I made a very conscious decision 12 years ago to stop drinking alcohol. I remember clearly the exact moment I set down my last beer, too. I was at a big party down the street from my house on Keiki beach, mingling within a circle of friends, just talking story. I had been sitting on the fence about giving up alcohol for over a year, but couldn't ever seem to do it.
Since I had started going back to church that same year, I was gaining a better understanding of God's will for my life. One of the things He asks us to do in this gospel, is to trust Him that He will always have our best interest at hand. By following a commandment to give up alcohol, I would be trusting that this would bring me ultimate health and happiness in my life, beyond anything I could imagine for myself. The commandment of health is called the Word of Wisdom, and it is something Mormons truly believe God wants for all of us.
As I stood there at that party with a cold beer in my hand, I started to think about what alcohol really meant to me. I thought about all the fun beer-drinking parties, the many wine-clinking nights with my girlfriends, the sunset margaritas at Turtle Bay, and it dawned on me that in any one of these situations I didn't especially need alcohol to enjoy myself, but it had become more of a social tradition. For a long time I wasn't ready to give up that lifestyle because it was, well, fun! I also came to the conclusion that drinking alcohol in itself wasn't inherently bad, but my unwillingness to trust God was the problem. By promising Him I would give up superficial things like alcohol, drugs, and tobacco, He promised me He would bless my life with health, happiness, and freedom.
That night at the party I walked to the trash can and threw a full can of beer away. I felt nervous and uncertain, but also felt myself walk over into a threshold of absolute trust, that everything would turn out okay in the end.
I think freedom is the one thing I didn't realize would come out of this the most! When most people in this world hear about the Word of Wisdom they think of it as a restriction against our very human rights to choose for ourselves! There is a common misconception that Mormons are being told what to do, or ordered to live a certain way, according to strict rules set by the church. This is quite the opposite of the truth! As Mormons we look to God for guidance because we believe He wants us to grow and flourish in good health, peace, love, and happiness on this earth! I was given a choice to follow this commandment, and I chose to try it out through my own free will.
I can't say I felt liberated the moment I threw that beer in the trash can, however, looking back on the past 12 years, I can see how this choice has given me a beautiful feeling of freedom in my life.
Like I said, I don't think drinking alcohol in itself is wrong; I've had moments where I miss a nice glass of Merlot with dinner, but I have also opened my eyes to see how alcohol can be a weakness to so many people, causing unnecessary drama and problems. I have seen good relationships and marriages fall apart because of addictions to alcohol. I have seen how alcohol can make people act completely different from who they really are. I have seen how alcohol deludes thinking, causing people to make stupid, negative, life-altering choices. I have seen the negative affects of alcohol on families and children, by adults who make very immature choices. I have been to funerals for friends who've died in alcohol-related car accidents, and cried for families who've lost loved ones. I have seen how alcohol has become a financial burden on families, yet a social expectation for so many. I have seen how alcohol can be a superficial center for tradition and fun, leaving out authenticity and realness in people's lives.
Many people I know who drink alcohol don't have these problems, but just think of all the people out there that do! I feel that my choice to give up alcohol isn't just about me, but is a way for me to help strengthen the weaknesses of my fellow human beings.
I have also moved forward to feel freedom in my life to be who and what I want, without superficial restrictions or expectations placed upon me. I don't have any unnecessary drama in my life or have to worry about making poor decisions. The people and friendships in my life are genuine, based on loyalty and love. My husband and I both feel strength and unity in our relationship, and confidence in our marriage. I have been blessed with a strong, healthy body, full of energy and enthusiasm for life! I've trusted God completely to give me a life that I love, and He has done exactly that. There's a quote by one of our church Leaders who says,
“One keeps the Word of Wisdom knowing that obedience will not only bring freedom from addiction, but it will also add blessings of wisdom and treasures of knowledge.”
—Russell M. Nelson
“Face the Future with Faith,” Ensign, May 2011, 35
In essence, God promised me that He would take care of my life, giving me wisdom and knowledge, good health and happiness, if I followed Him, and this is more important to me than the finest glass of wine in the world.
I know it might be a difficult principle for some to grasp, but I wanted to share this part of my life with you. I am happy, I am healthy, and I am feeling free, and this is who I am.