Binge Drinking: A Millennial Christmas Story

The holiday season can be very difficult for families of alcoholics. I personally grew up with Christmas, but the pressures of the holiday season affect all. Some people go home to alcoholics. Some people go home to sick family members. Some people go home to family who deny their gender identity. Some people go home to family with radically different politics than their own—and after last year, that’s reached a whole new level. These kind of stressors can bring out all kinds of behavior, and alcohol abuse is one of them. In the spirit of one of the most triggering holidays of the year, I thought I’d reflect on my relationship with alcohol and the alcoholic I’ve grown up with to remind everyone we’re not alone. Many people feel alone or insignificant around this time of year, and I want to reach out and say this one’s for you all.

I come from a long line of alcoholics, on both sides of my family, and I’ve been lucky enough to have not inherited that disease. I’ve observed the disease in my mother and in my sister (my grandparents are all deceased, but a few of them had it as well), but I never felt a need to escape from my reality via that route.

After the election, I fell into a pit of despair I had never felt before. I felt I was walking in a haze through the biting cold of a Boston winter. An un-reality. I had been so ready for woman president, especially her. I have not been discriminated against very much in my life. As a white, femme-presenting woman, I’ve been protected. The election made me fearful—fearful for my friends, and for myself.

Now, the holiday season hasn’t been an easy one for me since I was sixteen. My mother had reunited with her estranged father who had abandoned and her siblings when she was just 20 years old. My grandmother had committed suicide, and my grandfather ran off with his secretary after the funeral. And we were supposed to sit down at his table and break bread with him. My sister and I were incredibly reluctant to go, but my mother insisted that we had to.

Wandering through the halls of my mother’s childhood home, my sister offered me wine to quell my anxiety—I had never had more than a sip. We ate dinner and watched the adults get drunker and drunker. But my mother was at her peak. At midnight, she stumbled toward the car we were meant to go home in. My sister attempted to take the keys from her: she shrugged her off. We miraculously got to a gas station, where my sister again tried to take the keys, and my mother resisted her, hitting her, biting her, screaming at her. She silently, wildly, drove us home. The next morning, my sister and I arranged where I would be living for the rest of the semester.


Ever since then, the holidays awoke that fear in me. They don’t bring cheer. They bring manifold anxieties. This last year redoubled that blow to me. I began mindlessly drinking before I went to bed. I made morbid jokes constantly. On New Years Eve, attempting to combat the void, I got dressed up and went out with my sister in Manhattan. I took shot after shot, watching people flirt with my sister. Around 3 AM, I found my sister curled up in the back, blinking inconspicuously, ready to go home. On the uber ride home, all the way to Brooklyn, we took turns vomiting out of the either side of the car. That was the first time I’d drank so much I’d puked. I couldn’t help thinking it was a proper goodbye to 2016. After profusely apologizing, we walked up our stoop and crashed into her bed.

The next morning, I knew if I didn’t stop drinking, I would find myself the pattern my mother has turned into her prison. I don’t speak to her anymore—I’ve stayed with a new family the last few years, and they’re really starting to feel like home. I can’t directly see the effects of long term alcoholism, but I’ve felt them by proxy. Luckily I didn’t experience any alcohol withdrawal: I hadn’t been drinking enough for that to be the case. But I felt the health consequences in my body and in my mind.

By all accounts, I should really hate this time of year. But with all the work I’ve been able to do this past year: going to Al Anon, meditating, exploring faith, all that un-sexy, vital stuff, I feel an internal change. I’m beginning to remember the true generosity this time can conjure. This morning, I even listened to Christmas music. Of my own volition.



Relaxation and Stress Management

It’s that time of year, folks. Midterms, the holidays, and the constant threat of nuclear war can really build up stress levels. Midterms hardly need explaining: Millennials are supposed to be the most stressed out generation, at least according to an American Psychological Association study in 2013. The holidays can be complicated for a lot of college students beyond annoying aunts and uncles: for some people, returning home means preparing for physical or emotional abuse, taking on a gender that they don’t identify with anymore and a plethora of other complications. The constant threat of nuclear war . . . yeah. Beyond calling our senators and donations, I still have knots in the back of my neck.

Most of these things aren’t gonna be resolved quickly or easily, so it’s important to be extra diligent in doing what you can to take care of yourself. When people have confided in me struggles that they’re having that don’t have an easy answer, something I’ve taken on saying more and more is ‘Be nice to yourself!’ Soaked in a capitalist culture that encourages you to value yourself based on your output, it’s no wonder we forget to take care of ourselves!

