Tuesday, November 8, 2022

The Good Ship Project: Chapter 4: There Is No Such Thing As an Unpolitical Act


November 4, 2022: It’s all about birds and stones over here. I have signed up to do NaNoWriMo (The National Novel Writing Month) this year and so I have started a new book, not technically a novel, but a work of creative non-fiction as part of my phenomenological documentation. Since today was the 4th day, and initially I have started a new chapter each day, this is Chapter 4. Normally I try to stay out of political commentary, but because I need to vote I have to think about these things, so I thought I would challenge myself to write some opinions on three Propositions (124, 125 and 126) on the Colorado State Ballot. These are close to my heart for the following reasons, and so I thought I would put this chapter-in-the-works up for a book preview, even if it is a bit late.


I am a little bit late, but sometimes it takes me a bit to put my finger on why something doesn’t feel right. It takes me a while to come up with the words for why I believe something is not a good idea in a way that other people might connect with.

On the Colorado Ballot are three Propositions, 124, 125 and 126, which together may fundamentally change the way our society relates to alcohol. Before my family and I sat down together to talk about these, I knew there was at least one initiative, because we had been contacted by text by a few restaurants who were trying to be able to deliver alcohol because they were concerned about losing their businesses. Without having read anything, I thought this might pave the way for delivery of medicinal substances like cannabis and prescription medication, and thought that maybe I could overlook my gut feel that it was not a good idea, but I have been mulling it over and decided to put to words what I was feeling in my gut that makes me want to vote no on all three of these Propositions.

When we started reading Proposition 124 it became very clear that it would be bad for Mom and Pop liquor stores. I have watched many little businesses get snowplowed by larger ones, and this will certainly open the door for that to happen. Furthermore, it would increase the ability of large chains to pop up all over the place, chewing up real estate that might be best used for things more useful and healthier for a community. I can’t help but think that all three of these Propositions have liquor industry interests behind them. I attended college in Louisiana at a time when the state had foregone the drinking age set by most of the country at age 21 and had lost their federal highway funding from that decision. New Orleans is infamous for the availability of alcohol. Long before one could get a glass of beer or wine at a swanky movie theater in Colorado, it was possible to get a daiquiri with your flick in New Orleans. Actually, it was possible to get a daiquiri at the drive-through daiquiri shop, as long as you didn’t immediately put a straw in it while on the road. New Orleans also happens to have one of the largest income divides in the United States, and at the time it rivaled Washington D.C. for murder capitol of the United States. I happened upon a historical poverty map of the area when I was writing a paper for one of my classes, and discovered the terrible and long history of class division in the area. The alcohol industry controls the area there, which is unfortunate because of alcohol’s effect on consciousness, peacefulness, and thus problem-solving ability. How are we to expect a city drowning in alcohol to be able to solve important problems with crime?

A few years ago, I went with an artist friend to Los Angeles and spent some time with her son who runs several Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) chapters in the area and teaches elementary schoolers mindfulness. This was a magical trip. It was a whole week without alcohol where I got a little bit of time to myself. I don’t drink alone. I was a high maintenance drinker. I drank socially and specifically sought out places to drink with interesting drink menus and a relaxed atmosphere. It was expensive and I could not have afforded to do it every day, but there were enough special occasions, nonetheless. I was a regular at one bar because our family liked to play trivia, and I always ordered a drink until around the time we stopped going, which was after our friends who had more serious struggles with alcohol decided to try sobriety. I was having a lot of difficulty with auditory processing issues at the time and figured out that loud environments were really stressful for me and exacerbated a lot of my symptoms.

Anyway, I got to talk to some other AA leaders while I was in Los Angeles. I think before that I made some wrong assumptions about what the lives of people who are in AA would be like. I guess I assumed they would all be at rock bottom, but it’s not like that at all. It’s more like humble people acknowledging a weakness in themselves and society, and doing important work to help others imagine a different life. I had another friend at the time who had a business which was close to a busy AA center, and she said things about the people who spent time there which fed some bad assumptions. Anyway, in chatting with these AA leaders in Los Angeles who held regular jobs, I learned that they were often from families where there had been an adoption, and that alcoholism ran in their families. It was there that I kind of started seeing the role of generational trauma and alcoholism in our society.

I did have a third great-grandmother, Harriet Kaufelt, who was involved in the Women’s Temperance League in her area in the 1890s. I grew up understanding the problems with alcoholism and domestic violence because my parents were teetotalers because their fathers were alcoholics. I also understand the shame of having a chemical dependency; my husband had a family member who was an alcoholic, and the way his family treated him was awful. I also understand the health statistics; I have grandparents who died of alcohol-related chronic disease, and my husband and I both have cousins who died in automobile accidents involving alcohol. So even when I did drink, I tried to be very careful.

