I recently watched this fascinating documentary on America’s prohibition law, which made alcohol effectively illegal in the States from 1920-1933. Aside from drying out the ill-reputed saloons, from my understanding, it was a big fat failure.
Why? They’re really numerous reasons including increased crime with opportunist bootleggers (the likes of Al Capone flourished), creating a breeding ground for societal hypocrisy, loss of jobs, low morale, especially during the depression. It didn’t sit well too with immigrants such as the Germans who felt punished, their attachment to beer being synonymous with relaxation after work and a taste of home. Perhaps most importantly, it seemingly went against everything America represents; democracy, freedom and our right of personal choice. This featured writer, Pete Hamill, summed it up perfectly:-
“I haven’t had a drink in thirty five years and I don’t care if I ever have another drink. I don’t long for it or ache for it. But if somebody said ‘you can’t have another drink,’ I’d probably go to some demo in front of the Federal Court House and have one. Its one of those things where the average American says, ‘who the hell are you to tell me how to live?!’ If we cease being that country, if we become a country where we all say ‘please, tell me how to live,’ we’re doomed.”
Don’t tell me ‘no.’ Its our human nature, isn’t it? Tell a child not to press that big red shiny button and what do they do? Smack their pudgy wee fingers right on it, activating all sorts of mayhem.
Interestingly I’ve discovered that this law applies to me personally. What I mean by that is I don’t like me telling me what to do. Take meat-eating. Being gravitated to the vegetarian menu lifelong, and with my initial flush of passion for yoga, I started reading some five years ago books such as ‘Yoga and Vegetarianism.’ It seemed a natural process to make it official and exclaim myself a vegetarian. Now, this past year, I’m back to eating meat, consciously sourced, once or twice a week.
Alcohol. Gosh, I’ve had quite a journey with this drug. Coming from my family of thirsty drinkers allied with my British heavy-drinking culture it was nigh inescapable. Pubs and boozy long lunches were a part of the fabric of my childhood from a very young age. Socializing and alcohol were interchangeable, apparently.
Moving to America offered respite, and re-education. With my mounting interest in health and wellness, and my inability to hold more than a four or so glasses of wine without waking up with a crushing hangover, I decided to go teetotaler. I lasted seven months in 2013, and four months last year.
Admittedly, it was a very content and productive time. Emotions seemed crisper somehow, a clean sense of innocent joy turned up the volume in my life. My senses ripened, much like giving up cigarettes and actually tasting food again.
Yet I forgot that, intrinsically, ‘I can resist everything but temptation.’ My personality is naturally rebellious, and I have a fierce distaste for feeling left out of an experience, or tethered down. I felt I was punishing myself with a strict teetotaler stance, and all those I knew thought it was not only an unwarranted self-imposed restriction but unwelcome too.
Hence I now am back to light drinking.
I’ve found putting grand and limiting boundaries to what I can and can’t have unsuccessful, leaving me tangled in a web of failure.
“Why do you put all these pressures of yourself, Yvette, stupid rules?!” This came from the mouth of my big sister, ever wrapped with crassness in her delivery but wise and heart-led at source.
She’s right. Now I journal my way through feelings, unraveling them, holding them up to the light to decipher, observably. Giving myself this space to vent seems such an act of self love. Rather than coming down heavily and clumsily handed with a barking ‘No!’ like a self-inflicted prohibition order, I muddle though the consequences of my behavior choices. Flicking back through the pages is enlightening, a reminder of why I try and discipline myself to take care of my body and mind.
Once a smattering of self liking-or better still, self love- is established, we become awake to our choices, and are mindful to see how they play-out in our lives.
This changes our whole internal atmosphere. No more are we governing ourselves from a place of negativity and strictness and blanketed rule-setting, but from positive reinforcement, trust and love.
Its the difference between a teacher who doesn’t listen to her struggling pupil, to one who sits down with her, and hears her heart with an open mind.
I want to create conditions of expansion and breathability in my life, with room to explore and move and create. Not an environment of that feels constricted and guarded.
Even saying the word ‘No’ causes my body to shrink and recoil, as if my Being is once again a cowering child, being told off.
If we want to initiate self change, it can’t come from fixing anything externally, it has to be internally homegrown, rooted as an expression of self love.
Hard lines and boundaries are not for me. I can’t truly love myself that way.
Can you? Perhaps you must, perhaps you can. Giving ourselves the gift of self exploration is the only way to create the conditions for us to thrive. Otherwise its like planting a seed with no idea of how to treat the plant, what soil it might need or how much sunlight.
Here’s to flourishing on, in our own unique rays of colors.