listen to the voices within, the ones which have been gently telling me I need to do better for myself, and for the lives of animals and for our environment. I have made the decision to wake up to the devastation of animal industry, as well as the destruction this is having on our environment, as well as our health. I know that there is something deeply wrong with how us humans are conducting oursleves on this planet, and I have decided to own this.
I know this process will continuously evolve, with levels of consciousness, and awareness opening up as I go. I have no doubt I’ve only just begun to scratch at the surface.
New Levels of Creativity
Giving up drinking meant I had a lot more time on my hands to fill. Without the brutal hangovers, I suddenly had entire weekends to devote to whatever I wanted to learn and explore, not to mention a lot more money to spend that I’d saved not-drinking, on new hobbies and activities. Bars, and clubs became boring AF, and I started to look for new and stimulating environments and activities to fill up my time. I had to be creative, and step out of my usual routine and comfort zone, which led to me exploring many new passions and hobbies such as brewing my own kombucha, hula hooping, drawing, cooking classes, podcasts, Pilates and meditation,…not to mention starting this blog! It has also meant I explore with new non-alcohol beverages and ‘mocktails’ (which I prefer to term Mojo Juice;) ) which has had me creating delicious new drinks, many of which are often the envy of the party!
The same has happened since I have stopped eating animal products. I have been pushed into new and creative ways of cooking, eating and living. My new obsession is creating plant-based meals and desserts that give meat, egg or dairy dishes a run for their money! I also have to get creative at a restaurant, with only a small selection of things to eat. I love trying new vegan restaurants that pop up in my area, or visiting vegan markets on the weekend. I have not only been exposed to new foods, but new ways of living and life, in all respects – from the products we use to clean our houses, the cosmetics we put on our bodies, and the clothes we wear. My experience so far is that not only are there so many alternatives to animal products – but that these alternatives are, in fact, much better and more enjoyable than the former (as well as cheaper when you know where to look). I feel I now eat better meals than I have ever before, and feel totally satisfied with my delicious non-alcoholic drinks. Despite what you might think, deprivation is not something I feel with an alcohol-free or vegan life.
The New Black
It is no secret that the world is being fast-tracked into more conscious, value-driven, and environmentally-aware ways of living. Living an alcohol-free lifestyle is blowing up globally as many people are deciding to replace tequila shots with wheat grass shots. Online sites such as Hello Sunday Morning, Hip Sobriety and Club Soda are increasing exponentially, as are sober dance movements such as Daybreaker, Morning Gloryville and SUCO Sessions as people start to look for healthier and fun alternatives to drinking. Younger generations are also showing a huge trend in moving away from alcohol and “avoiding boozy nights out because it’s ‘pathetic’ to be drunk and reminds them of their ‘uncool’ parents”, claims a recent poll. [kids these days…gotta’ love ’em!]
At the same time veganism is becoming a lot more mainstream, with vegan stalls and restaurants popping up by the minute it seems. Even fast food giants McDonalds have started rolling out a vegan burger recently. Popular public figures are continuously emerging and speaking up on this matter, including those such as James Aspey (also a total babe), Melanie Joy (total babe too, as well as the most bad-ass activists that has existed on this matter, in my opinion) and countless celebrities such as Joaquin Phoenix, Alicia Silverstone and Liam Hemsworth ,Woody Harrelson and Sia, to name but a few.
With access to podcasts, blogs, online support groups, documentaries, we are starting to educate ourselves around matters, rejecting mainstream media messaging, and making our own decisions on how we want to live our lives, how we want to treat our bodies, animals and our precious environment with greater care. After all, when we know better – we do better.
Never has there been a better time to step into conscious living than it is now. We have all the resources at our finger tips.
So yes, my blog is about alcohol-free life, but it is also about everything that has evolved and followed from this decision in my life. The journey has taken me to places I have never imagined I would go. It is about creating a space for honest and authentic living. Most importantly, its about pushing me further and further into living a joyous life that I can be proud of.
Who knows, it might give others the courage to others to make these changes too.
If you want to stop or reduce your drinking, join our awesome Facebook group for access to support, resources, motivation, alcohol-free month challenges, and general tomfoolery!
And here are some photos of some delicious foods I have been making, because…I can 🙂