014 Teetotalers No More (Part One): Our Stories Navigating Alcohol
Will beer always taste this bad?
If you were raised Mormon, you were likely taught from a very young age that alcohol is completely forbidden in your religion. If you joined the LDS church later in life, you most likely gave up drinking alcohol as a sign of obedience to the tenets of your new religious faith. Now you’re working through a faith transition, considering having that first drink after leaving Mormonism, and wondering where in the world to begin.
Join us as we begin a series of episodes about navigating alcohol after leaving Mormonism. In part one of our series on alcohol after Mormonism, panelists Chloe, Kristin, and Micaela sit down to discuss the ways in which Mormonism may or may not have shaped their beliefs around the use of alcohol. They also talk about their exposure to alcohol growing up, having their first drinks as they were leaving Mormonism, and how they feel about alcohol now.
As mentioned in our coffee and tea episode, adherence to the Word of Wisdom - avoiding coffee, tea, tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs - is a key religious principle for believing Mormons. Failure to abide by the restrictions of Word of Wisdom disqualifies a person from participation in temple ordinances, the highest form of worship in Mormonism.
It’s common for believing Mormons to hold deeply internalized narratives about the dangers of alcohol, and not surprisingly, these narratives can lead to a lot of fear for those going through faith transitions. You may no longer feel like drinking alcohol is inherently wrong, but you may have internalized a fear of addiction, of losing control, fear for your safety, and of the unknown. You likely also fear the judgement of others; the church has given believing members a narrative to explain away your behaviors, and it’s difficult to feel misunderstood or misrepresented.
Letting go of the idea that “avoiding alcohol = good person,” and vice versa, can take some time to work through. Observing normal adult social activities where alcohol is involved can help normalize the experience; the reality is that the majority of adults throughout the world consume alcohol, and the vast majority of them handle it responsibly and appropriately.
Don’t feel pressured to try alcohol until you feel ready, and if you try it and don’t enjoy it, it’s truly no big deal. Plenty of people choose not to drink for a variety of reasons.
If you do decide to start drinking, go slowly at first. It will take some experimentation to see how alcohol affects you and to find drinks you enjoy. Moderation is a good thing.
Create a safe environment for yourself as you begin drinking, both physically and emotionally. Find a safe place, a safe person, and a safe situation; other post-Mormon friends can be a great help in this way since they will be able to intimately understand where you are coming from. Also, this goes without saying, but never drive after drinking; find a friend to get you home or call an Uber or Lyft.
For those of you in dating relationships, remember that sober consent is essential; have those conversations before you begin drinking. Impaired consent is never true consent.
If you are in a mixed-faith marriage, be aware of the feelings of your believing spouse. Be thoughtful in how you approach the conversation with them, include them in the process, and, if you are at an impasse, consider sitting down with a therapist to talk through your differing points-of-view.
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