Health, Wellness: Tips to help Avoid Numbing the Pandemic Uncertainty

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Alcohol sales have skyrocketed during the lockdown with online purchases alone increasing a whopping 243%. August Turak, former CEO of a high-tech company and author of "Brother John," discusses this disturbing trend.


"U.S. sales of alcoholic beverages rose 55% in the week ending March 21, according to market research firm Nielsen. Spirits like tequila, gin and pre-mixed cocktails led the way, with sales jumping 75% compared to the same period last year. Wine sales were up 66% while beer sales rose 42%. And online sales far outpaced in-store sales," according to Marketwatch.

Is a good buzz the distraction for the pandemic fear, uncertainly and discouragement? Turak who is also a contributor for Forbes and the BBC offers a few suggestions to combat this alarming trend.

Interview: Author August Turak Talks on Life with Trappist Monks and Effective Quarantining

Q: Alcohol sales are way up during the lockdown. What is that telling us?

A: The philosopher Pascal said, "All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone." So many Americans reaching for the bottle demonstrates that we are not very comfortable with ourselves.  100s of years later we still have not mastered the ability to sit quietly with nothing but our own thoughts. 

Q: Why do you think that is?

A: I have been hanging out with the Trappist Monks of Mepkin Abbey for 22 years as a frequent monastic guest.  The New York Times did an article about the monks and they asked a bunch of guests for their reactions.  Most mentioned beauty and tranquility. But one executive said, "Yes, it is peaceful here, but when you spend hours alone on a park bench overlooking the Cooper River you find yourself thinking about a lot of things you might rather not think about.  For most of us, life is an endless pursuit of distraction. TV, video games, sports, and booze are all distractions.  There is nothing wrong with a beer at the game, but when we spend most of our time trying to run away from ourselves, we are failing to live!

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Q: What do you suggest instead?

A: This pandemic is a terrible tragedy--both physically and economically--for so many. But it could also be an opportunity to draw some milk from thorns if we are willing.  Now is a great time to catch up on all that "alone time" we like to say we are missing when we are caught up in the busyness of normal life.  Now is a great time to take stock of the qualitative side of our life.  Our relationships with God, our fellow man, and yes, our own conscience.  What is right about the way I have been living?  What is wrong? What needs to change? Where will I find the help I know I need to make?  Who have I been neglecting? Who deserves an apology?  Who has been waiting patiently for us to give us that atta' boy we know they deserve?

Q: Besides avoiding booze, what sober advice do you have for what kind of leaders we need to help us in our current crisis, and specifically what differentiates the tasks of leaders and experts?

A: Making the right decision amidst a myriad of competing interests and outcomes is what leaders and politicians are hired or elected to do, and there is no substitute for having people to do this job. And yes, expert advice within the expert's legitimate given expertise is essential.

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Q: How do you balance expert advice with the decision-making process?

A: Experts advise, but politicians and leaders must decide. In business we call the experts "staff" and the decisionmakers "line".  In military matters for example, the generals are the experts, yet in our system no one would seriously argue that the generals should decide if and when we go to war. In this sense the generals function as staff, not line. Yes, the politicians should consult and listen to the generals—as well as economists, peace advocates, diplomats, clergymen, and often their spouses—but ultimately going to war is a political, not a military decision. 

Q: Any last thoughts?

A: If we do take advantage of this lockdown to reflect we will quickly be forced to admit that the happiest people are not the ones with all the "stuff" necessarily but those who consistently focus on the qualitative things like friendship, faith, family and community.  And above all we need to look within for gratitude because it is not happy people who are grateful.  It is grateful people who are happy.  This is what the monks do every day.  And that is what brings me back again and again.  They are the happiest people I've ever known, and I use them as a way to keep my own priorities in life straight.

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Read the Templeton Prize award-winning inspirational book by August Turak in just 15 minutes.

Free downloadable review copy of eBook:

His latest book is "Brother John: A Monk, a Pilgrim, and the Purpose of Life," published by Clovercroft.  

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