I find myself wondering, especially around the holidays, if recovering alcoholics and vegans feel the same sometimes. Drinking alcohol is an expected societal norm in that everyone thinks anyone over the age of 19 does it. When you go to a restaurant, the first thing you’re asked after being seated is, “What can I get you to drink?” followed by hearing the specials which usually center around a meat of some kind. The eating of meat, dairy and eggs is the same as alcohol in that everyone assumes you do it. Just this week, Julian had a minor procedure done at the hospital and upon his discharge was told to keep his meals light that day and to, “Go home and have some scrambled eggs or chicken noodle soup.” Grrrr. I bit my tongue because what was the point of correcting a person I was never going to see again?
I’m guilty myself of assuming that everyone drinks alcohol and I’m trying to be more mindful of that. I know there are people who simply don’t drink and never have but I wonder if recovering addicts, people who have experienced firsthand the damages of alcohol and have made the change from “before” to “after” ever get frustrated with the endless promotion and sale of alcohol knowing what they now know about the consequences of it. Especially when alcohol, like animal products, is advertised as everything from sexy to traditional, almost as something we deserve to indulge ourselves in from time to time.
Drinking alcohol and eating meat today are like smoking in the 1940’s: it’s just assumed everyone does it. People tend to get really excited about it too, making it all the more difficult and awkward to interject the fact that you don’t actually consume it much less share in the excitement of it. As with so many things, it would nice to be asked first: Do you drink? Do you eat meat? Just a simple clarification would suffice before launching into a story about how drunk you got last Saturday night or how the turkey you cooked turned out and tasted amazing.
What got me thinking about this even more was when it was announced this week that for the first time in the province of Ontario, beer would be available for purchase at grocery stores. This is big news for Ontario since currently you can only buy beer at government-owned and operated retail stores (called the LCBO) or a chain of privately owned retail stores fittingly called The Beer Store.
Anyway, on the front page of a local Toronto newspaper this week was the headline, “Toronto the Happy,” announcing the launch of beer sales at some major grocers. As a beer-drinker myself, this was welcome news but I couldn’t help but follow it up with the thought that the headline made awfully big assumptions about this being “happy” news for everyone in the city. What of the people who struggle with addiction? As it stands now, one could at least avoid the LCBO and Beer Store since they are separate shops altogether. But now the temptation of alcohol – or at least the attention to it – will soon be commonplace in a store most of us cannot avoid.
As I stared down at the front page, I wondered how I would feel as a vegan if the headline referred to say, a food court now carrying live lobsters or fish that you could pick out yourself before ordering your fast food meal. Knowing what I – essentially a recovering meat and dairy-eater – now know about animal suffering and its effect on human health, I would likely feel disheartened and angry. Likewise, how would the increased availability of alcohol make someone feel who has not only made the choice to avoid it but made that choice based on firsthand knowledge and experience of its dark side?
It was one of those moments when I stopped to consider how social assumptions often link to deeper issues, issues we’re not really encouraged to think about or consider another side to, besides the one being presented to us.