My career arc is strange, but I have been fortunate to eat delicious meals and drink excellent wine paid for by business leaders, workers, and even “fans” who showed me outrageous hospitality and offered memorable experiences that will remain in my heart forever.

Reflecting on these experiences, I’ve realized that it’s not just about the meals or the drinks but the people I shared them with. Despite the haziness of memory, certain moments stand out vividly, prompting nostalgic recollections of places and flavors. Red wine in Rome? Of course. Champagne in Paris? Come on, yes. Port with cheese after dinner in San Francisco? Grappa at a delicious but hole-in-the-wall restaurant in NYC? Palm wine in India? Two pina coladas with horchata in Havana? Raki in Istanbul while overlooking the Bosphorus? Schelvispekel in the Netherlands just before the pandemic?

Oh, snap, my list is basic and braggy, the worst combination. It’s also incomplete. I’ve been all over the world, but there have been glorious meals and drinks with friends in St. Louis, St. Cloud, Salt Lake City, and Santa Fe. Don’t get me started about how much I love daiquiri shacks in Baton Rouge.

The meals and drinks leave a lasting impression, transcending geographical boundaries and cultural differences. But what I remember most are the people.

I regularly traveled to New York City while working for Pfizer and rarely ate alone. In my mind, I was an outcast that everyone hated. The reality was different. I always had dinner companions, many of whom were global travelers, wine experts, and storytellers. They taught me the finer points of life and made me a better human being.

When I traveled to New Zealand for a conference, the organizers and attendees coordinated a glorious dinner with the most stunning wine pairings. And I had the opportunity to mix and mingle, learning more about people personally and fortifying lifelong connections.

Drinking in Las Vegas is de rigueur, but have you ever had drinks with a small group of friends in your industry and laughed so hard that one of you (Jennifer McClure) snorted? No one that night will ever be able to pronounce Kinnetix the same.

These encounters revealed a network of companionship and camaraderie that enriched my professional and personal growth. Although it included alcohol by default, it didn’t center around drinking. It’s a difference worth the distinction.

There’s a lot of buzz in the news about how alcohol is a toxin and will kill you. But life kills you. It’s the price we pay for being born. While alcohol is a poison, it’s also an instrument to help people reduce stress, build a level of trust, and bond over shared experiences.

Alcohol is paradoxical and confusing. Of course, we must acknowledge the potential risks. But it’s essential to acknowledge that alcohol also serves as a social lubricant, facilitating connections and fostering camaraderie in various social settings.

Throughout my travels, I’ve come to believe a particular axiom about humanity: You are who you bring to the bottle. If your life is bogged down by trauma and dysfunction, it makes sense that you’ll see alcohol as a means to escape. If you’ve historically numbed your feelings and avoided advocating for yourself, liquor won’t help you. A person’s relationship with alcohol is deeply intertwined with experiences and coping mechanisms, shaping both behavior and perception.

Striking a balance between indulgence and restraint is a delicate dance, requiring introspection and self-awareness to navigate the complexities of human existence. Some people won’t, can’t, or shouldn’t drink. For the rest, there’s a responsibility to know your limits and to be accountable when those are breached. You might not get it perfect, but the crucial part is making good choices based on a pre-determined set of values.

That’s what I hope to do with my life, which is why sometimes I won’t, can’t, or shouldn’t drink. And sometimes I do. Ultimately, my journey toward a balanced relationship with alcohol is marked by self-reflection, growth, and occasional indulgence.

It makes me wonder how you describe yours.

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