TSD: Vegetarian vs. Sober

The Sober Diaries – Entry 3

When I was in middle school, one night I was sitting at the dinner table, eating chicken, when it suddenly hit me that I was chowing down on a dead animal. I wasn’t stupid, I knew where my meat came from, but I guess I had never really acknowledged it until that moment. I pushed my plate away, announced I was becoming a vegetarian, and that was that.

I am vegetarian for a number of reasons, but the main one being that I love animals. Seeing them in pain hurts me, and I don’t feel comfortable eating them while claiming to love each and every one of them. Animals were my THING when I was younger. (I still love them to pieces, but I was truly and utterly obsessed when I was little. Think child prodigy-level of obsession, where I could recite the names and facts of the most obscure animals in the world.) And even at age 12, I realized that I would be a hypocrite and inauthentic if I continued eating meat while blathering on about how much I loved animals.

A billion years later, after the drama of teenager-dom and the messiness of college happened, after I moved away from NYC and watched my life implode over a douchebag, after I settled down into my new life in Wisconsin, I finally got sober too.

Turns out, quitting meat and quitting alcohol are pretty fucking similar. (Besides the ONE HUGE DIFFERENCE of alcohol being an addictive substance that will kill you.) Here’s some parallels I’ve noticed, even though I was a child when I quit meat and nearly 30 when I quit booze:

You will crave it, but you won’t miss it 

  • I went vegetarian and I never looked back. I did not miss the taste, flavor, or idea of meat at all. There were occasions when I would get this intense craving, where the smell of animal flesh cooking made me perk up with interest. But in general, I wasn’t interested anymore. When I got sober, it was mostly the same. I do not miss the taste, flavor, or idea of alcohol. I do get cravings, and they are way more aggressive than my meat ones were, but I have tools to quiet them (which I will discuss in an upcoming post).

People will be VERY interested in why you quit 

  • I have fielded so very many “Why don’t you eat meat?” queries over the years that now I barely notice when someone asks me. My response is usually the same, some variation of how I love animals and hate the way the meat industry mistreats them. People are curious, sometimes noisy, and occasionally you get the contrarian, avid meat-eater who finds your vegetarianism a personal affront against them and tries to lure you into a debate about how human beings need meat to survive (which isn’t necessarily true anyway. Besides plenty of research to back that up, I’ve been meat-free for almost 20 years and I’m still alive). I’m beginning to notice it’s the same for quitting booze. There’s a little bit more of a social taboo there — (normal) people don’t want to be rude. They realize there are finite reasons why someone would stop drinking, and alcoholism is one of them. But most people will tentatively try to ask you why you don’t imbibe. (If you are a woman or female-presenting, you WILL be asked if you are pregnant, so be warned.) And again, the people who get the most worked up about it are usually those who are heavy drinkers themselves.

Society kinda thinks you’re lame 

  • Vegetarians have a pretty specific stereotype. It’s not as intense as the vegan stereotype, but there’s still this misconception that most, if not all, vegetarians are hippie-ish, stuffy, and easily outraged. A lot of people take pleasure in baiting vegetarians and vegans, taunting them with animal products and salivating over how much they love meat. That’s really cute, I’ve never had someone say, “If God didn’t want us to eat meat, why did he make it so delicious?” before! Wow, go you, I remember my first joke too. Anyway, thanks to self-righteous and hypocritical groups like PETA (look it up, they kill thousands of animals a year in their shelters and they have a sketchy way of handling their company), vegetarians don’t get the best rap. Same goes for sober people. They are often considered boring, buzzkills, and wet blankets. I would know, because when I was younger I was one of those idiots who thought that way. Now that I am sober though, I know that I can have MORE fun (and remember it) now than I did when I was drinking. Most sober people aren’t judging you for your wine habit, or trying to make the party dry — we just want to be treated with respect.

You will get healthier 

  • Here was the unexpected benefit I got from quitting both meat and booze. Since I was super young when I stopped eating meat, I didn’t see the same drastic changes I might have seen if I had stopped in my 20’s. I will tell you, however, that up until a year ago my diet mainly consisted of bread and cheese. Even as a vegetarian, I ate very little actual vegetables. I was literally that person who would eat an entire block of cheese and call it dinner. I made a series of healthy decisions within the last year and eating better was one of them. So my diet now, filled with vegetables, whole grains, diary, and non-animal-based protein, helps me stay healthy. Despite having a wonky heart problem, my heart is actually doing okay, helped along by the lack of red meat I eat. And getting sober? I lost almost 15 lbs already, I  finally started developing actual muscles, and my mental health is unrecognizable. I cannot believe how sick alcohol was making my body and mind feel for so many years. Now that I’m off the sauce, I notice how much better I feel in general.

You will feel accomplished 

  • When I stopped eating meat, I thought I was finally doing my part to make the world a little bit better. Sure, it was a small role, but I was following my instincts, abiding by my morals, and listening to the voice in my soul that was telling me that in order to be happy, I needed to stop doing this thing. Lo and behold, those same feelings sprung from the murky depths of my emotional well when I got sober too. I was finally making a productive change, I was taking my life into my own hands, and I was refusing to let myself keep living a lie. I had to change to get better, so I did. Being sober and being a vegetarian makes me feel so strong, so happy, so accomplished.

These are just a few of the things I’ve noticed right off the bat. Getting sober is a process — a fucking long one. But it’s something I’m committed too, just like my vegetarianism. I don’t want there to be any relapses, but if there are, I am prepared for it. (Interestingly, the only times I relapsed in my vegetarianism was in college when I was blackout drunk. Only then, could people convince me to eat meat.) These things are tied into my identity now, but they don’t make me me. I’m a sober vegetarian, yes, but I’m not defined by that. It’s important to remember that you are many things, all stacked together to create this unique and interesting human that bears your name. Don’t let society (or your friends, or yourself) define you, even if you do use their labels.

And stop eating animals! You’ll feel so much better, trust me.


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