How to Stay Healthy When You Drink for a Living
People who choose a career in wine are not typified by their restraint. The end goal for growers, vitners, vendors, sommeliers, and everyone in between is the sensual pleasure of person who finally tips it into their mouth, but it's also quite easy for people in the profession to find themselves off-kilter in the pursuit. Rebecca Hopkins, who works as the vice president of communications for Folio Wines, began to notice that the constant travel, consumption, revelry, and excess were taking an unspoken toll on the wellbeing of her colleagues across the industry, She wrote an article on the subject in a German trade magazine, and the response was so profound that Hopkins, along with journalist and yoga instructor Cathy Huyghe, founded A Balanced Glass—a global community that helps people in the wine business seek a healthier way forward, together.
Kat Kinsman: Consuming alcohol is part of the gig. How did you know it was time to speak up?
Rebecca Hopkins: In Australia, where I'm from, drinking is part of both our social structure and our professional lives. Add to that being in the alcohol business—moderation and abstinence were not top priorities. I'd had a meditation and yoga practice to manage my own overwhelm and it was so culturally disparate from my work life. But I'd watch people become increasingly unwell and it really upset me.
What was the response to your story, "The Challenges of Working With Wine," in Meninger's Wine Business International?
The piece was about the challenges of working with booze and the response was huge. It was something like, I personally got 30 or 40 emails. The article had 5,000 clicks in a month. And the stuff people were saying to me was, "We're serious. Jesus Christ, we have to do something." That was really it. I could see stuff that was happening for hospitality and spirits but nothing for wine. So, I started it.
In 2018, I got invited to a women's conference to run a breathwork and meditation session, and it was actually the conference I'd been quite critical of in my article. If 700 women are in a room and not one of them is talking about alcohol, it's bullshit.
What exactly is A Balanced Glass?
It's a weekly email with 600-plus subscribers, and a Facebook page with a global community. Some people just want a running partner, a yoga recommendation, a protein powder. I don't care how you do it, I'm just going to give you the space to find ways to connect. Journeys are so fricking fragile and I never see it as my place to fix any of it. It's more about helping you find the space or the resource that you need.
There's also a quiet way for people to find that solidarity—via the A Balanced Glass pin that you make and send to people?
People were like, "How do I help and how do I support?" These things are difficult because they're so personal, and the deeper they get, the more confidential they need to be. I literally woke up and said "I'm making a pin." It's an unspoken way that you can start a conversation.
Have you encountered any pushback?
Oh yeah. It comes from either people who don't understand the concept or the premise, i.e. it's not about selling less wine. This is actually about creating teams that are higher performing to be functioning longer and more successfully. That conversation takes a while, but the effects are immediate.
Tips for Taking Care of Yourself When You Drink and Travel for a Living
Take stock of you are and why you want to change.
Be honest with where you are. Everyone's different and there's no judgment.
Change one thing.
Count the glasses you drink. Decant half a bottle so you don't drink the whole thing. Put the glass down between sips. Drink two to one, water to wine. Just make one change.
We're in a space where social opportunity for moderation or abstinence is the highest I've ever seen it. Seek out who else is in it because isolation is normal when you're questioning what you're doing.
It doesn't matter if you're in bed, in the car, on the subway—find a way to count your breath. Six exhales, four inhales. Your body wants to be calm by nature and this helps it self-regulate. Some days it's all you can do.
Touch the ground.
Get to a park, get outdoors, get to a green space, take your shoes off, and get your feet on the earth. The wine business is ultimately connected to agriculture. Reconnect and remember why you do what you do.
Get a routine on the road.
Pack a tennis ball to roll under your feet, a resistance band to help your body stretch, an eye mask to cover the light, or earplugs to help you sleep—and put it out somewhere obvious when you get to your hotel room.