Alcohol is a loaded topic in Indian country. In pop culture, Indians are stereotyped as drunks and to be sure, alcoholism, meth and opioid addiction destroys communities. But I am beyond sick and tired of these problems being portrayed as “Native American issues.” They are human issues and it cuts across all social, ethnic and economic segments.
Something about the phrase “walking in two worlds” bugs me. That being said, I’ve sure had some days that were head-spinning doozies. Sitting in meetings where big decisions are made where I am the only women and for sure the only person with any tie to a BIPOC community. I have been inside trailers on the rez and elite social clubs and everywhere in between. And you know what? Rich white people tend to drink a whole lot. Especially lawyers. So let’s all be honest about alcoholism before we cast our stones.
I’ve hosted my share of cocktail receptions and fundraisers with a lot of booze and I have raised millions of dollars that way. And I’m trying to be a lot more more mindful of ensuring real alternatives in all settings. Just like I offer gluten free or vegan snacks so everyone has a meaningful food option AND feels welcome, the same goes for drinks. News flash: water cannot be the only option. Fun “mocktails” or high quality juices should simply be a requirement at every party and I regret that I didn’t see this earlier in life. I’ll never make that mistake again.
Talk about walking in two worlds: I’ve had Boone’s Strawberry Hill and Bad Dog 20/20 and I’ve done upside down margaritas and a keg stand on Keystone Light. I’ve had gluten free IPA, organic hibiscus cider and Dom Perignon. And I’ve gone months and months without a drink. And I mourn for our cousins who get relentlessly profiled and picked on. They have never had the luxury to walk in two worlds due to bias, overt and implicit, based on the darker color of their skin.
In Indian country it’s hard to have a real conversation. We shy away from talking about it. I don’t want the first year Native law student who has a few beers to be shunned by our community and made to feel bad about themselves while some of their classmates in the student bar association have their weekly Thursday night binge. And I want kids who are acting foolish like I did, know that they have a really bright future ahead and need not be defined by their past poor judgments.
In Indian country, there’s the people on the red road and our ceremonialists who are doing great and necessary work in sobriety. I am thrilled that some of them have committed to future blog posts and I will amplify their voices. I’m in awe of their commitment.
There’s also the Cherokee Baptist teetotalers who never touch a drop of alcohol for other religious reasons. And thank God for them because I think our language survived in large part because of our churches.
And then there are our cousins that die face down in a puddle. Or choke on their own vomit one night after they pass out on the couch.
Most of us, like the rest of American society, fall somewhere in the middle. I’m going to say it. I like beer! And I try to drink less of it. When I am exercising more and eating well, I do this effortlessly and I am mindful that it’s not the case for everybody. It’s all a snow ball effect, like most health topics.
TO BE CLEAR, I am not advocating for alcohol consumption AT ALL. Let’s all commit to drinking less, never ever getting behind the wheel and celebrating those that have given it up completely. I may join them someday. Or I may always enjoy a cold beer as a celebration after running a half marathon. Both approaches are ok.
I know most of you will never be 100% vegan or 100% gluten free. And most of you won’t be 100% sober either. But we can encourage each other to have a better attitude about all things healthy and unhealthy.
Did I mention that I like a little bit of gluten free beer?