That trip to Los Angeles was in June of 2018, I believe, and it was about a year later that I had my last drink. What encouraged me to do this was a movement tied to the mindfulness movement on Instagram, but at the same time I was spending time with a person who was dealing with serious alcohol-related health issues. So anyway, I have been alcoholic beverage-free for almost 4.5 years. I am qualifying this because I have reactions to volatilized alcohols and aldehydes in the environment, which can exacerbate withdrawal symptoms, which I have. I think I was an alcoholic and didn’t know it, and that it is actually an important facet of “multiple chemical sensitivity.” In any case, this awareness gave me a totally different insight into what is faced by honest people who recognize their problems with alcohol and try to turn their lives around. There is a stigma for the admission, yet we reward people who can still function with the system in the context of destroying their health and relationships through culturally acceptable levels of alcohol abuse.

So, another reason I thought I would vote for an alcohol-delivery related measure is that I thought it would keep alcoholics off the road. I mean, I’m sure everybody’s thinking that.

Proposition 125 is a measure put forth to allow grocery stores to sell wine. For a long time in the state of Colorado, grocery stores could only sell 3.2% alcohol beer, until a voter measure allowed the sale of malt beverages with higher alcohol content. I remember when this happened; the grocery store closest to my house had to rearrange quite a bit. Anyway, not only would Proposition 125 have the same issue as 124 (working against Mom and Pop retailers), it would use more grocery store square footage to reward alcoholics, and potentially reduce food selection. Furthermore, there are plenty of alcoholics who only drink wine, so thinking this is any different than allowing distilled liquors as well is ridiculous. I feel like all this science about resveratrol has given people license to be sanctimonious in their support of cultural alcoholism. People under the age of 21 aren’t even allowed in liquor stores without a parent, but now we’re going to give grocery stores the ability to give them two options (wine or beer) when they are on a snack run? Furthermore, I think it is better to keep drunk drivers away from grocery store parking lots. So I’m voting “No” on this guy, too.

Proposition 126’s goal is basically to allow restaurants to use third party delivery services to deliver alcohol. They are so confident they are going to win that Instacart is already advertising coming alcohol deliveries. This is the one for which we were contacted several times, including by an associate of ours who works in the alcohol industry. The reasoning they were using to support this measure is that restaurants are struggling, and they need alcohol sales to keep afloat. Well, I kind of thought about it a bit and realized that if I was still drinking alcohol, and I was ordering in, I wouldn’t want to pay $14 plus delivery for something I could make myself, but there are better reasons to vote no on this measure. If people need alcohol to enjoy the food at a restaurant, maybe the food is not that good. Furthermore, if people really are frequenting restaurants primarily for the high overhead alcohol, maybe the main service those restaurants provide to society is not fighting hunger, but fueling addiction that we classify as “culturally celebrated.”

Furthermore, I had to think about my ancestors who suffered physical abuse in front of their children at the hands of an alcoholic, and wonder if enabling my alcoholic ancestors with surreptitious delivery might have ended up leading to someone’s death. I am unfortunately all too aware of the ways that exposure to alcohols and aldehydes can alter decision-making and awareness, and lead to accidents and disagreements. I see these things as important forks in the road of one’s life; the decision to avoid or partake is not always obvious, but when we can identify it is there, it enables a person to take a higher road and make better choices when under duress. Unfortunately a lot of life is about being under duress, and a lot of success amounts to how we handle situations when our choices are limited. A mind unburdened by alcohol is, simply put, more nimble and untroubled.

Additionally, a perceptive young man I know pointed out that enabling third party delivery puts undue pressure on delivery people to go through more training and certification, after which then will then be liable for determining the state of a recipient’s inebriation, potentially putting themselves at risk of violent victimization. These third party services are likely what really kept the restaurant industry afloat during the pandemic, so it doesn’t make sense to add a service which could undermine one of the main purposes of increasing general safety. Their primary function, which is most important, is getting people food. I don’t appreciate the idea that these people who are probably just barely scraping by doing food deliveries should have to take on more stress in their lives to enable a behavior which is often clandestine and has been so destructive to so many families and lives. It is an unnecessary psychological burden for them to bear in the course of their work.

I realize these viewpoints are going to make me rather unpopular, but I don’t care. My honest to goodness well being depends on keeping my home free of products containing excess alcohols and aldehydes, among other chemicals, and because alcoholic beverages pose a similar threat to my health from volatilization even when I am not the person drinking them, I need some corner of my universe to be safe from it. I have seen alcohol destroy people’s potential, their mental and physical health.

I suppose if I was going to ask the reader to give me the benefit of the doubt, I might suggest that they keep a diary the next time they have an alcoholic beverage of the next few days afterward. If the reader is a person with chronic illness especially, I would be curious to see if two days afterward the chronic illness flared, or at the very least if there are issues with mood, depression, digestion, muscle tightness, joint pain, paranoia, attention, agitation or anything else. The symptoms I get make life rather difficult, and I’m trying to figure out how to fit in under this context.

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