Why is it that we associate alcohol with fine food and glamorous celebrations, and recovery with shabby meeting rooms, cheap cups of coffee and drinking tap water at restaurants forever?
It’s time to dispose of this obscene dichotomy. My experience since quitting alcohol doesn’t support it at all! Neither should yours.
The universe is an endlessly fascinating place. Once you break the physical chains of addiction, it’s up to you to discover how unimportant the deceptive toxin known as alcohol really is, in the grand scheme of things.
I’ve noticed that my private coaching clients, almost universally, have a difficult time identifying new obsessions, passions, hobbies – whatever you want to call it. I recall being in this strange mental purgatory as well, in which everything either seemed to revolve around alcohol or the absence of alcohol.
This is why I wanted to create a list of topics, or routes to sensory bliss, that are worthy of the word connoisseur and which bear zero necessary relation to alcohol. If you find yourself associating any of them with alcohol, then it’s time to break that mental association forever. My goal is to help you open your mind and start living a fuller life.
- 1) Drink Better Coffee
- 2) Explore The World Of Tea
- 3) Become A Kava Connoisseur
- 4) Identify Your Favorite Kratom Strain
- 5) Get Into Juicing And Smoothies
- 6) Throw A Kombucha-Pairing Dinner
- 7) Master A Cuisine
- 8) Know Your Oysters
- 9) Get Into Hot Sauce & Chili Peppers
- 10) Attend A Balsamic Vinegar Tasting
- 11) Up Your Cheese Game
- 12) Smoke Better Cigars
- 13) Simplify Your Surroundings
- 14) Appreciate Great Art
- 15) Spice Up Your Life
- 16) Become An Explorer
- 17) Discover Scents For Sensory Bliss
- 18) Master Your Wardrobe
- 18 Ways To Be A Connoisseur in 2018 – Conclusion
1) Drink Better Coffee
I’ve experienced an interesting progression from coffee addict – nursing an entire pot throughout the day after I quit drinking – to coffee bean aficionado, recently ditching my coffee maker for a French Press and opting to carefully select whole beans and grind them manually. Supplementation increased my dopamine levels and eroded my coffee tolerance, so I now have just one cup each day. Otherwise I wouldn’t have the patience to grind my own coffee.
The idea that red wine offers any health benefits was debunked in 2017, but you can still get your tannin fix from good coffee. I enjoy the rich and slightly bitter coffee tannins enveloping my taste buds. Coffee was an unintentional method of harm reduction during my alcohol recovery. I actually started looking forward to getting high on coffee in the mornings, whereas before I’d only looked forward to opening a bottle of wine or liquor at night.
2) Explore The World Of Tea
I picked up a chamomile tea habit after I quit drinking. It became my new nighttime ritual, thanks to its pleasant taste as well as the proven relaxation benefits of this herb. I had 6 bags of chamomile tea in a large pitcher each night for a few years! It satisfied my urge to drink SOMETHING, since I’d spent years clutching various glassware at night and wasn’t about to stop. (Kind of like cigarette smokers with a penchant for holding cigarettes.)
Other relaxing tea blends for night time include lemon balm, passion flower, orange blossom, lavender, and valerian – just to name a few. I have one client who was able to get off of some powerful sleep drugs after using Sleep Support for a few weeks and then switching to SleepyTime Tea.
Some great morning choices include rooibos tea (no caffeine yet energizing), matcha green tea powder, and Indian black tea – with my favorite being yerba mate, a tea from South America that imparts a very strong yet non-jittery, happy buzz. There’s truth in the saying, “Coffee awakens your body; yerba mate awakens your spirit.”
3) Become A Kava Connoisseur
There are various strains of kava, a ground root from the West Pacific, which is usually mixed with water (or coconut water) and has mild mind-altering effects. Each strain tastes and feels different, although all of them generally help to ease anxiety and enhance sociability. Unlike alcohol, kava is not physically addictive.
I recently went to my first kava bar in Chicago over New Years with a great friend. He is an infrequent social drinker, but after I’d introduced him to Top Extracts’ 70% kavalactones powder, he enjoyed it so much that he made his local kava bar a part of his weekend scene. It was a great experience – like most kava bars, it had a relaxing Polynesian ambiance and the kava drinks tasted more interesting than anything I could make on my own.
4) Identify Your Favorite Kratom Strain
It looks like kratom might unfortunately be banned by the DEA soon, so I’ll just note that I’ve had awesome experiences with kratom over the past year and a half. As with kava, there are many different strains of kratom, each offering different effects. I’ve tried about a dozen strains and I have two favorites: Classic Red Bali and Yellow Indo.
