Why I Don’t Drink in Asia (or anywhere else)

At “Buzz in the Woods”, Singapore

I haven’t had any alcohol since February 15, 2016. This coming Valentine’s Day, it will have been two years. You would think it might have gotten easier, moving to an Islamic country, where my weaknesses, a shot of single malt scotch is $20.00 and Napa Valley wine is a precious rarity.

I live in a country where Islam is the official religion. And most Muslims don’t drink.

Malaysia Religious demographics: Muslim (the official religion) 61.3%, Buddhist 19.8%, Christian 9.2%, Hindu 6.3%, Confucianism, Taoism, other traditional Chinese religions 1.3%, other 0.4%, none 0.8%, unspecified 1%.

Let’s just say I am somewhere in the “other”, “none” or “unspecified” categories.

At best, I am in the minority of 2.2%.

Can I even mention the word “atheist”? (I know this is a digression but it does relate, I promise!)

I used to call myself an atheist. I stopped because that moniker plants a flag I lost interest in defending to people who have reason to espouse beliefs instilled in them by their parents, culture or just some yearning for an explanation—any explanation. But I still don’t believe in the god about which I have heard in the Bible, Qur’an or any other book or story written or told by humans. The closest I have come to a transcendental experience of any divine energy is being hugged by Amma, whose embrace left me weak-kneed and stoned on Shaktipat for several hours, if not days. But she, at least, is alive and real.


I have had two near-death experiences. The first was when I became a Type 1 Diabetic and you can read about that here.

The second near fatality was caused by a dip in blood glucose to 24 mg/dL, a few years ago. I should have just passed on to my eternal slumber but the alarm on my BG sensor woke up Rachelle, and she saved my life with spoonfuls of honey forced onto my tongue. (Is this why I always call her “honey”?) In my returning back to consciousness, I experienced what I can only call “bliss”. I did not yet know who I was, or where I was, not even really that I was. But I sensed that everything was all right. No matter what. If I lived, died, moved, or lay still, did anything or did nothing, everything was ok. It had always been ok. It was ok now. It would always be ok. But I heard no voices from beyond, saw no tunnels leading to harps and mansions on the other side. The universe, it seemed, was beautiful enough without golden streets awaiting above for those who followed certain edicts or believed in certain someones.

If anything, I came back to this life with a more fervent resolve to live more fully, and never mind the after part. The next morning, my Uncle Dennis called. My mom had died that very night, at the same time I nearly died. I felt compelled to let my mind yarn the story that on that night, the night of a full moon, my mother had left this plane and tried to take me along. Just as when I became a T1D, those many years ago, I had stood up to her and said, “No!”

Photo by John Silliman on Unsplash

So, here I am. A white, male, expat, non-believer who doesn’t drink. Surely, it isn’t because of religious reasons.

I have yet to meet another “angmo” who doesn’t drink. I am typically the only one at social functions without a glass of wine, beer or cocktail in my hand.

I should back up here a bit. I went through a transformation a few years ago, after taking Landmark Forum’s “Curriculum for Living”, having a scare with my eyesight and meeting Rachelle. Some of the consequences include that I stopped drinking alcohol, became gluten-free, watch my carb intake like a T1D should and exercise regularly.

But eating and (not) drinking here has been a challenge. We have found a few spots to buy healthy foods and are discovering more all the time. The drinking part is a different beast altogether. Maybe it started with Hemingway’s days at Le Deux Magots in Paris but the romance of being an expat and drinking seem to fit like…well, a glass of red wine and two lips. Everyone seems to drink. My perceptions are reinforced by a recent survey here that the number one complaint about the local clubhouse/health spa is that it prohibits sales or use of alcohol on premises. This, despite the run-down gym facilities, too much chemical in the lap pool and lack of water pressure in the showers. No, we can overlook those failings, where is the booze?!

At parties, I’ll have my mineral water. And watch as people get louder, looser and, honestly, more fun. I even experience a contact high. At first, it was interesting, to watch my own behavior and response to this. I had a combination of emotions and feelings: envy, “better than”, angry about my own struggle and, ultimately, happy with my minute-by-minute choice not to drink. And then back again to envy combined with superiority and schadenfreude imagining the early liver failure of all those drinking with abandon. It just never ends, this loop of neurotic reactivity. “Why can’t I just have one little 4-ounce pour of great red wine?”

IMG_4339Local Party

“Why is it you’re not drinking?” I am sometimes asked.

“Why is it you are drinking?” I want to reply. But I say, “health reasons”. Which is true, for the most part, but not entirely. I also want to prove to myself that there is at least one thing in this world that my mind can beat–that I have, despite Sam Harris’ contradictory lecturing, free will. I also have something to prove to the world. I have come to see drinking, or the way I perceive that most people drink, as an easy way out. An escape from the pain of living.

We are ruining this world. Even if you don’t believe what 97% of the scientists say and dismiss global warming as a hoax, we are still polluting the planet and leaving it in worse shape–way worse shape–than we found it. Every day, About 29,000 children under the age of five – 21 each minute – die, mainly from preventable causes. More than 70 percent of almost 11 million child deaths every year are attributable to six causes: diarrhea, malaria, neonatal infection, pneumonia, preterm delivery, or lack of oxygen at birth. https://www.unicef.org/mdg/childmortality.html

Should I go on?