So in the spirit of the holidays, here are some of my favorite methods of self care! This is my no means an exhaustive list, so please feel free to suggest any methods I don’t mention in the comments!

1. Take a walk. More often than not, a change of environment and some alone time is incredibly refreshing, especially when most of your time is already planned out for something else. Go somewhere you’ve never gone before, or take a route you don’t normally take. Make sure to go outside when it’s sunny, because increased exposure to light raises your serotonin levels!

2. SLEEP. Sleep is more and more difficult to come by in our busy lives, but really allowing yourself to sleep in and get the rest your body needs can work wonders. When we aren’t getting enough sleep, the body begins to shut down: it affects your memory, learning, libido, and essential vital systems.

3. Meditation. Even if you only have a few minutes, taking time to center yourself and become present can help you approach situations with a clearer head. Just find a quiet place, sit comfortably, close your eyes, and focus on your outgoing breath. Peaceful meditation is that simple. If you feel uncomfortable guiding yourself, there are lots of free guided meditations you can access online.

4. Mindfulness. Exercises If meditation makes your head spin (and it does for a lot of people), there are a couple of mindfulness exercises or mantras you can say to yourself throughout the day. A great one that I’ve been using is just feeding in the thought: I have enough time. So often people wake up with the thought: I’m not gonna get everything done today. These thought patterns affect how we got throughout our days, and negativity is contagious. Some other examples could be: “I am enough.” “One day at a time.” “Live and let live.” I’ve been reading from Tosha Silver’s Outrageous Openness every morning, and there was one passage that really stuck with me: “I am abundance. I am love. All that I need always comes.” Even if you don’t intend to participate in a spiritual practice, these thought patterns can change our approach to how we spend our lives.

5. Aromatherapy! Lots of people don’t think about their sense of smell, but it can powerfully affect us. If this is something you have access to, putting an essential oil diffuser in your room can help reduce stress and ease depression. The combination of certain essential oils, including peppermint, bergamot, lemon and others, have been use in aromatherapy for centuries. Using a diffuser while you’re meditating can also be extremely helpful to centering your focus.

Although not all of these methods have helped every time I’ve felt overwhelmed (sometimes more holistic therapy is needed), it’s reassuring knowing that I have a toolbox I can return to. We’re all learning how to better handle stressful situations, and the more we practice these things, the better prepared we will be when difficult situations occur.

Nutrition in Addiction Recovery

Anyone who has quit an addiction will tell you that its really goddamn hard. Your body is begging for the thing it’s become dependent on, whether that be opioids, alcohol, sugar, or toxic relationships. Addictions and toxic relationships can take many forms, and breaking from them takes more discipline than many people are capable of giving. When I think of the people who are going through addiction recovery, I cannot begin to imagine the kind of self-discipline and endurance it requires. I count myself very lucky that I haven’t had to deal with that kind of ordeal, and I hope to offer resources to those who are struggling whenever I can.

Emotional support and validation is important when people are going through these challenges, but people often forget that the symptoms of withdrawal can be counteracted with clear cut fixes such as cleaning up one’s diet and nutrition.

On a societal level, capitalism ensures that we have direct access to junk food whenever we’re struck with an impulse, Mix that culture with an alcoholic’s inability to control themselves, and you often are left with a poor diet indeed. Neglect of self care (which often first manifests in food) is one of the first things to go when alcohol controls your life.

Sidebar: I want to be clear that I think there are lots of definitions of a healthy diet, and that dairy, meat and gluten aren’t essential for a healthy diet. There’s a lot of money in the food industry, and common assumptions about nutrition (i.e. animal products are inherently good for you.) are often debunked when truly examined. Several of my friends were really moved by a documentary entitled What the Health on Netflix. A healthy diet is determined by every individual’s ethics and their specific body, not by a set, generalized system.

On a medical level, alcoholics can easily become malnourished, and this negatively affects more vital systems than one would think. Alcohol prevents the breakdown of food molecules because it inhibits the production of digestive enzymes. So your body doesn’t absorb the necessary nutrients, even if you are eating well. Basically, your energy levels drop enormously, no matter how much food you consume. Malnourishment also manifests in menstrual problems, tooth decays and other various aches and pains.