Kratom’s effects are stronger than kava, and the right strain for you will create a pleasant and either relaxing or stimulating buzz. Since kratom can be addictive, it’s best enjoyed infrequently. Unless the DEA succeeds in sustaining alcohol’s deadly monopoly on mainstream mind-alteration, I’m convinced that the bars of the future will offer primarily plant-based mind alteration instead of toxic fermented waste. You can read about kratom in this article.
5) Get Into Juicing And Smoothies
Aside from supplementation, juicing and smoothies might be the quickest way to boost your nutrient intake. I like to juice beets, celery, and pineapple before working out. I invested in a high quality juicer that is easy to clean.
I always feel great all day when I make a nutrient-packed smoothie in the morning. My current favorite consists of banana, frozen wild blueberries, no-sugar-added peanut butter, unsweetened kefir, kale, broccoli sprouts, fresh turmeric and ginger, and a tablespoon of monkfruit sweetener. I prefer to make my own juices and smoothies – but there are some awesome juice bars in most big cities.
6) Throw A Kombucha-Pairing Dinner
Kombucha is best known as a probiotic-rich, carbonated tea. Kombucha can solve a particular problem for nondrinkers, which has to do with the fact that at dinner, we’re limited to water, soda, juice, milk, or warm milk…
Kombucha is similar to soda, except that it contains less sugar and its flavor comes naturally from exotic teas, herbs, fruits, and spices. Because kombucha is slightly fermented, some brands might have a small amount of alcohol in them. This is rarely the case in stores – I have only been able to detect an alcohol taste in kombucha once, when I bought some from a street vendor at a festival. I didn’t freak out or descend back into the pits of alcohol addiction.
7) Master A Cuisine
One of the worst things about alcohol only became obvious to me about a year after I quit drinking: I’d been to so many fine restaurants during my drinking years, and I remembered maybe two of them. Even for these particular two, I couldn’t really remember what the food tasted like. A drink doesn’t make food taste better, it gives you 20 minutes of toxic euphoria about everything (including food). Alcohol is an anesthetic that severely numbs your taste buds.
Everyone should know how to cook at least one thing really well. I became obsessed with Indian street food called kati rolls, which I can’t find in my new city. I spent a year hacking the secret recipe of the Indian place I used to visit, and finally figured out how to clone them. Now I throw kati roll parties for friends and family every time something good happens. You won’t think about alcohol if you’re hard at work, making something that tastes much better.
8) Know Your Oysters
Oysters’ salinity, mineral quality, sweetness, and plumpness all vary depending on the oysters’ origin and the season. For some reason that I can’t put my finger on, eating oysters on the half shell helped me get over my past obsession with martinis – in a similar way, I think, that enjoying the tannin profiles of high end coffees helped me get over red wine. Unlike martinis, oysters offer a lot of protein and magnesium.
9) Get Into Hot Sauce & Chili Peppers
Due to my Indian food obsession, I’m well known among my friends as a person who can handle some spice. I collect hot sauces and drive irrational distances to buy Thai chili peppers that I keep in my freezer all year around. If you can’t handle hot things, the good news is that all you have to do is slowly build up a tolerance.
I recently read about a guy who used to drink a handle of vodka in his car each day – and now is renowned as one of the premier ghost pepper producers in the U.S.! He credits his recovery with eating these insanely hot peppers. As it turns out, capsaicin – the active compound in chilies – is known to release endorphins and fight inflammation.
10) Attend A Balsamic Vinegar Tasting
I had no idea how intense connoisseurs of balsamic vinegar were until I met an Uber driver whose life literally revolved around it. He told me about a number of cities in Italy that he’d traveled to just to sample their balsamic vinegar, and our conversation ended up being very interesting.
Interestingly, this man was recovering from alcohol addiction. It occurred to me that he’s succeeded in finding a passion to supplant any self-destructive focus on alcohol, and even more – now he gets to consume wine grapes in a healthier and less toxic form.
11) Up Your Cheese Game
If you love good cheese, as I do, then why not study it? It’s probably easier to plan entire vacations around cheese than balsamic vinegar, and you’d get to visit more countries. Cheese is yet another route to sensory bliss, yet those of us without dairy allergies too often settle for the lowest quality.
Pick up a $12 cheese of your choice from Whole Foods just one time, and tell me that it wasn’t worth savoring!
12) Smoke Better Cigars
I don’t recommend becoming addicted to cigars, but a good cigar can make a special occasion better. I used to drink Scotch whiskey while smoking cigars, but I found that when I reframed alcohol as unworthy of my body, I had no trouble dissociating the occasional cigar from the whiskey.
