Resolving The Desire To Try New Flavors While Living With Addiction
Believing myself to be an adventurous eater, I take a lot of pride in consuming foods or drinks that might make others feel uncomfortable. Now, while I don’t consider myself the second coming of Andrew Zimmern, you’d rarely hear me start a sentence with the three words “I’d never eat…” Let’s just say I enjoy new experiences.
I am also a recovering addict with over 19 years of sobriety. As a teen, I struggled with many aspects of my life, and one of the ways I tried to escape from my problems and my personality was to use methamphetamines. This led to the adoption of a 12 step program at a very early age. Since this part of my life happened before I was 21, there are times when I have FOMO (fear of missing out) related to consuming drugs or alcohol.
Beer, wine, hard liquors, and marijuana are all massive industries in America and all over the world. Locally here in Portland, beer culture is massive. There are about 70 breweries in Portland, a city with a population under 700,000. There’s a brewery for every 10,000 residents! There are so many different styles of beers from IPAs to sours to lagers to stouts. How each of these pairs with food is of particular interest to me. The same is true about wine. It’s essentially impossible to go to an upscale restaurant without a wine list longer than the food menu, and if you have a tasting menu at a restaurant, there are wine pairings, beverages specifically chosen for each dish. Because of this, I am truly jealous of the experience of other diners. Rarely are non-alcoholic beverages given such consideration.
In Portland right now, opening wine bars is becoming really popular. Already this year, Arden Wine Bar and Kitchen, Enoteca Nostrana, and Canard are three of the highest profile openings in early 2018. While I’m definitely attracted to the food at these establishments, there is certainly a part of me that feels I’m missing out on part of something.
Among friends, relatives, and co-workers, there is a feeling for me that drinking culture has excluded me from connecting with others, which I would say is the most painful aspect of the sober life. This lack of connection has led to bouts of isolation and loneliness in both my personal and professional life. That is not the fault of my family, friends or co-workers, but it is a part of my addiction. Contrary to beliefs we have all learned about substance abuse, many psychologists now think the opposite of addiction is not sobriety but connection. Perhaps that’s what makes the 12 Step meetings so powerful. Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous are fellowships. The sense of shared experience among fellow addicts is always a great reminder that we are not alone. This is also one of the reasons I am very open about my addiction despite strongly respecting anyone else’s decision to remain anonymous. I would never want someone in a similar situation to feel they’re abandoned.
You might be asking yourself: “Why restrict yourself completely? Why not try to moderate usage?” Unfortunately, addiction is a mental disease that is difficult to moderate. In the 12 Step community, we have a saying “one is too many, and a thousand is never enough.” Even a single use can easily snowball into overuse because of the way our minds work. This may not be true for everyone, but I know for myself when I become remotely interested in something, it tends to become an obsession. Regulating the part of me that tries to escape my problems is extremely difficult. There are times when the people around me want to take the edge off and having a drink, smoking or consuming an edible helps.
Food With Cooked Alcohol
There is one way I can get the taste of alcoholic beverages without consuming alcohol, and this is by eating food cooked with said beverages. In fact, many of my favorite dishes are prepared using wine or liquor imparting quite a bit of their flavors. Obviously, beef bourguignon cannot be made without a Burgundy, and this red wine gives it its signature taste.
Non-Alcoholic Drink Pairings
Once in awhile, a great restaurant will include a non-alcoholic drink pairing option for their tasting menu. In fact, my favorite restaurant, Le Pigeon, does this, and it is absolutely fantastic. Let’s hope we see more and more of this in the near future.
I do love my coffee, especially when it’s extracted from naturally processed Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans. I allow myself to have coffee and tea despite the documented effects of caffeine; that being said, I do know addicts who don’t drink coffee.
It’s not all bad. Although being around folks who have had a few too many drinks can be a handful, I enjoy helping the people I care about by being a reliable designated driver when we have a night out. Also, since my experience is fairly foreign to most, it gives me a perspective that a lot of others find interesting. This can sometimes offset some of my feelings of social exclusion.
Drinking and smoking are not cheap, so the money I’m not spending on alcohol can be used to enjoy even more food, as long as my stomach can handle that.
The health benefits of not drinking are two-fold:
- Alcohol consumption is relatively high in calories, and I can save those calories for food!
- I don’t get sick or hungover as a result of alcohol or drugs. It must suck having to recover from a night of drinking. Luckily, this is something I don’t have to go through.
Even though I do feel like there are some experiences I don’t get to have, I am a better man because I don’t use. Ultimately, using drugs and alcohol would lead to a significantly harder existence for me, and maintaining my sobriety means I don’t feel the fear of missing out on the life I have now.