Vitamins are totally essential for the body to function normally in terms of maintaining growth and metabolizing efficiently. The most common deficiencies alcoholics have are vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin B6, thiamine and folic acid. When our bodies are deficient, it hinders our immune system and renders us more susceptible to disease. These particular deficiencies can lead to heart disease, cirrhosis, nerve damage and pancreatitis. A particularly dangerous condition one can contract is ‘Wet Brain Syndrome’, which stems from a thiamine deficiency and leads to problems with brain functions and the nervous system.

But when you understand all of the risks and the effects, you become better prepared to approach these problems in the weakened state of withdrawal. It can be really tempting to eat junk or whatever’s available while going through an alcohol detox, and doing your best to give your body the fuel it needs to return to normal will help your recovery immensely. Create a regular meal schedule: 3 meals a day with snacks. You know how you get tired when your sleep schedule is upset? It’s the same thing with eating meals: your body needs a routine so you don’t get hit with bouts of hunger.

An even more direct approach is vitamin therapy. Vitamin therapy directly addresses the damage done to the body nutritionally, and can make the addiction recovery process much smoother. Basically, you’re prescribed high levels of vitamins to treat whatever condition you’re in. It’s been shown to aid in improving the mental health of patients in recovery. If you want to learn more about vitamin therapy, look into it here.

Wherever you on your journey, kudos, and be as kind to yourself as possible!



White and Black Hat SEO

The Evolution of Social Media

Before diving into any thought piece about social media and marketing, I have to consider that my life has been shaped by the Internet. Growing up in the 2000s has deeply impacted the way I process information, how I communicate and the general speed of my life. I won’t pretend to know whether this was a positive influence or a negative one (probably both at different times), but at the very least I can give credit where credit is due: the Internet consumes an embarrassing fraction of my time, and therefore, my life. It can be a place of great vulnerability and a place of great fabrication. Understanding this, I’d like to explain how I think social media has transformed into the primary platform for modern marketing, whether business or personal.

I first got a Facebook account when I was in middle school (no Myspace or Tumblr for me), and it opened up a whole new way to stay connected to my friends. Social pillars rose and fell by messages, likes, and whether or not someone poked you back. It was closer to high school when I became aware of conversations about cyber-bullying. I remember sitting in the Hardware Store in my hometown, talking to the guidance counselor of our local high school about how virtual messaging lowered the participant’s empathy. I argued with her, but I can’t recall a conclusion.

Buying Followers and Buying the Lie

When I went to college, and my mental health declined, I bore the full brunt of the paradox of social media. It brought us closer, but it isolated us further. The timeline of someone’s life was edited, trimmed and embellished to perfection. The best version of themselves, their relationships, their accomplishments were front and center, the rest of them erased. It’s a more recent trend for people to post selfies with captions describing self doubt, personal struggles, etc. With all of this going around, I fancied myself a Facebook hermit. I looked down on Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat, Vine. I derived pride from choosing not to indulge. Eventually I could comfortably take social media hiatuses, and I found some semblance of inner peace for a period of months.

Instagram Influeners and Imposter Syndrome

Fast forward to this last semester, when I was arguably enjoying the best career success I’d ever had and the most lonely I’d ever been, I chose to indulge Instagram and Twitter. I was suffering from imposter syndrome surrounding my success, feeling it was undeserved, and the plethora of likes and comments momentarily assuaged my growing sense of dread. But I was convinced that my relationship with social media was revitalized: this could be a place where I could celebrate my accomplishments, and present the best version of myself. But the more I explored Instagram specifically, the more my initial distaste for it returned.

To learn about how Instagram influencers are paid to promote specific products, and that autobots are bought to post and like and follow users in the hopes of making money: it’s not necessarily disheartening. There are much worse things happening on the internet, for sure. But with ad blocks being so accessible, the line between digital marketing and personal expression are completely blurred to me. What once may have been (at least partially) a safe haven for people to express things they could never do in real life, is now just an infinite scroll of people plastering corporate logos on their face.

I’ve read articles about ‘ethical search engine optimization’, or white hat SEO, and they do a fine job of explaining how building legally a relationship with a social media influencer and organically building a following will help your business in the end. Yes, there are search engine optimization techniques that follow the guidelines of social media platforms, and those that don’t. After educating myself more on the subject, I can see the subtle difference between building followers and buying followers. But in my heart, the difference doesn’t seem to matter that much. At the end of the day, if some influencers consensually agrees to promote your product, do they really, truly like it? Part of it will always be about the money. If social media, and sharing about your life and lifestyle is based on some ideal of authenticity, then in the end, there’s an element of trickery, of falsehood, that I can’t shake from my mind.

