Thursday, November 04, 2010

Speaking of Tea. . . .

The invaluable Sheila Kihne points us to a very good blog post from a local blogger named Crystal Kelley, who is doing the work that perhaps Pat Kessler or John Croman or Rachel Stassen-Berger ought to have done. An excerpt:

I ran across an article from the StarTribune, published July 4 2010, which lead me down a path that questions Mark Dayton’s sobriety. The article was titled, "Mark Dayton: a topsy-turvey ride." In the second paragraph article, something caught my eye. It said, "Sipping from a bottle of kombucha, a fermented tea that has become a campaign trail staple, this former U.S. senator is trying to revive an up-and-down political career at age 63."

Fermented tea? Doesn't "fermented" usually mean something has turned to alcohol? There began my research on kombucha, the official drink of the Dayton campaign.

What I found was a treasure trove of reasons why an alcoholic shouldn't be downing kombucha tea, and if he is, he is no longer sober according to the sobriety requirements of Alcoholics Anonymous. Here's an article on Relapse Prevention, which may apply to this situation, because this tea is well known for its varying alcohol content.

There's more:

Kombucha, in fact, may contain much more alcohol than mentioned above. On June 28, 2010, the New York Times reported Whole Foods pulled the product from their shelves because, "the alcohol content might be high enough to attract the attention of the federal government."

Well, they were right.

Two days later, the Treasury Department issued a warning stating kombucha may be subject to the same taxes and regulations as other beverages containing alcohol. The agency said it “is coordinating with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure kombucha products currently on the market comply with Federal laws..."

Analysts said some kombucha teas sold under brand names like Synergy can
ferment after shipment, raising the alcohol content from a legal 0.5 percent or less to as high as 3 percent, similar to some beers.

Mark Dayton got north of 900,000 votes. Do you suppose that it might have made a difference if someone with a larger megaphone than Crystal Kelley would have brought it to the attention of the public? Kelley makes a somewhat, ahem, astringent point at the end of her piece:

There is a saying made famous by the movie, "28 Days," starring Sandra Bullock. It addresses when an addict should try to have a serious relationship. It is, in a nutshell, after an addict has become sober he should buy a potted plant. If after one year the plant is still alive, he should buy a pet. If after the second year the pet is alive, then in the third year the addict may begin to consider having a serious relationship with another person.

We don’t know exactly where Dayton falls on that sobriety spectrum. But either way it’s too soon for him to be entering into the very important relationship of governor of an entire state with responsibility for roughly five million souls. I just think it's unwise.

I'd have to agree with that. But now it's too late. Read the whole thing.


CousinDan 54915 said...

Minnesota sounds like one F's up mess.

W.B. Picklesworth said...

The media's malfeasance saddles America (in this case MN) with yet another unvetted nincompoop. It's a good thing they know better than us unwashed folks or they might really cause some damage.

Anonymous said...

I have to point something out. It is a really important point. The article you cite states "and if he is, he is no longer sober according to the sobriety requirements of Alcoholics Anonymous." I can't begin to tell you how dumb that statement is. It's analogous to stating that the concept of the Trinity isn't important to Catholicism.

Alcoholics Anonymous DOES NOT have sobriety requirements. In fact, I don't even know where that idea came from, but it certainly wasn't from anyone who is a member of AA. This is really important. It is as essential to the success of AA as the concept of anonymity.

I have been to well over 3000 AA meeting in my lifetime. At the beginning of every single one of them, the AA Preamble is read and it states: "The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking." Trust me on this, if there were actual sobriety requirements, AA would never have formed because almost no one is sober at their first meeting and stays sober after it. Some spend years struggling with their problem, but they can't be kicked out. It is an absolutely vital point.

Also, the whole premise of the article seems absurd. Two week old orange juice frequently has a considerably higher alcohol content than O'Douls, but I drink it all the time. Apple cider too. And some recovering people I know drink kombucha. I don't because it's nasty and smells like feet, but I have never questioned their sobriety...just their sanity;-)

You wanna know what nobody I know with long-term sobriety ever drinks? O'Douls (or any near-beer). When you see someone sucking down 12 O'Douls at a bar or backyard party, you can be pretty certain that they are on their way to a relapse. But I have never seen a relapse triggered by juice or fermented tea, or yogurt or kefir. If you wanna say juice and kombucha drinkers are all practicing alcoholics, you are certainly free to do that, but I am pretty certain our families, creditors, employers, local police departments, etc. would disagree.

My point is that sobriety is much more of a psychological thing than a physical thing. Has an addict who has been clean for 10 years blown his sobriety because he takes Vicodin to control acute back pain? It depends on how he takes it.

Look, I have no skin in this game. I don't like Dayton, and I thought what he did to Emmer with the drunk driving charge was shameful, especially given his past. But I do get concerned when people spread disinformation about AA, and/or try to use it for political means. Just after the passage in the AA preamble on membership requirements is a section that states: "A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does
not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor
opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and
help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety."

Do us a favor. Please let AA stick to its primary purpose.


Mr. D said...


I'm sure what you are saying about AA is true, as it's true about all such programs. They aren't in the business of casting people into the outer darkness. And I'm aware that every case is different.

But it's a side issue of course. The larger point is that Dayton is only 3 years past his most recent episodes. And the bottle is hardly his only issue. But he's now highly likely to be governor of this state. The guy has a long, well-documented history of erratic behavior and shouldn't have gotten within a sniff of any public office. And what I'm interested in is this: how did this happen?

Anonymous said...

I don't disagree with your larger point, but I think you know the answer. As you have already noted in previous posts, Emmer kept the gloves on. Why? Ask him. But you and I know why most campaigns go negative: It works.


Mr. D said...

As you have already noted in previous posts, Emmer kept the gloves on. Why? Ask him.

Well, I thought that's what the previous post did, but maybe I do need to be more clear.

But the other point is this: the people with larger megaphones, the ones who buy ink by the barrel, knew all this stuff about Dayton and stayed silent. Why?

Gino said...

i already told you why emmer kept the gloves on: he's GOP.

Crystal Kelley said...

Hey, thanks for the link. I appreciate your comments on the Dayton piece. I'd like to clarify that by "sobriety requirements" I did not mean to imply AA has sobriety requirements for membership or meeting attendance. I could have used a better term, I guess. What I meant was the definition of sobriety one would meet to continue receiving medallions for periods of time spent clean and sober. If one reads my entire article, it does make more sense than Rich is stating because of the warnings I referenced for recovering alcoholics against drinking the tea, the seemingly well-known claims that kombucha helps keep cravings at bay, etc. Rich also states that two-week-old orange juice has a "considerably higher" alcohol content than O'Douls, but then goes on to say that he knows no alcoholics with long-term sobriety who drink O'Douls and that it would be cause for concern to see such a person drinking a lot of it. The Strib article said kombucha is a "staple" of the Dayton campaign. The kombucha in question has considerably more alcohol than O'Douls, and is more comparable to 3.2 beer than near beer, which is why it was pulled from store shelves by the government just weeks prior to the Strib interview. I know and deeply love several recovering alcoholics who owe their lives to AA, and it wasn't my intent to disparage the organization in any way.

Mr. D said...


Thanks for stopping by and for the clarification. The key thing in this story, as you rightly note, isn't what AA might or might not require, but what Dayton's fitness for office is. I'm also going to fix the spelling of your surname -- sorry about that!