We step over the homeless on our way to unsatisfying jobs. We grow deeper and deeper in debt, individually, as a nation and world. Our purpose has become to chase money and things. If we can get enough stuff, or that next thing, then we will be happy. But five minutes after we get that thing, we want the next. Even “new car smell” is gone after a few weeks.

The pain of our natural environment, inexorably connected to our souls, is ever calling to us and we respond by trying to fill the void that is our disconnection to that call. It is an illogical response to a logical desire. The problem is that consumer goods, shiny new phones and alcohol can’t fill that hole. Even opiates can only offer diminishing returns.

We are unsatisfied. The constant need to get more, do more, be more is ingrained into us by those who profit from our existential ennui. It is what Pachamama Alliance calls “the dream of the modern world“.

Of course we drink! Hell, after writing that, I want a stiff one too!

But I decline. I say no. I say, “my doctor told me to.” I say, “health reasons.” And I don’t want to minimize that. Blood sugar control is difficult with drinking. Not only because red wine, mixed drinks and beer often contain high levels of sugar but also because of the judgment impairment involved. After a few shots of even low-glycemic vodka, the resistance to brownies can become malleable. And continued high blood sugar levels lead to “complications” (heart disease, blindness, early death). But it is more, even, than those fears. I want to feel the pain of sober, stark reality. I want to be in communication with Mother Earth and hear her cries. Feel her pain. As well as the ecstatic, the sublime. If I can be ok with the absolute pain of existence, I can also be more open to the shaktifying infusion of love that is available with a clean body and mind. Or so goes my thinking. I am not better than anyone as a result of not drinking. I am just better than the version of myself if I did drink.

And now, I ask myself if I am willing to give up one more thing. Am I willing to give up the struggle? As with those who drink and deny, I don’t drink and deny. I obsess, resist, cajole myself, try really hard and feel victimized about not drinking. It’s an epic battle between the angel on my left shoulder and the little devil on my right. The cartoon struggle of good vs. evil. All of this to occupy my mind while the world burns. I deny the pain of the modern world by being otherwise preoccupied with my own struggle.

There is so much work to be done on this planet. Joyous, fun, hard, frustrating, ecstatic, scary, exciting work. Is it time for me to let go of my personal struggles and get on with that? Who, in the end, will care if I ever had another sip? Will I? Perhaps the next step for me is to stop identifying as a “non-drinker” and start living my true nature as a healthy, soulful, alive human on this beautiful planet, yearning for, and creating, clear skies, clean water, nutritious food, peace and harmony.

In whatever form that takes.

For further reading on ecotherapy, read here:


It’s not too late to give me my Christmas Gift! In lieu of asking anyone to send me a gift, and to avoid VAT, GST and all the other taxes, not to mention the delays, I am asking family and friends to give to the cause Donate to the Pachamama Alliance and help save the Amazon Rain Forest. (We need it to breathe.)

When you act on behalf of something greater than yourself, you begin to
feel it acting through you with a power that is greater than your own.

This is grace.

Today, as we take risks for the sake of something greater than our separate,
individual lives, we are feeling graced by other beings and by Earth itself.

Those with whom and on whose behalf we act give us strength
and eloquence and staying power we didn’t know we had.

—Joanna Macy

If you enjoy this blog, kindly consider a donation.


The morning after writing this, I received the following email from the amazing Dave Asprey and thought it worth sharing, for those of us who still enjoy drinking (if you’d like to try some of these products, click on my banner below to order and I will get a few pennies, no extra charge to you):

Could hangovers soon be a thing of the past — letting you enjoy holiday wine and cocktails without any fear of waking up with a headache the next day? If researchers attempting to crack the code on synthetic alcohol have their way, drinks that deliver a pleasant ‘buzz’ without the usual brain fog just might become a reality…

But until then, there are steps you can take right now (no new scientific breakthroughs required) to minimize the impact of the all that holiday-party good cheer, and start your new year sharp and headache-free:

Step 1: Pick Your Poison…

There’s no sugar-coating it: All alcohol can dehydrate you, trigger inflammation, and give you a nasty hangover — not to mention premature aging over time.

That said, some varieties (such as vodka, gin, tequila, and other sugar-free, distilled spirits) are less inflammatory than others, and they should be your go-to choices for holiday libations. For the full spectrum — from the not-so-bad, to the truly ugly — check out the Bulletproof alcohol roadmap on the blog.

Step 2: Choose Your ‘Mixers’ Carefully…

Drink a glass of water with every alcoholic beverage you consume (alcohol is notorious for dehydrating you because your body tries to dilute its toxins before safely sending them out of your body)…

And skip any sugary mixers: if you’re looking for something flavorful and colorful, stick with hydrating, non-glycemic alternatives like Bulletproof FATwater.

Step 3: Supplement to Soften the Blow…

As your body’s ‘master antioxidant,’ glutathione can enhance liver detox and immunity — but your body probably won’t produce enough on its own after you’ve enjoyed a few drinks. To give yourself a boost, supplement with liposomal Glutathione Force (between 500 and 1,000 mg before bed after drinking) to improve absorption.

A few capsules of activated Coconut Charcoal can level up your detox, too — especially if you ate any kryptonite food while you were drinking. Take a few capsules in the evening or the morning after having alcohol to keep inflammation in check and sweep out any leftover toxins.

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