How do you feel about the shifting purpose of social media? Leave a comment below!

How Copywriting Can Improve Your Creative Writing


Among the artistic community, there’s a whole lot of stigma surrounding copywriting, marketing, and what’s generally known as ‘selling out’. As a playwright and a theatre artist, I see where this aversion stems from. Impactful art comes from the heart and the soul, not from the wallet.

But bills exist, and starving artists aren’t really much use to anyone, so support ourselves we must. More and more creative writers are falling into web copywriting as day jobs because they require similar skills. This can actually be super helpful for creative writers because it can help improve our craft. Although creative writing and copywriting have vastly different goals, both mediums inform one another. So before you stick up your nose at marketing, consider how it could inform your true passion. Because my primary medium is theatre, I’m mostly going to refer to playwriting.

Get To The Point

In content writing, it’s important to be clear about what the point of your piece is from the beginning. A lot of vagueness or mystery gets in the way: you want to be clear about what kind of article you’re writing, what it’s about, and what the reader can take away. But this is also important when you’re writing a play, a short story, a novel, whatever!

Sometimes when you’re working on a play, you can fall into the trap of setting up the world without driving the action forward. Copywriters know to get right into the action with the preamble. Simplicity is the hallmark of copywriting, but it’s also incredibly important in creative writing. When confronted with areas that need improvement, the simplest solution is often the best.

Being Aware of Your Audience

When writing creatively, a very common piece of advice is to follow your heart. Don’t cater to what others want you to write: your greatest work is deep inside yourself, and you just need to pour it out onto paper. Although finding your voice and being true to what you want to write about is imperative, connecting to an audience is equally essential. If there’s anything copywriters are great at, it’s knowing their audience.

Something I’m noticing more and more now is that many writers believe that their audience is universal: everyone will want to read whatever it is they write. Yes, great writing taps into a universal truth, but not every piece of writing is for everyone. I think it’s fair to say that most Americans have grown up reading books by white cis men and being told that the white cis male perspective is universal. A lot of people aren’t white cis men, and have wonderful, varying perspectives to share! Owning your point of view and recognizing your target audience (especially in theatre) will strengthen your writing and your connection to the world at large. This isn’t sucking up to your audience, or compromising your artistic integrity: it’s realizing your art always exists within a given context. Which brings us to our final point . . .

Context Context Context!

When writing content, good copywriters know to consider the context they’re posting it within. Nobody ever writes in a vacuum. Unfortunately, creative writers put themselves pedestal sometimes, deluding themselves into thinking that they somehow transcend the political, social or cultural climate. This is a total fallacy. What makes writing mean anything is the interaction between the individual and the outer world. The meaning of whatever your writing changes every day because the world continues to change, so staying in the know, politically, culturally, and socially is essential.

Final Thoughts

There are lots of writing techniques that we can borrow from different mediums to improve what makes our hearts go pitter- patter! And we don’t have to starve! As long as you stay true to the goals of whatever medium you’re in, porque no los dos!


Dangerous Diet Pills and Common Myths about Eating Disorders

I don’t know if there’s anything more intimate than someone’s relationship to food. It’s a cultural sphere where there appears to be a lot of freedom: one has a reasonable amount of control over what goes into their body, which bears a lot of responsibility. A person’s food preferences, rituals and aversions directly affect how their body operates in the world.

So when someone suffers from an eating disorder, they cannot be entrusted with that responsibility. Whether it manifests itself in binge-eating, consuming banned weight loss supplements, or forcing oneself to throw up, eating disorders are dangerous and often misunderstood. In an effort to bring light and understanding to these mental illnesses, I’m going to dispel some common myths associated with eating disorders.

#1: You Can See When Someone Has An Eating Disorder

Not all those who suffer from eating disorders ‘look’ unhealthy, i.e. are extremely skinny. Eating disorders affect those across the BMI spectrum. People categorized as overweight can be diagnosed with atypical anorexia nervosa if there’s a drastic loss of weight. This myth is damaging for several reasons. It can glamorize eating disorders by associating its effects with fashion model weight, and it can prevent people with eating disorders from coming out and getting treatment.

A few months ago, Netflix released a movie called ‘To The Bone’, about a young woman suffering from an eating disorder. I remember my friend posting about it, critiquing how it chose to portray eating disorders. She said she was sick of these milk toast, feel good movies, especially with an extremely skinny protagonist. As someone with an eating disorder, she said she wished she was that skinny all the time, and wished for more varying representation in the media.

