Category Archives: Writer

Why Practice Abstinence?

I’ve read a bajillion Internet posts about how much better people feel when they give up alcohol and/or caffeine.

You can read here about Gretchen Rubin, the woman who wrote The Happiness Project, a book I read with quite a suspicious eye, and her reasons for quitting drinking. I had quite a difficult time relating to much of what she said, because I kept feeling like anyone could be happy if they had all day to hang out and write and do things to make themselves happy, instead of working 40+ hours a week outside the home, like so many of us do. I mean, I’d be happy if I could just eat, swim, trail run, write, and do art. Any agents out there willing to negotiate a contract for a fat athlete who just wants to athlete and write about it? I promise, I’ll make it a good read.

You can read here about how long it might take for you to return to “normal” after quitting drinking.

You can read here about a year-long fast from alcohol and the effects it had on the writer.

In fact, if you google “a year without alcohol,” you can read a countless number of people’s quests to live a year or more without drinking any form of alcohol. Similarly, if you google “a year without caffeine,” you can find a significant number of stories about how people exist without coffee.

After spending a bit of time googling and skimming other folks’ quests of this nature, I decided to try my own little experiment. Since October 10, I’ve not had any alcohol or caffeine, and I plan to continue this fast or abstinence at least until I go back to Indiana in January, so October 10-January 16, when I will run my favorite night time trail run. What is that? About three months?

After nine days, do I feel better? I wouldn’t say that I notice a significant difference in my body. I don’t feel necessarily peppier, or necessarily groggier. I don’t notice a difference in my habits in the morning, since I replaced coffee with a caffeine-free herbal infusion by Tiesta. In the evening, however, I have to say it’s a bit disconcerting to not have a beer with dinner or to wind down when I come home from work.

I’ve spent some time in the past year shedding some of my bigger addictions, and I feel much better for it. It’s amazing how quickly things that seem innocuous when we initially begin them can become such controlling and overwhelming forces in our lives, how they can begin to color everything we do, and how we eventually let them control how we interact with people and how we think of ourselves.

Though I wouldn’t call alcohol or caffeine, in and of themselves, addictions for me, I will say that I think I rely on them too much, so a few months without will do me well. As of now, I’m looking forward to a life of clean eating, exercise, and an eventual Ironman finish. Today, I can say I am back on track.

Dear Alice Walker

I am not sure if you know that you saved my life.

As a middle schooler, I watched the movie of The Color Purple with my mom when it aired on television for the first time, and we sat and cried together when Nettie came home. I am sure we cried at other points of the story, too, just like we did when at a young age I watched Roots with my parents, because they didn’t want me to be racist like many of the people in my hometown were racist. I know I cried when I figured out that Celie and Shug were so in love, so filled with grace for one another.

When I was in high school, I was really unsure of a lot of things, but I was sure of the fact that I loved to read, and I loved the movie I’d watched with my mom. I was overjoyed when I found out that the movie I’d watched was based (later I found out, very loosely) on your epistolary novel The Color Purple. I borrowed a copy from the Carnegie Public Library, and I never returned it. Your book is the only book I’ve ever stolen from the library, Alice, and I wouldn’t have stolen it, but when I went to the bookstore in the mall with my gift certificate, they didn’t have, and wouldn’t order, your book. So I kept the one from the library with all of my markings and my dog-eared pages, until in the middle of a fight a now ex-girlfriend tore the pages out and threw them out the window like hellish snow.

When I stole the book, I just knew I needed it, because the love between Shug and Celie was the most real love between two people I’d ever read in a book, seen in a movie, or experienced in my own life. I wanted a love like theirs. I wanted someone to make me feel special, where I didn’t feel so special. I wanted someone to make me feel beautiful, where I didn’t feel so beautiful. I wanted someone to love me, even if they loved some other people too. I wanted what they had. I wanted to grow old on a front porch in a rocking chair. I wanted grace, instead of shame.

I think I have read your book close to fifty times, maybe more. Every time there is something new to me, something that speaks deeper to me, something that makes me think life is more beautiful than when I began your book again. There are other books that do this for me, Paradise by Toni Morrison and Mama Day by Gloria Naylor to name two of them. But there’s something about Celie and Shug that pulls me back and pushes me forward and just makes me know everything is going to be alright.

When I was in college, and I was thinking about coming out to my family, I was at a really low point, Alice. I mean a lowest of the low, low point. I thought that telling my family about my sexuality was probably one of the most overwhelming things I’d ever do. I had no idea how they’d react. In my very lowest moment, I decided to reread The Color Purple. When I made it to the scene around the dinner table where Celie announces that she’s leaving with Shug, I just sobbed. I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that my life could always be so much worse than it felt to me, or what I made it out to be in my head.

Basically, Alice, what I am trying to say, is that your words have saved me so many times over, I have no idea how to repay you for your grace. Through words on a page, you taught me how to move from shame to grace. You showed me the way. And I thank you.