Passover is one of the Shalosh Regalim, or Three Pilgrimage Festivals. On the eve of the first day of Passover each spring Jewish people around the world partake in a feast known as the Seder. The celebration is an opportunity for families to enjoy a meal while honoring Jewish prayers, history, and traditions. Each of the eight main foods served at the feast hold great symbolic significance.
This past Monday evening I had a cool opportunity to attend a Seder dinner. And yes, if you know me or have read anything here, normally I would politely pass and choose not to attend intimate gatherings such as these, due to crippling internal anxiety that plagues my brain and physical body any time I consider committing to attending any kind social event, but I am doing my best to overcome anything connected to my “normal”.
I have come to believe something: It is really important to my mental health and wellness to understand that I am a messy human, but a human nonetheless; created with a longing for connection and a for a sense of belonging. I know I belong, so that is a non-issue, but I have to remind myself that I need connection like I need oxygen. Isolation for me is nothing but a self-destructive tactic that delivers nothing it promises, so pushing myself to walk circles outside of my concocted realm of comfort is essential to my well-being.
During this meal a group of over twenty-five adults and children sat together around several rectangular folding tables in the middle of the hostess’ dimly lit living room. I nervously sat in my chair with my middle son sitting on my lap. I sat, eyes closed, clinching my son’s little hands as we listened to our pastor recite Jewish prayers in Hebrew, with English subtitles.
I was so excited to start eating (and not just because I hadn’t eaten dinner and it was after 7:30 pm), but because the apple concoction called charoset that sat on our plate looked particularly delicious.
(I also knew that the pastor’s wife brought it, who was sitting directly to my left, and she makes a mean Caesar salad so I knew it would be yummy).
As my son and I worked together to pack spoonfuls of charoset onto our piece of matzah that we broke into two pieces for our makeshift charoset sandwich step, I asked “What is in the charoset?” Through the thick of the background noise I only made out the “wine & chopped walnuts” part.
My son immediately set his matzah sandwich on our plate and I could feel his disappointment as he leaned his weight back into me. I quietly breathed a deep sigh of relief (and scolded myself that I hadn’t asked about ingredients before this meal began). Due to the most recent epi-pen injector recall, we were left without ours for a short window of time. Our pharmacy had informed us that due to the recall, our prescription would be on back order. This is never an ideal scenario when it comes to life threatening allergies, and in our case, a life-threatening nut allergy. So charoset containing walnuts would be a ‘no’ for my son.
I had about thirty short seconds to decide if I would pick up where my son left off on his matzah sandwich. It wasn’t until after my first big bite, that I realized that charoset is a cold dish and that maybe it wasn’t heated to a temperature that would allow wine used in the preparation to evaporate.
But I cleaned my plate anyway. I tasted the apples, the cinnamon, the walnut, the honey, and nutmeg, and it was absolutely delicious. If she were to have mentioned adding crushed Valium or sprinkles of Xanax in the ingredient list I would have had to made a different decision, because if not, I would most definitely be waiting for a bed to open up at the nearest facility and my life would expeditiously crumble to very small fragments.
As we wrapped up our evening by saying our good-bye’s and giving hugs, the woman who brought the charoset said “Whoa I smell alcohol” and leaned into the empty dish tucked under her arm that once contained the ooey-gooey goodness. So naturally, I had to lean in and take a deep breath too, and boy did it reek.
I may not think about my alcohol intolerance often, but all it takes is a whiff of whisky or wine to remind me that there is absolutely nothing lost in my life from my decision not to drink, despite not being an alcoholic.
I was a dependent pill-aholic and am a former, (quite crafty) escape-aholic, but never quite made it to alcoholic. Alcohol and I never bonded; it was never anything more to me than an enhancer, a filler, or temporary cheap substitute.
Yet still, somehow, my body is one-hundred-percent intolerant to its gaggy essence, causing me to feel physically ill and queasy the second it penetrates my nasal cavities.
But maybe every now and then I need a reminder of how amazing the cold tiles used to feel on my body on the floor of my bathroom in my old apartment, after a night of puking up my insides.
Sobriety to me has become about truly enjoying my life as a sober person and not continuously pining away for an out, any kind of escape from the day-to-day, or having the false belief that everything is more enjoyable when I am drunk or some version of high.
So I decided a long time ago, that despite my not having “biblically sound” evidence to support my theory that this unexplained intolerance is likely just another undeserved gift from God and a result of Grace living, I am okay with the not really understanding it part.
It works for me.