#2: Eating Disorders Are A Choice, Not An Illness

A lot of people mistakenly think that people with eating disorders are vain, or even worse, strong-willed: that if they put all that energy into throwing up or cutting down on food, they could put the same into gaining back weight. Even doctors can dismiss patients with eating disorders, requesting them to stop exhibiting symptoms. But that’s the thing about diseases: they’re involuntary. The interaction between a person’s biology and their environment caused them to contract an eating disorder. The eating disorder actually prevents them from being in control, not the other way around.

#3: Only Rich White Teenage Girls Can Have Eating Disorders

People from all walks of life can get eating disorders: men, POC, older people, etc. The myth that only white teenage girls can have eating disorders actually prevents a lot of people from getting treatment. Men feel embarrassed to admit they have these types of disorders because they’re associated with femininity. In black or latinx communities, mental illnesses are often stigmatized, so people suffer in silence.

#4: Families/Mothers Are To Blame

Another common misconception is that eating disorders simply come from a person’s familial environment. Placing the blame on families, and particularly mothers, has been a common theory applied to misunderstood disorders for the past century. This can be seen with Bruno Bettelheim and his theory about Refrigerator Mothers and autism, and with Frieda Fromm-Reichmann and her theory about schizophrenoegenic mothers. Families can more often than not be allies in a patient’s recovering.

#5: Society Is To Blame

This is linked to the idea that eating disorders are a choice. Although American culture does have some incredibly problematic body image standards, that’s not the sole cause of eating disorders. If that were the case, everyone would either be purging, starving themselves, or throwing back banned weight loss pills. Although there is some connection, and it is a good thing that there are treatments and diet pills that are FDA banned, it’s inaccurate to put all on the responsibility on society.

Final Thoughts

After learning more about eating disorders, I want to remind readers that help is out there. Our bodies and our food are worthy of respect and love, but it can be difficult to remember that sometimes. When it becomes impossible to remember that, help is required. With heightened awareness, we can be more diligent in looking out for ourselves and each other.

If you’re curious to learn more about diet pills banned by the FDA, you can find more information here.

A Light Through the Fog: Enabling and Dependency in Jen Silverman’s The Moors

For the past two months I had been a literary intern at Hyde Park Theatre in Austin, reading scripts and helping out with events. While I was there I had the pleasure of seeing their production of The Moors, a new play by Jen Silverman. I had heard of the play, and I know a couple of people who are salivating for the rights. In their weekly email blast, my eyes had skimmed over the phrases “illicit sex” “secret diaries” and “rock ballads”. I had high expectations for the play, but I when I sat in my reserved seat last weekend, I did my best to put them out of my mind and enjoy the show.

The show is as odd as it sounds: a darkly comic thriller set in the late 1800s in a Jane Austen England, but with American accents. It’s out of this world in an unexpected way. In a place where one could contract typhus today or get lost in the moors and die tomorrow, every character is fighting tooth and nail for dominance over their place in the household. The audience follows the new governess of the household as she navigates the ever-changing rules set by the madam of the house, her depressed, pathetic sister, and the many-named maid.

Although all of these actresses had stand out performances, the subplot intrigued me the most. The characters pictured above are the Moorhen and the Mastiff. The Mastiff roams the halls of the mansion, ignored and unloved by his owners, and while walking in the moors comes across a moorhen with a damaged wing. The Mastiff develops a deep infatuation with the Moorhen, and stays with her while she heals. The Moorhen chats with the Mastiff and agrees to his presence only if he keeps his distance (he could very easily eat her).

Silverman does a wonderful job of playing with the worldviews of these different animals: the fast paced, optimist moorhen with her head in the clouds and the droopy, landlocked mastiff steeped in existential dread. But watching their relationship in particular illuminated a part of my romantic mythology: the idea that we can fix other people, or that others can give our lives meaning. There are only three scenes with the Mastiff and the Moorhen, but they are teeming with millennial commentary. In the middle of the first scene, the Mastiff promises that he will never hurt the Moorhen. And if I have learned anything about dramatic storytelling, it’s that if a character promises that they would never do something, they better do it by the end of the play.

