[Note: This was written on Saturday, June 26th.)
Greetings from Ditch Plains! I took the train out with my stepmom and I’m writing this by the beach. If I ever complain about anything again, you have the liberty to punch me in the face.
I was working on a post about experiential learning and how its value had decreased over the years. I was citing a conversation I had recently with Alex Sherker, an outstanding tattoo artist in New York, and I was going to tie it in with patience in this age of immediacy, how technology robs us of experiences, blah blah blah.
This morning I rode a rusted beach cruiser to the health food store in town. I’d run eight miles when I got up and I wanted something to eat, and drink. Being sober means that I get my liquid jollies from stuff like coconut water and frozen banana smoothies. Last night my dad was even conscientious enough to provide me with some fancy organic French soda to drink, in lieu of the wine he and his dinner guests consumed with gusto. I’m not only a recovering alcoholic, I’m also a vegan who doesn’t eat sugar or artificial sweeteners. One of the things I like to drink that fits my stringent requirements is GT’s Kombucha. Last year this health food store had the stuff, so I precariously pedaled my way into the heart of Ditch. It was there that I learned that GT’s Kombucha had been recalled due to discrepancies over the alcohol content. They pulled my favorite overpriced drink because it could be booze. Jesus Christ. Does this mean I have to recalculate my sobriety date? Has my wagon been toppled by some hippie whose homespun hooch hid behind the guise of homeopathy? Did Lindsay Lohan actually tell the truth about her SCRAM bracelet? Well, at least I saved four dollars.
I looked it up online, and here are the facts, some of which I’d already known:
Lindsay Lohan was fitted with a SCRAM bracelet as part of her probation agreement stemming from drunk driving and misdemeanor drug charges. The bracelet (or is it ankelet?) is meant to monitor Lohan’s blood alcohol content, along with random drug testing.
The SCRAM device detected alcohol on the night in of the awards. Lindsay blamed the alarm on kombucha, and she reportedly took a urine test immediately afterward to prove that there was no alcohol in her system. But the attention that Lohan brought to the drink and its sloshtastic qualities had nothing to do with the recent Whole Foods recall. It seems that Whole Foods beat Lindsay to the punch, so to speak, by pulling kombucha until GT can prove that its alcohol content is under the .05% that the label claims. Otherwise it may have to be labeled as an alcoholic beverage, and be subject to the same taxes as the hard stuff. That would at least justify a $4 price tag on tea. Anyway, it seems that GT has broadened the recall beyond the scope of the yuppies: it’s now nationwide, and it’s posted on their website.The excuse that’s presented is that it may continue to ferment after bottling. Right now, no one knows for sure. Even though Lohan posted the grammatically questionable response to the situation on Twitter, "the truth, is refreshing."
I discovered kombucha about a year ago when I had a craving for spirulina. It looked like bottled pond scum, but I liked it. If I drank two per day it cost roughly as much as the magnums of wine I had been putting away every night during the downslide of my alcoholism. I understood that handing over Abe Lincoln every time I wanted something other than water was ridiculous, but the stuff made me feel good. I say that with all of the honesty of an alcoholic who has been sober for over two years. The stuff made me tingle. Did it feel like getting drunk? No. Did it happen every time? No. But I know that I drank it in voracious gulps (the same way I drink, or eat, everything) and I looked at it as my special treat to myself. Not unlike the way I looked at wine, whiskey, and women in my heyday.
What I’m trying to say is that the stuff wasn’t water. A lot of people have attributed kombucha’s punch to caffeine, even though the GT site claims that it only contains trace amounts. I only drink green tea, and not that much of it, so it’s possible that the snap-crackle-pop that kombucha caused was simply a coffee-like buzz. But I doubt it. Still, I didn’t think that it was anything like being tipsy and I didn’t see it as a direct threat to my sobriety. I didn’t want to drink a bathtub full of the stuff, and I easily subbed in coconut water on days where it wasn’t available or when I was trying to figure out what was making my stomach upset. If it had been booze, I would have drank seven or eight in rapid succession, walked across New York to find a store where it was in stock, and shit myself stupid if it caused intestinal distress. I also would have stolen your girlfriend. I may not know the alcohol content of a soda, but I know the alcohol content of me. When I contain alcohol, I am a mess. An addicted, sloppy, ugly mess. Kombucha didn’t make me a mess. But.
Why am I documenting this on a blog that’s dedicated to work? Because if I weren’t sober, I wouldn’t be working. If I started drinking again – drinking stuff with more of a kick than kombucha – I wouldn’t be doing very much. My apartment? Gone. I wouldn’t be able to cover the maintenance. Simon? Poof! I’m sure he could stick around for a while, but he knew me when I was out, and that whole making-out-with-his-friends thing got old to him pretty fast. Snack? Not as if I can specifically correlate the two, but my dog seems a lot happier since I kicked the habit and she hasn’t run away. My job would be the first to wither and disappear as my relentless pursuit to get out of my skin took over. There would be no motivation for much more than destroying myself, and I would wind up in worse shape than last time, which was penniless, lonely, listless, and not writing. I have my fair share of drinking-related horror stories a la Lindsay Lohan, those telltale clues that pop up as you start to veer in the direction of dependency. I’m not proud of them, but they’re there, and they’re a-plenty. I don’t need any more. And while other alcoholics I’ve spoken to have insisted that kombucha isn’t a problem, that was before today’s recall. Perhaps they’ll still be at peace with drinking it after the recall, so long as it isn’t labeled as an alcoholic beverage. Maybe they don’t see it as a threat. But to this alcoholic, I think I’ve come too far and achieved too much to give it all up for the green stuff, even if it doesn’t necessarily lead to a slip. And maybe that’s how this post is about experiential learning after all.