Is it 5:00 yet? These are words you’ll hear almost daily in our house as we enter the fourth week of our Covid-19 related quarantine. And it’s not because 5:00 is quitting time from work—it marks the hour when my wife and I uncork a bottle of wine or uncap a couple of bottles of beers.
During pre-Coronavirus times, we limited our drinking to weekends. Admittedly, with the occasional glass of wine on weekdays. But if you’re like me, and you just spent another day working from your home office/basement—or another day home-schooling the kids, or hours watching the clock go by because your regular routine has been disrupted, it can be comforting to end the day with an adult beverage.
I know that for some people drinking causes problems. These people are better off not drinking. But for whatever reason, when not done to excess, drinking has always taken the edge off for me. It’s the reward for another day spent upright, ideally having checked all the boxes on my daily to-do list. It quenches my early evening thirst in a way a bottle of water cannot.
Does drinking mix with spirituality?
While I commemorate the end of the day with a drink, I start the day with a routine I find equally uplifting. My mornings begin in quiet contemplation over a cup of coffee, followed by meditation, centering prayer or a simple prayer of gratitude, and on most days a three-mile run. If I have the time, and I do now that my commute to work takes a few seconds, I’ll engage in some spiritual reading.
Work can be hectic, even from home, so I make sure that throughout the day I take mini-breaks. I’ll close my laptop and step outside for a few breaths of fresh air. I’ll do a quick touch base with my family members at home and email or text anyone else I might be thinking about. When time permits, I’ll sneak in a cat nap.
Then, when my work for the day is over, I’m ready for a drink. (As long as it’s not Monday, see “the rules” below.) It’s as if the running and other spirituality-related endeavors soothe certain parts of my brain, and the glass of wine or beer satisfies another. This includes enjoying the mild buzz this beverage provides.
It’s reassuring to know that for centuries monks of various spiritual traditions have made beer and wine, and indulged in it as well. In Belgium alone there are six Trappist monasteries that produce and market their own brands of beer, the best known being Chimay. There are also many non-Trappist monasteries across Europe making what’s called “Abbey Beer” and most of these brews pack a potent high-alcohol punch.
The most famous Trappist monk of our time, the revered spiritual writer Thomas Merton, also had a fondness for beer. This description of him by poet and longtime friend Ron Seitz may bring a smile to your face: “Merton was a guy with big baggy pants, needed a shave, laughed too much, drank too much beer, just an ordinary guy.” In Merton’s own words:
I drink beer whenever I can get my hands on any. I love beer, and by that very fact, the world.
A few years ago, the monks at the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina, California, joined forces with the brewer Sierra Nevada to make a few unique beers, with the proceeds helping to raise funds to restore one of its monasteries. The Abbey also produces and sells its own wine. At its website, visitors are welcomed “to enjoy the peace and serenity of our sacred space. We encourage you to be still and listen to the voice of God in you.”
Be still and listen to the voice of God in you. It’s something I’ll sometimes do after a few drinks. While alcohol may excite some people, it tends to mellow me. It’s at these times, I often grow appreciative for all the good in my life, past and present. The warm glow of a drink is accompanied by the sense of a greater presence and the knowledge that there is more to this life than meets the eye.
My Personal Rules for Responsible Drinking
I’m not suggesting you abide by these rules, but in my household we do. (Of course, with the occasional slip-up here and there.) Like everything else in life, there can be too much of a good thing, so these rules help us stay grounded.
- No drinking on Monday. This is just to prove you can do it. And as they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder.
- One glass limit on Tuesday & Wednesday. See the reasoning at point 1 above.
- First drink at 5:00. Though as I write this, I can hear the my late, martini-loving father’s voice saying, “Tommy, it’s 5:00 somewhere!”
- Daytime drinking exception: Sunday brunch. Who doesn’t like a good Bloody Mary or Mimosa now and then?
- Drink within your limits. These limits can vary widely from person to person—but if you find you’re doing or saying things you later regret, or can’t remember things you said or did, you’re probably drinking too much. Slow down or seek help.
There you have it. Judge me if you will. But on a list of 100, I think there are 90-plus better ways to judge the character of a man or a woman. So, to those spiritually-minded people joining me in a drink this evening, I say cheers. And amen. I also offer these words in a toast: To better days ahead.