Much of my Disney romance mythology had been debunked (but don’t underestimate the power of a single narrative: I still struggle to scrub my brain clean of the idea that purpose isn’t merely to find a prince, get married and pump out babies). But mainstream media in general didn’t provide educate me about mental health, substance abuse and how these affect relationships. Through Disney princesses, romantic comedies, and manic pixie dream girls, female characters are often used as sounding boards for the male protagonists to learn to love themselves. These girls come through and fix everything, awakening these sad, lost boys. But there is a difference between support and enabling. Love is supporting and complimenting another person, NOT completing them.

Jen Silverman dissects loving vs. enabling in this subplot, and takes this common trope to its true fruition: disaster.

The Mastiff unhinges his existential dread upon the Moorhen, telling her about all of his woes. The Moorhen understands little of this because she can’t relate: she’ll even say she has a short attention span. And here’s the crux: their relationship is also contingent on her injury: when she’s close to healing, the Mastiff suggests that she simply continue to walk, or that he learn to fly. When she refuses, he says he can’t afford to live without her. The play inevitably ends with him entering, his mouth bloody with feathers.

What shook me so deeply about this play was the parallels to my idea of love and my friends’ idea of love. With many friends suffering from substance abuse and mental health issues, it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate support and enabling. This wonderful play was a powerful reminder.





Alcohol’s Negative Effect on the Heart

Plant in a jar filled with water and a fish.

But You Look So Healthy!:  Perceptions of Bodily and Planetary Health (And A Little Bit About Alcohol’s Negative Effect on the Heart)

I will admit it: there’s a part of me that misses high school health class. Even though our developing bodies were sweaty, pimply alien things, it was refreshing to admit we even HAVE bodies! So much of the time now, I exist behind a computer screen: it’s easy to forget we’re humans!

At PVPA, the performing arts charter school in Western Mass, I remember playing a game called fish bowl: we would write down questions we had for the opposite gender, and then those would be anonymously asked. It was squirmy and funny and gross, but there was something magical about it. In health class, our bodies were something to be explored—we had to stay aware and in communication with them, because lurking somewhere in the future was our PERIOD! Or an ERECTION! And you had to be ready.

Effects of alcohol - love me, fuck me.

Now at a ripe 21, I yearn to reconnect with my body. The pressures of post grad quickly approaching have often led me to abuse my body rather than nurture it. Abuse can come in many forms: lying around all day in front of a screen, not eating, binge-eating sugary sweets, and, if the day’s been dark enough, binge drinking.

Although it still boggles my mind that humanity has progressed so far that we pay institutions to encourage us to do physical labor, exercise and ‘healthy’ food have been commodified by the Gods of gentrification and the 1%. Not everyone has the money or time for gym memberships and local organic food (not that organic food is necessarily ‘healthy’). When true self-nurture seems out of grasp, short-term, hedonistic abuse is scarily convenient. But so often this abuse is cloaked in the myth of ‘treat yourself’ culture. With apocalyptic anxiety hiding in our sheets, instant gratification cannot come quickly enough. Feeling shitty? Eat a pint of ice cream. Mad at your friends? Stay inside and binge-watch Netflix. Work draining your soul? Get drunk. Get so fucking drunk.

But no one would look at me and call me unhealthy. My doctor doesn’t even shame me for my poor eating habits. And why is that? Because it doesn’t obviously show. I’m stick thin, so I don’t get shamed for how I treat my body. Although apparently, it’s perfectly acceptable to shame fat people for their ‘choices’ (don’t get me started about how nutrition’s been distorted and put profits above the health of humanity). In a similar way to how alcoholics are perceived, how well someone is able to HIDE their problem determines its severity. Not the actual state of the problem (there are strong parallels to climate change here as well, but once again, you don’t want to get me started on that either).

Toxic waste hurting our planet.

But our planet and our physical bodies can only take abuse for so long without repercussions. I was just reading the other day about how even moderate drinking can lead to and exacerbate pre-existing heart conditions. Just as I was reading about how in a century the tropical regions will be inhospitable to life. Certain corporations, neoliberals, and other apathetic entities have been contributing to our cultural blindness


Healthy food can be and is cheap (check out Leanne Browns’ cookbook Good and Cheap).

Alcohol treatment centers are all over the place, and can give you the tools to help yourself!

There are brilliant people all over the world devising plans for agriculture, transportation, and city planning to bring down the world’s carbon footprint to save millions of future lives.

Health, sobriety, and carbon-neutrality are attainable. We have the tools to help ourselves in these scary, scary times. Maybe we can use some of that health class spirit: some of that beginner’s magic may help us along.



Alcohol Addiction: Is Alcohol A Drug?

