February 25, 2014

Drinking to Distraction: This Review is Late Because I Have Been Drinking. {Book Review}


My name is Jennifer Moore and I am not an alcoholic.

Three weeks ago I received a copy of Drinking to Distraction by Jenna Hollenstein from the publisher. It is a short book, only 82 pages, and I read it quickly. I have been sitting on the review because it made me think.

I have gone through periods without alcohol; I didn’t drink when I was pregnant or during the almost three years I nursed. Yes… there were a couple pump-and-dump evenings out, but I abstained—mostly.

As a child, my parents and their friends drank beer; I prefer red wine or scotch. Over the years, I have spent many nights out at bars drinking with friends. This happens rarely now that I have a child. I often have a glass of red wine with dinner—sometimes I drink a few glasses at home alone.

I used to believe that I could drink mindfully; that having a glass of wine (or three) every once in a while could be done consciously—mindfully. But this book has made me question these beliefs.

How does consuming a mind-altering substance fit in to the pursuit of the mindful life?

Is it possible to commit to the path of mindfulness (to continue writing and speaking publicly about mindful living and the yogic lifestyle) and still engage in alcohol consumption?

In the Preface, Ms. Hollenstein points out that her decision to stop drinking is not what we may expect, that her “story is different.”

“Though I never “hit bottom,” I eventually realized that drinking was not enhancing my life: it was distracting me from it.”

This book is not reality TV material; it is not high drama. The delivery is clear and concise. There were times in my reading when her experiences seemed normal, because my life is not so different in many ways. The people I know drink; there is always a well stocked bar at the parties I attend; I often keep wine or beer in the house, but not for long because it always gets consumed.

Throughout the book Ms. Hollenstein shares not only her experiences, but also the journey of her mind as she begins to walk the path of contemplation. She openly reveals the faulty thinking patterns that play a role in her unhealthy relationship with alcohol.

In the final chapter, she reveals she still has much work to do.

“Despite all the internal works I have done with meditation, I feared that nothing had changed in my relationship with alcohol except for my choice not to drink it.”

Making the choice to abstain is the first step. Now the real work begins. Meditation gives us the tools to alter the functioning of our minds—but it is solitary work and often difficult. I wish Jenna Hollenstein strength and courage on her journey. She is a warrior.

I have often thought about giving up alcohol completely (maybe someday I will), but unlike Ms. Hollenstein, I don’t spend a lot of time drinking, thinking about drinking or thinking about not drinking.

So for now I will leave things as they are. I will continue to drink on occasion with awareness, knowing all drinking is merely distraction. And it doesn’t take much to distract me.

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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Jennifer Moore

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