When I return to my old neighborhood in NYC, I take a friend to my favorite cigar lounge and savor a freshly rolled cigar. I ponder the passage of time and my own transformation, with a clear and slightly stimulated mind.
13) Simplify Your Surroundings
I’m pretty sure that one can be a connoisseur of interior design, without going to school to become an expert. One of the most basic ways to refresh your mind is to clean and de-clutter your room. After that, why not take some pleasure and pride in the things you put in there to begin with?
I’m a bit of a minimalist, but I do like arranging my condo in a way that makes me feel clean and centered. After I quit drinking, I totally rearranged my old apartment – using some basic feng shui principles – to reflect my newer, clarified outlook on life.
14) Appreciate Great Art
Great works of art are best appreciated in the absence of alcohol, so that you can reflect on them with a clear mind and distinguish their effects from a wine buzz. Yet when I was a drinker, I would only go to museums after a boozy brunch. I’m in the process of rekindling my interest in art, and I’m planning to revisit those places that I can’t really recall.
Timeless works of art capture human experience and the subjective essences of historical periods in ways that words cannot hope to achieve.
15) Spice Up Your Life
In case you haven’t noticed, I have an obsession with all things that confer some kind of sensory bliss. Spices are an immediate route to taste bud bliss – there’s something for everyone, depending on your particular preferences. The universe of herbs is so large that they could be studied for a lifetime.
My friends call me the “witch doctor” because I’ve helped them get over many ailments with the help of herbal remedies that I discuss on this site.
16) Become An Explorer
Before I quit drinking, I saw a psychologist who was trying to make the point that there was much more to life than alcohol. He said, “Picture yourself on a cruise” – and I immediately replied, “All I can picture is myself on a cruise with a huge drink in hand.” Fast forward almost four years, and I have to chuckle because I’ve been all around the U.S. and in Europe with absolutely zero inclination to drink at all. Traveling is much more fun without alcohol – I remember everything I see, do, and eat; and I wake up each day in a new place feeling amazing.
If you need an additional reason to quit drinking, calculate the amount of money you spend on alcohol in a year. What is one place in the world that you want to see before you die? I’ll bet you can afford to go for a few days or more if you excise alcohol from your life and proactively repair your brain.
17) Discover Scents For Sensory Bliss
Why not explore the world of olfactory bliss? Candles, incense, and aromatherapy can all enhance your quality of life. Discover which scents make you feel most at home, or even excited to be alive. I have an aromatherapy machine that helps me stay relaxed and focused when I write.
Scent is directly tied to memory, and whenever I smell eucalyptus, I’m reminded of a particular steam room at a lodge in Telluride, Colorado as a kid on a ski trip. Every time I open a tiny bottle of eucalyptus oil, I’m transported back to Telluride – which is on my list of destinations for next year.
18) Master Your Wardrobe
If you aspire to change the things that you can, then you’ll notice that improving the way you present yourself to the world can automatically command respect and enhance your experience of life. Connoisseur is too strong a word for my relationship with fashion. But as I got in better shape from quitting drinking and hitting the gym, I got a lot of pleasure from donating my old clothes and starting my wardrobe anew.
I have no idea how to help women do this, but I learned a few things from a great site for men called Iron & Tweed.
18 Ways To Be A Connoisseur in 2018 – Conclusion
I spend a lot of time discussing how to break the chains of alcohol addiction by addressing the widely ignored physical components of addiction. But to really change your life, you have to change the objects of your focus.
Which is to say, if you really want to leave drinking in the past, you need to find things that give you a renewed zest for living – and which essentially crowd out alcohol from your life. The list above is really a set of 18 different subjective universes that can satisfy your human need to experience pleasure, fascination, and a sense of possibility.
Discover one or two new passions beyond alcohol, and you’re way ahead of the curve.
If you enjoyed this article, then you’ll love my eBook, Drinking Sucks!, and you might want to learn more about my new online course, Total Alcohol Recovery 2.0!
Great article, Chris ! I’m wondering if you have any additional “intel” about the whole vinegar tasting thing ? You see, my extremely picky-eater of a teenage son has decided he wants to become a vinegar connoisseur (NO idea where kids come up with these things ?! Lol). Admittedly, I’m not finding much in the way of good resources to explore. His birthday is in a week, and with kids being tough to impress these days, I’m trying to explore some thematic options. If your research has given you any insight thar could give me direction, I’m all ears !!… Read more »
Thanks Tiffany! I myself haven’t become a vinegar connoisseur quite yet, but I haven’t ruled out the possibility in the future. Good for your son though! It looks like there are some books on Amazon about balsamic vinegar, so maybe one of them would help him learn the subject. They do seem to be marketed towards aspiring chefs though. Good luck with this tricky project!