Samples of the drug, marijuana.

After election day this year, everyone I personally knew was extremely distraught. I knew people of color who didn’t feel safe leaving their homes on that day. I knew women who were catcalled even more. I knew people who were afraid of religious persecution being condoned by the President himself. But up in Massachusetts, there was a small group saying: “But hey, 420 though.”

Yes, marijuana had been legalized in California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts this past November. More than half of the country has legalized marijuana in some form. I am reminded of the midnight lectures, courtesy of my stoner friends, professing the plethora of benefits weed has to offer us. I voted in favor of legalization because of its medicinal benefits and, more importantly, I didn’t want to see any more people of color go to prison for weed possession. Even with the spread of legalization, I would like to see states go further and release people who committed nonviolent drug crimes.

But there are so many questions that marijuana legalization brings to the surface: Does the government have a right to determine what someone puts into their body? How do drugs and other crime intersect? Is enforcing expensive drug laws worth the cost? What constitutes a ‘drug’?

The questions we ask ourselves about the effects of marijuana and our culture’s relationship to it illuminate the nature of other drugs our culture takes for granted: alcohol.

Let’s be clear: alcohol is a drug. A drug is defined as a chemical substance that affects the processes of the mind or body. The idea of a ‘substance’ can become habituating or addictive is one associative definition. Alcohol is a depressant, which means that it slows vital functions. But even though it’s classified as a depressant, the effect is determined by how much is consumed. Most often it’s used as a stimulant, which can occur after just drinking a few beers.

As a youngin, I was far more frightened at the prospect of marijuana than of liquor. My mom drank like a fish and it was a part of my household. My parents would let me drink in high school, and were very lax about the whole thing. Drinking was almost like a right of passage: an inevitability.

But, because of its illegality, marijuana wasn’t a part of that at all. As early D.A.R.E. programs informed us, marijuana was the gateway drug to heroin, cocaine and all the other drugs plaguing our beloved child stars.

Even though alcoholism takes five more lives each year than every other drug combined. These deaths can be specifically associated with diseases associated with alcoholism, (including Fatty Liver Disease, Alcoholic Cirrhosis, and Alcohol Hepatitis), drunk driving or other accidents involving impaired motor control. I hate to be that guy, but I’ll say it: ‘nobody ever died from weed.’ Binge-drinking on the other hand, alcohol-poisoning, liver disease: basically, you can’t say the same for alcohol. Every day in America, another 27 people die as a result of drunk driving crashes.

Man drinking alcohol in a glass.

Alcohol is glamorized in our culture, consumed by every socially acclimated Tom, Dick and Harry, to the most divine celebrities of Hollywood, whereas weed and other harder drugs are reserved for people undeserving of our respect (hippies, drug addicts, etc). This can be dangerous because although some people can control their alcohol intake, some people cannot stop after one drink, and can have no way of knowing until it is too late. Think of your freshman year, and go back to your first party. Even if you have a safe and healthy relationship with alcohol, it can be difficult to resist the peer pressure to drink, especially when alcohol comes with a guarantee to relieve social inhibitions. Most Americans will try alcohol in their lifetimes and continue to drink. This probably isn’t surprising, but this sets it apart from all other drugs.

I want to end this with saying that although I don’t think it would be helpful for alcohol to criminalized, I want to encourage everyone to question the cultural ‘inevitability’ of alcohol. How can we become more mindful of how and why we regulate drugs to inform more educated drug regulation?






Ignoring Teen Mental Health

Statue of Plato representing mental health.

Mental Health: The Artistic and Moral Failure of 13 Reasons Why

Let’s begin with the power of stories. I’m gonna take us WAY back, and take a look at Plato’s Republic. In Republic, Plato paints a picture of an ideal society. In it, he attacks the concept ‘mimesis’. Mimesis roughly translates to imitation, meaning any kind of art when a writer or performer pretends to be someone else. This extends to fiction, poetry, theater, film, anything with characters and a narrative basically. According to Plato, you couldn’t have any of this in a perfect society, because to tell a good story, you have to include characters that do bad things or have unfavorable qualities. So in order to perform or write about characters like this, the artist has to explore or realize those unfavorable qualities within themselves.

Not only was he saying life imitates art, he was saying stories have the power to influence. Basically, Plato was saying art, particularly bad art, is dangerous.

13 Reasons Why is a perfect example of what Plato was talking about when he was shitting on mimesis.

The Sorrows of Young Werther book cover.

Ever heard of the Werther Effect? The Werther Effect occurs when there’s a spike in suicide rates that resemble or are inspired by suicides that are widely depicted in the film, fiction, or other media. A vulnerable person, without access to the proper resources, will be triggered by the narrative, and emulate that character’s suicide, creating what’s known as a ‘suicide contagion’. We’re already seeing this happen with suicide clusters in Colorado and California. So before you jump to defend the artists’ freedom to create whatever they want, consider the goals of their show, and remember that art is powerful.

Trigger Warning: I’m going into this assuming you’ve watched or read a synopsis of the show. Spoilers ahead, obviously.

Let’s talk about the transfer of mediums.

13 Reasons Why Book Cover

13 Reasons Why was originally a book written by Jay Asher. Producer Selena Gomez, playwright Brian Yorkey, and director Tom McCarthy picked up the novel to adapt into a television series.

The major differences:

In the novel, Clay listens to each tape in one night, and the rape and suicide sequences are far less graphic. For the purposes of the show (which Selena Gomez made very clear was to educate teens about suicide), Clay listened to the tapes over the course of a week or so, expanding the narrative to fit neatly into 13 episodes. Aesthetically pleasing, sure, but it does nothing for the show other than extending the torture.

It’s rising action includes gratuitous and exploitative rape scenes, which makes it nearly impossible for sexual assault victims to watch without being triggered. Its climax is Hannah’s suicide, and although in the book she swallows pills, the creative team of the show deemed it necessary for Hannah to slit her wrists. Reading about these sequences is different: you can put it down at any time, and you’re meant to pace yourself. But watching a series has a different set of rules. Sure, you can pause and take breaks, but let’s be honest, with Netflix in particular, shows are designed to be binged. Even with the trigger warnings in the beginning, if all of your friends are watching it, is a teenager really gonna heed the trigger warning?

The hit series about teen suicide has another gaping problem: it never mentions mental health or depression. This show, and its protagonist, puts all the responsibility on the environment: on the school itself. And I swear, if I hear ‘We all killed Hannah Baker’ one more fucking time, I’m going to eat a chinchilla. There are lots of reasons why people commit suicide, but it’s always a combination of the person’s mental state AND their environment. If we follow the logic that a toxic environment alone causes suicide, then everyone in the school would’ve killed themselves. This doesn’t happen. But because mental health isn’t addressed, the show perpetuates the idea that people commit suicide for attention.

I want to be perfectly clear: it’s understandable to blame yourself when a person takes their own life—chaos theory, the butterfly effect, all these theories make sense. But these theories don’t place blame on any single individual, and to do so is extremely dangerous. Even though all of the students could’ve, and should’ve, treated Hannah better, none of their singular efforts could’ve saved her.

Cray Jenson in the dark.

Which brings me to all of the bullshit that is Clay Jensen.

Watching the series through Clay’s eyes, on the one hand, is satisfying: it’s refreshing to see a young white man give a shit about girls who were assaulted, to have the shit kicked out of him to get a confession out of a rapist.

On the other hand, his character sports an imperialist, white savior complex, which is fully realized once we get to his tape. In the school that’s filled with backstabbers and secrets, Clay Jensen is pure; he merely wanted to love Hannah. In the aftermath of her death, he is her vengeful angel, punishing those who mistreated her. All of this mildly troubling rhetoric climaxes in the final episode in his conversation with Mr. Porter:

“I cost a girl her life because I was afraid to love her.”

I almost threw my computer across a room.


I don’t know how to put it any clearer than this. The whole premise of the show, that these people were the ‘reasons’ she killed herself, culminates in this problematic and harmful notion that suicide isn’t related to mental health.

Hannah’s classmates did some horrible things, but they would’ve been horrible if she didn’t kill herself. But within the context of this series, her death and the tapes were the only way to bring justice and truth to light. This is the way the show romanticizes suicide: when the protagonist achieves poetic justice by way of her suicide, it can inspire vulnerable teens to commit the same act.

The creative team of this show had good intentions: they wanted to create a dialogue. They wanted to shed light on teen suicide and give students and their parents the tools to talk about slut shaming, bullying, sexual assault, and substance abuse. But they ignored the advice of mental health professionals, they made it impossible for sexual assault victims or suicidal populations to view their show without being triggered: they realized Plato’s fear. I hope Netflix discontinues the series and takes the down the first season. I hope we all begin acknowledging the danger of bad art.